J oe came home tired from his morning shift at the supermarket. With a sigh of relief, he sank into an armchair and opened his laptop.

“Dear Joe,” the e-mail began. Who was this Tom, and what did he want? Joe stared at the words, blinked, and read the message again. He jumped.

“Bernadine!” he shouted. “I just got a job offer from ExxonMobil!”

“Who’s ExxonMobil?”

Oh, when would his sister wake up to the world around her? “It’s the big company that’s been drilling for oil at the Kikori River. They’re one of the biggest energy companies in the world, up there in the Dow Jones index. They have branches in 180 countries and now they’re looking for ‘young, ambitious, college graduates who are familiar with the culture of Papua New Guinea.’ ”

“Sounds a lot like you,” Bernadine agreed.

Joe got up, put an imaginary crown of bird-of-paradise feathers on his head, shook it as if he were in a singsing ceremony, and broke out in a brief tribal dance. Bernadine drummed along on the table.

“Now I’m going out to hunt,” he announced in Tok Pisin, trying to fashion a slingshot out of two pens and a rubber band. “My belt is all thinned out, and I need to replenish it with some nice blue feathers. What do you say, Bernadine?”

“Off to Yanko Bay you go!” she said. “Grandpa Cargo would have been proud of you.” Bernadine remembered how shocked she was when she first realized that in most of the world, men dress in plain styles and subdued colors. That was so strange and contrary! Men were supposed to dress up with fancy feathers and adornments, to paint their faces ostentatiously, and to wear big hats of woven threads that took years to make. It was all part of being a man, of showing off your strength and accomplishments. For some reason, the Western world thought differently. Their men wore terribly plain suits and made an utterly colorless appearance. How would Joe make the adjustment back to Papua’s colorful life? That wasn’t the only thing niggling at her.

“Joe,” she said suddenly, as she prepared her bag for work.

“Yes?” he said, giving a little bow and removing the ring that wasn’t in his nose.

“Do you think those people in that energy company really care about our rain forests? I’m sure they don’t — and they don’t care about the other 180 countries they’re digging up, either. I’ll bet you most of those countries are underdeveloped.”

“We don’t have to bet. I think so, too.”

“Well, don’t you see the exploitation here? How can you consider a job offer like that? The Western world starts sucking our blood and our oil, and it cuts down and ruins our forests, pollutes our air, and kills off our wildlife.”

“Come on, Bernadine, don’t blow it out of proportion. You can’t expect the West to send us doctors to do heart surgery in Wewak and Madang, you can’t expect to use a cell phone that the West developed for you, and then tell them they can’t pump oil from your land.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 693)