I think of New Years as a celebration for the evening of December 31st. A celebration which could be very simple or much more lavish including but not limited to food, friends, games, maybe dancing, reminiscing, making resolutions and at midnight a countdown which culminates in a rousing shout, cheer and noisemaking for not more than 3 minutes. Then depending on who you are the party continues or the party winds down and everyone heads home.
In Marulaon New Years is a week long affair. Not knowing what to expect each day was typical and this kept the Choates on their toes trying to keep ahead of the activities and expectations. Caroling took on yet another form which included various groups of kids or young people (I never observed any adults) walking through the village beating on bottles or pans and singing. They would stop at houses and then would be sprayed with perfume.
This caroling would usually start in the early evening and go well into the night. Most of the time the carolers would visit the Choate house at dusk and then go off into other parts of the village later allowing the Choate household to sleep. At around 8 on New Years Eve, when we were all moving towards bed there was a knock on the door. The chief’s wife Janet had brought a bucket filled with 60 fish. These fish were the Choates share of the net catch that someone had just made. So Aaron and Joanna gutted and cleaned 60 fish before heading to bed so that they would be ready to prepare for the ‘family breakfast’ the next day.
We were all expecting New Years Eve to boast a raucous welcoming in of 2010. However it lasted a bit longer than the customary American 3 minutes. So Aaron went out to join the party, sitting by the church bell (since that’s where everyone seemed to be congregating) and wished everyone who came by a happy new year.
On New Years day rain delayed some of the village activities but we were still able to enjoy the ‘family breakfast’. The chief’s family and Naris’s family joined us on the porch for a very yummy late morning meal.
Now I know some of you are not too happy with me for calling turtle delicious. After all in some places, many species are endangered and being protected. One such species nests on the shores of PNG near Madang and swims across the Pacific to feed off the shores of California. I am all for protecting endangered animals from exploitation and from the irresponsible, unhealthy demands of the commercial market. However, I have no problem eating turtle when it was caught for consumption by people who have always caught and consumed turtle.
New Years Celebrations on the 3rd:
Because it was raining on the 1st, the other New Years festivities were delayed until the 3rd and since they were delayed they were also cut short and made less formal. What does this mean? Only that the 5 or so speeches, that had been planned, were cancelled. I can’t say I was too disappointed especially because in my opinion the activities were way more fun than listening to speeches.
First of all the day started with ‘sing roll’. This seemed to be yet another version of caroling.
The village had already been divided into three groups for the delegation of responsibilities and activities so these three groups just gathered together under various flags and banners, dressed up in various degrees of crazy outfits, glitter and with assorted “instruments” (pots, cans, bottles- anything you could hit with a stick to make noise).
Cross Dressing- In the US we recognize when men cross dress but women we hardly notice. In Marulaon it was very evident from people’s reactions (ie. peals of laughter) that these women were dressed as men, shades wearing, t-shirt wearing, pants wearing men.
Then each group wound their way through the village singing, dancing and making merry. The most exciting part was when the groups would cross paths and try to keep singing on beat with their own group as they passed each other. It was an entire village affair from the children right up to the chief. Very fun.
When the ‘sing roll’ was over I went up to rest a bit but when I came back the activities were once again in full swing. Practically the whole village participated in round after round of tug-o-war, the little kids had flour sack races and it was perfectly acceptable and encouraged to throw each other into the ocean.
THE BIKOI COMES:
Every Sunday the Bikoi arrives on its way out west from Honiara. This is the ship that I arrived on two weeks earlier. Each time the Bikoi arrives people go out to market the passengers who are eager for a fresh snack or green coconut to drink. The Bikoi stays anchored long enough to allow passengers on and off and then moves on.
Our canoe didn’t go out for any particular purpose other than fun. We sang, waved hi to people on the ship who shouted “Happy New Year Missus!” Missus referring to me. We splashed other friends in canoes, Sarah at some point hopped out of Naris’s canoe and into ours, then proceeded to squirt people saying the obligatory ‘Happy New Year’. We rounded the Bikoi, Melissa shouting greetings to her friends who were on board and everyone spotting the one white man on board. I don’t know who he is or where he was going but I waved and i’m sure he was just as surprised to see Sarah and me floating there in a canoe.
After the Bikoi was about to leave Haris and Melissa started paddling us back towards shore. Since people simply climb over the sides of the boat in and out there really is no good system to see if everyone who is suppose to be on the ship has gotten on and anyone who is not suppose to be on the ship has gotten off. As the Bikoi pulled away two young men dove into the water. Whether they purposely stayed aboard and waited for the Bikoi to start or if they just got caught off guard, I don’t know. But they eventually climbed into canoes with others and made their way back to the shore with everyone else.
Once we were close to shore Melissa asked if we should just capsize the canoe a la fishing trip (where Joanna, Melissa and I involuntarily capsized). So we happily flipped the canoe which really isn’t that hard to do. I personally find tipping a canoe much easier than keeping it upright and afloat.
Then since we were all wet already and the water was beautiful, clear and warm- we just stayed in swimming, singing, laughing and storying.
Eventually we made our way out of the water and back to the house. We were soaking wet of course but it had been a wonderful, very fun, happy new years celebration day.