Here in Papua New Guinea, bilums are all the rage.* Since we don’t want to stand out, we obviously have adopted using them. Now it is hard to tell the difference between us and PNG nationals.
This was our first bilum, purchased by Elizabeth in the second week we were here at the street market in town. She wasn’t in love with it, but it was the best choice and, honestly, how long can you go on looking like a foreigner?
A few weeks later we went to the Goroka Show where there were many folks peddling their wares including a large variety of bilums. Here Elizabeth found the following bilum which she liked much better and has continued to us as her go-to bag.
While Elizabeth was picking this one, Belle also selected one she liked and the vender offered a killer two-for-one deal so Belle acquired this bilum.
And wouldn’t you know it, Lucy walked up right then and the vender said something like, “Oh, you have another daughter, she needs one too.” But she suggested an ugly one which was immediately rejected. Then, as if with some divine inspiration, she held up the smallest bilum we’ve ever seen and, for Lucy, it was love at first sight.
This bilum was given to Elizabeth by our language helper, Margaret.
More recently I met a guy who is a Bible Teacher in one of the tribes where NTM missionaries have planted a church. The day after I met him he showed up at our door with this bilum saying he was selling it to raise money to buy school supplies for his daughter–and it was made by his wife who died three months ago. This presented a dilemma for me. On the one hand, I don’t like to follow the crowd and I have a backpack with adjustable straps, multiple well organized, zippered pockets, a waist belt to distribute weight, and a camel-back water bag; on the other hand, I have a heart. So…
Then another lady gave Elizabeth this one.
Then the same Bible Teacher showed up and sold this one to Elizabeth.
Just about every woman in PNG makes bilums and many we meet suggest that we buy them yarn and they will make one for us. I’m sure our collection will continue to grow, so if you are interested in owning a genuine PNG bilum, don’t be shy. We’d be happy to get one for you.
*This statement is in no way accurate. Bilums are a traditional item that almost everyone uses and has used for as long as people can remember.