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True peace & harmony, things my yaye & babu taught me

Manus outriggerBESSELIAH DAVID

An entry in the 2015 Rivers Award
for Writing on Peace & Harmony

HONESTLY, when reading about the Rivers Award, I couldn’t seem to put anything on paper. My brain froze and refused to emit. Too many stories and experiences. Where to begin?

Anyway, this is how my grandparents imparted their wisdom when I was young. Their words rang with truth about peace and harmony. I will never forget.

It seems like only yesterday that I was told to “study hard and be somebody when you grow up”. Just five years old. “Bubu, mi laik go long skul! (I want to go to school!)” I’d exclaim. “No bubu, krismas blong yu ino inap yet (no child, you’re not old enough),” grandma would reply.

Nevertheless, I would race frantically to the nearest classroom at the Bundrahievillage school each morning. Running as fast as my short legs could carry me with the rest of my friends and playing hopscotch or tag on the kon tinan (community space).

And then school would commence and I would be piggy-backed back home in a tantrum. “Babu, taim tam kahis (my grandchild, your time will come),” grandma would scold).Bai yu go skul nekis yia ikam (you’ll go to school next year).”

I grew up with my maternal grandparents. My babu (grandfather) and yaye (grandmother).  Life was simple. The three of us went everywhere together. Even taking the six-hour trip to Lorengau in our hollow dug-out 12-meter canoe with the 25 horsepower Yamaha outboard engine.

When we went to the garden, yaye would cultivate and multi-crop amongst the pineapples, coconuts and betelnut. This gave us a continuous supply of staples like tapioca, yam, kaukau, hybrid taro and singapore, aibika, aupa, pumpkins, sugarcane, pitpit, beans of all sorts and sweet bananas.

I accompanied yaye to the garden whilst babu cut the shrubs and kunai grass around the plantation.

At the end of the day, we would slowly paddle the outrigger canoe back to the gwa-aurih or gwa-andrebek river with spoils of juicy pineapples, sugarcane, bundles of aibika, pitpit, snake beans and corn (if we beat the Pesquet parrot to it).

Babu used the kulau (young coconuts) for creaming our aibika and fish. He snorkeled and dived with his speargun for ulih (parrot fish) and sabang (blue-black tang fish)to go with our sago at dinner.

At home, I’d sit next to yaye at the fireplace as she cooked and we would tell stories about everything my inquisitive five-year old mind could think of. Each night she would tell me, “Bubu moni (my pet name), taim yu go bikpela, yu go skul na lainim tokples waitman. Kalap lo balus na go kisim save long rit na rait long bikpela skul, tingim Bikman (God) oltaim (When you’re bigger you’ll go to school and learn the white man’s language. You’ll go in a plane and learn to read and write at a big school, that’s God’s thinking).”

We’d also share our meals with any uncle, bubu or aunt who happened to be passing by. Despite the copra boom of the time, we were not wealthy but we were rich nonetheless. I had everything I needed. For me, every day with babu and yaye was everything I could wish for. Life was simple and perfect.

Babu and yaye taught me about love. Always love unconditionally; no one is perfect.

My childhood circumstances allowed me to appreciate all people, regardless of creed or type.  My grandparents taught me that true peace and harmony is achieved through humility. Humble yourself, share what you have with others first.

The returns would be there: what babu called “a blessing in disguise.” Yaye taught me to be resilient. No matter how many times the wild pigs trudged into our multi-crop garden to feed on the tapioca and kaukau tubers, she would tell babu to mend the fences with bigger, stronger tree trunks to secure them. No point blaming the pigs.

My grandparents taught me life itself. Appreciate and love everyone, share more; be selfless, be resilient no matter what circumstances. If you want something done, get it done yourself and then show others how it’s done. Don’t retain the knowledge or you will not be blessed.

Despite their limited education, their wisdom, steadfast love, unwavering loyalty and devoted Christian faith offered me the true meaning of peace and harmony.

Their belief brought forth a way of life I could not have achieved on my own.

Yaye passed on in 1994 and babu is now hitting 90 plus years. He cannot dive for fish like he used to although his eyesight is still excellent. He has lost his hearing and uses crutches to aid his walking but he still swims in the ocean to exercise.

I will never forget all they taught me – including that getting an education promises a comfortable life but it is not a true education if you lose yourself.

Being selfless, self-reliant and believing in God almighty gives you total peace and harmony. This wisdom I wouldn’t trade even for a million kina.


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Bessielah David

From the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you, John, Trish and Robin.

John and Trish Highfield

Nice communication that the simple things which make up family life are most important in forming our outlook and resilience in adulthood. Thank you Besseliah for sharing your thought - pictures with us so beautifully.

`Robin Lillicrapp

Great reflections on life and family, Besseliah.

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