An entry in The Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism
I WAS born on the 16 June 1957 to my parents Aroma Lahema, a United Church pastor, and Uhau Hetahu, a village beauty who fell in love with my father.
From their love, eight children were born Jack, Rarua, Sibona, Betty, Hahane, Henao, Mairi and Hebou - four boys and four girls – of which I was the third child and first female.
Because of my dad’s pastoral work, we travelled much through the Hiri District of Central Province. It was hectic at times, a pastoral role was a promise between man and God and dad kept his promise to God until his death.
I started school at an early age, completing Standards 1-6 at our local village school at Tubusereia, and in 1970 passed into Marianville High School, an all girls’ day and boarding school where I was to complete Standards 7-10.
Whilst I was in Standard 8 my family moved to the Sogeri Pleatue and a small village called Ogatana which had been a rubber plantation in pre-colonial days.
In 1973 I had just turned 16 and was in Standard 9. I had high hopes for myself. Back then Standard 10 was needed to get a good job or even go to college and I was anxious to reach that level.
But then an event occurred which changed my life forever. The most dreadful news arrived at school. My dad had just been tragically killed.
It was a fateful morning. My dad and mom had gone fishing in the lakes of Sirinumu Dam when my dad was shot in the head by an unknown gunman.
His body fell into the lake and was never found.
As mom was the only witness to the crime she was held responsible for my father’s death and was sentenced to 12 years in prison at Bomana.
I can still hear the judges verdict when mom was sentenced. When he uttered the sentence I was shattered. I instantly knew my dreams were over and I cried my heart out.
I cried for my dad, I cried for my mom but mostly I cried for myself.
I knew the journey ahead was going to be long and hard with seven brothers and sisters to care for: Jack (20), Rarua (18), Sibona (16), Betty (13), Hahane (10), Henao (7), Mairi (5) and Hebou just two.
So at 16 and I got my first job as a shop assistant with Steamships Trading. They didn’t want to take me on because of my age but I pleaded with the recruiting officer and he relented.
I got paid K80 a fortnight which helped keep us afloat as we lived with our grandmother. We visited mum at Bomana from time to time to see how she was doing.
When I was 19, I met the young man, Trudi Dawa, who was to become my husband. We dated for only three months and got married in a small customary ceremony. He was young and restless but was a kind and generous and helped with my siblings.
We had our first child, Rose, on 9 April 1976 followed by Raka (27April 1978), Steven (16 July 1979) and Jackson (15 April 1988).
When Papua New Guinea became a new nation, I was so busy having children I was lost in time and didn’t realise we had gained independence.
In 2009, we had spent 33 years together when Trudi Dawa, my soul mate, succumbed to cancer and died. It didn’t affect me as much as my dad’s death because our children were grown up and there was no need to worry about their well being as I knew they could take care of themselves.
Now I spend most of my time taking care of my grandchildren as I am a proud grandmother of six. Although I miss my husband at times, I see him through my grandchildren who always bring joy into my life.
I can say that my life had been hard and cruel but I tried to make the most of everything.
I had to overcome the obstacles I faced. Well life is not always given on a golden plate. It’s what you make out of what little you have that makes your life’s journey memorable.