After 62 years, a book of spiritual uplift without too much religion
Seeking patrol officers who were based at Nomad in PNG

In which the writer has adventures on the way to media training

Bomai Witne & his familyBOMAI D WITNE

I came to know Father Giorgio Licini over a few emails we exchanged with each other in August of this year.

In one of the emails, he has asked me to attend a Pastoral Media Training he had arranged at Divine Word University for 17-30 November. It’s running now.

Another email came flying saying weeks are turning into days and participants were asked to make travel arrangements and a list of things to bring.

While going through the list I realised I needed a better camera than my phone camera to take to the workshop.

I knew I did not have the money to buy one in the space of a couple of days before I departed. The, while I was sitting in my office, a colleague turned up and said, “Bro, when are you going to Madang? You may need a camera; I’ll lend you my small one.”

“Wow”, I thought. Here comes someone who has offered me what I need to take to the training. I reached my own conclusion about this.

This colleague showed me how to use the camera and I thought I listened well but later realised I did not understand some of its basic operations. I stayed up until three in the morning to get used to the camera.

I was looking forward to the training and the excitement forced me to write and capture the journey in words. My wife assisted with my laundry while I got on with this story.

Later I went to the office to pack my laptop and some other things and went to see my parish priest and the youths at Kefamo before leaving for Madang.

It was a busy day for me and I would miss my children for two weeks so I also had to find time to play and talk with them too. As I packed my clothes and got ready to go, Bomailyn asked us to be quiet so she could say a prayer.

I was amazed that a six year old would pray for the safety of her father who was travelling to Madang for two weeks and the rest of the family members while dad was away. Her prayer gave me extra confidence to travel and for the safety of my family back home.

I hugged each of my family and, accompanied by my brother-in-law, left for the Madang-Lae bus stop near the main market. While waiting for the bus, two tribesmen joined us and we chewed betel nut and caught up on stories.

A 15-seater bus and a 25-seater bus were competing to collect Madang-bound passengers. The crews were active. They had a way of getting around passengers.

One was saying, “Bos, yu kam na yumi go hariap” [Boss, get on, we’re going soon]. The lady next to me said, “Mi no bos, askim bosman stap long hapsait ya”, pointing at me [I’m not the boss, ask the boss nearby].

I smiled and thought, “Why are they dragging me into their discussion.” The crews then offered me the seat next to the driver. 

Pigs feed on a pile of rubbishThe lady went to take her seat and I asked the crew to keep a spare a seat for me as I was talking with my tribesmen and watching two pigs feeding on a pile of rubbish in front of the bus stop (pictured).

After leaving my tribesmen and selecting some fruits and vegetables for Father Giorgio, I boarded the 25-seater. The crew said there were four seats to be filled but when I boarded, three young men were getting off.

“What the hell is happening!” I thought. It turned out the three young men were part of the crew’s strategy to make the bus seem full so that late passengers would jump on for fear of being left behind.

A passenger told the crew that he had five adult relatives waiting at a location down the road and wanted them picked up. The crew was excited at this good news.

It turned out there were four adults and seven children with four huge bags among them. As they crowded on to the bus, the passengers started to mumble all kinds of words to the crew.

A passenger asked the crew to tell the family to get on an empty bus later. The crew agreed and asked the four passengers and the children to get off the bus.

Then a passenger directed the crew to stop in front of an ATM so he could pay his bus fare. The crew directed the driver to an ATM where the line was long.

The passengers shouted in unison. ”Did this person hire the bus? We are all passengers and we want to go! It’s not fair for you to take one person to the ATM and make us wait for him to do his business.”

The crew and the driver knew more missiles were coming at them so off we went.

At the refuelling station, one of the temporary crew collected the bus fares, got his share and gave the rest to the permanent crew. Two boys argued with the temporary crew about their share of money. The permanent crew didn’t want to hang around to see this argument so instructed the driver to go.

We were soon on our way past Faniufa, Kamaliki and on to the plains of Korefeigu. The Kafe tribal territory was approaching as we headed into Kainantu.

The passengers could not wait to stop at a roadside market called Kol Wara (cold water) to buy fried fish from Yonkey Dam and juicy peanuts and bananas. Some passengers went for betel nut and coke.

Makeshift, plastic-walled roadside toiletA few meters away was the fresh water supply that gave its name to the market and a few people were drinking there.

On the other side was a makeshift shanty walled with plastic (pictured). A closer look revealed inside were toilets for men and women travelling the Highlands Highway. The person at the gate distributed toilet tissues and collected a fee from users.

The place is built on a running stream heading towards Yonkey Dam, so the waste may be good for the fish.

I collected myself three bundles of juicy peanuts and shared them with a nine year old sitting next to me. Soon we were heading into Madang. The bus dropped off other passengers and left me at Divine Word University around 6.15 pm.

Father Giorgio was came to get me. After greeting each other, he went for the bag of vegetables and fruits. He must have known that I brought them for him.

While we were chatting, Father Ciro Biondi joined us and Father Giorgio arranged for my accommodation. A Sepik lady who introduced herself as Iva took me to the room I will call home for two weeks.

According to Iva, it was the girls’ dormitory,  among the best dormitories built under the Australian Incentive Fund Program.

At around 7.15, when I was returning to my room from the shower, my younger sister Kelyn Witne, who teaches in a primary school along the north-coast road, called to say she was coming to visit.

I quickly changed and went to meet her at the university gate where we greeted and hugged each other. This was also my second meeting with Kelyn’s husband, a gentle Western Highlander who talks with a smile and finds something to smile at in almost all my stories.

I said I’d overnight with them and we were soon heading for Talidig Primary School along north-coast road.

Kelyn went out of her way to prepare dinner and soon after we departed for bed. In the morning, Kelyn’s husband left for work in town and Kelyn gave me a tour of the Talidig school.

Talidig is among the oldest primary schools in Madang. It has been kept clean but most of the buildings are ailing and require immediate refurbishment. Kelyn told me her pit toilet collapsed a few weeks ago and she was forced to claim a student’s toilet while hers is being rebuilt.

I'm on the steps of Grand Chief Michael Somare's former houseAmong the staff houses, one stood empty and falling apart. Kelyn told me this was the house Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare lived in when he was a school teacher in his younger days.

“Here, I am in front of an historic building that housed the father of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea”, I thought. I was caught between anger and sadness that no one had done anything to conserve such a building.

I told my sister, please, come and take a shot of me sitting at the verandah of this house. “I may not visit any of the prime ministers’ houses in my life but at least am visiting a former house of the first prime minister of my country.” My sister smiled at this as she took the picture.

The rain continued and I saw some of the biggest raindrops I’d ever seen in my life. When the rain eased, we walked down the road to Talidig police station and market. On our way, Kelyn pointed to a church located a few meters away from the coast.

A closer look revealed that it was one of the outstations of the Catholic Church. It appeared that part of the roof had being blown away by the sea wind leaving only a small section above the altar.

This was God’s way of protecting his holy position in a physical church, I thought, and told my sister this was so much like the ailing church buildings in many rural and some urban areas.

The decrepit church reminded me of the Somare house. Whether it be politics or Christianity, the people of a locality have the opportunity to be proud of such establishments and help in their upkeep.

If this is not happening, the people need a reorientation in education. I knew I was thinking of things which were not my reasons of being in Madang. So I bought some betel nut for ten toea from a nearby vendor and started chewing to get rid of those thoughts.

I told my sister I would call and visit her again before I departed and jumped in a 15-seater bound for Madang. The bus travelled at high speed and flew past cocoa buyers and sellers at work along the high way.

The commuters held either an umbrella or banana leaves over their head while battling the rain. The clouds crawling on the tree tops as the rain continuously fell. The songs from Wali Hits like “…em ol stail meri Wali…”made my trip shorter than I thought.

It was still raining heavily in Madang when I arrived. I bought myself an umbrella walked around town. As a highlander, the rain was a blessing. I arrived at a bay and bought some fried fish to eat and thanked the seller for the beautiful fish market.

She corrected me, “This is not a fish market, this place is called J & S”. I could not get a good explanation from my enquiry so I looked around and saw a store with a print ‘J & S’. A syndrome where PNG seems to lack local names for local areas. My feet tired, I jumped on a bus and headed for the DWU campus. 


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John Kamasua

Just read it. Reminds me of places I have been. And the house?

Raymond Girana

Cheers bro,I really enjoyed reading this piece. What an adventure. All the best for the remaining week.

`Robin Lillicrapp

I enjoyed your adventure as well tho' distant as I am. Thanks, Bomai.

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