Saturday, 28 January 2006


Last night I went to a cultural night. You learn to get wary of that term – well, I have anyway. They usually involve a few skits, quite a few dance numbers, and occasionally a song or a band. The first time you go, a cultural night is fascinating, fantastic, fun; you don’t mind that it’s supposed to start at 6.30pm and it doesn’t get going until 8:15. You are amused, rather than bored, when watching pretty much the same performance for the second or third time. Etc etc. Whilst admiring the energy and effort and pride put into the shows, I have to confess that they tend to be long evenings, and – to my taste only – often a bit dull.

But last night I was invited to one some friends were performing in. It was the finale of a 3-week orientation-to-png course, and all of the participants (missionaries, expats, volunteers) had to group together by nationality and perform something, anything. There were 12 or so numbers, and I admit that I went dragging my feet, muttering “stupid cultural shows” to myself.

But it turned out to be lots of fun, and very funny. The Philippinos sang beautifully; “well that’s one result of a totalitarian dictatorship” muttered my acerbic neighbour. She was a harsh judge; the phippinos sang very sweet sad songs, and everyone else was rather moved (admittedly we couldn’t understand the lyrics). The Indonesian group was made up of four men who had practiced all day to do some type of line dance; all out of step, always one forgetting which way to turn, all to a song that went for 8 hours. “Well you can tell that took a lot of effort,” sneered the acerbic neighbour. Yet after the line-dance fiasco each of the Indonesians danced solo, performing a dance from their ples; each were unique and quite intricate, based on small gestures rather than balletish leaps; the Javanese was particularly impressive, it reminded me of a dancing Kandi man of Sri Lanka, and was hypnotic to watch.

But some of the best parts of the evening came from the responses of kids in the audience. They giggled and wriggled and peeked through their hands and squealed and made everything a delight. You could just pinch those little cheeks.

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