DAD resigned as workshop manager with NCDC Parts & Services in 1997 to contest the national elections that year and we moved to Sakai village near Musa in Oro Province.
We vacated our nice big house and sold the car and other belongings we did not want to not take with us. I was only nine and had completed Elementary 1 the previous year.
There were limited schools in Musa. One, about 16 km away from where we lived, had Grades 1-6. To get there I would have to wake up at around two in the morning and walk. Being new to village life, I was not prepared for that.
The nearest school only had a Grade 5 class but I was supposed to be in Grade 2. My dad was hesitant to enroll me in Grade 5 but saw the teacher and I started going to school.
It didn’t take me long to understand the lessons. I had an advantage because I knew how to read and, after doing some exercises with comprehension cards and practicing my handwriting, I soon caught up with the class. I was also the youngest student in class and everyone gave me the best treatment.
End of year came and the test results for the class were pinned on the notice board. We gathered at the board to check out how well we’d done and I had come second,
Our teacher made a special announcement that morning to congratulate me but I knew that our results reflected the level of previous educational exposure we had. I had come from the big city where I learnt English and had radio and television around me. My school friends didn’t have that exposure.
Our teacher came from Popondetta and travelled home to spend the festive season with his family but never returned the following year. The school shut down. Those who could travel to other villages for school did so while the rest of us remained at home.
So I spent the next three years as an ordinary village kid, gardening, fishing, feeding the pigs and learning the local language.
Whenever I got the chance to sit under a coconut tree or on the big rock beside the river, I would write in a book that I always had with me - describing my environment in words, sentences and paragraphs. These were the only things that gave me hope and a determination to focus on my dreams.
In 2000, a chartered plane came to the village and my dad travelled to Port Moresby. I packed my bag and got ready but when the time came for him to leave, he wouldn’t let me go with him.
I stood with my bag in my hand and sobbed as I watched him go. It felt like my heart had broken into pieces and dropped to the ground.
But then I felt my dad’s hand and heard his gentle voice telling me to wipe away my tears, pick up my bag and follow him.
That was the day I made my decision that was going to show my dad that he made the right choice in coming back for me.
Life in the city wasn’t easy.
Dad left me in the care of my two big brothers and two big sisters and in 2001 I was enrolled at the St Peter Channel Primary School where my one of my sisters was an elementary teacher.
I repeated Grade 5, struggling to catch up with all subjects except English.
From time to time I was forced to move between my older siblings or stay with a close relative. Many times I went to school with an empty stomach and just enough money to get me there and back.
But regardless of the situation, I was determined to succeed and maintained my focus. I wasn’t going back to the village.
I began to catch up on my subjects and started to do well. Completing Grade 8 in 2005, I received two awards in the presence of my teachers and friends and scored a place at Marianville Secondary School, an all-girls school in Port Moresby.
I was enrolled as a boarding student and continued to do well. Even when my family was not there for me, I was blessed with friends who became my family. I passed the Grade 10 national examinations in 2007 and in 2009 I became the first child in my family to complete Grade 12 and receive an academic excellence scholarship to go to the University of Papua New Guinea.
I studied for a degree in computer science and my dad is the proudest man because I honoured his decision to take me on that plane with him.
My advice to every women out there is that age is just a number, gender is an identity and struggles your stepping stones to succeed.
Your mind is your greatest enemy, not the people around you. When you start running, don’t look back until you’ve achieved your goal.
Caroline Evari, 28, is of mixed Oro and Milne Bay parentage and the mother of an eight month old boy. She completed university in 2012 and works as a team assistant with the World Bank Group. She started writing at age seven and has never stopped. Her desire is for many Papua New Guineans to discover the beauty of writing and to one day have her writings published