National Geographic : 1972 Jan
Santo, about 30 miles north of Male kula. U. S. servicemen left a favorable impression that by now has assumed almost mythical proportions. Thanks to those soldiers, the Small Nambas now risked breaking a taboo. The taboo, as it turned out, truly was a "little bit." Hardly eventful, the cere mony consisted of the elders singing frightening songs about whirlpools and five-headed demons, apparently in an attempt to make men of the boys. But the youngsters didn't appear very scared. In fact, I thought as I photo graphed them, they seemed more appre hensive about my flashbulbs. Storm Follows Breaking of Taboo The really frightening aspect came later, and I was the one who was scared. During the ceremony, gathering dark clouds promised a severe storm, and Ilabnambinpin made me return to my hut immediately. To this day, I'm not certain that the broken taboo wasn't to blame, for never had I seen a typhoon like the one that followed. It rained all day, and by evening a tor rential downpour was joined by a howl ing wind that slammed into the hut like a locomotive. Each gust, at 20- to 30 second intervals, shook the hut and everything in it, including me. I sat on my bed of banana leaves, worried about the wind and rain, and wondered whether-assuming I sur vived this-I would be accused of caus ing the storm by breaking the taboo. Between gusts, my translator and friend, Metak, the only man in the vil lage who spoke passable pidgin, blew into the hut, dripping water, and urged me to leave quickly. "Kal, you no savvy stop long place here," he warned. "Close up house here, he fall down. You come wit em me." I covered my photographic equipment and supplies with heavy Happiness is a father to comfort you when you stub your toe or just feel lonely. A Small Namba lad and his sister share dad's lap. "I never saw anyone spank or threaten a youngster," says the author. "I was impressed by the frequent physical contact between parent and child."