An entry in The Crocodile Prize
Cleland Family Award for Heritage Writing
BOMAI realised during his school days that his father Nembare had to leave his younger children in the care of his wife and travel to places as far as Aviamp in the Western Highlands and work in a tea plantation to earn money for Bomai’s school fees.
Nembare did not possess the knowledge and skill that would allow him high level plantation work so dug drains and performed similar labouring work.
He would keep the money in a plastic bag and hide it in a corner of the house. Nembare worked hard to pay Bomai’s school fees throughout his schooling.
Bomai’s uncle, Raphael Witne, had meanwhile made his way through the rank and file of the Securimax security company and was stationed at Mount Hagen. With the consent of his Yangoru wife, Raphael decided to come the aid of Nembare in taking over Bomai’s school fees and general welfare.
But Nembare would not give up and continued to work in the plantations to contribute his share of the fee.
He continued to leave his family in the Bari tribe for long periods and his younger daughters, Rose Arasi, Anna Apane and Gabriella Witne, missed his fatherly care. This continued until they all left school and got married at an early age.
Rose married a man from East Sepik and rarely came to visit her family in Bari and Omdara. Anna married a Bari Maima-gauma man and they have now settled at Kamtai with their four sons. Gabriella married a Yuri Kumai-kane man and decided to follow the Galkope legacy in settling at Kup-Gamar near Jiwaka Province.
Bomai continued his studies to Grade 10 and had made up his mind to pursue the priesthood. He spent most weekends with the vocational director at Mingende Catholic Mission seeking guidance and finding out information he needed to know.
It was on a Saturday afternoon that Bomai broke the news to Nembare of his intention to pursue studies for the priesthood and explained to him of a consent form that Nembare had to sign.
At that moment, sadness filled Nembare’s face and thick tears rolled from his eyes as he turned away from Bomai. He took control of his feelings and turned to Bomai and spoke in Yuri language.
“En patere elangga, wai dina, ele er ban ta po. Er kol na molaka ai wen ta u kio. Na garpa, eri kan ya nil ala u kene elame?” (It’s good you want to be a priest. Go, become a priest and go elsewhere, don’t come back to me. Who will take care of my land, tree, plants and river?).
Bomai and Nembare were silent for five minutes, Bomai thinking of how to explain his decision differently.
Bomai realised that the priesthood was against Nembare’s line of thought for him so promised him that he would not pursue this dream.
Nembare was happy that Bomai had listened to him and encouraged him to continue with his studies.
Bomai applied to continue his education at Rosary Secondary School, Kondiu. Nembare left for Aviamp to work in the plantations to secure Bomai’s fees. Nembare was counting the days until he could return to Omdara.
However, his wife Dongo’al wanted to stay among her Bari people with her children. Nembare understood that he had used most of his energy labouring in the plantations of Jiwaka and did not have the strength he used to.
While contemplating gonig back to Omdara, Nembare met a woman from the Kia tribe in the Gumine District of Simbu Province who was also toiling for survival at Aviamp.
Nembare told Kia Maria his story and his thoughts of going back to his birthplace, Omdara.
Kia Maria could not hold back the stories of her husband who left her with the children. They would regularly meet to tell stories in 1996 and 1997.
In 1998, Nembare decided it was time for him to depart Aviamp for his Nulai-kia clansmen. Kia Maria followed him with her two daughters, who are now Bomai’s half-sisters.
The last time Nembare visited his grandchildren in Goroka, he told Bomai’s wife that he was raising pigs to pay for her bride price, adding that it was his last job for Bomai.