I WAS BORN IN KUNDIAWA general hospital on the 29 September 1983. I believe the night I was born was just an ordinary night: there was nothing significant, meaning no bright moving stars or fireworks.
At the time of my birth my father was working as a senior business development officer with the Commerce Department in the Simbu provincial government. My mother was a high school teacher who taught home economics and science.
My father was of mixed origin. His father was from Harua in the Kubalia district of East Sepik and his mother was from the Nimai tribe who lived in Koge in between the Tabare, Kere, Dinga, Dom, and Gunagi people in Sinasina, Simbu.
My grandfather joined the police force during the colonial days. He was able to see the evolution of the force from the Khaki to the Zulu era and beyond. Under the colonial administration, he was part of the team led by the Kiaps who brought civilisation to the highlands of PNG.
That was where he met my grandmother and spent all his days moving around helping the Kiaps to build government stations in Sinasina, Chuave, Gumine, Gembogl, Kup, Minj and the Western Highlands where he retired and returned with his wife to her village.
Still living in his small hut next to a creek called Agle in the north of Kundiawa town is my grandfather, my mother’s father. He is from both the Kamenuku and Enduga tribes who share Kundiawa town with the Yongumugl people who live in the East. He was a former Aid Post Orderly who worked in different Health Centres from Kainantu to Minj.
My grandmother, God blessed her soul, came from the Gena and Naruku Tribes of Simbu. She died a few years ago and was laid to rest in the family cemetery. I was privileged to get her blessing before she died.
I have spent most of my life in Simbu, where I began my journey in education at preschool. From preschool I moved to Gon Primary School to do Grade 1. I stayed there for three years and moved to Grade 4 at Kundiawa International Primary School.
The International Education Agency private school was small but had a very interesting learning environment made up of both expatriate and national teachers. The five years I spent there was worth the money my parents paid because I absorbed different skills and knowledge which helped me to be where I am today.
I have fond memories of my teacher Anne Meredith who introduced me to Roald Dahl, CS Lewis, Ignatius Kilage and other great authors. She was British and had a strong English accent that brought the books to life. It was like watching an English movie.
Ms Meredith read a chapter a day from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Big Friendly Giant, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and many other wonderful books.
Kundiawa Lutheran Day High school was my next stop after I graduated from Grade 8. In Grade 9, I got to know other interesting people, who, in 200 when I was in Grade 10, decided to elect me as their class captain.
An average student, I graduated quietly and moved on to Grades 11 and 12 in Rosary Secondary School, Kondiu. In Grade 11, I decided I wanted to be a communication engineer. Around that period my father was into two-way radio communication. I saw this as an opportunity for me to find employment when I graduated.
Based on my marks in the first two terms I selected physics, chemistry, major mathematics (calculus), language and literature including my optional subject geography to prepare me to apply to the University of Technology in Lae to study communication engineering.
All those who majored in physics were placed together in one class of only 26 students, but the competition for ranking and grades was tough. My low grade in physics affected the choice I made when filling out my school leaver form. I decide to give geography a go, so I applied for the Bachelor of Arts foundation program at the University of PNG.
At UPNG in 2003, I instantly fell in love with political science and history. During the orientation week for Arts foundation students when I heard about political science and the possibility of serving PNG as an ambassador or high commissioner in a foreign country, I forgot about geography.
I spent the next few days dreaming about my life as a diplomat, driving around in a car with a diplomatic license plate and so on.
During registration, I got the form and without hesitation pencilled in political science as my major sequence of study. I spent six years studying political science, four years at undergraduate level and another two year as an honours student.
I did my honours research on the Chinese economic reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping arguing that the ‘fusing together of different ideologies’ model the Chinese followed was a way forward for a backward country like PNG.
In essence, I argued that the way forward for PNG was a guided form of democracy; the government needing to limit certain rights and liberties of citizens in order to achieve change.
During my time at UPNG from 2003 to 2008, I was privileged to be taught by people like Dr Alphonse Gelu, Dr Henry Okole, Dr Oruvu Sepoe, Professor Jan Kee Van Donge, Dr James Chin, Professor Allan Patience, Anthony Sil and Dixson Susub from the political science strand.
Others who helped with my knowledge in history and philosophy were Dr Peter Yearwood, Dr Anne Dickson-Waiko, William Ferea, Biyama Kanasa, Alphonse Shaun and Associate Professor August Kituai.
After completing my honours research, I sought a job and was given a part-time tutorial fellow position. This was not in any way related to my dream job, but over the years I came to understand the catch phrase ‘Land of the Unexpected’ and viewed the opportunity as a launching pad for me to gain experience and chase what I really wanted to do.
My honours research about the Chinese economic reforms influenced me to take my chance in applying for a Chinese government scholarship. I wanted to know more about China and the economic transformation that was happening. Also I had a wife and a son to look after, so I had to find ways to make myself employable and to move up the ladder.
After seven months of tutoring, I got a memorable call from the Chinese Embassy in PNG followed by the PNG Office of Higher Education. I cannot describe the emotions I felt that day.
My research and knowledge about China was on display as 15 of us competed in interviews for the five places in the scholarship program. I was able to make it into the top five and got the green light to depart for Jilin University in Changchun in the north-east of China.
While in China, I was asked by Mathew Yakai, who has a column called Asia Pacific Perspective in the Sunday Chronicle, to write some articles for him. His column provided an avenue for students studying in China to share their experiences.
As writing for his column was in line with my masters’ research on Chinese soft power, I grabbed the opportunity and used this public diplomacy tool to enlighten my fellow citizens about China and its intentions and how PNG could gain from China’s rise.
Upon my return from China after two years with a master’s degree in international politics, I was given the opportunity by Divine Word University to showcase my skills, talents and knowledge in their bid to build PNG’s human resources.
In 2012, a few months into my job as a junior lecturer in politics and international relations, I got a very interesting call from then Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ambassador, Michael Maue, who offered me a position as a foreign service officer in the Asia branch of the Political, Security and Treaties Division.
I weighed the offer but decided to stick with academia. I know it was my dream to serve my country as a diplomat, but I have learnt from life, and from my current mentor Associate Professor Jerome Semos, that “there is more than one way to skin a rat”.
I accidentally came across PNG Attitude when I was doing my research in China and have since written comments and published articles thanks to Keith. I hope to continue my association with PNG Attitude in order to help myself and help other people elsewhere to know a little about my country every day.