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I rejoiced in working amongst a tough & resilient people

Somare and admirers 1970sCHRIS OVERLAND

LIKE Phil Fitzpatrick (‘Crafting a Life’), I ran away to the jungle of Papua New Guinea at a young age because I was repulsed by the idea of a career in retail or a bank.

The advertisement accompanying his article drew me irresistibly towards PNG, much to the horror and amazement of my friends.

Why on earth, they said, would I wish to go to a faraway place, full of hideous diseases, crocodile-filled swamps and mountain ranges swarming with headhunters and cannibals?

The simple answer was because I could see and live in a world like no other on earth.

Even in my callow youth, I intuitively knew that such a world must inevitably soon pass into history and I didn't want to miss my one chance to see it in real life.

Happily, I didn't miss the opportunity and went to Papua New Guinea.

Like many expatriates, I saw and rejoiced in what is now a lost world. Basically, I got lucky and have never ceased to be grateful for that luck.

I got some of those hideous diseases (not recommended), grew familiar with crocodiles and their habits and had the rare privilege of walking amongst the former headhunters and cannibals.

I found that I admired the toughness and resilience of the people, their mostly good humour and their endless tolerance with yet another liklik kiap being a pain in the arse.

I got more benefit from my time in PNG than the country and its people got out of me. I was too young, too self-absorbed and too lacking in life skills to really make more than a nominal contribution and I'm sorry for that.

Still, I comfort myself by thinking that I did no harm either, so perhaps I wasn't totally useless after all.


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