We all made our way to the beach and waited for our guest to arrive. In the distance a school of tuna were in a feeding frenzy, we could see the rapid paddle strokes from the fishermen on the nearby canoes trying to get to the action.
Still no sign of Andrew our guest for the night. We looked out to the horizon, the suns rays blazing making our eyes water. Then we saw him. A silhouette in the distance heading straight for us. After 10 long hours of Kayaking straight across Kimbe Bay from Walindi Plantation Resort he had finally reached us at Kwalakesi Village, his first stop over for the night.
Andrew is on a Kayaking Adventure of a different kind as i later found out. He is a teacher with Expedition Class, an online adventure learning program. He reminded me a little of Ms Frizzle from the Magic School Bus taking the children on adventures thru his online Live updates. His latest lesson is Volcanoes!! and what a better way than kayaking from the West to the East of of New Britain…the Island of Volcanoes.
I watched him pack his kayak the next morning thinking to myself how awesome is this adventure all in the name of education! I don’t remember school being this fun. I could imagine the looks on the villagers faces as they discover him setting up camp on their beach for the night, the excitement in their eyes, wanting to know who he was and what he was doing and where on earth he was going. I could imaging the children swimming at the beach running up to the village to notify the elders of this man on a funny looking canoe, the story about the “masta” (white )man kayaking from Kimbe to Rabaul on the Island of New Britain is one that will not die around the village camp fires any time soon……….what an adventure!
The last time I saw a Fire Dance from the Baining region of East New Britain Province was when I was 8 years old in my home village, Matupit. I remember feeling the heat of the fire on my face and the cool sensation of tears running down my cheeks, as my eyes watered from starring too long at the giant men in masks, dancing in the flames. It was an extraordinary experience and I couldn’t pass the chance of seeing the Bainings do the Fire Dance once more when they performed at the West New Britain Mask Festival 2013.
I was just mere meters away from the dancers. I could hear the leaves that were wrapped around them go Shhhhhhhh Shhhhhhh as they danced frenziedly in and around the flames of the fire. The crowd would scream anxiously when the fire dancers spent a little too long in the flames kicking the flaming firewood around. At one stage a dancer with what looked like a mask shaped like a dog with its tongue hanging out danced his way right pass me, I could smell the strong smell of a local plant used in many traditional dances, when its leaves are crushed it expels a strong aroma, the Tolai people of East New Britain call it “Karangon” but it is known by many names.
I wondered how the dancers could see thru their masks as they danced their way weaving in and out of the fire just brushing past each other. The feeling I felt watching was truly mixed with fear, awe and excitement but the one feeling that was overpowering the most was pride. I’m part of a country that is so diverse in Cultural & Traditional practices and I pray that in the future my grandchildren and great grand children will get a chance to see the Baining Fire Dance, just as I and the pass generations have experienced.
The New Britain Mask Festival is one not to miss.
All dressed in red they stretched out over 500 meters with the last lot of women trickling behind trying to catch up with the crowd. They were mainly made up of Women over the age of 35, the older ones physically struggling to keep up but you could tell that their mind and soul are set in completing this march for this would be their best chance at standing up, for being heard, to end the suffering and protecting not only their daughters, nieces and granddaughters but the future generation of all Females in Papua New Guinea.
They marched in the scorching heat and yelled out “enough is enough” and “Stop Violence against women” till they reached their final destination. There they spread out under a canvas and waited eagerly to sign the petition to the Government to end all forms of violence against women. It was a historical moment. The first of its kind in our young nation and the name given to it “National Haus Karai” (National Day of Mourning) was very fitting. There I saw some mothers weep quietly to themselves, it broke my heart just watching it, I wondered what secrets they were keeping and for how long or what terrible thing had happened to her or someone she loved. They held hands and sang songs of praise, hearts wide open and exposed praying out loud their deepest worries hoping to be heard. I heard them and it was like I knew their prayers off by heart because I have heard it many many times before. It was a prayer for change, for understanding, a prayer to end the suffering felt by many women, to stop the abuse and bring back love and caring to those who had strayed from the path…….