TUMBY BAY - I’ve spent the last week or so helping Alphonse Huvi, a teacher at Devare Adventist High School in Bougainville, prepare an anthology of her student’s work for publication by Jordan Dean's Port Moresby publishing house.
The anthology runs to 200 pages and it is a tribute to Alphonse’s skill and dedication that it is now ready for publication. I have edited and prepared anthologies of the same size and know the tremendous amount of work it takes.
I found the student’s work in the anthology, particularly the stories, enthralling because they cast a different light on the island of Bougainville and its history.
The stories are also important because they portray the ‘ordinary’ lives of children on Bougainville.
I use the term loosely because, compared to the average life of a student in Australia, they are far from ordinary. It is this contrast that makes them special.
Alphonse is from Ewasse village in Bialla, West New Britain and Ramalmal village in East New Britain Province. She taught for six years in West New Britain before transferring to the Devare Adventist High School in Bougainville.
At Devare she taught English and Social Science to the Challenge Takers Class for several years. She is currently teaching Personal Development.
How she came to teach at Devare is covered in another article extracted from the anthology and published elsewhere in PNG Attitude as 'My Long Journey to the Land of the Sunrise'.
The work in the anthology comes from lessons she had with her students.
Here is a further selection. I’ll offer more in the future.
My broken arm
It was on a Tuesday in June 2008. I was doing my grade 3 at Kepesia Primary School. It was sports day and all the students were enjoying themselves with their games.
My friends and I were playing rugby touch at the side of the field while the senior students were playing soccer on the main field.
One of the boys with whom we were playing caught my right leg and pulled me down. I fell upside down and tried to balance myself by putting my left hand on the grass.
The weight of my body went to one side. Because of that my left hand was dislocated. I lay on the grass in pain.
One of my best friends saw me struggling in pain and came to help me. He called to the other students to come and see me. They lifted me and held my dislocated hand. I felt great pain but did not cry.
The students called to the teachers for help but none of the teachers came to help. They were busy with their own programs.
One grade eight male student ran to me and held my hand. He called to the other students to look for two pieces of bamboo strips and a piece of cloth. One student ran to our class teacher’s house and came back with the bamboo strips and the piece of cloth.
The grade 8 student told me to straighten my hand. Then he took the bamboo strips and held my hand to them. Then he wrapped the piece of cloth around it all.
The head master arrived and told some students from our village to walk home with me. I found it hard to walk so my cousin sister walked by my side and supported me. We walked quietly home.
To make matters worse, Papa and Mama had gone to the garden. My cousin sister told my little brother to go the garden and inform Papa about the incident.
When my brother arrived Papa asked, “What’s wrong with you boy?”
Papa could see that my brother’s face showed fear in it. He told them that I had an accident.
With anger in his heart Papa put away his spade and called to Mama, “That’s enough for now. Let’s go. Leeroy has had an accident.”
Papa, Mama and my little brother came home together. At home our house was crowded with many children. Many children had come to see what was wrong with me.
Papa shouted at them when he arrived, “Children! You are not doctors or nurses. Come on. Go away now.”
When the children heard my father’s voice they started leaving our house one by one. He came and sat near me and asked me how the accident had happened. I told him everything. He understood how accidents happened unexpectedly so he got some pain killers and gave them to me.
The next day we got on a vehicle and went to the Teoroki Health Centre at Tinputz. When we arrived there we went and checked with the nurse. The nurse was there but she told us to wait. After serving the other patients she called my name and I went to see her.
She asked me how the accident happened. I was scared of the many questions she asked so I just kept quiet without answering her. My father answered all her questions.
The nurse told me to put my injured arm on the table. I did so and she removed the pieces of cloth wrapped around it with the bamboo strips. There was blood on the piece of cloth. The pain that came afterwards was too much for me to bear.
With no sound coming out of my mouth, tears started running down my cheeks. My father stood by me and told me not cry. The nurse dressed my injured arm with proper bandages.
The nurse then told my father, “I can’t do any more than what I have done for the boy. I have to write a medical report for you to take him to Buka General Hospital.”
My father got the medical report and we went home. The next morning we took another PMV to Buka. We crossed the Buka Passage and went to sit in the queue at the hospital.
When my name was called to go to the nurse my father showed the medical report we had brought from Teoroki. The nurse checked the report and told my father to see the doctor in the other room. The doctor told me that I had to have an X-ray before proper treatment could be given.
The special treatment was given to me by the specialist doctors in the afternoon. It was done in the theatre where the room was really dark. My father and I had to spend the night at the hospital.
The next day after getting treated we left the hospital. We travelled to the other side of the island to catch the PMV back. We were lucky to find one late in the afternoon. That PMV arrived at home as it was getting dark.
I did not say a word to anyone. I was so tired that I went straight to my room to rest. The incident made me to skip class. I never went back to school. I had to withdraw and repeat grade three the following year.
A surprise hold up along Markham Valley Road
On the 16th of December 2014, my cousin brother, whose name is Jayson, and I travelled down to Lae to pick up my big sister, who was travelling back from Rabaul on the MV Chebu.
We were travelling to Lae with a driver and crew who were drunk but we did not expect anything to happen along the way.
On our way out of Goroka a PMV bus coming back from Lae signalled us to stop. The driver of our PMV chatted with the other driver but we couldn’t hear what they were saying.
We continued with our journey. As we came near Markham, we saw a crowd standing on the road with knives, guns and other weapons.
When we saw these people we were all frightened. When our PMV drove close to them they shouted at us.
“Stop…….! Stop! Stop! Yupela ol Sauten Hailens save tanim olsem hero na save bamim nating ol man, meri, pik, dok na ol samting long ia. NA NAU UPLA BAMIM WANPLA PIKININI.”
(Stop……! Stop! Stop! You Southern Highlanders act like heroes by killing men, women, pigs and dogs and everything around here. AND NOW YOU HAVE KILLED A CHILD.)
The driver stopped the bus. My cousin brother tapped me on the arm and whispered,
“When they question us about where we come from or about our back ground you must change your dialect and talk like someone from Goroka. I will speak the Goroka native language to you because I know their local language.”
While we were still talking, the people standing on the road came inside the bus and said,
“Husait long upla sindaun insait long displa bas blo Sauten Hailens? (Which one of you sitting in this bus is a Southern Highlander?)
The people sitting in the bus quickly said, “None of us is a Southern Highlander. This bus does not belong to the Southern Highlanders.”
The other passengers did not know that my brother and I are Southern Highlanders.
After all the conversation, they let us go and we continued our journey to Lae. We were surprised when the driver said, “I knew that incident would happen. The bus driver at Goroka that met us told me about it. I did not want to tell you people because some of you might have got off the bus at Goroka.”
My cousin brother became angry with the driver and told him, “You are a foolish man. You only think about the money that we going to pay for your bus. You did not think about us or about our lives.”
The driver then responded to my cousin brother’s comment. “I am so sorry. It’s true that I am a foolish man. I did not inform you people so that you would be on the alert to face the incident. I did not tell you all. Will you people forgive me?”
We all laughed and forgave him for what he had done. Our trip to Lae was a happy and peaceful one.
My family’s tragedy
A conflict happened between my family and my mother’s older brother’s family (my uncle’s family). That event happened in my small village called Oura in South Bougainville. The thing that caused the problem to happen was jealousy. My uncle did not want us to stay with him in Oura.
My family was the only one that most of our siblings were able to attend school. Most of my older brothers and sisters went to school and so do my brother and I. Both of my parents also have large areas of land.
My uncle was angry about this and wanted to end my father’s life.
My uncle joined the Mekamui soldiers. One morning, we were surprised to see my uncle with his group of men surrounding our house with guns.
My father knew that they were looking for him. When he saw the chance he escaped through a window and fled into the bush. They men went after him but never caught up with him.
When my father returned home he told us we would leave that place and migrate elsewhere, away from my uncle.
The next morning we packed the few belongings we could carry and started walking into the bush to where my grandfather’s land was located. That place did not have any food, shelter or government services like hospitals or schools.
Every Thursday we would get our little baskets and visit our previous gardens in search of food. It was very far. We have to climb eighteen small mountains before we reached it.
The year 2007 passed and 2008 came along. We continued with the same routine.
On the 20th of December 2008 my small sister became sick. My parents found it difficult to get her to the hospital to get treatment. My sister’s sickness got worse as we spent longer hiding in the bush.
In September 2009 on the 29th, my mother took her to Buka Hospital. After a few days we were sad to hear that our lovely sister had passed away on the 10th of October 2010.
All of us cried till the coffin arrived. It took one whole day for the coffin to arrive at our home.
After mourning, my family members gathered together and we had a short devotion before we buried her.
My dear sister died because of the shortage of food. There was also the burden of carrying heavy loads moving about. Having no proper medical treatment made it even worse for her.
Now as I am writing this story, my family have agreed to forgive my uncle for what he has done to us. We are looking forward to reconciling with him during the Christmas holiday period this year in 2016.