IT WAS getting late in the tiny village of Golaveka, deep in the heart of the Kefamo valley in Eastern Highlands Province.
The flames in the fireplace in the centre of the room had begun to die down casting dull flickering reflections and crooked shadows on the cane and bamboo walls of the kunai round house.
Nine-year old Tiru twisted and turned on his wooden bed to face the fireplace.
The flames now gone but the red embers still glowed and Tiru’s mind drifted along as the tuneless carol of the night insects blended into the soft voice of his aging mother somewhere outside humming a traditional tune.
From the steep hills that sank into the Kefamo river sprang a freezing breeze that began to suck the warmth from the fire forcing Tiru to pull the old grey blanket over his head as he succumbed to the darkness and the cold.
His daily village life of fishing along the narrow forest creeks, bird hunting and trips through those steep hills to his mother’s kaukau garden exhausted his nine-year old body and he would lie in bed like a log unaware of the night hours speeding past.
One special morning came when he took a trip with his father to the distant government station and Ufeto Community School where he had a medical check-up and was immunised.
It was that journey with his father 46 years ago that led him down life’s road.
Now a grey haired gentleman of medium height, Tiru sat beside me on the lawn under the thick rain trees at PNGDF Headquarters at Murray Barracks in Port Moresby.
The fresh smell of the newly cut lawn did not quite dissolve the odour of the roll of tobacco he puffed as he eyed me carefully, waiting as I scribbled his story in my dirty notebook.
Tiru’s face, the colour of a brick due to long hours spent under the sun, featured an unshaven chin beneath lips which offered a half frown, half grin as if I might be wasting his time.
Tiru Jaire, now aged 55, boarded an Air Niugini F28 for Port Moresby in 1981 when he was 19.
He walked into PNGDF Headquarters, Murray Barracks, and stayed with his big brother who worked as a hausboi to an Australian soldier who continued to serve with the PNGDF after independence.
His father’s words that morning he left for the bright lights of the city had told him to be committed in whatever he did.
Sometimes we are stuck at our computer desks in air conditioned offices and fail to appreciate hard-working ground staff who spend hours in the sun to shape the external appearance of our organisations.
For Tiru, his love for the job can be seen clearly in the cleanliness of the front lawns and the perfectly organised flowers around the commander’s and the minister’s office.
The sun had completely gone down behind Brigadier Hill and a few security lights had been switched on as I left Tiru to pack up his tools for the night.