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Wara blo Mekeo. How not to clean a hostel



GEREKA, NCD – I came from work tired but got a little hyper after chewing betel nut at the roadside with my room-mate turned besty, Atelina.

Atalina was a cute mixed Central and Milne Bay girl who never resisted speaking her mind and sometimes acted as if she was way older than me.

The roadside betel nut market at Ensisi valley is located in the middle of the suburb and, in my opinion, far surpasses other roadside markets. It’s clean and seems to have cheaper betel nut prices, and mothers sell vegetables on the pavement

Most buses complete their run here, dropping off and picking up people before they turn to go back to the city.

After a discussion on what we wanted to eat tonight, we settled for banana and kumu but no rice. I am a rice die-hard.

When we arrived at our rental place half the girls sitting outside were talking animatedly and laughing their heads off.

Our house mother, who has lived at the rental for 20 years (don’t ask me why), greeted us in her usual way and told us to take care walking on the tiles inside as the place was flooded with water.

Flood blo Mekeo, yah,” she said, her face breaking into a huge grin.

“How?” I asked. A question we’ve turned into an expression for all occasions.

But the situation really called for a detailed explanation and my ‘how’ brought more laughter from my housemates who come from all over Papua New Guinea.

“Girl, just go in and see for yourself,” my roommate from Samarai said. The girls watched us, curious to see what our reaction would be.

“You go ahead,” Atelina told me as she went behind the house to collect our laundry from the clothes line.

When I stepped through the doorway, I was shocked at the stream of water flushing out from the bathroom into the living room.

If I was Noah’s daughter, I would be running for the Ark. No kidding.

The ugly table looked drunk as it wobbled in the water. A food container gently floated into a wall.

Half of our containers and plates, normally stored in the cupboard into which a rat had just disappeared, now sat awkwardly on the table.

The escaping water was now at ankle length.

“Lord oh, what’s happening here!” I exclaimed, hoping the water wouldn’t make its way into our room.

My prayers went unanswered as I saw three girls appear from the room in their shorts, armed with a single mop and two brooms. They looked ready to go to war.

A young woman, a newcomer in her mid-thirties, emerged from the bathroom in a colourful flower-skirt that reached to her toes.

She was wet to the ankles and sweaty, her hair plastered to her face, as she furiously tried to fight off the water.

“Kekeni, watch your legs, you might sink into the water,” she joked, as if sweeping water was quite normal, especially in a rental home where the landlord was well known for his temper.

Arms full of clothes from the line, Atelina almost knocked me over as she gaped at the scene before her.

“Did the bathroom pipe burst open or something?” Atelina asked, peering with concern at containers with unknown contents floating past our legs.

The young woman in the flower skirt, who I figured was the Mekeo newcomer, lifted her eyes to the ceiling and dragged a hand through her hair.

The Madang girl stopped sweeping the water. “Yah, madi, she wanted to clean the dirty floor that’s why the water’s pouring through the door.”

“Yeas, I used bucket water trying to mop the place. I think I put too much water on the floor,” the culprit said, her voice fading as she realised how much trouble a simple house-hold chore could cause.

“She wanted to mop the floor,” another girl explained as more girls arrived from work.

“Aiyoh girl, we have cleaning ladies who are paid to clean. No one told you to mop the floors,” someone said.

“Madi, she just came from the village. She’s Sarah’s aunty and will be staying here for a week or so,” said the girl from Madang explained, as if saying ‘village girl’ would force us to forgive the culprit.

Poor Sarah would have a lot on her plate when she got back from work.

“From the village, huh, no wonder,” said a none too happy Sepik girl. “Anyway, did the water go into the bedroom? I’m worried about the bed bugs, believe me they love water. Aaii em ples blo ol lo slip na mekim more babies.”

“Yuck I don’t want to think about it,” said the Manus girl. She was now stuck in the doorway with the others, not wanting to move. All in their working clothes and with handbags and parcels of food.

Joke time, I thought. Nothing gets past a Manus without making a huge joke out of it.

Ah Noah, you fail yah. Why didn’t you tell us that there was going to be a flood? Maski, mipla ol sin man tumas na Papa God mas les lo mipla ya.

The girls were starting to giggle. Even our house mother Noah was smiling, showing all her buai stained teeth. The water was now draining away and I saw she was wearing saturated slippers.

“Give way please, I want to go grab my bikini for a dip in the water,” our airhostess piped up. Everyone laughing, the tension in the room gave way to relief.

“Mekeo, what’s your name?” Atelina asked.

“Sorry, my name is Makani, I just came from the village yesterday.”

“Yeah right,” one of the university girls muttered. Hmm, not everyone was finding this situation funny.

“Makani, next time you ask first ah, ino private haus blo yumi,” Atelina said in her usual motherly fashion.

“But don’t’ worry, as long as we don’t sleep on wet mattresses we’re all safe. And don’t tell the landlord girls, we don’t want anyone to get into trouble.”

“No one is going to talk,” the girls were agreeing. Of course, we had to. We all knew the landlord’s temper.

“Yah sorry,” the Mekeo apologised, as she mopped out the remaining water with her feet.

We were all now staring at her colourful red skirt made from jumping fish material.

A girl let out a small giggle and the whole place suddenly erupted into laughter. The kind of laughter that makes your eyes water and your belly ache and turns your bones into water.

Like a gathering of witches, we were now cackling, giggling, screeching and bursting our heads with laughter.

A couple of the girls didn’t find the situation funny, and one grumbled, “Hoe, yupla tink funny ah, stupid idiots, wait until the landlord sees this.”

The landlord never heard of it, but if we thought this was just one passing incident that would never happen again, we were wrong.

It seemed Makani the flower-flower skirt girl from Mekeo was here to teach the Moresby girls how to live their lives.


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