SEATTLE, USA - Laiagam , now in Papua New Guinea’s Enga Province, saw many kiaps come and go.
They took on incredible projects - building roads, bridges and other infrastructure – as well as constant patrols to keep in touch with the people.
Their efforts brought the outside world to our area and beyond, and we remain grateful for their efforts.
Many of us, including me, saw them mostly from a distance. We knew what they did and benefited from what they did, yet did not know who they were.
I know a few non-kiap families who came to live and work amongst us and I cherish my memories of them.
There are two families in particular I can remember.
Mr Knight was the headmaster of my school. One morning, as a plane circled for landing, he sent me to the post office to collect the mail he knew would soon be arriving.
It was about a two-mile walk and I ran all the way.
The post office was inside Coleman’s Trading Store that was located near the government office building.
Mrs Scoullar, the wife of a didiman (agricultural officer), was sorting the letters and dispatching radio communications when I arrived and I quietly waited for her to finish.
When she turned to me, I said I was there to pick up the school’s mail. As she handed the bag over the counter, she asked if Mr Knight had mentioned to me about being her liklik haus manki (young domestic worker).
I wasn’t aware of that and had no idea what it entailed but I said I would like the job. She told me to come to her house after school.
That afternoon I walked to her house and discovered two other students already working for her. One of them was Luke Niap, a good friend of mine.
Our tasks were to feed the dog, weed the vegetable garden and look after their expansive lawn. Occasionally we’d help inside the house - washing dishes and cleaning.
After completing his secondary education at Mt Hagen High School, Luke studied engineering at the University of Technology in Lae and became a prominent public figure.
While working for the Scoullars, they opened up their hearts to me and offered me the encouragement I needed at the time.
Sometimes they would take me to the Lagaip Country Club where I sat away from everyone and watched everything from a distance.
Occasionally they accommodated out of town expatriates who were on official duties.
One time, a public defender in a court case stayed with them and asked me what I wanted to do in life.
Since I was not sure of myself, I could not answer with any certainty. But it made me think. My response was provisional and self-doubting.
It all depended on whether I could make the grades and remain in school, I eventually answered. I didn’t know what my future might be. I had no benchmark to measure myself against.
Had I stretched my imagination, my answer would have been a teacher, a policeman or a medical orderly, because these were the jobs I knew.
The lawyer told me about his job and encouraged me to consider studying law. His advice went over my head, but I remember that moment with a man I never met and would never see again.
Often Mr Scoullar took me along with him to inspect some of the projects. There was a pyrethrum project in Sirunki village he was working on.
He’d talk about my studies and, like the lawyer, encouraged me to think past the primary school where I was
Singing in school was fun and something we did often and on one occasion I sang in the school choir.
When the Scoullars heard about it, they came to watch me sing. They said I did a nice job and encouraged me to continue. This was heartwarming and I don’t know if they knew how much their words meant to me.
One day Mrs Scoullar told me that a boat was being delivered by Andy Flower in his truck. It had been bought by them and the Knights.
I was keen to see what it looked like so waited many hours for the truck which eventually arrived around midnight.
It was the first time I ‘d seen a boat and I stared at it trying to figure out how it might work.
The Scoullars and the Knights spent a while checking it out and then towed it to Lake Ipae near Sirunki.
I went along to see it launched and was a regular visitor at weekends from then on.
It was the most exhilarating experience speeding around the lake. I’ve had some high-speed boat rides since but nothing like this one on Lake Ipae eight thousand feet up in the New Guinea Highlands.
I was paid 50 cents a week for working after school and on Saturdays. It was a lot of money for me. Occasionally I’d spend a few cents on marbles and lollies but I saved most of what I earned for shirts or shorts.
Eventually, to my pleasant surprise, I realised Mrs Scoullar had kept a passbook savings account for me.
This was to accumulate more than enough money to pay for my tuition and expenses in my first year of high school.
When that time came, I was sent off with some blankets and clothes. Many years have passed since then, and Seattle is far from the Highlands of PNG, yet I have lasting and cherished memories I have of these people.