An entry in The Crocodile Prize
People’s Award for Short Stories
This is a fictional story based on a real life situation in Bereina District, Central Province, where the barter system still exists. The main characters are two best friends, Mekeo and Roro, who try everything to change the mindsets of the local people to do better than just chewing betelnut or selling it to other people. In this story, betelnut is referred to as mafe and toea is Papua New Guinea’ coin currency.
MEKEO and Roro were very good friends. Roro was a good fisherman and Mekeo was a good gardener.
Roro caught many fish and prawns while Mekeo planted many bananas, tomatoes, beans, corn and tulip leaves to feed his family.Whenever Roro ran out of garden food he would run to Mekeo in exchange for garden produce.
As Mekeo walked around his house, he spotted the beautiful tall trees with green nuts from a distance so he walked towards it and decided to climb. As he climbed higher the tree was swaying from side to side. He looked down from the tree and realized he was already off the ground and didn’t know what to do.
Roro walked towards the tree and didn’t see Mekeo high up on the tree top. He swung the axe and Mekeo called out from the top, Roro what are you doing? I’m up here .He looked up and saw his friend Mekeo. “Hey Mekeo since when did you climb up that tall tree?”
Mekeo replied, “I’ve been up on the tree top for two hours since I don’t know how to get down, can you help me please?”
“Yes I will do that,”my friend. Roro started chopping the tree. When the tree fell he hung onto the shorter mafe tree. ”Okay you can jump down and I’ll catch you when you fall,” said Roro
“It’s still too high,” said Mekeo.”Than who told you to climb when you have no idea of getting down. You are making me to work extra harder while you are having a joy ride like a wild monkey hanging on the tree. I can allow you to hang for making me work extra harder.
Roro left his friend Mekeo hanging on the tree for another extra two hours.”Okay Mekeo this time if I chop the tree make sure you stand on the ground with your two feet.
Roro started chopping the second tall tree. Mekeo could still not get closer to the ground so he hung onto the next tree and this time it was a galip tree branch that was not too high.
”Oh Mekeo so next time, don’t ever think of climbing a tall tree. That galip tree is not high and you are only 10cm off the ground, try and look down my friend.
Mekeo looked down and smiled to himself. Let’s see what we can do with this tree,” said Roro.”Yeah that tree is called Mafe which my ancestors chewed for many years but I’m tired of seeing people chew and not make good use of the tree itself and the nut,” said Mekeo
You’re right! You could have got yourself killed too, I’ve seen people chew the nuts of this tree and spit everywhere to spoil the beautiful nature we have, we must stop that. Let’s find out what we can do with Mafe, said Roro.
I believe it can be woven into baskets, mats, exported to other countries to produce other things like lollies, herbs, Home decorations, and furniture and so on. Our people should start thinking big,”said Mekeo.
Oh yes Mekeo, we have lived in the village too long and it is about time we help ourselves and the community. If we start something than I know everyone will follow.
Roro and Mekeo started weaving baskets and mats using Mafe leaves and peeled the skins of hard mafe, dropped them into the yellow paint .When dried they made holes in the nuts and later made Home decorations.
The village people began admiring their work and decided to try. An old man Nara complained that nothing can be changed and didn’t want to listen to Mekeo and Roro.
“Well if you don’t listen now, you will be the one to be sorry Nara, you have coconuts, cocoa, vanilla, coffee , garden produce like tomatoes, bananas, cassava, cabbages so rich with natural resources , you better make good use of what you have instead of wasting your mafes, come on think big , “said Roro.
“Okay I’ll try but if I don’t get anywhere you’ll pay for me to get somewhere, “said Nara. Don’t worry Nara I’m sure you’ll get somewhere just think positive,” said Roro. Mekeo giggled and thought Nara was crazy in the mind.
“Roro, there are many people who will think like Nara, It will take time for us to convince everyone to be like you and I, said Mekeo. It’s worth trying my friend, if we don’t do it, who will do it for us?” said Roro
I see, let’s not give up than I believe it’s our responsibility to help our people no matter what they think. It is also a problem now that many children in our community don’t want to go to school because they think mafe will help them and also many can’t speak English and give up going to school,” said Mekeo.
Mekeo and Roro worked together to make people understand that mafe was not the only means of survival but there were other things they could do to survive and earn a living.
Mekeo worked hard in his garden while Roro went fishing and taught the young people how to catch big fish, lobster and prawns. Village people got tired of chewing mafe and followed Roro and Mekeo to create new things out from the mafe.
Nara finally was happy with what he could produce and thanked Roro and Mekeo for coming up with such creative thoughts that made him make wonderful furniture and Home decorations for his guest house in the village.
His guest house attracted many outsiders and he was able to make plenty money for himself. He had so much money that he did not know what to do with it since he was already old so he decided to share what he had and told his people to make use of the gift.
“I am giving you this money because when I die, I will leave everything behind and go with empty hands.””Therefore I want you to make good use of it so your blessings will multiply.””But if you don’t use it wisely you will be always be sorry”.
Mekeo and Roro were so touched by his words, Nara than became very ill and died peacefully but his legacy lived on. He could always give the last toea to the needy but he expected the last toea to be used wisely.