mummy

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cain stops by tonight, he knows it’s about time for my annual trip home.  He asks me to pick up some soccer boots for him while I’m home.  I tell him I’m ‘going finish.’  It was rough.He doesn’t quite understand right away and nods so I repeat myself.  He hangs his head and doesn’t say anything for awhile and then starts to cry.  A little at first and then a lot more.  We sit on my back steps for a while.  I don’t know what to tell him.  I don’t know how to explain in tok pisin why I’m leaving or that I will miss him.  I try to tell him I will probably be back but I also don’t want to make promises if I can’t keep them.  It’s different with him because when he says goodbye he doesn’t really have a way to keep in touch.  It’s not just the price of a computer or the internet, which are both extremely expensive here…  But not having power where he lives, and no sign of it in the near future.  He’ll probably never have a job in an office with access to internet at work.  He did say his sister is on Facebook on her phone – this is where, once again technology has the potential to mean so much more for developing countries.  But he doesn’t know that yet and internet is a huge cost here – a few megabytes of data is more than the minimum hourly wage.

Through his tears he keeps telling me I can’t go, I can’t leave PNG but what he’s actually saying is ‘mummy can’t leave PNG.’  At first I think I’m hearing a mis-translation of my name but it’s definitely not ‘molly.’

Later, when I talk to Jarrod, he tells me Cain has been calling me ‘mummy’ for a long time.  Jarrod had always joked about it, but I thought it was Jarrod just making stuff up, I didn’t realize that’s what Cain actually called me.

I’m used to being referred to as ‘auntie,’ this is a culture of relationships and family terms are signs of friendship and closeness.  Our department head is referred to as ‘paps’ by many of the students, us younger lecturers are aunties or uncles.  But, mummy, that’s a new one for me, it’s a lot more responsibility.

The sun has set while we have been sitting on my back steps and the rain has started to fall, still he doesn’t move to go home.  I always know when Cain wants to ask for something.  You can see it coming, he hesitates, he doesn’t really want to ask, and finally he gets the courage to make his request.  But, unlike others I’ve met here, his requests are simple.  If he wants something bigger he tells me he will give me money to buy it, he doesn’t ask me to buy it.  So, when I saw his mind ticking I thought he might have a bigger request, knowing this is his last chance.  He asks for a photo of myself.

and before he leaves he tells me ‘not to forget my son’.

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