Polite! Practical! And 1 for fun!

In my past few posts I have already shared a few fun & interesting words learned as I traveled from Bilogai, through the Zombandoga, and eventually to Sentani. I love different languages & cultures! I’d like to share a few more, not with the intention of imparting any level of proficiency with the language, but just to enjoy sharing a bit more about this amazing land and its peoples. Though I met folks from several different tribal groups, I principally encountered Indonesian Nationals and Papuans of the Moni tribe. A phonetic guide accompanies the literal spelling of the words below.

The Polite

Pak (pak)                             Sir or Mr.

Ibu (ē-bu)                            A polite designation for a woman or a mother;                      i.e., Ma’am or Mrs.

Martha shows off the plump strawberries harvested from her garden. Because I knew her name, I could address her as Ibu Martha.

Martha shows off the plump strawberries harvested from her garden. Because I knew her name, I could address her as Ibu Martha.

This young mother and I had a discussion regarding her cowry shell necklace. I did not come to know her name so I addressed her respectfully, simply as Ibu.

This young mother and I had a discussion regarding her cowry shell necklace. I did not come to know her name so I addressed her respectfully, simply as Ibu.

-mala (ma-la)                     This is an endearing ending attached to a boy’s name; e.g., Zani becomes Zanimala

-sama (sa-ma)                   A similar term of endearment, attached to a girl’s name; e.g., Alina becomes Alinasama

Children in tekah (kindergarten).

Awas (a-waas)    danger (i.e., an expression such as “whoa” or “careful,” as when someone slips on the slick log). Awas is an Indonesian word that has made its way into daily indigenous language.

The super slick & muddy jungle path made for many awas moments, especially for anyone in trekking or rubber boots with stiff, slickish soles! I took a number of near falls (as well as several falls!) during the trek. The folks who live in the jungle are, not surprisingly, amazingly proficient in this environment. Their feet functioned in a prehensile manner, wrapping around rocks and small logs as they moved smoothly forward. Not many awas moments for them! I was impressed by three teenage boys who sat shoulder-to-shoulder, squatting on a log not bigger around than their thighs, but balanced several feet above the jungle floor. They sat as comfortably, it seemed, as I would sit in a chair, with their feet wrapped soundly around their small perch.

Ham & Zonatan were not only sure-footed themselves, but excellent, caring guides.

Ham & Zonatan were not only sure-footed themselves, but excellent, caring guides.

Ham's sure-footedness extended beyond the forest floors to the trees. This is one of my favorite shots from the trip, when Ham, all smiles, shot up into the trees to show off a little!

Ham’s sure-footedness extended beyond the forest floors to the trees. This is one of my favorite shots from the trip, when Ham, all smiles, shot up into the trees to show off a little!

The Practical

usua me (u-su-a-meh)     good man

This good man works with the local Papuan regency government to ensure that porters are paid. He walked with me from Sugapa to Hitadipa, a hike of about 4 hours, and we had some significant time to chat. He had worked as a porter for a number of commercial outfitters over the past decade and in that time, the abuses he witnessed spurred him to begin serving as an advocate for the Papuan people. He now ensures that commercial outfitters uphold their responsibility to treat porters respectfully and pay them as promised. On average, he told me, only about 75% of the porters are being paid as promised. His work isn’t easy and can be fraught with tension because he is essentially policing foreigners. That said, he was shocked that I spent time just chatting with him, asking him about his family, showing him pictures of my family, etc – extending what I would consider just simple kindness to a hiking compadre. He confessed that no foreigner had ever expressed such interest in him as a person. I told him, “You are a good man, taking a difficult job, working on behalf of your people.” He appreciated that.

imba (ēmba)                      hurt

obat (ō-bat)                        medicine – Obat is another Indonesian word which is now frequently used by the Moni. In the early days, the Moni did not have words ending in hard consonants, so we also hear obat-i.

meze (me-zā)                     You will have aches and pains (imba) along the trek, and you may be offered a leaf called meze as medicine (obat) to rub against your aches. Don’t accept it! It is a stinging nettle and it will make you miserable! It itches and stings, and gives welts and wheals like nothing you have ever experienced. Meze will make you so miserable that you forget your other aches and pains!

I watched Zonatan rub meze onto his sore knee with his bare hands! It made me wonder how long the plant’s chemicals would remain on his hands.

I watched Zonatan rub meze onto his sore knee with his bare hands! It made me wonder how long the plant’s chemicals would remain on his hands.

Eo (eh-ō)                            Eo is simply an expression of agreement, a little bit like ok.

And 1 for fun!

Mepa (meh-pa)                 An expression or exclamation suggesting that you “get tough!” Akin to “man up!” The expression is spoken only from man to man; the expression is not used by or with women. The expression literally challenges you as “man baby.”

Enjoy!

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