When we met!
PNG women can (and should) do anything. Let us be loud and bold

The house is divided in half

Settlement house in HoholaRAYMOND SIGIMET

THE muffled laughter and voices from mother Gertrude’s end streamed effortlessly into the living room.

She was on the chair beside the table while he on the floor, cross legged, probing the food on his plate while putting little pieces into his mouth.

Steamed kaukau with aibika cooked in coconut milk and Besta tinned fish.

“The little one?” he asked to get the conversation started.

“She’s asleep,” she replied.

Haus luk kiln, yu klinim haus ah?” he made a gesture to the part of the small living room where they keep household stuff and other keepsakes.

“…yeah, nogat samtin lo wokim lo san na mi stretim na swip,” she replied after a few moments.

He forked a piece of kaukau from his plate, put it in his mouth and took a brief moment to scan the room again.

The house was divided in half, one half catered for the two bedrooms and the other half for household storage and the living room, which sometimes served as a sleeping area when wantoks came around

On the walls hung the year’s promotional calendar from Papindo, a Bob Marley legend poster and an old newspaper independence supplement poster with portraits of the prime ministers of Papua New Guinea.

On the doors hung two different poster portraits of Jesus with His long flowing blond hair and beard. Sometimes he wonders if mainstream Christianity’s white male images of Jesus really depicted the Son of God.

The house was on stilts; axe-sharpened garamut hardwood posts. The outside wall was sawn planks salvaged from the saw mill near the settlement.

The planks were nailed horizontally one on top of the other. A few sections of the wall were covered by sheet metal strips, also taken from the saw mill dump.

The roofing was corrugated iron sheets slanted to the back where a single gutter carried water to a rusted downpipe that emptied into a small ribbed tank sitting on a concrete slab.

The house had been built by his father when he was working at the saw mill.

At the back, there was a small haus graun kitchen area with morata (sago thatch) roofing. Here all the cooking and much lazing around took place.

Within the settlement, the house itself was considered a good structure. There were others made of much worse salvage from the saw mill dump.

The self-employed tended to have better structures for their dwellings.

They owned trade stores and drinking dens in and around the settlement, even in town. Some of them engaged in self-sustaining informal activities in town, perhaps selling buai. Others owned PMVs that plied the passenger routes within the town and beyond.

Mother Gertrude was self-employed. She’d been hacking out a quite decent life selling buai, daka, kambang, cigarette, twisties, crackers, sweets and other items on her small table market.

They could hear the muffled laughter from mother Gertrude’s table market. The settlement truly didn’t go to sleep quickly at night.

“You have to stop this habit of looking for a fight every time,” he began, moving his unfinished dinner to the side.

“You know, Juliet, mum really liked you,” he continued. “When I told her about you for the first time and after your first visit, the next day she gave me a new name.

“Romeo kam pastem or Romeo go lukim mama Gertrude or Romeo tumoro bai yu mekim wanem. All this Romeo this and Romeo that really got on my nerves.

“Just because I brought a girl named Juliet to the house doesn’t make me the embodiment of a love struck Casanova from English literature.”

He paused and she shifted in her chair. The momentary stillness was disturbed by another outbreak of muffled laughter.

They sat there taking in the sounds of the night – the mumbled conversations, footsteps hurrying by, a foul mouthed drunk harassing his family, car engines and honks reverberating from the main highway.

A dog barked somewhere, a persistent cricket screeched under the house.

“So how was your day,” he asked looking at her.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)