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Wofford College student right at home in Indonesia

Thursday, March 25, 2004

SPARTANBURG, SC – Jamie Cutts, a senior at Wofford College and a member of the women’s soccer team, spent the January Interim 2004 in West Papua New Guinea, doing an intensive Indonesian language study as well as a soccer clinic for local girls. While for many Wofford students, this would be considered an exotic Interim project, for Cutts, it was going home.

Cutts’ paternal grandparents moved to the island of West Papua New Guinea in 1948 to serve as missionaries. They took on the impressive task of translating the Bible into the Moni tribal language, and transformed Christian songs into Moni chants. Her parents followed suit, and Cutts grew up in the Moni tribe speaking the tribal language.

There are at least 750 languages on the island of West Papua New Guinea, some claim more than 1,000. Indonesian is the national language, but most speak tribal languages. For this reason, Cutts speaks better Moni than she does Indonesian. One of the goals for her Interim was to improve her skills in the national language.

Cutts began her month doing tutoring sessions with locals. She would spend several hours a day speaking Indonesian with various native speakers. She spent the latter part of the month working with girls in a soccer clinic. Since “girls don’t have priority” in this culture, Cutts wanted to “give them a sense of worth.”

Cutts taught the girls drills, oversaw scrimmages and showed videos of American women playing soccer. She learned through the drills that the girls were “very uncontrolled, but that is to be expected,” she says. “Their low skill level was made up for by the effort of the girls, as they all worked hard.”

Cutts enjoyed watching the girls’ reactions to watching the videos of women’s soccer. They were specifically excited by the “girls with darker skin on the screen,” she says. “It gave them more pride to have darker skin when they saw these positive role models.”

Even though Cutts put so much time into teaching soccer and learning the Indonesian language, she still had plenty of time to soak up the culture. Since she attended boarding school in high school and traveled to the United States for the summers, this experience was the “longest I have been home since middle school,” she says.

One of the most memorable experiences Cutts had with the native people was the Christmas celebration. The Monis put much time and dedication into the preparation for this holiday. On Christmas Eve, the entire community first consumes a traditional Indonesian meal. This is followed by a Moni pig feast, which is “very traditional for big occasions,” Cutts says. “Pigs are treasured in their society and are therefore a delicacy to eat.”

On Christmas day, everyone participates in different representations of the Christmas story. Cutts was touched by the creativity the people had despite their lack of resources. Though these people do not have nearly as many material goods as Americans, “they were just as effective, if not more, in their presentations,” she says.

Cutts does not remember the last time she spent Christmas with her tribe, but she found it “so refreshing to spend this time with my people and be humbly reminded of the true meaning of Christmas.”

She appreciates the chance to spend time in her native land. “I love the opportunities I have to continue learning about this beautiful culture and unique group of people,” she says.

This article was written by Kristin Sams, a junior at Wofford College majoring in French and English. She is from High Point, N.C.