- haus kuk noun |haus kuk| 1 a house like structure constructed from jungle materials. Usually located right next to your house (where you sleep) or adjoining it. Used for the preparation of food and for eating. A space providing for any amount of social interaction: A type of outdoor living room/den.
As I have been learning and continue to learn about the Tigak culture, I have grown more and more aware of how important the haus kuk is. This “family kitchen” is an important part of the culture and a virtual hub of social interaction. Naturally, my desire is to connect with the women here, but to be quite honest, often it is often difficult to feel like we have anything in when we are so very very different. Of course, I look different: I’m bigger than a lot of them, my skin is white, my hair is soft and straight (compared to theirs) and I have to worry about the sun burning me to a crisp! (Although, my female partners and I do dress like them, which the Tigak ladies really appreciate). But there is also the reality that I don’t know how to do half of the things the women here do. Throw in the fact that I am only beginning to learn their heart language, and well… you see my dilemma.
Considering all those differences between us, I decided I needed to have a place just like they have to learn from them in my own version of their “kitchens,” to share the experience of cooking- just like they do- and to have an outdoor living room of sorts to invite constant interaction with our Tigak friends when they want it. Often because of taking care of our two small children it can be difficult for me to leave the house at the drop of a hat. Between naps, potty breaks, feeding times, cleaning, cooking and so on, I thought it would super helpful to have a place close to our house to focus on my language & culture study. So, that was my reason for begging Tom to let me have my own haus kuk! 🙂
About three months ago Tom selected a group of our Tigak friends who where willing to help with the project and with them all watching I drew the perimeter of my future haus kuk in the sand of our front yard with a long stick. In preparation, I had observed a lot of different haus kuk’s in our village before I chose how mine should look. They can vary in size, height and shape so I chose to divide my haus kukinto two sides. One side for the cooking and one side for a table and benches for eating and visiting. I made these few requests as to how I wanted it to look and the rest was in their hands.
The guys who built it did a tremendous job and put many special touches into it that I did not request. Just from knowing me I guess, they all have picked up on the fact that I am an artsy person and love the beauty of PNG. So they put extra effort into making a unique wall design, two very pretty diamond shaped windows and they even built me a cabinet of sorts inside to store my pots and other essential haus kuk items! I cannot tell you how many times we would check on their progress in building only to find them fidgeting with a special little detail. I repeatedly told them not to worry about making it anything special but they were dead set on their plans. Needless to say, I feel completely spoiled by their labors of love and super happy with how lovely my haus kuk is. I so wish I could invite you over and you could enjoy it along with us! We would roast marshmallows over my fire! Not super cultural… but it would be so fun! 😀
Even though the haus kuk still has a few things that still need to be done, I have started to use it the best I can and it has been great! I have already learned a lot through having it which is really encouraging to me. I wasn’t planning on it originally but I have even started a little garden where I am trying to grow the same kinds of things the villagers do.
This little side thing relating to my haus kuk has also resulted in learning and new relationship building opportunities. It has been incredible to experience so many women’s interest in my haus kukand their desire to help me learn to cook the way they do. There is an undeniable excitement in the faces of my Tigak gal pals when I talk to them about all I want to learn, and then when they add all they think I should learn, too! They seem very happy and eager to help me learn and I am so thankful for that! It’s been a very easy and helpful area to just sit down and linger in conversation with friends and welcome their company.
Of course I am still different but having my own haus kuk has just given me one more level that I can relate with my friends on and show that I value their input and help as I try to figure them out out. Bring on the learning and the inevitable times I will make a fool of myself. I always figure out a way. 🙂
Tom has also enjoyed having the haus kuk because it’s not just for women to use. Tom can and does visit with friends in it often and treats people’s medical needs in it, as well. All around it has been a very helpful tool so far in our study of this culture and in our relationships with our Tigak friends. We hope it will continue to be this way!