Subject: Re: Mixing with the locals
Hello Frances and Fellow Ziners,

When staying with my "family" (I've been sort of adopted into this family) in Solomon Islands, I still have trouble dealing with having to eat by myself, having my friend turn his back to me when I walk into a room, and being startled by his eldest sons, all young men, scurrying out of a room when I walk in as if I was a harbinger of the Black Plague. But all this is their way of showing me respect, even if I wish they wouldn't. Even though I'm part of the family, I am still a foreigner and as such receive better treatment (as a women) than the other women in the family, although sometimes my friend, the patriarch, decides otherwise - and then I'm inclined to want to smack him.

One of the biggest hurdle was when he and I went to visit his uncle, a Kastom man (magic man) living in a custom village in the bush (a walk up the hill from hell in the jungle) which the Christian population refer to as a heathen village. My friend wanted his uncle to "magic" a 649 number. It's a fairly closed society and foreigners are not welcome, but being family, I was welcomed although still, as a women, not allowed to sit anywhere near the men in the communal hut. I had to sit on a small log near the door, which was uncomfortable, to say the least. I was the only woman inside. To top it off, my friend took great delight in hissing "you sit there!" every time we exited and re- entered the hut (this when he needed to discuss various aspects of choosing a 649 number). Women were only allowed to venture inside as far as the log, which was right next to the entrance. But they made me feel very welcome, providing I kept my place. It struck home that I am a lowly female when a village male wanted a picture taken near the spirit poles. I couldn't get near enough to the poles to get a clear shot as I was not allowed past the ring of stones that marked the forbidden-to-woman area.

Needless to say, he didn't win the 649.

The other cultural difference that still disconcert me is the strong belief in magic and superstition. Not only in Solomons, I ran into that first-hand with the family I stayed with in Kenya after the death of their baby son. But I've been exposed to so many situations involving superstition and magic, particulalrly in Solomons, that sometimes I almost believe that what is happening is not only a direct result of magic, but perfectly normal.

Nadine Vancouver (soon to be in sunny Cuba)