AS THE daylight diminished and the cacophony of evening insects began, the slim figure of a man emerged in the small Sikau Range village of Sinengu.
To my dismay, it was the familiar figure of a malicious man of my departed mother’s generation who was paying a visit to my father’s house.
Here he would relay a message that sent its roots deep into my heart, stirring an unconcealed hatred towards him.
As he hurried to the house, I moved silently across to listen on what he said.
“Do not pay her school fees to sit the Grade 10 examination,” he instructed. “Pay for her big sister to complete her second year in college”.
My heart stopped for a second but I held back the tears. He had lit up a fire that would blaze for ever.
But back then I waited patiently for my dad’s reply. He did not say a single word; he knew very well the ambition of his daughters.
He knew the strength of these young East Sepik women and the outlook they were developing that motivated them to seek better education.
It was the challenges of village life that stirred my siblings and me to strive for a better education. In the village you have to work hard. No going to the shop, as you do in town. We had to make our own gardens. We learned that nothing comes without hard work. Those were good lessons that drove our ambition.
It’s often not easy for a girl. After mother died, I had been sent off to live with relatives. But despite the unkind words that seemed intended to wear me down as a teenager, I try hard to attend class every day.
Sometimes life seemed so unfair. I fetched water from the creek, weeded the garden, babysat small ones, watched my cousins served more food at the end of the day and saw them rewarded with some petty money while I went without.
One day in December 2009, I walked into the principal’s office at Passam National High School to receive my Grade 12 certificate. Like every other student, I felt nervous about what the results would show.
I gave a worried cough with I’m sure he could see the panicked look on my face.
“Hey, your name again madam?”
Shaking, I spoke my name quietly. Giving a huge smile, the principal pulled out my certificate and shook my hand and said well done.
I was thrilled as I walked out of the office, feeling warmed and blessed by the morning sun and the cheerful faces of the school staff.
I waited for another three weeks and then received an offer to attend Divine Word University in Madang to undertake a course in PNG studies and international relations. It was a moment never to be forgotten.
You know how you wait for something you really want to receive and sometimes negative thoughts cross your mind. Then at last your faith in God comes true. That’s what I experienced.
Thoughts kept flooding my mind of how university life might be. The idea of being among thousands of students in a new place with new expectations made me panic a bit but eagerness and ambition kept me determined.
So in early 2010, I hopped on the plane to Madang to enroll as a first year student at Divine Word University which was to be my home for four years. And Madang. Such a beautiful and adventurous place to live.
During my third year in 2012, I was engaged by Transparency International to be an election observer during semester break. The experience was challenging.
At one point a male voter pushed me aside to show his masculinity. I retained my composure and gave him a warm smile and told him politely, “I am here to observe behaviour like yours so, in future, do not shove your sisters and mothers away from the voting area”.
The words ‘your sisters and mothers’ melted his heart with shame so he tapped me on the right shoulder and said, “I am very sorry, sister, please accept my apology. I won’t do it again.”
I saw that he was truly sorry and told him, “Your apology is much appreciated and please do not harass any sisters and mothers out there who are not as muscular as you.”
After a tiring day at the voting booth, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Coastwatchers Hotel while watching the waves crash on the reefs near the Kalibobo lighthouse.
Back at university, I completed my four years on a high note despite deaths in the family and the kind of challenges all students encounter. Sometimes I felt like giving up, especially when there was no money to pay for my basics as a female.
“You have come a long way, you are nearing the finishing line.”
As 2014 dawned, it also brought splendid life events to treasure. First a momentous graduation ceremony attended by my parents swollen with pride at my achievement.
Then a further triumph when I met a guardian angel who paved the way for me to get my dream job. I thought it was just a fantasy but the lass from Peru hamlet, Sinengu Village, was to become an officer in PNG’s foreign service.
Martinez Wasuak, 27, is still a foreign services officer in the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand Branch of Papua New Guinea’s Department of Foreign Affairs.