This morning I was visited by one of our closest neighbors, Mati. It was the first time I’d seen her since our return because she and her family had been sleeping in a house near one of their gardens. After a “hello” she told me she had helped Edwin, her husband, with the thatched roof on our chicken-hut and asked if I could, in turn, help her with some money.
Before we left for home, I made a deal with Edwin. I gave him some left over pieces of metal from our house construction to use as a roof. In exchange, Edwin agreed to thatch the roof on the chicken-hut I had built with Hoka. When we returned Friday, I saw the job was done.
Mati, who sleeps under the metal roof, wanted compensation for her part in gathering the grass which had become the roof pictured above. I told Mati we would have to talk to Edwin with whom I had arranged the deal.
This afternoon Edwin and Mati came by. Edwin confirmed my recollection of our deal agreeing that the two of us are square. According to Edwin, this issue was between me and Mati only. Edwin’s perspective did not bring the clarity I had hoped.
Mati restated her point: she had worked hard and wanted money. I explained with multiple illustrations that, in America, I would not pay her because I had made a deal with Edwin alone. But we are not in America, I said and told her I would follow her custom. She told me I could pay her whatever I wanted, so I knew I was failing to communicate clearly. I asked her how much she was charging, but she was hesitant to name a price not wanting to offend. I told her this custom is strange to me and she would have to help me know how much to pay. After more hesitation she finally said fifty kina. I told her I couldn’t pay fifty kina for something I had already traded for and offered twenty. She accepted.