Beautiful blend of cultures

AS IS typical of marriages between couples from different parts of the country, a wedding last Saturday at the Ela Murray International School was a blending of matrimonial customs.
The wedding of Raymond Frani and Sally Pokiton was a moment when not two but five different traditional customs came to play, from the beginning of the formal ceremony to the feast and presentations later in the school hall.

The couple meeting well-wishes and photographers. On the left are Ray’s parents Nick and Ruth Frani. The little gentleman in Ruth’s arms bore the wedding rings.
Ray’s paternal aunt Rose letting the newly-weds step over her.

Gifts were presented to the couple and also exchanged between relatives on all sides.
Ray has a large extended family in the city and I count myself among the long line of uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces present at this wonderful occasion.
The wedding brought together about 500 family members, friends and colleagues.
I said five traditions were fused in the wedding so introducing the couple would be a tad longwinded.
Ray, a pilot working with Tropicair in Port Moresby is the first born of a Madang (Bogia) father and a mother who is part Salamaua, Morobe and Kavieng, New Ireland. That’s three cultures there.
Sally, a journalist with PNG Loop is of Manus and East New Britain parentage.
And given that some PNG societies are matrilineal while others patrilineal, trying to state where one comes form can be problematic too.
That being so, wait until you get to meet Junior Ray or Sally in the future!
On the Bogia side, we presented bilums to the bride and her family on both sides. These bilums were of two types – the biamtarim or small one is for (my guessing) the makeup kit, purse and smart phone (can be buai, daka and kambang) while the big one is a utility bag for the bride. It signals that she is now a woman and would-be mum and her bilum is everything to her in her role; to bring home food and other family requirements. It’s an affirmation that she is fit to be a provider.
Ray’s mother’s side and Sally’s relatives also presented gifts to signify a customary formalisation of the marriage.
A solemn Christian ceremony was conducted out on the school lawn in a bright and warm Port Moresby morning by Living Light Foursquare Church senior pastor Rodney Tomuriesa.
Apart from the statutory pronouncements, prayers and blessings, Ps Tomuriesa quoted from Paul’s famous epistle on love in the 13th chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthian congregation.
“…love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Beautiful words indeed and a timely reminder to the couple as well as everyone attending the event because of the level of violence in family homes in our society today.
From a traditional perspective, there were also similar words to the newly-weds. I thought I heard a Kavieng mamai warning the groom “don’t you dare lay a hand on that woman!”
Ray’s paternal aunt Rose summed up well in deed what we the Bogia side would have tried to express in many words.
In accordance to our customary fashion she prostrated herself on the carpet for the couple to step over her, which is perhaps a way of saying, “I will go any distance to show you I love and honour you.”
It was a wedding that harmonised different PNG customs with precepts from the Good Book.
Our very best wishes for a long life of marital happiness to Ray and Sally!

Beware of king tide waves

ON November 28, I was with some staff and Year 7 and 8 students from OLSH International School, in Kavieng, New Ireland, at a beach resort 20km down the Boluminsky Highway to the south.
At about 1pm, king tide waves struck the beach and displaced footwear and bags that were placed on or near the tables set up along the beach.
Teachers acted quickly to round up the students who were in the water to immediately get onto the beach since more huge waves were approaching and were taking in sand, silt, debris and logs into the water and creating a rip current that flowed dangerously fast towards the creek which was about 70 metres to the northern end of the resort. Despite the panic and some people getting small bruises by bumping into logs or other stuff that were being carried by the rip current, everyone was safe and on land before more waves pounded the beach.

A king tide in the past
One of the resort staff told us that such waves have not struck their area since the last big king tide that caused damage to many parts along the New Ireland coast. As the Telegraph reported on December 11, 2008:
“Pockets of devastation can be found down the entire 280-kilometre stretch of New Ireland’s only coastal road.
“Village homes built close to the water’s edge were either destroyed or swept some 50 metres inland by the high tides. “The pristine white sand is littered with coral and debris, while the normally bustling villages have been abandoned.”
That was in 2008.
But on November 28, as we travelled north up the highway later in the afternoon, we saw what the waves also did to houses built closer to the sea, as at Lossuk, Ngavalus, Putput and elsewhere along the highway. The waves crashed around and under houses that were built on posts. The water near the shore was murky brown and filled with debris.
Although we have not learned of any tragic news from that event as yet, the waves could have posed a real threat if smaller children were near the ocean when they pounded the beach. It reminded me of my times as a child and swimming at Windjammer Beach in Wewak, East Sepik, when king tide waves struck back in the 1970s and 1980s.

What is a king tide?
I tried explaining to the students who were with me last month that a king tide is a higher than normal high tide. The water will be much deeper than when at normal high tides and the waves will be bigger.

King tides can cause waves to break further up the shore, as at a beach in Hawaii.

The Brisbane City Council’s website site states: “A king tide is a higher than normal high tide. King tides peak twice a year, once during the day in summer (typically in January) and once during the evening in winter (typically in July). Spring tides, which are also higher than normal, can be expected approximately one month before and one month after the peak king tide. During this period, high tides typically get higher as the king tide peak approaches.”
Everyone should be aware of the threats that such an event can pose to people in the sea as well as people using roads or walkways that pass by the sea. Things and people can be washed off into the sea if they are not careful.

My memories of king tides
I have childhood memories of king tides and was well aware of the phenomenon because I spent most of my holidays and weekends as a nine-year-old until I was 12 and older at Windjammer Beach with classmates or relatives surfing the waves by body-boarding or body-surfing.
When king tides occurred, the water would be brown, the waves would huge and the water would be deeper than normal.
It was common knowledge to those of us who knew the sea to rouse everyone who was not a confident swimmer, or those who did not know how to swim, to get onto the shore and stay there until everyone got out of the water to go home.
In the meantime, those who were confident in water would be riding the huge waves.
The thrill of it was something that came once in a long while.
It could be dangerous too in that rip currents could be in play at that time and could drag people out to sea. That had happened a number of times and we had to swim out to rescue some of our peers who were dragged by the strong current that was returning out to sea after a huge wave crashed onto the sloping beach.
Beaches that do not slope as much as Windjammer Beach may not pose such threats, where the returning body of water created another wave that would be travelling out to sea.

 Just be aware
It is needful that everyone who is supervising young children, or people who are not confident in water, to get out of the water and onto dry land if there is a king tide.
A website in Hawaii, in August 2018, stated: “King tides are the highest astronomical tides of the year, and tend to occur in Hawaii during the summer months of July and August, and during the winter months of December and January in conjunction with new moons and full moons …”
We must know these facts and keep that at the back of our minds if we are planning anything on a beach or in the sea. Look out for the signs of a possible king tide, as in higher than normal high tide and huge waves.

  • Thomas Hukahu is a freelance writer.