“Askim” is a Pidgin euphemism for begging or whatever you call it when your alma mater calls for money. In Menya I’ve encountered numerous askims: requests to print things, a few requests for mobile phones, and one request to record and edit a music video. When I reject these requests, the usual response is “I was just asking” masking the imposition with a perfume of social acceptability. That’s the PNG way.

During construction I’ve learned it is even acceptable to ask for something currently in use. Another man came by today and asked me to give away orange plastic. That brings the total close to double digits. But I’m still using the plastic–it’s covering our window holes as well as piles of things under the house. This is plain to any observer. And yet people still ask.

Some askers are complete strangers. My first thought with the first stranger was “At least get to know me first.” But I have developed an appreciation for this boldness. I don’t wonder if the strangers were being friendly just to get something out of me because they were never friendly.

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