MANY students nowadays ruin their future when they get tangled up in sexual affairs resulting in unwanted pregnancies and exclusion from school.
I shiver now to think how I could have ruined my career when I trained as a male nurse at Kudip Nursing School in Jiwaka Province.
I don’t know what would have happened next after a girl in her village near Banz introduced me to my first ‘karim lek’ courting experience. I guess it is natural to be drawn to the opposite sex when young people grow up. I am now glad that nothing happened next
I must caution students today to be careful. I grew up in a society where sex was sacred. At that time there were no dangers like HIV. But, even so, if I had indulged in promiscuous activity I don’t know where I would be today.
In 1974, when I was in my third year at Nursing School, I met a girl who came for some minor treatment at the hospital. She smiled as soon as she set her eyes on me. I responded with a smile of my own and we were drawn to each other.
That’s how I met my first girlfriend.
Before she went home, she told me she would take me to her house at Talu village near Banz. But many weekends passed and I doubted if she would come.
One Saturday after breakfast, I was in the dormitory and heard a female voice outside. I turned to see who it was and there she was - my girlfriend. She was walking up the steps.
I was glad to see her but girls were not permitted around the boy’s dormitory. I was scared I might be reported to the principal and the school board. The Nursing School was run by the church and boys were forbidden from taking girls anywhere near the dormitories let alone into their rooms.
My colleagues were whistling, catcalling and making all sorts of noises. This also frightened me. I quickly took the girl outside and walked with her towards the main road.
It was an unexpected visit and I did not have any money even to buy her a drink. I also felt uneasy and decided to make an excuse to leave.
But she had some money. She gave me K5 and bought drinks, cooked food and peanuts at the roadside market. Then she asked me to accompany her to her village. I refused because I did not want anyone, especially the missionaries and pastors at the college, to know I was out with a girl. I was afraid I might be expelled.
The girl didn’t know my thoughts. She just wanted to take me to her village. She gave me extra money to influence me to go with her. I gave in because she was kind and beautiful. I simply could not resist.
We left Kudjip at about 10 am and roamed the small township of Banz before we made our way to her village of Talu. By midday, we had arrived at her house. Nobody was there. Then she we to the trade store and got some cigarettes, bottles of Coke and biscuits for us. She also picked up a laplap and wrapped it around her neck.
We then walked down a smaller road, followed by some children. They giggled, joked and made noises in their Kuman language. I enjoyed their company. We walked for about a kilometre and stopped at a sports ground where people usually rested. The children played.
The girl told me to wait and went a little distance away and spread the laplap on the soft grass. She sat down on it and asked me to come. I was confused. Did the girl want me to have sex with her in broad daylight with children playing? I stood wondering.
She asked me again. I took a couple of steps towards her and asked what she wanted me to do with her on the laplap. I told her I was perfectly happy standing where I was.
“Yu no save karim lek ah? Don’t you know how to carry legs?” she asked.
I had never heard about the ‘karim lek’ courtship practise of the Mid-Wahgi area. I was confused and a bit frightened. The young casuarina tree I was leaning against shook as my body trembled.
The Enga way of courtship was different. We don’t carry a girl’s legs but just go and sit beside them on the woman’s side of the house and recite some ‘nemongos’ or love chants. This usually happened at night during courting sessions in the presence of other people.
A woman came along the path towards us and my girlfriend asked her to demonstrate how to karim lek for my benefit. Now I could see how it was done and I sat down on the laplap beside my girlfriend.
She lifted both her legs and asked me to place one of mine on the laplap. Then she placed both her legs on mine at the knees. Then I placed my other leg over both her legs effectively trapping them between my legs.
This is not how it is done in Enga and I was really ashamed, especially in front of the children who seemed to be making fun of us. People walking along the road said some things in their own language which I did not understand.
I am sure that if we were alone I would have enjoyed her company sitting like that. But with people around, I wished it would rain.
But after a while I began to enjoy myself. She sang songs I could not understand. And when the children joined the singing, their sweet voices soothed me. Those songs still reverberate through my mind to this day.
I learnt one of those songs easily because it used some Pidgin words:
Husisi, dona mana kuimbara yu noken askim mia saeoo, mi stap wantaim mai prena h oho, mi stap wantaim bes prena. (Mother don’t ask me where I am at, or what I am doing because I am with my best friend.)
I wished this would go on forever but the sky went dark and heavy rain started to fall. We picked up our belongings and ran to her house. I stayed there until six, then one of my girlfriend’s relatives told us he was driving to Kudjip so I hitched a ride back to the school.
After that I saw my girlfriend a few more times before her visits abruptly stopped. I learnt that she had joined the Sisters of Notre Dame and became a Catholic nun.
Nobody told me why she decided to become a nun. But nothing happened between us except what I described here as she introduced me to the ‘karim lek’ courtship ritual from her area.
I will never forget the songs she and the children sang to me all these years ago.