Not quite so scary now!
OK, I need some positive mental energy sending my way this weekend. And plenty of it.
Next week I have to give fifteen lectures, a total of 22 hours, to a group of in-service teachers on the subject of – wait for it – Education Psychology!
I know a lot of things about a lot of things, but when it comes to Education Psychology, I wouldn’t need a very big postage stamp in order to list the total store of my knowledge.
When I was a full time school-teacher – yes, I can confess it now, – there were, very occasionally, times when I went into a class less than fully prepared!
My standard reply to a student asking “Sir, what are we doing today?’ would be “Oh, I don’t know, I’ll think of something.”
Sometimes, I was joking. I knew exactly what the lesson would contain. Sometimes I wasn’t.
That kind of lesson, some of which turned out to be quite successful, I used to describe as ‘tap-dancing’.
Next week I’ll be tap-dancing for 22 hours.
Tok Pisin is a great language!
‘Meri’ simply means ‘woman’ or ‘girl’. A ‘maritmeri’ is a married woman
Your ‘pikinini meri’ would be your daughter.
(By the way, for those readers for whom English is not a first language, I should point out that, in Britain at least, the word ‘pikinini’ is not a word that would be used in polite society. It is a hangover from the days when the sun never set on the British Empire and it has all the unpleasant associations of sneering condescension of the Colonial master and memsahib would exhibit as they surveyed their servants’ children)
But I digress.
A ‘mausmeri’ would be a spokewoman. ‘Maus’, of course, just means ‘mouth’.
A ‘stilmeri’ is not a fashion icon dressed in the latest style, but a woman who is also a thief.
A ‘meri bilong wok’ is a hard-working woman, and a ‘kakaruk meri’ is a hen.
A ‘bubumeri’ is a grandmother, (what a great name for your Grandma!), and ‘samting bilong ol meri’ is simply ‘women’s business’.
The word ‘save’ means ‘to know how to do something’, so what the Victorians used to call a ‘lady novelist’ is a ‘meri i save raitim stori long buk’.
To say ‘She is a gossip’, (and please forgive the sexist attribution. I didn’t write the dictionary!), you would say ‘Em i meri bilong tok baksait.’ I love the idea of ‘talking backside’.
And, finally, to spare the blushes of our more sensitive readers, I will draw a veil over the translation of the last of my ‘meri’ words. Suffice it to say that it describes a way of making a living that has existed in the shadows for thousands of years and all over the world. I will leave you to deduce what kind of person might be described as a ‘raunraun meri’.
If you stand on the beach at Madang and turn your gaze to the north, you are looking towards the Bismarck Sea, named after Otto von Bismarck, the first Chancellor of the newly formed country of Germany in 1871. In the middle of the Bismarck Sea, you will find two very large islands, one called New Ireland and the other called New Britain. What’s all that about?
Bismarck was credited with uniting all of the smaller German States into one strong country under his leadership and very soon, Germany started to carve itself out a colonial empire. That’s what powerful European countries enjoyed doing during the second half of the nineteenth century. Britain was a world leader in colony carving.
Actually, Bismarck was a bit of a reluctant colonialist. He knew that he had come late to the party and that Britain and France between them had already built up huge empires around the world that they were merrily exploiting. He believed, in his bones, that having colonies abroad would just be a drain on the nation’s finances and a distraction from the more important business of nation building at home.
The problem was that German traders had ventured to all sorts of far-flung places and set up trading posts and small towns which they then wanted the Fatherland to protect and defend. And so Germany started to set up colonies and one of these German New Guinea, which was the northern part of what we now know as Papua New Guinea. Guess what the southern part of the island was called. Yes, that’s right, British New Guinea.
Anyway, while the good Otto was creating his, albeit limited, empire, place names started to reflect the culture of the colonial power. What we now know as New Ireland was called Neu Mecklenburg and the present island of New Britain was known as Neu Pommern. Even today, if you go north up the coast a few miles from Madang, you come to Alexishafen, and if you go the other way, you will eventually find Finschhafen.
Of course, the First World War did not go well from the point of view of Germany’s colonial ambitions. The Treaty of Versailles stripped the country of all its overseas possessions and simply handed them over to the victors. (I wonder if anyone ever asked Namibia or Togo or indeed German New Guinea if they really wanted to be handed over to another European country. I doubt it.)
As soon as the First World War broke out, the Australians moved into Deutsch Neuguinea to throw the Germans out. In fact the first war casualties suffered by the Australians were part of that conflict. Six Aussie soldiers were killed trying to take a radio station in Rabaul, on the island of Neu Pommern.
The German garrison never really had any chance against the Australians and the island was soon under their control. Apart from Leutnant Hermann Detzner, that is.
The indomitable Leutnant managed to hide out in the Highlands of New Guinea, with a handful of local militiamen, for the entire duration of the war. He then emerged from the jungle, surrendered and wrote a book entitled “Vier Jahre unter Kannibalen,” (Four Years amongst the Cannibals). His lurid account of his years in hiding caused a bit of a sensation back in Germany and made him a lot of money. Putting the word ‘cannibals’ in your title is likely to do that, I would say.
The only problem was that the whole book seems to have been a fantasy, a cleverly woven pack of lies. Ten years later he admitted that most of it had been made up. Still, a man has got to make a living, hasn’t he?
All of which goes some way to explaining why I met two men called Hermann last week and dined royally of Kasseler Rippchen.
Almost twice the size of the UK, it has 820 languages, (12 of them with no known speakers), and more than 600 islands, not counting the mainland, which, like Britain, is also an island, Well, half an island – the other half belongs to Indonesia.
There are islands everywhere, some of them with wonderful names. Near Madang, there is the island of Kar-Kar, which boasts an active, though dormant volcano. I do not want to be in Madang if it ever wakes up!
Within sight of Kar-Kar is the island of Bagabag and if you go up the coast a bit you come to the wonderfully named island of Blup Blup!
Who wouldn’t want to live on a Pacific island called Blup Blup?