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1. Papua New Guinea – what is the country? How is it different from Poland?

BANANAS – Bananas in Papua are not bought on the market, but they are grown in the garden. There are two types of bananas, the ones we know from Europe i.e. sweet and fodder bananas i.e. bitter, which you need to fry on the fire, because here to this day, people cook food on the camp-fire. After baking it has a potato flavour and it`s so popular, that you get it every day along with fish or other meat, that people call here ABUS, it doesn`t matter if it`s a fish or a pig or canned food from the shop. Everything is called ABUS here. Bananas leaves are as big as an umbrella and are used in this way. They are also used to wrap goods instead of paper. They are very flexible and the leaf pack looks nice like a plastic box.
COCONUTS – Like bananas are eaten every day. There are two types of coconuts: wet and dry. Wet means fresh, they have green oily skin, which breaks with a machete and if there is no knife at hand, the stake sticks into the ground, need strike the coconuts with all your strength to make a hole in the skin and slowly breaks off the shell. This work is a bit like scalping the head. Coconut skin is hairy enough to be used to make paintbrushes, brushes for washing floors or dishes and…as toilet paper. Under this hairy skin is a bone – hard crust, which has a natural hole on its tip corked with soft fat. And how do you know, where this hole is, you can unblock it with a nail, pencil or even a spoon. You drink a sweet drink inside which tastes like rare jelly. There may even be a liter or one and a half inside. Then the shell is broken, to scrape the pulp,that adheres to the shell from the inside. Taste the same as bounty or snickers. I`m always offended at Papuans when I see, that after grinding this pulp and squeezing out greasy sweet oil, coconut flakes are discarded for pigs or dogs…you can make a tasty cake out of it.
Coconut oil serves as a banana sauce and for making various fish or meat.
POIPOI - I don`t know the Polish name of this fruit but it`s a bit like a pumpkin the taste is wonderful and inside instead of seeds, something like caviar and is used as a medicine for malaria.
The poipoi tree is a bit like a sunflower stern, like a banana it grows in a few months and after fruiting it dies or is cut down. Exactly the same fate bears the banana tree. They are plants of one season. On these trees because of sweet fruit a lot of red ants nest and their bite is very painful.
GALIK NUT - Galiki nuts have the same taste as raw sunflower but size like chestnut, so putting it in your mouth you are experiencing an amazing feeling of sweetness. Before it happens you have to beat the galik`s shell with hammer.
PAULIKI - Seafood small snails which are buried among the seaweed in the shallow sea and then the sea is low tide, lots of children poking their hands in the mud to collect in a bucket delicious food for lunch or dinner. If the sea outflow is not strong and the seaweed is still covered with water, they looking for mussels with their feet doing something like dancing in the water. This job is a little dangerous because in the shallow waters there are fish called stone, because they can become like stone. They can bite and such a bite causes shortness of breath and numerous festering wounds on the body. When someone has weak lungs he can even die.
When the kids see me walking next to them barefoot they raise the alarm that the fish – stone will bite me and then I ask:” Aren`t you afraid of yourself?” They answer that they have had it so many times that they are immune. Once in front of my eyes the boys hunted such a fish with a stick. Even though I stood about half a meter away from it I didn`t notice because it can be masked well.
LAND CRABS - Are in Papua land crabs which behave like moles. They have a network of burrows underground and they live there near the sea but still on ground. Small crabs are everywhere. One time during a mass I noticed like a small crab the size of beetle, heading towards the cup to receive communion without confession. I chased him away of course.
GEKO – Something similar is with geko lizards. They are ubiquitous and clearly tasty because my cat catches them every now and then. One day during a mass for middle school students, geko has climbed under my alb and wandered slowly. When I gave out climbed to the sacristy as soon as possible and raised such a cry that the children had fun all day at school. Attendance at mass increased significantly after this event because children were waiting for new adventures in this style. And yes, something is happening all the time because Papuan churches have no doors or windows. So all animals including dogs, cats and pigs, have free admission, not to mention about frogs, lizards or birds. If Saint Francis saw it would break his heart with joy.
GIANT FROGS – Papuan frogs are also ubiquitous and all it takes is for a hospital ambulance to pass – the only car on my mission – and you will meet hundreds of killed frogs, which are not used to being disturbed by anyone on the road. Their voice is so loud that at night it looks like a dog barking. If I listen more carefully, I have the impression, that these Papuan frogs speak to me in Polish “Don`t move me”. I try not to move, but then I come back late sometimes I feel something slippery under my bare feet and sometimes I feel like kicking a soccer ball accidentally.
KANGAROOS - There are also kangaroos in Papua but other than Australian ones. They live only on tall trees and the meaty tail that helps ground kangaroos maintain balance, Papuan kangaroos serve as a third hand or elephant`s trunk.
TURTLES - Turtles can be found on the deep sea and are usually hunted at night using glasses and a flashlight. Turtles sleep and are easy prey. Sometimes a turtle can fall asleep during the day and then there may be a collision with a motorboat. Turtle meat is a festive dish for a wedding, funeral or for the arrival of a Bishop.
DOLPHINS – Dolphins also like the deep sea but when there was a figurine of Our Lady of Fatima, they appeared out of nowhere unexpectedly and accompanied the motorboat as if they knew that this motorboat required escort.
KNOCK-KNOCK CROCODILES – My villagers call Bahele the crocodiles and in the pidżyn dialect they are called knock-knock. They are not friendly. They live at the mouth of the river and their victims are cats, dogs and poultry. Sometimes, unfortunately, careless children are also eaten or injured. One of my catechists chopped a large crocodile machete which already had his wife in the mouth. Deep wounds remained on her legs. I told this catechist that in Poland there is the play of Aleksander Fredro called “Revenge” and that the action of this art is that a certain lady demands a crocodile from a bachelor instead of an engagement ring. They were very interested in my story.
TATTOOS – Almost all Papuans have tattoos. They trust that the tattoo will help them find a couple. It`s an element of their beauty. They have dark skin, so tattoos cannot be seen from afar but up close you can read the same thing you used to write with a penknife on a tree e.g. “I love Catherine” “Barbara belongs to me”. They make on their faces stars and something like two scars our Lady of Częstochowa. I was very touched by this sight. From now on all my chapels have painting of the Virgin from Jasna Góra. I even translated the song “Black Madonna” to the local language.
WEED CLOTHES – At a solemn mass and other solemn meetings, when is dancing, the main decoration on the hips, heels and elbows is wreaths of weeds or seashells which buzz nicely when dancing.
20 KILOS ON THE HEAD – Women do the laundry, bathe and wash the dishes in the same places where crocodiles prowl. They are safe because a crocodile is afraid when he sees a large group of people. So the only preventive measure is a bunch. Yes, Papuans have a great sense of tribal solidarity. They are not lonely they like to be in company. When they fight, everyone at everyone and how they reconcile is similar. The surrounding villages come together to see the reconciliation scene.
EVERY DAY AT SIX O’CLOCK – The sun rises all year round at the same time and at the same time it sets. This means that the night is 12 hours and the day the same. The weather is also similar all year round. It`s summer all the time except New Year and Easter. There are heavy downpours and storms at this holiday time. There are strong typhoons in August.
CATHOLIC SCHOOL – In Papua 20-30% of the population is Catholic. There are more of them in my diocese as much as 70-80%. It is thanks to French and German Hearts who came here 140 years ago. They arrived in my village in 1927 and the Parish Priest came from Stargard Gdański. He knew Polish language well and had Polish citizen ship. In time he became the third bishop of the Archdiocese Rabaul which neighbors our Kimbe. In addition to him there were 4 other Poles in Papua appointed by the pope bishops and everyone is in good health. Only this Kociewiak named Leon Scharmach died when I came into this world, which is 53 years ago. I am proud that I work in a parish founded by my countryman.
HOSPITAL WITHOUT A DOCTOR – Monks of Hearts founded a lot of schools and hospitals in Papua. They had a large sawmill on our island and church factory, factory schools and hospitals. They were really good at it. When the vocations in Germany were over and the number of Hearts was reduced all their centers began to fall into ruin because there are plenty of termites in Papua and they eat quickly everything that is made of wood.
STILT HOUSES – Due to the fact that Papua is an island country almost all the houses and also some churches are built on stilts for fear of the tsunami. It looks nice, very picturesque each cottage looks like Noah`s Ark ready to go on a long cruise.
TOILETS BY THE SEA – Living on islands is more comfortable than on land because there are no mosquitoes. But the density is so great that you feel like you are living in a city. Due to the population density toilets are built at a considerable distance deep into the sea and you go to them on a bridge 10 meters, sometimes 20 meters long. And you need to exercise well, not to fall into the sea on your way to the toilet.
TRAINED PIGS – Papuan pigs are domesticated, they have names and they know very well who owns them. Just tickle them behind the ear and immediately go to sleep. They really like these caresses. I would like to add that Papuan pigs are very pious and love to sleep in church. So sometimes you have to put some barriers at the entrance so that you don`t have to clean up after them.
MU-MU – Despite the great love for pigs, however, people eat them and bake in such a way that they dig a grave with banana leaves, lay the pig, cover with leaves. They throw it with hot red stones and bury it in the sand all night. In the morning the pig is ready to eat and such a dish is called Mu-Mu. When you ask them:”What are you doing?”. The answer is:”I mummy a pig”. MUMU is a national dish of the Papuans just like our “BIGOS”.
WILD PARROTS – There are a lot of parrots in the bush that boys with slingshots are chasing. They restrain the animal they hurt, take them home and tame them. Each village has several duty parrots who adore their host, like pigs. I didn`t check if the parrots are “mummed”. I always forget to ask them.
BURNING BIRD – The symbol of Papua is a red bird with a long colorful tail that they say is a fire bird. Like the Polish eagle, this bird is in the emblem of Papua.

2. The Father is a missionary there – what does He do?

A missionary must know everything or have friends who know everything. We call such people volunteers. My volunteers are mainly members of the popular Catholic organization “Mary`s Legion” and “Mystic Rose” and they often accompany me on my missionary journeys. When I visit my many villages in turn, according to the principle “Principal`s eye is fattening the horse” I have to go round the village, personally invite to mass and chat with grandmothers or grandparents who sit on benches, at the corner of the house or in the so-called “hausboy”. Haus-boy is a kind of boarding house for boys, which is supervised by an experienced old man. He initiates them into adulthood and prepares them for circumcision. What is circumcision, you must ask your folks. Catholics in Europe aren`t do this but in Papua it is a very popular rite without which there is no adulthood.
I WATCH OVER CATECHISTS – When the priest is absent in the village all services except Mass are run by the catechist or so-called Prayer Leader. I have to check that they are doing their job well and don`t people complain about them. They have textbooks for celebrating the Liturgy of the Word and sermon patterns for each week. Thanks to these catechists the Catholic Church survived despite the minimal number of priests. In many parishes, priests behave like bishops. They come to the villages once with a big bell and on his arrival the whole area converges as for confirmation. I try to avoid this pump and visit the villages as often as possible, that people have a sense of religious duties all year round and not just for a great occasion.
TEACHERS – I visit numerous Catholic schools to check and motivate teachers as their supervisor because Papuan teachers are not very solid and like truancy just like children.
NURSES – I visit hospitals for a similar purpose, not only Catholic but also state-owned. I feel a magnet – I`m pulled there. Even when I`m in the diocese I check in the city hospital if my parishioners are there. And I will always meet someone familiar, most often in the maternity ward because next to malaria, pregnancy is the most popular reason to visit the hospital.
I WALK IN THE MOUNTAINS – I spend a lot of time and strength wandering in the mountains. You can shorten your way to several villages very much instead of a boat on the sea cut the distance on land. When there is no rain the riding heat teases, when there is a downpour the road will soften and it`s hard to wander. Shoes after one such trip are discarded, so I learned to wander like Wojciech Cejrowski barefoot.
I WANDER IN THE BUSH – I travel to some villages through the thick bush and then I have to put on my socks and warm clothes, not because of the cold but because of the mosquitoes. There are so many of them in the bush that they can somehow penetrate under the armpits and to the groin and these places hurt, oh, they hurt…
AT THE CAROL – My life in Papua is a permanent carol but when at Christmas I sacrificehomes I have to be very careful because bamboo floors sometimes crack and then you can break something or cut an eyebrow which just happened to me one year. The hemorrhage was so strong that I took up the whole towel. It is similar with legs. Papuans are poor but they will always find a penny for beer so there are plenty of broken bottles in the villages and on the beach and you have to be careful in the evenings not to step on. I once cut a vein to my big toe. When after an hour I took off the dressing, to wash the wound, the bleeding was beating like a stream and the wound couldn`t be washed, only the next day. I walked after this surgery as lame and I had a high fever. A nurse from a neighboring village began to suspect malaria, to which my Bishop commented:”Welcome to Papua” so “Welcome to our club”
HE SLEEPS ANYWHERE – Many missionaries in Papua can sleep on the beach on the sand staring at the stars and the moon which is not at attention like in Europe but is lying on its back. These are romantic moments but there must be a bonfire next to it to protect against mosquitoes, the bonfire in turn attracts dogs and you have company.
HE EATS ANYTHING – It is important for Papuans to know that the missionary does not disgust them and can eat with them from one bowl. Many could not be surprised that I could walk barefoot and eat rice with fingers but this fun gives me a lot of satisfaction.

3. What is the children`s life and learning like there? Fun?

STEERING WHEEL ON A STICK – Boys see the hospital ambulance and this inspires them to produce cars. Two canned wheels attach to the stick at the bottom and on the other and of the pole something like a steering wheel and with such a vehicle they can run around the village half a day. Others play with tires in a similar way.
BURNT BUTTONS – Children start smoking early and chew forest drugs. I fight with all I can but something my hands fall down. The boys burn their skin and a burn wound is formed which after healing is a button – style decoration. Some have as many buttons on their forearms as there are beads on the rosary. I have heard that some fathers play drunk on their children. Thank God you don`t have such daddies.
BUILDING HUTS – Building huts is an interesting activity. If takes the most time to collect sticks for the construction. Bamboo is cut with machetes. And with virtually no nails large houses are built. Nails are replaced by long fresh “tree hair”. Tropical trees have hair growth which has its origins in a tendency to sprout roots even on branches. In case the branch breaks from the wind and falls it is ready to grow this root and create a new tree. These ties are very elastic like a string but after tearing off the branches after a few days they dry up and are strong as a wire.
COCONUT PICKING – I see children pick coconuts but it`s not on my nerves. Children sometimes fall from these tall trees and broken limbs heal for a long time. The children are very athletic but sometimes the spine breaks and the child is paralyzed or is dying. Parents do not climb the trees themselves but they require these services from their children. So they have no choice because they eat coconuts every day and every day a little man gains practice or falls as I mentioned…
GARDENS – So-called “gardens” or small plots in the depths of the bush are a kind of fun for children and adults. The plug is made mounds and sticks into the ground a stick that lets go of the roots and after a while something like an elongated potato grows underground. In these mounds, is also grown taro which looks like sugar beet but the taste is also similar to a potato. The vegetation period is short but the Papuans are stealing each other`s fruit. Wild pigs also make their lives difficult, so working in a garden a few kilometers away from home, is playing with a pup – daughter. Against the background of this hide-and-seek game, there are many village bust-ups and bad feelings. Sometimes it comes to the village court and you have to give a disproportionate amount of what happened. When I confess, 90% of the sins I hear are just that.
SEA SWIMMING – Children swim happily in the water and naked. Those who are in kindergarten age go out without underwear all week and only on Sunday are they assuming something to go to church with their mother and friends. Sometimes there are no clothes and no church. This is the reason that for the first Communion for example I buy t-shirts for children because I`m afraid that someone for such a trivial reason may not come to the first communion. Bathing in the sea is also a toilet .If you see a child or gentleman standing still with eyes closed submerged in water do not approach him, do not disturb him in meditation because you may get dirty.
Another reason for swimming is rain. It turns out that during rain the air cools down and the only warm place due to lack of clothing is sea water. The children jump into it and sit and warm themselves as if by the fire…
FUEL COLLECTION – Children are also required to col lect dry brushwood for the hearth. Bonfires are burning under the house between piles because in this way through the cracks in the floor smoke penetrates the apartment and poisons mosquitoes.

4. Children`s First Communion – does the preparation and the ceremony itself look like in Poland?

TOGETHER WITH CONFIRMATION – I have already mentioned that there are sometimes difficulties with completing a group. Some lacy parents are slow to do christening until school age and then don`t always fulfill their duty. Throughout Papua, therefore, children`s communion is delayed for one reason and another until confirmation. Fourth, fifth and sixth grade receives communion and in a few months the bishop is invited and the same children receive confirmation. On this occasion some of them wear shoes for the first time in their lives. Shoes are a sign of prestige and they are not worn in the countryside except to church. Children do not receive gifts such as in Poland. If there is a gala dinner then it should be considered a success. Catechization is usually limited to 5 catechesisies. During the year children are hardly available and you can find them at school and there is usually catechization.
CORALS AND PLUMES – The most important element of an outfit for the first communion apart, from the duty white shirt or dress, are very ingenious plumes made of cardboard and shell`s beads, they wrap not only the neck but also the belt, stomach and back. They look like Indians then or medieval knights. They also powder their faces with plenty of white. At funerals they smudge their faces with mud and at communion with fragrant powder. They also dress it on hair and clothing. There are small cones with a red dye that is used like lipstick but it smears all over the face.
TRAVEL WITH OVERNIGHT AT THE BEACH – The parishes are territorially large so the congress of several villages on motorboats is a real logistic feat. For many children it is a lifetime memory. Each motorboat has a rain cover. A tent is made of this tarpaulin on the beach and the children spend the night before they receive communion in this central village where they came from all around.
FOOD FROM ONE BOWL – I mentioned eating them on a banana leaf but on a big feat food is packed into large bowls and village leaders decide which bowl goes to which clan. This clan divisions cause animosities but also facilitate the celebration because everyone knows where to stand, sit and sleep if he was on a trip. There are so many children even a distant relative will be found. It is worth adding that Papuans due to their large number of children practice uncontrolled and spontaneous adoption. Children are distributed right and left to grandparents, grandmothers and neighbors. We, missionaries cannot understand it. And it`s hard to face it because they are explaining that if they don`t do that the child will starve. And yes, the one who has plenty of food comes out with the idea that he will take a child from a large family to bring up.
AMUSING NAMES – Both at christening and confirmation people give children random names straight from Germany because it was once a German colony. But sometimes these names are so twisted that you no longer know what this saint has transformed so much. There are names like: Mektyl, Brunkil, Hermenegi, Hedwig, Godfried, Alois, Alfons, Herman, Godszela etc. For some time in my parish there was a fashion called Jarek. It is broadcast without my initiative but clearly to please the priest parish. For the same reason there are many Leon and James in the parish because such priests used to work here. In this regard Papuans are very kind. I drew this thread and gave catechists a list of 100 saints of Polish origin to diversify the landscape and in this way we already have Papuan Mieczysław, Bronisław, Grażyna and Danuta.

5. You will be telling about some interesting adventure that Father experienced here?

BLACK EYE – I have already mentioned the broken eyebrow. Imagine that after a month the whole parish received news that some robbers beat a priest in the bush even Adventists and alcoholics were blamed. Many legends arose about my broken eye.
STUPID KILLER – Another adventure is a failed assassination attempt. An offended shaman, who was qualified as a catechist, when I fired him for practicing magic, threatened revenge. And he actually went to a distant village to find another magician who would poison me and the new catechist. He was unlucky because the magician from a distant village was a relative of the new catechist and reported everything to us. I was a bit distressed about that but I couldn`t help laughing at this evil man`s naivety that he did not check who he was talking about in such important matters. The problem is that assassination is quite common and people can`t handle it.
JOYLINE – The most beautiful adventure that happened to me is the story of a little 5-year-old girl named Dżojlin. Her parents are Adventists and they don`t like Catholic services. 9 years ago their five-years-old daughter that there will be a figurine of the Mother of God in the village and even though her parents explained that it was concrete, only she collected flowers every day, she decorated the chapel and even washed Face for The Immaculate Mary and chased away butterflies explaining that they are not worthy to sit on the Body of Jesus Christ Mother`s.
After 2 months of such practices on Christmas Eve the child heard the cry three times:”Joylin, Joylin, You are loved. Come hear the important message”. The child came and heard the task. There was a voice from the body of the figurine that he would ask his daddy to take his boat and go to sea that he will find a lot of fish and money. Father and mother were shocked but because of that day they had nothing to eat or a penny to their soul, they decided to check the words of girl. The result was surprising. The father took his brother, they sailed on two boats and 2 boats returned full of fish. For the fish sold they received the equivalent of PLN 500. Additionally a travel backpack is tangled in the network and init a T-shirt with the inscription “Catholic parish Vunapope” and in your pocket a purse with a picture of the Immaculate Virgin inside. Apart from the picture there were 11 banknotes of PLN 5 each which were not socked. Together on Christmas Eve the family got 555 (this currency is called “kina” and has a similar value as the Polish “złotówka”). So many years have passed after this event. The girl`s mother died after a while but she urged all relatives to convert to Catholicism. Father married a Catholic but did not change his religion, became hi is a dedicated deacon. Despite this, as a Adventist, he tells his story at every call, arousing consternation among Catholics and Protestants. One day the three of us visited the Bishop in the city so that he would also hear the story. The Bishop said that this event had the same effect as Jesus` command to Peter:”Go deep”. Joylin is 13 years old, she has been in the first class for several years primary school and even though she has mental abilities she can`t cope with learning. She knows the rosary well, she feels good at Mass, but unfortunately relatives Adventists isolate her from Catholics and even taken to a distant village to prevent a positive Catholics father. They only make an exception only when there is a great solemnity in the village an exception. I have recently seen Joylin on my 25th anniversary of priesthood. I was very happy because together with the village friends she was dancing for me a native dance dressed in grass and flowers.

6. Is the worth being a missionary? How can children help missions?

To be a missionary is the task Jesus entrusted to 12 Apostles and 72 disciples. 12 Apostles is the number of Jewish provinces and 72 is the number of states that existed in Jesus` day. You can see our God`s desire, that there be an Apostle in every province that is bishop, and in every country a disciple of Jesus and it means missionary. That is how it can be explained and understood.
Jesus died of love for us. Why should we refuse His request? Not everyone is inspired to work abroad in difficult conditions but there have always been people who love travels and adventures. When I was a child I liked to browse the atlas and knew the names of all the countries by heart. I dreamed that one day I would visit them and The Lord made this dream come true. I also had a good example because Father Jan Skowroński came from my village. A Redemptorist who went on a mission when I was a preschooler and I was in elementary school I sometimes saw Him on vacation.
He was so cheerful and so different from everyone. He seemed to be a human from another planet and was in some sense.
He infected me with thoughts of missions and I am very grateful for that. I just found out that he died a few years ago and I was sorry that nobody told me…
He worked in Argentina and Brazil. There are no crocodiles but there are their relatives, alligators. Father Janek talked about them as about his friends what they visit at home like cats and dogs. I think he was exaggerating to make us laugh but that`s the missionary`s fate. You want or you don`t, you have to be funny, because that`s not why you go on missions to keep complaining and crying but to overcome the hardships and strengthen others on this path to heaven which Jesus showed us…
To the question of whether and how Polish children can support missions I answer briefly:”Yes, you can send holiday postcards to the given address and your parents can get rid of unnecessary clothes and toys that you have already grown out of and send to Papua under the Christmas tree. It is the easiest and brilliant way for children to help children sharing what they have but they are willing to get rid of it. Older scouts and altar boys could take care of collecting gifts, packing and shipping. Your catechist would also like to help in this…

Father Jarek Wiśniewski
P.O. Box 182 WNB – 621