Tuesday, August 8, 2017

An Indelible Mark

At Tufi Wharf for the Book Making Workshop 2017

They became academics, teachers, doctors, pilots, lawyers, judge, advisors, and consultants. Each of them, like their compatriots, was trained to embrace their purpose in life as if theirs was the shouldering of the burden of a post-independent country.

The cohort I belong to include the likes of Kenneth Sumbuk, Christine Sumbuk, Lawrence Sogoromo, Henry Ivarature, Boena, Margaret Kuira, Gerisoma James, Susan Kaupa, Henry Okole, Robert Turare, Eddie Oa, Grace Guaigu, Bob Aaron, Martha Aaron, David Nalu, Gedisa Iga, Kulal Hoheg, Mary Bray, Christopher Raymond, Paul Tusais, Mrs. Paula Bogambari Tusais, Kenny Samuel, Steven Kassman, Tomait Nondasil, and to name a few. We went on to build impressive careers and contributed to the development of the nation in various fields we studied after Aiyura National High School.

The support network came from other students by way of interest groups. The greatest help came from boys and girls in our MOMASE or Morobe, Madang, Sepik groups. Our regional groups provided the social security and support for most of the students from the same region.

Another groups that I received support from were the Catholic groups and the  school basketball team. I was an active member of the Catholic group and lived a very committed Christian life in the two years I was in Aiyura. I immersed myself in the Catholic faith, almost to a point of piousness. I quickly became interested in joining the Marist Order as a missionary Brother. I did everything according to the books to stay ‘holy’, living on prayer and remaining faithful to the activities of the church.

Sometimes when the priest does not come up from Kainantu I would lead the prayers for the faithful Catholic students. I was a very committed Catholic. I lived a life of clean habits, piety, and stood in for the priest when he was unable to serve mass for the students.

Little did I know that this experience would lead me to meet Pope John Paul II on his first visit to Papua New Guinea in 1984. By that time I was a novice with the Marist Brothers in Port Moresby.

Aiyura had all the trappings of a teenage life. I was not going to run my life aground. I held on to my Christian principles as if these were the basis upon which my life depended on.

Aiyura provided me the space and time to intellectual, spiritual, and artistic growth.  

In life there are things that we learn early in life that we develop as we grow older. For me, it was writing and literature. I had no idea that the books I enjoyed reading in high school and national high school were written by people who did not study literature. I learnt at this age that keeping focused on my goal always pays off at the end.

I think the incredible commitment as a Catholic held me together. All kinds of temptations were ignored. I did not smoke, do drugs, drank beer, have girlfriends, talk about the experiences of teenage passion. I kept to myself, and lived a good Christian life. I prayed and read my Bible every day.

I accepted discipline as necessary to my growth. One day I was punished for missing my duty at the mess. It was the Saturday my class was on duty at the school mess. My duty was to wash the plates and trays. Like most Saturdays we went out to Kainantu town in the morning. To get back we had to catch a bus back. As it turned out that day I caught a late bus only to miss out on my duties at the mess. I was reported to the class teacher who made me cut the big elephant grass in the staff quarter the next Saturday. I did not complain about this. I accepted my punishment for not attending to my duties.

We learnt a lot of great things that helped us to move on in the world. We learnt to read more and study with commitment. We learnt to work and play. We learnt to enjoy art.

Mr. Graig Volker and Ms. Theresa Dingu taught me English. Mrs. Christine Sanderson taught me Creative Writing. Mrs. Roselyn Everest, taught me Expressive Arts, guided me in writing my children storybook entitled Jupi and the Magic Feather. The first short stories I wrote were also submitted to the National Literature Competitions that Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies organized in 1983. The Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies (IPNGS) that I would discover later was an establishment linked to the earlier decades under the leadership of Ulli Beier and Georgina Beier. Ulli Beier was responsible for the emergence of creative writing and literary culture in Papua New Guinea. I had reading writings that Papua New Guineans wrote under the tutelage of Ulli Beier.

I was introduced to literature, creative writing, and expressive arts in Aiyura. I began to develop the first footprints to a professional life as a writer and literary artists. Aiyura was where I discovered my natural talents as a writer and artists. Literature and creative writing was introduced to me as an optional course, not as a core course. Literature was not part of the curriculum at that time.  I remember Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea, William Golding’s The Animal Farm, George Orwell’s 1984, and Ignatius Kilage’s My Mother Calls Me Yaltep. These books remain memorable to me for as long as I know. Reading these and other books helped me to find my pathway to the profession of Literature in later life.

Aiyura National High School and the valley itself left an indelible mark on me years after I had left. Aiyura provided me the foundations to develop as a person, writer, and an intellectual. On arrival in Aiyura I was barely 18 years old, as my Birthday falls on the 28th of January every year since 1964.  At 18 the world was slowly pulling back the curtains to reveal the richness and diversity it holds.

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