Childhood Norms

Standing on our porch in Yemli village in everyday clothes

Standing on our porch in Yemli village in everyday clothes

One thing I am continually aware of is how different everyone’s childhood is and how thatforms what they consider normal. Take me for example…

Normal for me included

  • Not really knowing who my tumbunas were – they had their pictures on the fridge and yanang Wakamik ma Wakatik always told us their names, but that was about as far as the relationship went. This is something I look back on now and am jealous of people who developed strong relationships with their grandparents. A grandma to me meant someone who lived far away and you hardly ever saw. The first time this definition of mine was challenged was one furlough when my friend told me her grandma lived down the road from her. What?! How does a grandma live down the road from you? That’s an oxymoron! I learned that there were many others…
  • Cleaning the whole unyak and packing everything away every 4 months or so to travel to a our other house and live there for a while. Usually this included taking a yingaling into or out of the village – Yemli.


  • Airports felt like a second home. That’s really sad now that I think about it, but walking into an airport always feels a little refreshing. I feel like I am supposed to be there, and I just know what to do, where to go, and it’s really not stressful at all.
  • Taking airplanes to and from the United States every three years and also the fact that the flight was over 6 hours. I remember the first time I realized not everyone in the whole world flew on long flights, and I was even more shocked to find out that some people hadn’t even been on airplanes or out of their own state! What?! How is that possible?! And, to make it worse, some of my friends ideas of a long flight was 4 hours. Haha, yu giaman ya…. Try again.


  • Dreading “furlough” – going back to the US or what everyone called “my home.” The US was the farthest thing from anything I would call my home. What were people thinking?! Longlong ya!
  • Seeing pigs tied on a log, with the victorious hunters yelling Yabbi ya HOO HOO in victory of their catch, and of course pigs are brown, not pink. The first time I saw a live pink pig, I thought it was a joke! I thought pink pigs were only real in fairy tales! It was kind of scary seeing a pink pig, not gonna lie…Image

And of course, since it was normal to see pigs tied up, I played painim na kilim ol pik with my brother. 🙂


  • Only speaking English in our home, speaking Tok Pisin and hearing Male everywhere else. It was almost like my brain switched off English when I stepped out the door, and switched back into English when I walked back. Sometimes, English wouldn’t always switch back and I still run into that problem sometimes…
  • Putting RID on every day to make sure the mosquitoes didn’t bite me so I wouldn’t get malaria. This was something I DESPISED! Mi les olgeta! Maski ya! I hated the smell, I hated the feel of the lotion, I hated how it made my skin look white, I hated everything about it. But the choice was to wear RID or get bit by a mosquito and die from malaria – wasn’t a hard decision. Well, sometimes it was.

And the list goes on and on and on. I am sure I still have more discoveries to make about what I think is normal but in reality, it is only normal for me. This brings me back to last night and my newest “normal” discovery.

My husband and I were watching “Deadly Dozen, Asia Pacific” on National Geographic through Netflix – most amazing invention! Of course this got me all excited because Asia Pacific is Papua New Guinea! Sadly, only a few of the Deadly Dozen were located in Papua New Guinea (or is that really so sad…) but it was still exciting to see similar landscape and the little island of Papua New Guinea on the map. Mmmm, as ples bilong mi!

Anyways… as you would imagine, about half the Deadly Dozen were snakes, and after one of the actors carelessly walked on a snake and was bit, he went running off to find help. The narrator then went on to explain how the snakes venom affected the body by shutting down the muscular system and if the victim was not treated soon, he would die from asphyxiation or internal bleeding. But, he also mentioned that the best thing to do after a snake bite is to wrap something around the area above the bite wound because doing this slows the poison from traveling through the rest of the body.


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When Michael heard that, he said something along the lines of, “Oh that’s interesting.”

I looked at him, surprised he didn’t know that obvious fact. Of course that’s what you do, didn’t your parents ever give you a tourniquet when you walked around the neighborhood? Well, of course not! He had no reason to know about what to do in case he was bitten by a snake.

I, on the other hand, was always given a tourniquet when we would go hiking. Dad would always bring one in his backpack just in case. We only had one dangerous snake where we grew up, but people were bitten, and often would die, so you could never be too prepared.

So once again, I learned that one of my norms – carrying around a tourniquet with you whenever you go hiking – was not a norm for my husband. I was flabbergasted! Wow!

I am excited to find out more “norms” that aren’t “norms!”

I would love to hear what yours are – maybe I will make some new discoveries today!

Lukim yu!

Avi Mu

Tok Pisin and Male Dictionary

Tumbunas – Do you remember the meaning from my past entry? 🙂 This means grandparents or any older relative

Yanang Wakamik ma Wakatik – This is in Male not Tok Pisin. This means my mom and dad. 🙂 Long words for mom and dad huh?

Unyak – Male for house

YingalingMale for helicopter

Yemli – I believe I have mentioned what Yemli is, but if not… Yemli was the name of the village where my parents mainly worked as Bible Translators. They were translating the Bible into the Yemli dialect of Male. Because there are so many different dialects and languages (over 900 distinct languages alone, not including dialects) there needed to be a common language that everyone could understand. That’s where Tok Pisin comes in. Because the kids often go to school with other kids who might not speak their same dialect or language, they usually speak Tok Pisin to each other. This is why I grew up fluent in Tok Pisin but also in Male.

Yu giaman ya – You’re kidding in Tok Pisin. Remember what the ya means? It just adds on an extra umph, like in English saying, “You’ve GOT to be kidding!”

Longlong ya – Crazy in Tok Pisin, and again the ya adds on emphasis.

Painim na kilim ol pik – Find and kill the pigs – of course! Didn’t you guess that?! 🙂

Mi les olgeta! Maski ya! – two phrases in Tok Pisin with similar meanings. The first means I don’t want to at all. The second phrase means “Forget it!” You know what the ya means – forget it with passion! 🙂

Mmmm, as ples bilong mi – well, the mmm is similar to English as just saying Mmmm 🙂 and the next bit means my home!

Lukim yu – I bet you can guess this one… It means “See you later!”

Avi Mu – This is my village name – I will explain how I got this name, and why my blog address is avimumu in a future blog. 🙂



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