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A Day in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

Aaron Petty and his wife, Vanessa, served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Papua New Guinea. They lived with a group of people called the Hagahai. These people have only known the outside world since 1983. The Hagahai live in the province of Madung, deep in the rainforest. The following is from a letter he wrote about a typical day for them in Papua New Guinea.

This is our typical day at Yilu, the name of the village where we live:

We wake up at 6:00 with the sun, the rooster, and everyone else. It's really impossible to sleep any later, but sometimes we try. We have breakfast, and enjoy the cool of the morning.

At 8:15, we go to the radio (no phones at Yilu) and talk to our boss here in Goroka. We don't always get through -- the static gets pretty bad when it's cloudy or raining.

At 8:30, we start school. We teach in a two-room schoolhouse with a thatched roof. We have one class that is learning to read and write, and basic math. Our other class is starting to learn English and more advanced math.

School ends around 11:30, and we go back to the house to hide from the sun. We cook lunch on a kerosene stove, and then play games or read until the temperature becomes bearable outside, usually around 2:00.

In the afternoon, we usually "story" a lot. This is a big pastime in PNG. Storying involves sitting around talking about what you've done that day, what you'll be doing later, and how your family is. This can take hours. As you can see, family and personal relationships are very important here.

The Hagahai also make earrings from things they find in the rainforest, and we often help with managing quality control, although we are trying to teach them as much as possible so that one day they can do this on their own.

We also carry in soap, salt, matches, and other small luxuries, which they sell in a small community store. This is their only source of outside goods -- no hopping in the car and going to the mall for them. We help the storekeepers with their math and record-keeping.

Around 4:00, we go to the river to "waswas" (wash). The river is about a five-minute walk from our house. There's no hot water, but believe us -- we don't miss it! We also get drinking water from another stream close by, but we don't need to do this every day.

We spend the last light of day on our porch, washing dishes and, you guessed it, storying. Around 6:30, it gets too dark and the mosquitoes get too mean, so we light our lantern and go inside to cook dinner.

We listen to the news on shortwave while we cook, and then after dinner we relax for the evening and prepare for the next day.

So, this is our day -- much slower and less stressful than the average day in the U.S., but we love it.

Aaron Petty (Papua New Guinea)

Aaron has a B.S. in Biological Sciences and is originally from Santa Monica, California. His story first appeared on Peace Corps' Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools Web site.

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