Wednesday, February 13, 2013

10 Toea Meri

“Do white girls not want to get married?” Rita, the national woman who comes once a week to help us with our house, asked as we sat down together at morning tea. I chuckled—when the group of singles under age 50 here in Ukarumpa is made up over thirty women and only three men, I could understand her conclusion. “No,” I took a sip of my tea. “We’re just following God where He calls us, and if He wants us to get married, that’s in His hands.”  She nodded in agreement and returned to her tea, but her words kept repeating through my mind.

photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Singleness: I haven’t touched on this topic much in the blog, but I thought in honour of Valentine’s Day, I would share a bit of my reflections on being a single female missionary in Papua New Guinea (PNG). It’s a complex topic with a lot of emotions and facets, and a single poem isn’t able to encompass all of them—nor should it. Instead of taking it as my treatise on marriage, identity, weekend plans, and why Paul writes about the glory of singleness, think of it as a glance out a window into a bit of my world, smudged fingerprints on the glass and all.

10 Toea Meri*
In America, I twitch the steering wheel, throw a smile, careless
to the gas station attendant, and take the left exit, an Amelia Earheart
speeding toward graduate school and dreams, heritage
bolted together by Rosie the Riveter. Here I am defined:
Person, Linguist. Independent.
But, cross an ocean and suddenly I’m merely
Woman. My chromosomes dictate morning armor
to walk down a street—deaf, dumb, blind
while watching, always watching, sideways, like a doe
stealing into an open glade. She and I know even
yards of fabric can’t camouflage the exotic.
Too many eyes or none of them...when unmarried
means pigs and ten-year-old boys converse over my silent
expertise and solitude casts whispers of a bedchamber.
Nogat namba,** and I beg for a spokesperson, shield, escort.
Qualification required: male.
Educated, but female; auntie, but rival threat
Immobilized (no partner) but flexible (no family), and I move
again. Our own widows and orphans, they whisper
I grip those promises with two hands:
not merely one to solve taxes, airports, plumbing, night sounds, but
one filled by Three,
called by Him who created two
and sent me, to give, to serve, to love with completeness that is

Definition: His.


*"10 toea meri" is a Tok Pisin (the local trade language) expression meaning "young single female." A toea is the smallest currency unit in PNG.
 **"Nogat namba" is a Tok Pisin expression meaning "no value, worth, status"