Money grows on trees
takes many forms in Papua New Guinea. Paper money is the Kina, named
after the first form of money in PNG - pearl shells cut into crescents
and worn around the neck. While travellers nowadays can pay their
way with paper or plastic, local people still prefer to make substantial
payments, such as a dowry or for building a house, in solid traditional
style. Depending on the area they might use pigs, shell bracelets
or necklaces, carved wooden bowls, stone axes, Bird of Paradise
plumes, grass skirts or a root vegetable the Yam.
canine teeth used to be such a popular medium of exchange that pre-war
German colonists had porcelain imitations made and shipped out.
They still retain the same value as the real thing.
and around the Trobriand Islands women make their own money. Fresh
banana leaves are scraped against a board that is engraved with
the family seal. Strips of the impressed leaf are bundled into hundreds
and are worth about one Kina/one dollar. Long hours needed, but
it's a sure way to make a buck.
puberty through to marriage Trobriand adolescents are permitted,
even encouraged, to be sexually active with other clan members.
Affairs often start with a gift of betel nut and assignations taking
place at night in purpose built huts. Girls drink a secret herbal
potion the day after to prevent pregnancy. Everyone gossips and
rumours fly, but nobody tells.
their early 20's they marry and monogamy is par for the marital
course. Healthy, calm and rarely visited, Trobriand people are perhaps
the most attractive ethnic group in Papua New Guinea.
New Guinea has a population of less than four million, yet there
are over 700 different languages there. With this kind of mutual
incomprehension it's no surprise that a lingua franca has developed.
Called Tok Pidgin, it's mostly based on simplified English, and
is interesting and occasionally hilarious. For example:
yumi = we
ples bilong yu we? = where are you from?
wantok = friend (one talk)
mi no klia gut = I don't understand
bugarup = doesn't work/broken
haus monie = bank
numba wan pikinini bilong missas Kwin = Prince Charles
bigpela mixmasta bilong Jisas Krais = Helicopter
bigpela yu paitim tit e crai owt = Piano (fight/pat his teeth)
lukim yu bihain = see you later
New Guinea travel story 'Hair Tomorrow'