Friday, 30 December 2011


This entry is a collection of amusing stories I have heard and things I have witnessed about pigs in PNG. In PNG, pigs are important. They’re cheap to feed, easy to look after and delicious (so I’ve heard) when the time is right. They’re also very expensive once fully grown and therefore highly prized. I’ve heard of people here buying a piglet when they have a baby and fattening the pig as the kid grows. By the time their kid is ready to start school, the pig is ready to pay for the school fees. Kind of like a college fund, only smellier.
In Australia, I never thought about pigs, or heard funny stories about pigs. They don’t come up really, as a topic - well not for the average Australian. Unless you’re dad has a pig farm or something, which leads me to amusing pig story No.1.

Amusing Pig related story No. 1
This story comes from an Australian volunteer working in PNG who has done a particularly fine job of getting to know everyone. Truly everyone. She has done this just by being her sunny self, always willing to chew the fat, find out what’s going on, and of course, she has learnt Tok Pisin. Not so long ago, she told me a story about when she first arrived in Moresby. Keen to get to know people and to practice her language skills, she had a good chat with some young lads working in security around the compound she was staying at in POM. They talked about all the usual stuff, where they were from, and about their families. It therefore quite naturally came out, that her father has a pig farm. A commercial pig farm. With about 10, 000 pigs. Being very new to PNG at the time, this volunteer had no idea what that might mean to a prospective beau (I sincerely doubt she considered herself on the market). The very notion of marrying into a family with 10,000 pigs! Well, I think it was a bit much for the lads to handle. Needless to say, she received a lot of attention from the security boys as the story of the prospective pig rich father-in-law spread and she now keeps the specifics of her father’s business out of introductions with PNG’s eligible bachelors. 

Amusing Pig related story No. 2
This one comes from another volunteer who works in juvenile justice. She hasn’t been here very long but seems pretty handy with the Tok Pisin already. But no one’s perfect. This story shows how funny a little language error can be.
The volunteer had heard that there was a boy in the cells. She went to have a look and saw an angelic looking 14 year old boy who was apparently in for murder. She was naturally shocked to think that one so young could kill. She asked the boy, in Tok Pisin, about his motive and her inquiry was met with something along the lines of:
“Em ikam long gaden bilong mi na em ikaikai sampela kaukau na kumu, olsem mi kilim em.”
He came into my garden and ate some sweet potato and greens so I killed him.

Of course she was shocked. She spoke with a friend who is a more advanced speaker of Pigin and found out that ‘kilim’ doesn’t always mean ‘to kill’. It can mean to fight with some one. Now feeling somewhat optimistic, our volunteer returned to the boy in the cell and sought clarification:
“Yu paitim em o yu kilim em na em idai pinis?”
To which the reply was:
“Em idai pinis.”

Well, I think that one needs no translation. Trying to make sense of what seemed to be such a senseless death, our heroine had a conversation with a local co-worker about land rights in PNG and the importance of land and land ownership. She tried hard to understand how trespassing on someone’s land might enrage them to kill. She later heard that the boy had been released and that things had been ‘sorted out’ and all was OK. Shocked again, she wondered how he’d been allowed to go free after committing murder to which she was assured that compensation for the pig had been settled. A PIG.
He killed a pig for eating all his families veges! In Tok Pisin, he/she/it is all one word, ‘em’. Somehow, the fact that he killed a pig and not a man had not been apparent. Which brings me to say, it wasn’t so very nice to kill the pig either, but can you believe he was imprisoned – for killing an animal on his own land. Yep, don’t mess with people’s pigs in PNG. Big trouble ensues. Ahhh, what a lovely lead into Amusing Pig related story No. 3.

Amusing/disturbing Pig related story No. 3
OK, this one’s not really a story. But I’ll just ignore that and get on with it. When expats come to live in PNG, they are usually given some very hard to follow advice, namely; if you are driving and you hit something – keep going. Yep, we are all encouraged to ignore the good Samaritan laws we’ve been told to follow all our lives and instead, hit and run. I could go on at some length about this one, but to keep things short, let’s just say that if the general idea of stopping at the scene of the accident is to assist and you wont be able to offer much assistance if you’ve been killed in retaliation then stopping is only adding to the body count (not saying that I agree with this advice though). We’re told to keep going, get on the phone or radio, seek assistance for them but don’t stop your vehicle if you hit a person. Or a pig. If you hit someone’s pig they’ll be pissed off big time and apparently you don’t want to be around to see it. Pigs are prized and killing someone’s pig means big bad news for you.

Amusing pig related story No.4
In general, pigs can be given as compensation for loss of property, general bad behaviour or just to smooth things over. In his book on PNG, Tim Flannery talks about how he offered a pig to a village in the highlands so they would abort their plans to murder him (it worked). Paying with pigs happens in other Pacific countries too (see Figure 1 for evidence that a pig fine can be issued to anyone!). For this reason, I have come up with an awesome recommendation for the Australian volunteer program to ensure the safety of those in PNG on assignment. I like to call it the ‘Back Up Pig’ program (although others claim that ‘Dial a Pig’ is catchier).
Figure 1.

Basically, everyone in PNG working as a volunteer should have speedy access to a pig should the need arise. I mean, it’s fine for locals, they’ve got vast networks of peeps with pigs, but what about us? If I piss someone off how am I gonna produce a pig in a timely fashion? How would I know how to choose an appropriate pig and know what to pay? In the ‘Back Up Pig’ program, all volunteers would have a pre-organised pig provider, who, for an agreed price could deliver a pig where it was needed pronto.
My plan was to convince Hannah, (who does a stellar job of co-ordinating the New Zealand volunteer program in PNG) to include in a presentation she was giving to Australians on her work, a farcical power point about the importance of the ‘Back Up Pig’ program in the security plans of the NZ vols. Sadly professionalism triumphed over what could have been comedy gold. I would have loved to see the faces on the attentive bureaucrats present :)

What’s that? You’d like another amusing tidbit about pigs in PNG? And a visual? Oh all right then.

Amusing pig related story No.5
Recently, Andersons, a supermarket in Kokopo, had a competition for which first prize was – yep you’ve really got the hang of this – a PIG!! I like how in the picture, it looks like a dirty black bush pig, which is probably what it is…

Amusing pig related story No. 6
When the Australian Navy were here recently, blowing up unexploded ordinance, a couple of villages were particularly helpful in locating bombs, mines and other such wartime nasties. I believe these villages were also inconvenienced as the Navy moved in to do dangerous exploding-y things. To say, ‘thanks’ and ‘sorry for the trouble’ the Aus Navy bought the villages a pig. Would love to have seen how they wrote that into their expenditure.

So, I hope I have painted an accurate and well rounded picture of the prized place the pig (or pik) has in PNG. If I hear any more great pig related things, I’ll be sure to up date you. Who can ever have enough pig stories!!

Gutpela Nui Yia long yupla na noken lus tingting – sapos yu spak na yu draivm, yu long long.
(my personal Tok Pisin version of ‘if you drink and drive you’re a bloody idiot’ but not sure how good it is :)