RSS Feed

The girls of Korbau

Posted on

The most enjoyable and productive times I spent working with village people in Papua New Guinea occurred when I was based at Pindiu Patrol Post between 1972 and 1979.

The climate was close to perfect all year round. The people were industrious and hospitable, and unlike some other tribal cultures within PNG, women were involved equally with the men in most of our development projects.

The hamlet of Korbau was nestled in a mountainous saddle between the Masaweng and Mongi River catchments at 4000′ altitude. With a population of just one hundred plus a few, it was a hard three-hour walk from Pindiu.

I spent a lot of time working with the Korbau people constructing earthworks and developing and modifying our prototype micro hydroelectricity unit to provide village lighting.

(Story with pictures of the Korbau Hydroelectricity Project here)

Everybody participated. Old men and women, boys and girls and even the little kids. It was a wonderful working atmosphere. Despite being some of the poorest people on earth, the days were always full of laughter, frivolity, banter and even occasional innocent flirting.

Australians working in PNG at this time in history were mostly treated like minor dignitaries and rarely invited to join mundane day to day village activities.  It was therefore a pleasant surprise when, late one day after work, the girls of Korbau invited me to join them in a game of basketball.

I had never played basketball in my life although I knew the object of the game was apparently to throw the ball through the hoop.

No worries.

Even though these girls were strong beyond belief from carrying heavy loads of food, firewood and babies up and down mountains,
I was over 6 feet tall, and they were all only knee-high to grasshoppers.

So……….How difficult could this be?

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

Korbau basketball court circa 1977. Add one more ingredient…..slippery.

So……How difficult could this be? 

The Korbau girls invited
Master GOF to play a game
Of basketball, local rules,
A big chance for sporting fame.  
They’re tired from a hard day’s work.
And I’m twice their height I see.
Bring it on, you little chicks.
How difficult could this be?

The ‘court’ was something diff’rent.
So I uttered words profane
Mudholes where pigs did wallow
Their complexions to maintain.
And big boulders two feet high
To trip me arse right over tee.
Then suddenly it registered
How difficult this might be.

But I ain’t seen nuthin’ yet
‘Till the girls brought out the ball.
At the top end of the slope
They all looked eight foot tall.
The Amazons then threw the orb
To me, then they charged with glee
And slammed me into the goal post.
Shit!  Difficult this will be.

I eventually got back vertical
To gasp and wheeze and stagger.
Then ‘Sister’ Barbara elbowed me.
Rib pain just like a dagger.
They accidentally flattened me.
Despite my attempts to flee.
It seemed that saving my life
Would my priority be.

Thank God they’re at the other end
Shooting goals at my expense
And giggling uncontrollably
At my sporting incompetence.
Oh Christ no! here they come again
One tonne of femininity
To trample me in the mudhole.
How embarrassing this will be.

I hit the ground six more times,
Which caused lumps upon my rump.
But every time they helped me up
And none said White Men Can’t Jump.
They didn’t keep the score that day.
Which needed no apology.
‘Cos everyone was a winner.
‘Specially me, I now can see.

Memory looks back all these years.
What a privilege it was
To be accepted as an equal,
But much more than that because
They showed me joy and happiness
Depends not upon degree
Of wealth, and to forget them
Is impossible for me.

*      *      *    *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

Advertisements

About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

14 responses »

  1. Women working with men? How barbaric! (LOL)

    Reminds me of the time I played soccer (‘football’) with a bunch of kids in Mexico and barely lived to tell about it. I think there were more rocks on the ‘pitch’ than on the mountain behind us.

    Reply
  2. All the “big men” ever do is slam dunk anyway. It’s the centers and the pesky little guards who get all the points.

    Reply
    • Thanks for trying to educate me AuntieB….basketball never really took off in Australia…..the National competition is slowly contracting as clubs go bankrupt …..probably unable to pay for the big-name American players they imported.

      Reply
  3. Brilliant account of your time in PNG GOF… and yet, truth be told, this was not too long ago as well. Goes to show how easy it is for folks in First World countries to forget that there are still heaps of places on this planet in the 21st century that still look like they’re straight out of the 1800s. Keep ’em coming GOF.

    Reply
    • Thank you Ninja…..I suspect Korbau today would be little changed from what it was in the 1970’s……revisiting it is high on my Bucket List.

      Reply
  4. An honor indeed, I think a little hazing means you’re even more welcomed than you realize. At least in my experience…… 😉

    Reply
  5. Wonderful story! I am sure everyone of those girls remembers you fondly!

    Reply
  6. What a beautiful memory. I wouldn’t never be able to shake it either GOF.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: