Travelogue #7 – Papua New Guinea: Part 1
January 30, 2013
StreetMusic – FREE Cathy & Marcy Perform for Families
June 15, 2012

Vabukori Village & Farewell Party
On Sunday, January 28, we were picked up by our Embassy driver, Jimmy, along with Natalia and Natasha, headed for Vabukori Village. The drive went through the city and over rough, potholed, rocky roads and we were joined by a second Embassy security vehicle.

People are always walking on the side of the road and there are many impromptu stands for selling a few fruits or other goods. As we reached the village, we passed homes made of whatever people can find-some aluminum, boxes, tin, roofs from plastic bags, a few built houses. The people were excited about the show and very welcoming. As we entered the area where the concert would be, they gathered to meet and greet. It took us about 2 minutes to get out a banjo and a uke and start making friends. Marcy & I started a sing-along with a group of kids. They had just finished church and we sang gospel songs that we all knew. They sang a few in English and the indigenous Motu.


Cathy met a large group of women in white flowing dresses with big smiles. They were the female deacons of the church formed by a group of widows and single mothers. They gave her a tour of their beautiful church and she played some banjo and songs for them, including more gospel songs.


Everyone was fascinated with our instruments. We performed outdoors and the crowd of about 300 sat on the steps of a simple amphitheater. From the first song they clapped and cheered, especially when Barbara took a fiery fiddle break or Marcy took a hot licks guitar break. They sang along and totally rocked on our yodeling lesson and sing-along yodel-along song.  Smiles were everywhere.

Trio in Vabukori

Barbara also took a liking to the community’s pig. Pig’s are revered in PNG, and a sign of wealth and prosperity.

Babs & Pig

We usually each take one solo in our concerts. On Cathy’s turn, she chose the slow banjo tune, “Coleman’s March” that we’ve all enjoyed with fiddle and guitar on this tour. Mid-way through, there was a commotion and suddenly half of the audience was gone. The show was interrupted by a SNAKE!!!!! First everyone wanted to see it, then they ran away from it, then one of the locals tied it in a knot and showed it around. We’ve had experience with odd interruptions- including from a Kangaroo at a concert in Israel.  This is our first snake interruption.

The crowd regrouped quickly and the show continued. We invited the local string band we had met a few days earlier to sing one of their songs. We love their harmonies and the lead guitar player plays upside down and left-handed, handily!  Several women in white got up to dance a hula-like dance and Cathy joined them. Luckily, no photos of that one! Then, we all performed a version of the Hawaiian song Pearly Shells, teaching the chorus to the audience. Our collaborations with local bands have truly been the pinnacle of the tour.

.Hula Lady

Out come the secret weapons of peace- the percussive washboard and the limber-jack  Again, the crowd roared. As usual, we left a washboard and limber-jack with the Village. After the show we did our usual show and tell of instruments, letting locals try out the fiddle and banjo and washboard and limber-jack  We almost didn’t want to leave. It was very hot, very windy, very dirty and dusty from the dryness, but totally memorable. An incredible last show of our tour.

We returned to the hotel and headed to the 15th floor lounge where lots of people gather from 5:30-6:30 for “therapy”- happy hour, a chance to socialize with other internationals who work hard in Papua New Guinea. As the local curiosities, we had made friends with several regulars from all over the globe. We had a farewell party with everyone taking turns singing their national anthems and our trio giving a small concert of songs we had never played together. The staff of the hotel enjoyed as much as the happy hour crowd. We expect to stay in touch with many of these folks. There’s already talk of returning with some music and literacy programs.

PNG’s incredible experiences were made possible  with the amazing leadership and guidance of Natalia Capel, Natasha Bodger and drivers Jimmy and Gimma.

We are now at the top of the journey home. Our first 2 flights are delayed and we get to practice taking each moment as it comes for the next 40-70 hours. PNG to Brisbane to Sydney to LAX to Detroit to DC, and then Babs with another overnight and last flight to Nashville.

One more blog to come of observations, favorite moments and photos.

Also posting lots of photos at

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