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After 36 years: Mama graun bilong mi

It’s been a long-awaited return to the land where she was born, and ALEX HARRIS records her impressions

TO BE HONEST, I didn’t want to go back. My memories of Moresby were colourful and shiny childhood renditions of reality that I still loved to explore and share. Would returning to the country of my birth ruin or refurbish those memories?

And so it was with equal parts trepidation and curiosity in my suitcase, I ventured in early February to Port Moresby and Madang. It was a journey 36 years in the making.

She is in many ways, as I remember her: a country of breathtaking natural beauty draped in a sparkling jewelled sea, whose natives are friendly.

But PNG is an ageing starlet, guilty of letting herself go. Her infrastructure is frayed, her services slowed, her once bright future...fading. Yet still she is pimped by politicians to the highest bidders; whored for a few pieces of silver.

It was a very timely visit given her state of affairs, albeit bitter sweet. Mama graun bilong mi. I was moved.

For all the stories of dangers lurking in every corner, I found the two roadblocks and near mugging I encountered to be more interesting than terrifying.

But don’t mistake that observation for flippancy. I was lucky. Lucky to have locals with me in the car when driving and to have my wits about me when walking.

Walk I did through Madang, more the PNG of my childhood with its majestic trees, beautiful butterflies and pristine seas. Snorkelled too, with scientists in Madang for the Ramu Nickel court hearing.

The highlights truly were the people I met, both intentionally and accidentally, some of whom I had met previously in the pages of PNG Attitude.

I owe a great deal to such meetings, as they helped navigate some of the trickier situations and obtain perspective on information garnered, or simply proved great company. I accepted every invitation, took all opportunities. All added richly to the adventure that was my visit to PNG.

But I owe special thanks to Peter Kailap, for ensuring that adventure was safe, and to Ilya Gridneff for entertainment, and to a long list of others for their generous hospitality, insights and good humour. Thank you tumas.

And now I have new memories to add to the vault; new friendships too. And a certainty I won’t leave it so long until I am back.


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Kurt S Spehr

I miss Madang. Two young girls I liked to play with not too far from the Coastwatcher Memorial Lighthouse - Patricia Briggs and Joanne Duncan I believe.

I left on a DC3 passing over the Gum River. I remember Froggy Evans (harbour master), Mr Muroe (headmaster), Mrs Watson (my favourite teacher), and the beautiful town I grew up in.

My parents were Lutheran missionaries and we lived two houses from the Winter family also working for the Lutheran Mission Church. Dad and Mom reside in a better place now.

I am following Indonesian torture, murders, and the fact they have worn out their welcome in West Papua. China seems to have her eyes glued to PNG mining and logging.

Watch out my PNG friends because Indonesia may have a second Papua to take. China has been caught illegally logging in West Papua.

Alex Harris

I'll accept that Icarus. :) but she does need to clean herself up.


I must object, Alex Harris. Your mama graun is no 'ageing starlet', rather a misguided young woman who needs to see a new agent.

Alex Harris

Thanks Reg! My visit was too short. It was wonderful to meet you and others in the PNG Attitude family. At the risk of repeating myself, great blog you have here Keith.

Reginald Renagi

I had the pleasure of finally meeting the noted writer from Resolution Report on her recent brief transit through the 'big smoke'.

Alex Harris, Peter Kailep and I had a good chat before Alex left for Madang to see how things were there.

Alex, you are most welcome to come back to see PNG as many times as you want in future.

PNG will always be your second home and a good 'get-away' location for you anytime.

See you later, mate!

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