I am struck more by the similarities between people than the differences. Divided by distance, and circumstance, people are people the world over. There is a school here, with ‘Fractions as a division of the whole’ written on the blackboard, I watched the village football game this afternoon, and kids are kids everywhere you find them (thirteen of the them are crowded round watching me write this). Last night, walking through the palm trees in the moonlight, I even found people were playing Carterets Islands Bingo. This consists of two men sitting on a low table in the middle of the jungle, one shaking up counters in a plastic bucket and the other calling the numbers into a megaphone. They had one light, wired up to four car batteries, hanging from a palm tree and people sat around on fallen trunks filling in their cards. ‘Full house’, it seems, translates perfectly.
So far so ordinary, and then…
This morning I went to church, where there was plenty of singing, and afterwards the congregation sat for food together. As a guest, I had been made a special fish. It was very nice. As usual, I ignored the head. This caused some consternation among my hosts who are used, it seems to diving in for this part first. So I was shown, in mouth-watering detail, the delights of the eyes, brain, mouth and digestive tract of the fish. They are, I must admit, slightly gloopy pleasures.
This afternoon I watched the village football tournament (played on hard-baked sand by players most of whom were barefoot. One had one shoe, which he wore on his kicking foot.) Later, we cranked up the generator to power the island’s only television, at the school, to watch the Australian rugby league. Picture the scene, a tropical island, miles from anywhere, and a schoolroom full of big islander men crammed into primary children’s desks cheering on the game.