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24 September 2015


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Hi Peter, you were my primary teacher at Panguna in 1978-79. My mum Leila taught at the preschool and later with you at the new primary school.

I have often considered going to visit Panguna again, Loloho and the Yacht Club but it will certainly not be the same as you have described.

Thanks for a great read. We lived on the island in 1975 to 1976 and left when the riots and trouble started. I was only 11 when we had to leave the Birempa compound and my memories from then were that it was scary when all the trouble started.

I do have good memories though. Bovo primary school was great, I loved going to the pool at the hotel that was on the beach, Travelodge or something similar in Kieta, I can't exactly remember.

Going to the country club to watch movies as they was no TV or radio then and then sneaking into the camp next to us and watching movies with the local kids. It was such an easy life back then.

The locals were friendly and I always felt safe. The markets in Arawa were amazing and a highlight of the week going for a drive into "town".

Dad worked for SHRM from memory doing pays or something.

I've thought about going back but I don't know how safe it is and it would be sad to see all of my memories abandoned and destroyed.

wonderful, thank you for bringing back our memories, we lived in Panguna from 1979 to 1984. Arthur Perry was a friend of ours, he looked after our house and our dog, (blackie) while we went on holidays back to Australia. Was a special time in our lives, great experience. Max worked in the Tunnel down the Java...... June Howard

Dear Peter, Thank you for your story. I am reading this to my mum who has many fond memories of Bougainville. She noted that you met Gary Campbell the boxing coach. Mum would like to get in touch with him and follow up with friends from that time. if possible any contact information would be much appreciated.

I have good memories of Panguna too. Panguna was such a beautiful place and I have some beautiful photos of the crushers and mill where I worked as a student. I got out in January 1989. The people of Bougainville are a really top people. Very resilient and hard working. I believe Bougainville can find its way around if given the opportunity.

What an amazing venture for you and Marion and kids. I have just sent this to Peter he will be so interested as especially being involved in helping you build the school.

My three kids that attended still talk about their international schooling days in Panguna and the friends that they made, especially the great teachers they had.

I think Matt still keeps in contact with Oscar Pittar but don't quote me on that, it may have been a while.

Keep writing, it's great. I will tell you both about my adventure to Egypt with Peter one day. He is still there and has done a lot of research on his grandfather who was in the light brigade here in World War One. It gives him something to do I think but I know he enjoys it. I keep getting mail from the national archives all the time. Family history is marvellous to explore especially if you are living in the same country anyway.

Hi Marion, thanks for looking after me so well when I was so sick on Bougainville having Haylee. It's never been forgotten. Love to to you all. As I said I think Brent talks to Prue and they converse a bit keep in contact love from all us Danahers, there's a lot of us.

I did a lot of relief teaching in 1985-1986 when the school was being built around us, what a lovely school, great time fondly remembered.

Wantok Peter, this is great, mi hamamas yupela go back na lukluk long peles. Tekyu tru, God bless.

G'day Peter - thanks for sharing. I was a student at your school whilst you were Principal.

Nothing but great childhood memories at PNG (minus the load explosions and gunfire at night). I still have a class photo with the PNG defence force helicopter in the background.

Thank you for sharing. Can't help wondering what would have been if we didn't have to evacuate.

Thanks Peter and Marion for the great description of Bougainville and Panguna. It sure brought back a lot of memories! Wish we could all meet again soon.

Many thanks for what you related about revisiting the Panguna minesite and its dreadful look. What struck me was that the only sign of the left of the church was its cross.

I happened to live in the mine area from 1966 to 1972 as parish priest of Deomori. Panguna was for a while part of my parish.

My experiences were marked by the confusion my parishioners showed seeing the destruction of their surroundings.

Some went off their rocket (longlong or as the Nasioi landowners call it kanukanu).

As the only kakara (whiteman), I was part of the problem in the surrounding villages. Still for me it was a real experience to have lived on the site and later for another 15 years on the beautiful Island. Again many thanks.

I remember the feeling the first time I returned in July 2004, and each time after that I have returned,(4 times)the feeling has been very similar.
It is mystic, and hard to describe, but it is shared by all I know (except one) who have spent time in Bougainville.
I will share something I wrote in 2000. It might ring a cord with you.

‘A new era is upon us’ or so they say,
Our new era unheralded by hype
Instead marked by sadness began a decade ago.
Without choice or desire ribbons of life
Slashed from the heart by cuts in time
Never to be celebrated.

In ‘Real-time’ once enjoyed
And thanks be given we knew it then
Fireworks would be but a candle glow.
The richness the brightness of then
Reams of Precious ‘Real-time’ lists
Of “holim long tingting”
Mind walks in the rainforest
Still fresh today, each step indelible.

Recalled as a forgotten song
Until heard and sung again.
Silhouettes of men in canoes
Adorning the necklace of our flag.
Their companion, the brightest rising mun.

From a glass sea they return
As night gives way to soft hues of tulait
To malolo satisfied with life and the catch.
Those black nights a perfect canvas
For a wondrous continuous display
Of silent,‘liat bilong klaut’ .

All without reason to celebrate
Except being there
Just belonging; heart and soul.

Waterfalls more refreshing than ‘Bubbly’
Vine bridges over the Bovo riva
Our rocks guarded
By the green gentle giants
Whose nuts we no longer taste,
Or do we?

Countless nambis each one
Proclaiming to be the most special.
Aquamarine the liquid jewel.
Sensually kissing the sands so virginal
As each day begins
But all remembered.

Special memories
Never shared
Forever sealed in my heart.
Mountains stealing the sun
The first coolness of the day
Big and caring, giving hugs as a mother.

Then the misty days
She shares the clarity of layers
Beauty to be appreciated
But oft taken for granted
... as most mothers are.

The gift of cool shade
From fingers of green and light
That wondrous perspective
Of moving textures
Never daring
A repeat of design
As I look upwards
... laying with love beside me.

Incredible starry nights so bright
As to make mountains glisten
On a moonless night.
Tiny ferns where gravity
Seemed lawless
... as did many beautiful things.

Not of the imagination
But in ‘Real-time’.
Parrots, orchids, beach vines
Hibiscus and butterflies
In the corals and waves.
With too many hues of bliss
To mention, instead to know,
Indelibly with wonder.

Symphonies played in the day
Sounds of waves,
Gentle as a kittens touch, or with a Chief’s roar.
But always there
Even as we speak!

Kalangar demanding
To be heard above all else
Leading into the orgasmic crescendo.
At dusk the finale
To the gentleness of the night
Shading lovers into privileged memories.

Then amongst wantoks and visitors
Special and ‘longlong ’ people
Entertaining all.
Akin as flavors and spices
Sprinkled through our days
Creating succulent food for life...

So a new era is here...
Kingfishers, tenants of the sea cliffs
Daily surveying Arovo Island
Don’t know of this.

Willywag-tails still proclaim the night
In the fierce competition
Of frogs crickets and such.
Clown fish will still dart
In and out
With nervous joy.

So let the end of the era come…
A new one be born.
Sons and Daughters returning home
with renewed ‘hamamas wantaim bel isi’
For her future.

No date proclamation
Instead by mended hearts
Desirous once more
To return home ‘na stap olgeta’
To love again...

© Kataha (Rae Smart)
Last day of 2000.

Congrats Peter, Marian your children, Arthur and Phil on a wonderful update on your trip to Bougainville. As others have mentioned it has brought back many wonderful memories and emotions for my time in Panguna - 1978-83.

I personally found Bougainvillean people to very pleasant and obliging. The only way I can explain my experience on Bougainville is that it was in one word "Utopia". I wish them all the very best in their endeavours into the future. Teng yu tru!

Peter and Marian, thanks for the encompassing detail of your emotionally challenging journey.

Like yourselves, I was saddened to see the destruction that the civil war brought. My low risk exposure was the escorted bus trips from the Single Men's quarters at Panguna to the Concentrator/Secondary Crusher during the few limited attempts at resuming production, post the felling of the power pylons by the rebels.

In Panguna there was a road block at the three-way junction between the Police Station, your school, and 'H' Block, part of the Single Men's Quarters. My most unpleasant experience was gasping on some tear gas when a car ran the road block.

The police fired a tear gas canister at it. The canister landed in the car park of 'H' block and the gas wafted up into the rooms. I was coming back from the shower and rushed to my room and stuffed my towel under the door to avoid the gas.

Your description of the school's daily singing of the PNG National Anthem brought back memories for me. I have you and your students to thank for teaching me it, by osmosis.

My window was opposite the school ground and as I was on a rotating shift roster, 2 out of every 3 weeks I would be serenaded with, "Oh arise all ye sons of this earth ..."

For all of the grievances about the presence of BCL, one of their most noble achievements was the training of their workforce. It was international standard and all BCL national employees are still highly respected, and immediately hired, throughout PNG.

Your escorts, Arthur Perry and Phil Lugg, are as much a part of Bougainville's rich personal history, as yourselves.

Teng yu tru, Peter.

Good for you guys. I still have fond memories.

Peter - thanks for your very moving account of your return to Bougainville. I had a similar trip in 2007 with my brother.

Following a request from a local Nun and Politician I have been involved in researching the mental health impact of the Crisis and to that end returned 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014.

Your "stori" gives a clear account of the damage to infrastructure; sadly the enduring psychological impact is significant.

If interested, you will find a copy of a short article by myself and colleagues if you type my name Tierney and Bougainville.

An amazing account of your journey, Peter and Marion. Your description brought back so many memories and emotions. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be there, seeing our beautiful town and school as it is now. Heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing.

Thank you Peter. Can't really write anything else, other than my thanks, am sobbing my heart out!

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