ON A chilly Monday morning Kerenga woke up in his cane bed in the men’s house and crawled towards the fireplace.
He warmed his numb body over the fire and placed his head on his knees and thought.
Suddenly he grabbed his old kitbag and rushed out of the door without closing it and walked quickly to his mother’s house, calling loudly for her to wake up.
“Mom, I’m here to take my breakfast.”
“Open the door and come in,” replied his mom. Kerenga entered the house awaited an instruction.
“Look up, there’s your roasted yam,” she said.
Kerenga peered through the smoke to the ceiling and sighted the yam. He stood on a chairand took the yam, giving a brilliant smile and sayingthank you to his mom.
“I will leave for K Town today and return after a week,” Kerenga informed his mom, who echoed the farewell with tears rolling down her face.
Kerenga, also emotional, exited the house in silence. The dawn was disappearing and the fog clearing and the roosters crowed the morning chorus.
Kerenga strode along the pathway leading to the road. After 20 minutes of climbing he reached the junction.
He sat on a limestone boulder and waited for the first PMV. He heard the sound of a car in the distance. Soon the old Suzuki of the local Catholic priest approached.
Kerenga waved and asked the priest to give him a lift to the bus stop from where he could head into K Town. Kerenga took the crew’s seat and they set course for the 40 minute drive to the main highway.
“My name is Father Otto from Yongomugl, serving the congregation for the last three years,” said the priest.
“I am Kerenga Nuguno from Parua village. I completed Grade 12 at Muaina Secondary School in 2015. Now I’m heading into town to seek some casual employment.”
“Kerenga, you are a young man, I think settling at home is better than migrating into town. You can use your knowledge to enrich others to be self-reliant,” said the priest.
“I’ll get to town and spend a week looking for a job. If nothing happens I’ll return home.”
“Then make sure you don’t get caught up with the street kids. They’ll infect you with evil qualities,” said the priest.
As they came to the highway the priest drew a K20 note from his pocket and gave it to Kerenga, who looked into the eyes of the priest and thanked him.
“You are welcome,” said the priest and Kerenga dropped to the road and waited for the bus to town. To his amazement a PMV pulled off the side immediately and the crew called out, “K Town, K Town!”
Kerenga pushed through the crowd of passengers and sat at the back listening to bus stereo playing a hit song from K-Duman, ‘Highway Patrol 17’ with the bus moving at speed towards Kundiawa.
Kerenga was excited but his mind was bombarded by the remarks of the priest.
He swore an oath that he would not socialise with his peers in town and return home if did not find a job by the end of the week.
The bus arrived in K Town and Kerenga strolled down the street towards Lodge Fire.
In front of the TNA Supermarket, Kerenga saw few of his former classmates selling Asian goods on the street. He greeted them with a cheerful smile.
“Kerenga, where are you now? Getting into some institution?” asked a classmate.
“No, I’ve come in from the village,” Kerenga replied.
“I thought you’d be at some tertiary institution.”
“My brother, we are all unsuccessful at the end of Year 12,” said Kerenga.
“Look, it’s Papua New Guinea,” his friend responded. “We’re doing street sales to make a living. It’s fast cash and better than doing nothing at home.”
“It’s a good concept,” Kerenga smiled, “I’ll join you boys tomorrow.”
“No problem, bro, welcome to the big group.”
Kerenga had mixed feelings. He mind was like lava, caught between taking the priest’s wisdom and the attraction of street life. He spent a restless night in the home of a tribesman.
The next morning he went into town. Instead of submitting application forms for a job with local firms he joined his peers on the street.
His mates told him to buy Asian goods and resell them at a small profit. He made a few sales and collected some money which motivated him to continue the next day.
Kerenga spent his first week selling on the street and forgot his objective for being in town.
He didn’t find a job and didn’t return home after a week. He was driven by the idea of getting fast cash on the street. The weeks passed.
After each competitive day of selling in the scorching sun, his peers made for the nearest bar and card house for drinking and gambling. The profits disappeared into drinking and gambling.
After a month, Kerenga was deeply rooted in street life. He was attracted to the fast cash; easier than cultivating land at home, he thought.
With such thoughts, Kerenga decided not to return home but to dwell on the streets of K Town as a street vendor and migrant.