|My papa was really excited about the chicken|
As Gaea mentioned in her blog post, Christmas is one of the few times to drink alcohol here. Leading up to it, I had a big debate with myself as to whether I should drink or not. Drinking here is not done responsibly. They drink so infrequently that they do not have a chance to build up a tolerance. They also do it in volume when they do. I ended up deciding to drink with them largely so that I could try to provide a good example. It was largely successful, though I don’t know how much good it will actually do.
Being at my papa’s house helped. I was talking to him about it as we started by sharing some Victoria Bitter. He seems to have had a similar introduction to drinking heavily wherein the people he is with insist on maintaining focus. Then my cousin and some others joined us. They brought Pastis (it’s french, that’s about all I know), Whiskey (Johnny Walker Red Label as opposed to the normal crap), and some mixers.
My papa’s house seems to be something of a “safe house” for the women. One of the other guys in the village was already drunk and hit his wife, then chased her to another house and kept hitting her. She jumped out a kitchen window and got to my papa’s house where he didn’t follow. I get the feeling that my papa disapproves of some of the antics. Other than coming in to mediate things, he generally stayed out on the porch and avoided the drunks.
For a while, the men were out on the porch drinking, storying, and watching videos through the window. Then a few decided that they wanted to dance. Unfortunately, one of them was quite drunk by this time and was being a nuisance to the women and pikinini. I started off trying to just corral him but as he got a bit drunker I just started blocking him from coming inside. I had the backing of my cousin and papa to do so and it generally worked. Eventually, he was told to go home.
|He was also excited about taking pictures and the alcohol|
Things went pretty well for a little while. Gradually, more and more of the guys wanted to dance. They were also getting more drunk. I took up a line through the room to try and give the women space to dance or sit. Eventually, my papa came in to draw an official line and authorize me to maintain it with a couple other guys. I was generally able to dance the other guys back to their space. Sometimes this required a little bit of physical redirection. If I gave them a little push to another guy they would get distracted.
As the night wore on, more men showed up with more alcohol. One of the other “responsible” guys disappeared and the other was getting too sloppy drunk to actually help me keep things more under control. He was more likely to stumble another guy further into the women than help guide them back. The guys who had alcohol were pouring it into each others mouths. I took the tactic of ducking outside and spitting it out rather than get myself sloppy drunk.
At one point, my uncle (who is known for at least physically abusing women) was dancing over my sister (his niece, who I noticed had a tendency to leave the room when he stumbled in). I was already getting tired of the guys’ crap and pushed him off just a little harder than I meant to. He stumbled into the wall just enough to run into it. He got mad as did one of the other youngfalla. I had to apologize and it was quickly forgotten. Once I get a chance to talk to my papa, I’m going to ask him why the other guys didn’t have to apologize to the women and how he feels about his brother dancing on his daughter. We’ll see how that goes.
Shortly thereafter, most of the women who were still around left. I stuck around a little longer and then exited myself. As I was walking back up to the house, some of the women sang out to me and said thanks for my work.
I am so completely fed up with misogynistic attitudes and domestic violence in particular. Meeting violence with violence is not going to fix anything but I’ve seen way too much of it here not to want to.
There is only so much we’re going to be able to do in a culture where it is so pervasive. The most effective tactic we’ve found is getting people to see that there is another way. Everyone grew up getting hit as kids and hitting a woman is not discouraged. Domestic violence is defined as hitting your wife “too hard,” not just hitting your wife. When Gaea and I talk about how we resolve conflicts in our relationship, we get confused looks. The idea of discussing both sides of an argument and coming to a mutual resolution is almost as foreign as the idea that the man may not be right. Fortunately, some of them do obviously think about it more and come back to us with further questions.
Serving as a couple also gives us some amount of authority on the subject. The single volunteers are told they don’t get it because they aren’t married. No one can use that excuse on us. We obviously have experience and are harder to dismiss. Not that they don’t sometimes chalk it up to “fashion blo whiteman.” I hope that we reach a few people on this issue through the last year of our service. I hope to be the proverbial American butterfly helping to create a cyclone of change on the other side of the world. This attitude will not change all at once but will take gradual improvement over the generations.