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23 May 2018

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Sadly my wife’s extended family in rural PNG are merely subsistence folk. Any of their children able to reach higher education can almost never find paid employment to use their education ‘back home’.

So they migrate, often forever to the urban areas of the nation. They often live in sub-standard permanent homes on the fringes of town or in settlements.

They will expected to repatriate some of their salaries to help mum and dad pay for sibling to get educated with a little left over for a bag of rice and some sugar.

Thus when the Malaysian loggers come accompanied by an educated wantok spiv the opportunity of getting a twenty kina note or more is hard to resist. after all they only have to says yes or perhaps sign some official form typed in English legal jargon.

I worked in the Gogodala in late 80s and employed mostly local staff. One of my good female workers decided to get married to a recently qualified wantok policeman stationed in Moresby. So she sailed away to live with him in the big city.

I didn’t see her again until one day she came looking for a job in the new tiny retail unit I had built at the side of my company’s head office. I gave her a job.

One day I took her home interested to meet her husband. I was amazed that they lived underneath a wantok’s small fibro-walled home near Badili. Their one room was on the rocky sloping land of the hillside on which the original house had been built.

Never can forget them. Two young marrieds both fully employed yet with no real home in which to bring up their soon to be first child. The three of them were still there when I returned to New Ireland.

There are other sides of their tribe which I learnt. Mr X was from the Gogo area too and worked as book-keeper for our company.

One day I asked him if he was hoping to go home for Xmas. I was amazed when he replied, “I hope I never have to live with those primitives ever again!” His exact words and he was a young educated Christian young man. Often wonder if he was as bad as he promised.

Another day I was on the Aramia River as operator for my flat bottomed river truck when its outboard engine gave out. We had about mile or so of our up-river journey to go amid the dwindling light of the sinking sun.

OK! We had three paddles to share among the three of us. My Highlander Huli colleague grabbed one; I another and then we both looked at our passenger. He just sat there.

“What’s a matter John?” I asked the Gogodala worker from our Moresby office home for a weekend to attend a custom feast.

“I don’t know how to paddle Arthur.”

“But your from here!” I exclaimed.

“Yes, but haven’t lived here since I was about two years old. I’ve lived in Moresby all my life.”

So this ex-Wales city dweller and a Huli Highlander manged very very slowly to paddle safely home.

Snapshot of PNG life.

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