Friday, December 21, 2007

Another wedding in Papua

At the Catholic Mission things were quite different to the LMS (London Missionary Society) station. The two Priests were French and certainly appreciated civilised living; fine wines and food. Even though the two mission stations were only a couple of miles apart on the same road there was little contact between the two.

I recall that when JFK was elected the LMS people were horrified that a Catholic had become President of the USA.

In the RC compound there appeared to be major division between the priests and the nuns. The nuns ran a small hospital and kept separate to the priests. This was probably because Fr. Michel availed himself of the medicinal alcohol to make Pernod. A colleague in Port Moresby sent aniseed powder out to the mission and voila…Pernod.
Fr. Michel gave a couple of us a bottle of ‘Pernod’ when we went on a fishing trip up the Vailala River. We caught nothing and drank the Pernod with river water.

Pic: Fr. Michel invites me in for a drink

On my infamous motorcycle trip to Kerema along the beach I was surprised to see another motorcycle coming in the opposite direction. I got quite excited as the other bike got closer. It turned out to be a nun heading back to the mission. I waved, but got no response. I never knew whether that was because I had stayed over with the priests or whether she knew I was in league with the LMS. or whether she was just having a bad time.
It did seem strange that two white people passing each other on a deserted beach should not acknowledge each other’s presence there.

The Catholic Mission had a plantation about ten miles inland. It had been run down and was in poor condition. A lay brother, Marcel, offered to run it on a profit sharing basis pitched in his favour and in no time it was making a handsome profit. The Mission was unimpressed. He branched out a bit and started a couple of small trade stores, one of which was very successful because he had a battery powered record player providing Tahitian music. The locals loved it, especially when the record cover featuring Tahitian damsels was on display.

Marcel, a portly Frenchman with a pencil-thin moustache, married a young mixed race girl whose father was a crocodile shooter. The wedding at the Mission station was a big show and as with a lot of weddings there was a bit of argy-bargy and one fellow was decked by the groom. The demon grog!

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