LIFE IS FULL OF STORIES that may never be told. So, as Keith asked me and some other writers to tell our own stories, I was quite lost about where to start. So here’s a superficial version of My Story.
I was born in Baimuru 27 years ago. My mum and dad met at that muddy out-station where it rains 600 days a year. My mum was a community school teacher and my dad a forest officer. My mum’s from the Western Province and my dad is from Madang.
I don’t remember much about Baimuru except for the rain and the mud. Oh, and I should mention the hospital. I was this really good kid who didn’t have a foul mouth like I do today, but the only time I was moved to say the ‘f’ word was when the nurses at Baimuru were sticking a needle in my backside.
I had a deeply religious upbringing so it’s sort of ironic that I don’t do God the way I was brought up.
My earliest memory of an election was the 1992 elections whilst in Baimuru. I remember how my friends and I used to fill the front of our shirts with newspapers and march around the house pretending that we were candidates.It’s funny because, until I was old enough to think sensibly, I thought in order for anyone to be a politician they first had to grow a pot belly.
By December 1992, my family had moved to the Western Province and lived at Raroge Community School near my mum’s village in the South Fly District. My dad remained at Baimuru as a forester whilst mum taught at Raroge.
I suppose my identity as a Western Province man comes out of those years. Although my dad is from Madang, I have little cultural connection there.
When I think of home (or peles blong mi), I think of the wet season in the trans-Fly savannah woodland, when all the creeks are flooded and deer and wallaby get caught in floodwaters. I think of the rain clouds and the thunder and lightning flashes and the sounds of cockatoos and parrots screeching as they head home. It is this same sense of going home that the birds have that I have for Malam village.
There’s an innate beauty of the savannah, with its light green foliage interspersed with palms, swamp grass and billabongs that fill up with water during the wet season and dry up during the dry season. The jacaranda tree dominates the savannah, and when it flowers, the nectar attracts birds, insects and humans too.
The key community event that dominated my childhood was the construction of an airfield at Malam. I remember how obsessed the villagers were with trying to get it completed. But since its opening in 1994, it has been little used. However there still exists pride that aeroplanes have landed at Malam, and I suppose that’s ‘development’ for the villagers.
My family moved to Kamusie logging camp in 1994 and my dad joined us there. Kamusie was great except for the mud, rain and isolation in dense tropical rainforests. I’d say I grew up and learnt most of what I know at this bush camp.
The school had an excellent library with books that I enjoyed. Today I do not read as much as I used to at Kamusie. Even the Aid Post was quite good, staffed by nurses and a general practitioner from the Philippines. Whilst other PNG health facilities still administered chloroquine to malaria patients, Kamusie aid post was dispensing artesunate.
At Kamusie, I learnt how to paddle a canoe and swam across the Guavi River on several occasions. During my High School years in Port Moresby, it was difficult for me to criticise Rimbunan Hijau (RH) like my classmates, because the school and Aid Post at Kamusie received enormous support from the company and helped to create the successful person I am today.
From Kamusie my family moved to Daru, except for my dad who remained at Kamusie. I did Grades 7 and 8 at Karakara Primary School. My experiences on Daru were horrible. Relatives from home kept filling the house and there wasn’t enough space to sleep or food to eat. I was also bullied by people at school, in the neighbourhood and by half the town.
When my family got news that we were moving to Port Moresby, I was relieved. But life in Port Moresby was stressful. I would frequently wish I was still a kid back home or at Kamusie.
I attended Port Moresby Grammar School, then Jubilee Catholic Secondary. I believe my strong socialist tendencies were developed at what was a conservative catholic school on issues such as condoms but with very strong emphasis on issues of social justice.
At Jubilee I got involved with the Youth Against Corruption Association and was its chairman during my first year at university. Reflecting on my university years, these were perhaps the most horrible times of my life, although I really did enjoy parts of university life, especially the movie nights and the Ms Taurama Quest.
I could write a book about what happened after I dropped out of university, sold betelnut on the street and became a famous blogger but I won’t bore you.
One thing is certain, I don’t dream anymore, I grapple with the facts as they are. Perhaps there are too many dreamers in PNG, there’s no one to deal with the reality of life in PNG.
Martyn Namorong has been invited to speak at a forthcoming conference at Deakin University in Melbourne and is trying to raise money for the trip. See the full story here