Change is inevitable, regardless of where you live. West Papua is no exception. While landing at the beautifully renovated airport in Sentani yesterday, I was struck with how different both the airport and urban landscape around it looked.
As our taxi headed down the main thoroughfare in the town of Sentani we passed a stop light, the first one I had ever seen in West Papua. No one was paying any attention to the light and traffic flowed as usual, an un-orchestrated organic jumble of cars, motorbikes, scooters, and pedestrians. In essence the stop light, although a sign of progress, seems to have had its status relegated to street ornament. I was so excited when I saw it; despite all the change, there are things just don’t change: Mt. Cyclops and its waterfall towering over lake Sentani, and the absolute disregard of any kind of traffic regulation.
My parent’s house is located in the little town of Waena, which, since I was last here, has been enveloped by the city of Jayapura and is now more of a suburb to both Jayapura and Sentani. We have a supermarket around the corner, Mega Waena!
Yet on our walk to the supermarket today, so much of the familiar jumped out at me. The small fruit stands along the side of the road look exactly like they did when I was little. Seeing children as young as eight or nine riding motorcycles carefree through the streets and alleyways and hearing the calls to prayer emanating from the local mosque bring back so many memories.
My Papuan friend Judy has flown from Ambon to see us. We have known each other for 35 years. Friendships are important and celebrated: an intricate part of the culture. As I walked through the side streets today, I was greeted as ‘sister’ by many. This is the Papua I remember.
Judy and I are going to a well known market in Jayapura tomorrow, as we are both searching for authently Papuan batik. Update on our progress will follow!