An entry in the Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism
THOSE who read a lot are more than likely to become good writers. In my case, captivated by the beauty of the English language, I have spent almost three decades trying to attain something akin to perfection.
Most of you will agree with me, I am sure, that those people who read will surely have the upper hand in many areas of life.
I am spellbound when I hear people like President Obama deliver a speech with so much flair and eloquence. There is beauty in the words of speechmakers, poets and song writers. There is beauty in the words of a writer.
Writing is a craft and the writer, like a craftsman, must have an eye for creative detail to steer writing towards perfection. I am entranced by the beauty in the writing of many poets and writers who contribute to PNG Attitude.
This is something that we, as writers, must strive to attain. The road to perfection is a long one but we can get there with relentless commitment. I have been an avid reader since I was in primary school in the late 1980s.
Unquestionably the most remarkable mechanism at our disposal is our mind. It is the storehouse and processor. We marvel at the remarkable speed and accuracy with which the human mind is able to process data.
We can choose to absorb a vast array of information or we can, through ignorance, let information pass us by.
As I sit down to write my autobiography, I allow my mind to shift freely between the past and the present.
I recall an incident many years ago while I was a small child in my village. Demang is ten kilometres west of Kerowagi station in Simbu. One afternoon we were playing beside the road when a car drove by towards our village.
As the car went up a hill, it began to slow. We scruffy children were intrigued by the tall white man behind the wheel. The presence of white people in the village back then usually drew a crowd.
We ran after the vehicle as it crawled up the hill. The driver, noticing the group of shirtless boys running behind his car, was infuriated by our stupidity.
He stopped the car immediately and flung open the door with clenched teeth. He was a giant of a man and he stood there in the middle of the road facing the lot of us. The laughter and excitement sank back into our throats.
Fear–stricken, we stopped dead, expecting a reprisal from the grimacing giant. He was one of the biggest Caucasian men I‘ve ever come across. He looked at us stonily and barked: “Don’t run behind the car!”
And with those words he went back to his car, slammed the door and recommenced his slow uphill grind.
Our exposure to English back then was minimal or non-existent. A pity! How could a group of half-naked village children understand a stranger who spoke in a strange language?
My peers did not understand a word the white man spoke. To them, his words were gibberish but I understood. The context said it all.
So many incidents of bygone years remain vivid in my memory. But this particular incident holds a special place because that encounter, I believe, was the beginning of my education in English.
I started school at nearby Kewamugl Primary School in 1986. My father brought me to school on the day of enrolment. I remember the stern-looking teacher telling me in the presence of my dad to lift my left hand over my head to touch my right ear.
That was the criterion to determine whether a child was old enough to start school. My hand could not reach my left ear and the teacher exchanged glances with my dad. I was a small fellow back then but I understood the meaning of the gesture.
I stood there with tears rolling down my cheeks as I watch other children walk happily into the classroom to begin their first year of formal education. My tears escalated to a heart-rending sob.
A chord within the teacher’s heart must have been touched for moved closer to my dad and spoke to him in a lowered tone. The two adults discussed the matter and the teacher left to go into an office.
My dad came closer and spoke to me: “Kai kondo skul dinatne dungo” (“Don’t cry, he says that you can go to school”).
My dad pointed in the direction of the Standard One classroom and told me to join the other children inside. This must have been the instruction from the good hearted schoolteacher.
I was overcome with emotion and didn’t want my classmates to see me, teary eyed, on the first day of school. My dad excused us, thanking the teachers with his politest Kuman eloquence, and we left the school grounds.
At cockcrow the following day, my mother placed some kaukau she had roasted over the charcoal into my bilum and I joined my fellow village children on the road to school. My first day on the road with other happy children to attend school was a day I would never forget.
I have resolved ever since to be the best that I can in whatever endeavour I pursue. My resolve has not weakened with the passage of time. I have not stopped reading since I began schooling and this attitude has paid off.
I was dux of my class for eight years in a row. I became a scholar at Kerowagi high school in and attended secondary school in Queensland on an Australian scholarship. I have a university degree now and I am happily married with two beautiful children.
Because of my involvement with my Christian church, I spend a great deal of my time in rural areas of Simbu and neighbouring Jiwaka province. I traverse mountains and fast –flowing rivers in my beloved homeland.
While you are reading my story, I may be off to another mist–shrouded hamlet in upper Simbu or somewhere down south where the Wahgi River is called Tua.