And now, the thrilling conclusion to my funeral coverage–or at least the last part.
I first heard that Hoax’s mother had died on Friday when he called me to say he wouldn’t be able to come to our house for our “language session.” He had planned to come, but explained that he had to cancel because his mother’s family had shown up and there had been a fight. I was a bit confused, but didn’t try to get the scoop on the phone.* Over the next week we did some investigating and gradually got to the bottom of things.
It turns out that when a married woman gets old and close to death the family she has married into is expected to give a gift of money and food to the family she came from. This gift is a payment for her contribution to the new family (her work cooking, cleaning, gardening, and bearing children**.) So Hoax’s family should have given this payment to his mother’s “line” but hadn’t. The mother’s line showed up angry and they got in a fight. The picture above is from after the fight when the men of Hoax’s line were discussing how much they planned to give the mother’s line. After this, they made the payment and everyone was happy.
Later on, we found out that, in the old days, the mother’s line would show up with bows, arrows, and spears and would have killed pigs and dogs. Now the aggressiveness has decreased. We also found out that Hoax’s side of the family had talked a few days before and discussed how much they would give (about 500 kina and a pig,) but when the mother’s line first showed up Hoax’s line offered them 1 kina (about ¢50) and a pig. As we asked more questions we discovered that everyone has to play their part in the act. Hoax’s family knew that the mother’s family would be angry and, therefore would demand more no matter what their first offer was so they low-balled initially to provide an opportunity for “angry talk” and fighting. If they had made a legitimate offer up front, it would have meant paying even more in the end.
Can anyone think of anything we do in America that is like this? If so, I would like to tell Hoax about it.
*Hoax does not have electricity or running water, but he does have a cell phone.
**Their words, not mine