New Farm Park, Brisbane

Saturday, March 8, 2014

TIME TRAVEL

It was 1964 and it was my first year of teaching. I was teaching at Korobosea School in Pt Moresby, Papua /New Guinea. It was quite exciting having my own class and classroom. I was nervous at the beginning but with support from my colleagues I started to get more confident. I was keen to do the right thing by the children and their parents and I worked hard at it. However, at the end of term it was time to have fun and explore this new country. Some friends and I booked up for a day trip by charter aircraft to the Trobriand Islands. They are a group of tropical islands off the north east coast of PNG in Milne Bay.  See map.

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Early in the morning we arrived at Jackson's Airport and climbed aboard a trusty DC3 aircraft. These airplanes were used a lot in those days in PNG. They were tough old workhorses. Pilots were also very good, they had to be to cope with the towering mountains, the sudden tropical thunderstorms and the hectic turbulence. I was pleased to see that we had proper aircraft seats this time not like the last time I went on a chartered plane ride, where the seats were webbed garden variety chairs along the walls of the fuselage.
The Trobriand Islands belong to PNG but in the sixties the people were still living like they had for thousands of years in grass huts in villages and feeding themselves from native crops and the sea. The Australian Government were establishing schools, medical clinics, law and order, cooperative plantations and generally helping the people to learn to live in the 20th century. (Whether this was a good idea or not is still debated) Church missionaries were also bringing western style religions. They also built schools and hospitals.
It was a fairly smooth flight over the mountains as most morning flights were. We landed and a truck picked us up and took us to visit some villages and beaches. It was extremely hot and humid as it is every day of the year when you are so near to the equator. We had our swim gear with us.


When we arrived in the village many of the locals came to meet us. They came to look at us and we came to look at them. I thought the little ones were cute.

These islanders were known for their beautiful grass skirts and they were a sought after souvenir. The villagers were happy to sell them and other artefacts too. Carvings were also popular. I still have two grass skirts in a cupboard somewhere.

These buildings were storage houses for their produce such as yams, taro and coconuts.

The colour was so bad in this 50 year old slide that I had to take it out altogether. These are the houses where the people lived.

After the buying of artefacts we climbed back on our truck and headed for a swim at the beach. These shy teenage girls came to wave goodbye.

This old photo doesn't do this scene justice. It was a lovely tropical island beach. After we had a swim we were all thirsty so one of our tour guides spoke to the local boys in Pidgin English and the next thing we saw.........
  some boys climbing the tallest coconut trees.  They knocked the coconuts to the ground and another fellow cut the husk off the top with a huge machete .


Then holes were punctured into the nut so that we could drink the cool coconut milk. It is great when you are hot and thirsty.

After a picnic lunch we were back in the truck to visit another village.











Trobriand Is. village

Village food storage houses

In this village we were taken on a canoe ride along the river. It was wobbly and we had to be careful not to tip it over. Once we had all settled it was quite steady. One fellow sat in the front and one paddled at the back.

The children waved us goodbye and chased us into the water.

We passed some more villages nestled under the palm trees on the bank of the river. These children were playing on a canoe similar to the one we were on. It was if we had travelled back in time to see people living in such a simple, primitive way. All too soon it was time to head back to the airport for the flight back home to Pt Moresby. We were all hot and tired and it was nice to be up in the cooler air until we started to bounce around. In the late afternoon it is a bad time to fly. The afternoon storm clouds gather together over the mountains and the turbulence is bad. As the pilot manoeuvred his way along the valleys between the tall, menacing mountains we hung on tight like on a bucking bronco. Luckily we beat the storms home but I was glad to have my feet on the ground again.

33 comments:

  1. Another interesting chapter in your life. I wonder what life is like now on those islands. I doubt it bears any resemblance to your experience.

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  2. another great account of your time in N.G. Diane. I wondered if there are crocodile in those waters?

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  3. My father served at Milne Bay in 1942-3.

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  4. It is a travel back in time indeed. I wonder if there are still those primitive people living like this. The "civilized" have found them everywhere I am afraid.

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  5. Thanks again for another interesting day, Diane!

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  6. What an amazing experience! It was places like this I longed to visit as I looked at our Social Studies (as it was called then) books at school as a child.

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  7. Diane, you have wonderful memories of your teaching years and these awesome adventures. It is neat seeing the children in the grass skirts and the village.. It does look like a travel back in time.. Great photos, thanks for sharing.. Have a happy weekend!

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  8. Yes, it was just your life at the time, and you were doing what young people do, but what extraordinary things and people you saw. While it was experienced by others, you were quite privileged to see a country so raw.

    Yes, whether it was a good idea hangs over the country. I've not heard of Trobriand Islands, but they managed to live and survive for how many hundreds, nay thousands of years? And then came the white men and women.

    Well, we can't undo the past.

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  9. it must have been so difficult for the village elders to see their traditional life replaced by western ways. i cannot imagine - but i know the same thing happened to the native americans here - our 'civilized' ways and religions were thrust upon them.

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  10. So interesting! The photos have actually survived pretty well. Had I know ages ago that color photos would go bad, I'd have never taken any color ones. It's hard to believe that there are probably still places like this on the earth. I'd love to see one. Yes - talk about back in time. Thanks!

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  11. Have really enjoyed seeing another chapter of your earlier life. I think the houses in your photos are more advanced than I would have imagined . Also I see why the grass skirts were a popular tourist item as they are rather pretty. What an adventure!

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  12. wow UIt's very interesting story and blog as well

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  13. It,s very exotic for me as a European person.

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  14. Fun to learn about your earlier life. I started teaching at about the same time. I started in a State prison. The natives were a little different there!

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  15. It does appear like they were frozen in time, Diane. I imagine the Australian aboriginals lived very much the same before other peoples came to their shores.

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  16. A fascinating part of your life's experiences Diane. It would make a very interesting book. Have you ever thought of publishing one? I would stand in line to buy it :)

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  17. Diane,
    What a lovely day you did have with beautiful memories of it. I expect you had a Diary to refer back to, or maybe it was from your memory.
    The slides have kept well. What a task to have to scan them all, very time consuming I presume.

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  18. Yes Demise these posts will become book which I hope to publish for my girls....one day.

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  19. This reads like a story in National Geographic. What an amazing day. Thanks for sharing this wonderful adventure with us.

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  20. I regret not seeing more of PNG when I as up there. But as usual I was rather too tied up with my job ... and I worked for the airline so there was the temptation to go further afield to Singapore for weekends ... and my hubby was always escaping back to Australia so not there to accompany me.

    I remember we also had to put off a planned trip to Rabaul because the volcano was deciding to erupt.

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  21. What an adventure as a young girl ! Imagine I saw my first black person when I was 18 ! and an Indonesian one at 19. I had only read Albert Schweizer's books. I also wonder if it was good to force these people into another culture in a too short time !

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  22. Wow Mum, so interesting! What an adventurous life you've had!! Keep the posts coming! I remember some of these slide from our slide nights.

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  23. I wonder if there are any traces of that life left in 2014. Probably one in museums. So amazing that you got to see it, and so brave of you as a young girl to venture so far from home. Thanks for sharing!

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  24. Oh these photos are so lovely I really enjoyed this post you were so lucky to get to this wonderful country.

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  25. Oh those photos are so similar to what I remember driving through Africa. Smiling faces and little clothes. I love the grass skirts, never saw those in Africa. Yet another interesting chapter in your life. Keep well Diane

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  26. That was beaut to read Diane. It was obvious you were all very welcome visitors and that they got as much delight from seeing you too.
    Precious photos and slides :D)

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  27. The island was beautiful, people looked very friendly too. Nice to see how others lived even in the sixties! Primitive I am sure....glad you survived the plane ride

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  28. Your years there were truly an amazing experience. I would have wanted to fly in the morning only.

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  29. So glad I didn't miss this installment Diane. You certainly have had an interesting life that's for sure and so lucky that you recorded it so well.. One of these days I'm going to look through Mum and Dads old photos from our time in Africa.

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  30. Another wonderful adventure! How exciting this must have been for you. I can't help but think how things have changed from then to now. I wonder how many young girls today would feel safe going on such a trip. As someone stated above, you were lucky to see them and experience their lives before 'civilization' no doubt took over. I'm quite impressed with their homes and buildings. They appear much more substantial than one might believe.
    Thanks again for sharing your wonderful experience with us.

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  31. I've spent some time catching up on your many adventures. This post was especially interesting to me, since we had some connection with PNG while on our mission. What amazing experiences you have had and wonderful photos to keep those memories alive. Do you have any idea what these places look like today???

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  32. What an adventure! Your air travels remind me of our Intra-African flights.

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  33. We stopped at the Trobriands on a cruise in September. They are keeping their culture intact. For instance,I was told that in the first 3 years of schooling, only the traditional languages are used. The custom dances were also performed for the visitors, and village tours arranged. The wood carvings must be the best in the world!

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