Papua New Guinea: kids and knives

It’s daunting the first time you see a grown man walking down a path with a large machete swinging at his side. In PNG, one quickly becomes inured to this sight. Sharp knives as common an accessory as the mobile phone at home. Everyone- and I mean, everyone- carries a knife. How else to you open a coconut, whack down coconut palms, sever a banana stem, trim a pandanus frond, cut open a fish… etc., etc., etc.! What really caught my attention is how children are quite adept and comfortable with knives. Big knives. Sharp knives. It startled me at first, but nobody is terribly concerned about this…and it seems, they don’t need to be.

This little guy was helping his grandfather crack coconuts for copra. Grandpa husked them nearby, and tossed the shells to the boy to crack, drain, and set aside for drying.

  kids and knives (2) 
I loved this little girl in the Kavieng market. She was hanging out with her mom, who was selling a small selection of vegetables on a mat at one end of the covered stalls, just picking at random stuff with her knife. Her mom said she was 3, then corrected herself and said she was 2. Hmm.
Kids and knives, again
Alithy here, on the right, designated herself my handler during much of our stay at Brooker. She and her friend Elizabeth need that handy knife to deal with the fish they’re catching, of course. 
Elizabeth and Alithy
This cutie was just hanging out with a knife, following his mom and aunties to the sewing machine repair station that was set up for Jamie at the Hermits. No worries.
  Another kid with a knife
When we sit down with new friends, we are often offered a drinking coconut. Seems it’s handy to have a four year old with a knife around to open the coconuts for one’s guests. 
Kids and knives
Papua New Guinea. No helicopter parents here, but lots of happy kids with mad knife skills.

4 Responses to Papua New Guinea: kids and knives

  1. Del Viento January 10, 2013 at 2:50 am #

    Wow. Reminds me of Mexico where folks grow up watching for sidewalks that just end in a four-foot drop without warning. Nobody is injured because that is the norm. But still…

  2. Skipperette January 10, 2013 at 3:21 am #

    Unfortunately we are so protective of our children that they don’t have a chance to develop such confidence and skills in some areas. We might get arrested for letting kids have such knives. And for sure, they would be considered dangerous to their peers!

  3. Jane Behr January 10, 2013 at 5:10 am #

    Eye opener! What is “right” and “wrong,” and who gets to decide?

  4. Sarah January 13, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    Between a nanny state and helicopter parenting it’s a wonder children grow up with any life or survival skills at all. Thanks for a great look at how others live, love the pics!

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