Pentecost was a cruise stop, the highlight of which is a chance to witness the N’gol, which is called land diving in english, a ritual that gave rise to bungy jumping, which, in turn, originated here in New Zealand.
N’gol originated from an oral tradition of the Pentecost people about a beaten wife who climbed a tree to elude her abusive husband, and when he climbed the tree to get her, she tied some vines around her ankles and jumped, surviving the fall. Her husband, on the other hand did not. It evolved, ironically enough into a male rite of passage ritual. Boys as young as nine take their first jump from around three stories up a precarious tower constructed of tree branches, older males jump from platforms as high as six stories. It is an amazing ceremony to watch, with brightly costumed women dancing and chanting at the base of the tower and stomping the ground as the men walk out onto the platform and speak what might be their last words, for all they know. The object is to choose vines that are neither too young, and therefore too elastic, nor too old, and therefore prone to snapping. the jumper chooses the vines he will use himself, and must cut them to the length that will allow his hair to brush the ground when the vines are fully extended. Too short, and he is shamed for cowardice, too long and his neck will snap.
At any rate, to get back to young David, I met him on the path to the tower where the jumping was to take place. I was taking photos, and he seemed captivated by my camera. I’m sure he must have seen many of them in his young life, but I had the feeling that no one had ever engaged him before and he therefore had never actually gotten to examine one. He was quite shy and reserved, but I manged to connect with him and learn his name and I let him hold the camera and inspect it and showed him the pictures I took on the monitor. He was amazed.
He was such a charmer I took his picture as a memento of our chance meeting. As you can see, he was perplexed. It got me to thinking about all the things we take for granted in our lives that literally billions of people around the world have no experience of. As the world becomes a smaller place all of that changes, of course. One can find rock band tee shirts in the remotest of places, but it’s wonderful to get a chance to interact with someone who’s experience of the world is so vastly different from one’s own.