Monday, September 17, 2012

Independence Day and Patriotism

Yesterday the nation of Papua New Guinea celebrated 37 years of Independence. Small town existance means that if you waited till a few days before Independence Day to be looking for a flag/decorations or Independence Day t-shirts and assorted garb, you would be too late. The few stores that sold patriotic related memorabillia rapidly sold out. I spent the last two days before the weekend looking for a large flag to fly outside my house inbetween work however to no avail. I had to settle for a string of small flags to adorn the balcony. Happily though I had the bright spark notion to buy Independance related ballons on my last trip to the big smoke and when tied with streamers actually brightened the balcony even more.

Independence Day celebrations in many towns and cities includes a march by members of the armed forces, schools, organisations and the public to a gathering point (field/stadium/etc) followed by a flag raising ceremony, the national anthem and saying of the national pledge. The ceremonies usually start early so that the flag raising ceremony would begin around 8 to 9 am. Small town etiquette means that the starting time is highly negotiable especially if at 8am in the morning it is pouring heavy rain. A nice touch was the organisers driving around with a loud hailer in the rain to announce the march would start around 11am.

Before the march started, I decided to take a stroll around the town with relations (kitted out in Independence and nationalism related attire of course) and random people walking on the beach and the streets stopped to smile and wish me Happy Independence day. I think a small town allows for people to be relaxed enough to share their joy with strangers at such an occasion which may be lost in a much more populous area. One thing that is the same as most larger centres though is that when you walk into most shops, the employees are dressed either in national colours or traditional outfits for the day.

After a quick spin around town, we headed back to a section of the beach where school children lined up, all dressed in full uniforms with their banners all waiting for the march to start. I spent the time taking random photos of each school and the others who were there. Sometimes people ask why I take photos of events, whether it is for a memory and I say it is. I want to have some record of public events that later down the track someone else can look at and know what Papua New Guinea for the average person was like in 2012. I look back at old photos on file about past Independence day celebrations and the best ones that speak volumes about the occasion were taken from the average individuals camera. Granted the photographs taken by professionals are a great account of the events , but my favourite photos are still of random individuals smiling, waving the national flag. The joy in their eyes speaks volumes.
Marchers lined along the beach

Vanimo Primary School Banner

Holy Cross Primary School
Marchers lined along the beach

Armed forces leading the march
Dapu Primary School Banner
Don Bosco Secondary School

Flag raising ceremony

I ended the day sitting on a deck chair on a best friend's balcony full of good food and wine, listening to sounds of rapturous singing in the distance and the waves breaking, reminiscing about the past year for the nation, about new beginnings and being entirely happy. I also thought about how, eventhough the parental units were in another city, I was happy to be surrounded by friends who shared this pride I have for my nation. This year the Jewish new year (Rosh Hashanah) also fell on the night of Independence day, a double blessing in my books. So Happy Independence day Papua New Guinea and L'shanah tovah!

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