Journey to the Sinking Lands

A witness to the world's first evacuation of an entire people due to climate change

Tok Pisin

marketIt’s one week now since I left home and took a train to London to begin this journey and I am slowly getting into the routines I’ll stick to for the next five weeks; malaria medicine after lunch, multi-vitamins, boiling or purifying all my drinking water, and drink a lot because you sweat so much. I’m still sleeping badly in the heat but it’s better now than just a few days ago when I was up and wired until the early hours.

More importantly, I am starting to learn about the people of Papua New Guinea – vital, because tomorrow I fly from the capital, Port Moresby, to Buka and will for the first time be on my own. This morning Lucy, who I met yesterday with a mate, took us to a market in the bush outside Port Moresby. It was a good chance to sit and talk, which is important here. Smiling and waving at strangers count for a lot, too. It’s about recognising your responsibilities as a guest in their country. I’m also starting to meet people from Buka, who recommend others to get in touch with when I arrive. This way, hopefully, you are passed from host to host.

Many people here speak English, and those who don’t often speak a pidgin – Tok Pisin – which is great fun. I’ve only started to get to grips with it as finding a phrasebook either in the UK or Australia proved impossible. How about these (say them out loud):

Nem bilong mi… -> My name is…

Ples bilong mi Inglan -> I am from England

Nek bilong mi I drai -> I am thirsty

Yu go we? -> Where are you going?

Others are more unexpected, but there is always a logic. The word for your bottom/a seat/the origin/the foundations is ‘as’.


1 Comment»

  Wantok wrote @

What part of Moresby did you stay in?
I remember living in Boroko some 25 years ago.

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