| From the Archive
MARCH 1968 – Life for us in Papua New Guinea began in a multiplex Single Officers Quarters in Gavamani Road, Boroko.
We had just arrived from a cold Tasmania and on our first night my young wife, like me, spread-eagled herself naked on the bed under the ceiling fan, too hot to be modest.
Soon after a husky voice proclaimed through the louvered window, “Mi lukim iu, Misis”.
The consequent scream caused the voyeur to detach himself from the security wire and drop to the ground.
“Bloody woman’s scream; caused me to bloody miss,” complained a disgruntled neighbour, who, armed with a squash racket, had been stalking the miscreant.
So welcome to the tropics and, in some people’s opinion, paradise.
After relying for some time on a universal household ‘emergency’ kit provided by our employer, our belongings arrived and, replete with purchases from the local Chinese trade stores and Beeps and Carpenters, we set up home.
Whereupon metal parts began to rust, books, linen and leather started to mildew, and grilli – unseen and unrecognised at first – began to grow on our skins.
This latter infliction occurred despite many showers and multiple changes of clothes each day.
Squatters encamped in their tacky shacks in the gully just below us, and the antics of nocturnal raiding parties from diverse tribal groups, proved to be somewhat entertaining.
In time, with some work seniority, a better address at Pruth Street evolved, with its view over Koki and the Basilisk Passage.
While we missed the delicious harmony of groups walking home from the pubs up Gavamani Road, singing songs in exquisite tongues, it was pleasant not to have to wait every night for the second boot to drop from the foot of the inebriated kiap upstairs.
We became conditioned to the monsoon, mosquitoes, geckos, tree frogs in the washhouse, fruit bats and SP Green.
We waited for the ‘ship to arrive from South’ so we could purchase quality meat and imported chocolate and toiletries, frequently in short supply in Moresby.
It was somewhat piquant to have fruit stolen from your trees and sold back to you by astute entrepreneurs just a day before you had intended to harvest it yourself.
Then along came our children, conceived in the heat of night, both girls and ten months apart. No television then.
And another move to family accommodation in Tanatana Street, followed by a full upgrade to a three-bedroom house in a compound off Waigani Drive at Six Mile.
These were the heady days of being a Territorian in a country with 850 tribal groups and a few thousand intrepid expatriates.
We expats all seemingly of a similar age and background; most of us on contract assisting a budding nation to statehood.
We worked hard and we played harder.
A typical week would be five eight-hour days in harness and lots of nights and weekends to miss our Australian homes and families.
The calendar looked something like this:
Monday night - Hash House Harriers running through the ‘shiggy pit’ and lots of coldies afterwards at the ‘bucket’.
Tuesday night - Training at the Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles ending at 2200 hours and then ‘blunting a few’ until all hours of ‘grenade pin’ pulling and ‘burials at sea’ over the barracks railings into rose bushes.
Wednesday night - Quiet time at home after a trip to the Library.
Thursday night - Maybe an Apex dinner meeting and the odd convivial refreshment amongst young men of good intent. On other Thursdays, a dinner at home for the boss, where a few pre-dinner beers were followed by a couple of good wines and cards (illegal) over an entire bottle of rum.
Friday night - After work drinks at the Aviat Club, Yacht Club, RSL or wherever. The children entertained by an open air movie while parents unwound from a week of toil with a counter meal and more greenies.
Saturday night - A trip to the Drive-In to park at exactly the same spot each time and with the same neighbours to share a picnic tea (with drinks of course).
Sunday night - The roving barbecue circuit, where the party trick was to do a jug of claret, solo.
Some of us built boats, flew light aircraft, walked into the jungle to explore World War II wrecks, did the Track, helped people with disabilities at the Cheshire Homes, danced at social does, gumi raced down the Laloki and swam at the beach on high tides.
We drove up to Sirinumu and the Rouna pub, visited coastal villages, holidayed in the Highlands, got bored with the sameness of the limited road circuit within the district and counted the days to the ‘going on leave party’.
Then, as our contracts expired, the ultimate go-pinis do.
We came, we saw, we left and now we just hope it was not for nothing.