January 8, 2016
Ellie (Stranger #5) was sitting with some other young women outside a fuel station. I had gone shopping in Kainantu (a small town in the Eastern Highlands) and as I walked between shops I hoped to photograph a few strangers. Ellie is from Okapa, but she was in Kainantu visiting family for the Christmas holiday. She is currently attending secondary school in Okapa, where she is in grade 12.
Jobby (pronounced "Joe-B"), was sitting against the wall of a shop in Kainantu with some other men. I started to walk past, then stopped myself and told him about the project. With some encouragement from the small crowd that had gathered around us, he agreed to participate. Jobby is from Kainantu, but is currently studying geology at Unitech in Lae. He was back in town for the holidays. I asked if he wanted to work in mining, which a big industry in Papua New Guinea. He shrugged and said, "Something like that."
Helen, (Stranger #7) is from Aiyura, near Professor Schindler Primary School (which is a local landmark, notable for bright green paint and a huge painted mural of said Professor Schindler). She has lived here all her life. Helen said she grows cabbages and beans to sell at market, "But everyone does that." I asked if she was married and had children and she replied, "Mi gat etpela pikinini, na ol tumbuna kilim mi" (I have eight children and [so many] grandchildren [that] they are killing me.) I have noticed Helen's wonderful smile in the past - a smile that almost makes her eyes disappear- and now I'm pleased that she is no longer a stranger to me.
It was hot, waiting outside the K-Mart in Kainantu (NOT the same as the chain store in the States!). Kerry (stranger 08/100) was wisely standing in the little slice of shade in front of the store. I joined her and struck up a conversation. I liked the bright colors of the bilum she wore on her head. Kerry is originally from Okapa, but now lives in Kainantu. She told me that she has a daughter, who worked a store across the street, and three sons.
Arick, stranger #9, was a street preacher that morning, loudly exhorting those gathered at market to follow Christ. After he had finished his sermon, I had a nice chat with Arick. Born in 1933 near Warabung, he has lived in Ba'e for 15 years. I asked if he was a pastor, and his face grew intense. "No," he replied loudly and firmly, "I am a Christian!" and proceeded to tell me how he was saved in the mid 70's, and how Christ changed his life, and how thankful he is. We also spoke of his four children and what they were doing, but he kept returning to speak of his desire to preach the Gospel, because "so many Papua New Guineans don't really know Jesus."