How old are you? Trying to determine ages when time is not kept track of!

Traditional tribal culture has virtually no concept of keeping track of time over the long term or the short term by a number system. For instance, in the tribal language you have today, yesterday and the day before yesterday. Or tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. They do refer to the current month by the moon, but they don’t count too far down the line. There isn’t the concept of a 7-day week or a year with 365 days. A “year” is simply gauge by the annual growing seasons of two types of food, pandanis fruit and pitpit (not sure what that is in English).  Time in the future is referred to simple as another night or time later. In the past it’s simply referred to as a long time before or when the men that lived a long time ago were here.

It was strange coming from a culture of time that is bent of every second of the day, to a culture that doesn’t event know how old they are as individuals. I asked an adult male about 30 years of age once how old he was, he responded, “I think I’m 8 years old.” There are several ways to find out the approximate age of people based on what physical characteristics they had in 1975, the year Papua New Guinea received independence. Somehow and some way people knew where they were at that time. Therefore, I would ask the following questions to try and gauge peoples’ ages: At the time of independence were you nursing (a baby)? We you able to go up and down the ladder of the house yet (toddler)? Did you have hair in your armpits (young teen)? Did you have facial hair (young adult)? Were you married yet(adult)? Time just isn’t important in tribal culture, there is always tomorrow, the next day and the day after that.