Morobe Field Diary, October 1976: Two Canoe Experiences

I paddled the kaunsil out to the [M.V.] Sago when we were loading ready to leave Kela and some people waiting for me to cross their path said, in reference to me, masta kanaka, i.e. a ‘native’ whiteman with all the paradox in Tok Pisin that it has in English–maybe more. That is the story I’ll leave behind when I go, I suppose. A story about oneself is the means to immortality here–along with children–not publication. My singsinging at the church assembly gave another chapter of the story to many people there. Maybe it’s the kind of story this country needs more of.

Today I decided to paddle out and dump some junk left over from a coconut tree that was cluttering up the beach in front of my house and attracting dog piss. First I loaded the heavy stuff, climbed in overloading one end and swamped the bugger. Then I redistributed along the length and climbed in again to discover the outrigger was overloaded and submerged so I could only go in circles. Shit, plenty room for pitfalls in these uncomplicated-looking canoes. Then I paddled my weaving, meandering way out past the reef. The uneven drag of an outrigger canoe still gets me. I can get where I want to go but not without a good deal of worry and no grace at all.

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