Oh what a feeling! when i visit families in Papua New Guinea
When you live so far away in a foreign country, away from home and families, you feel isolated and lonely. But it is always exciting to return home and it gives you a sense of family connectedness.
by i.c Golina
Sometimes, it is hard to find where to start when you have been away so long from home. It has been almost 4 years ago since I last returned back home to my village in Papua New Guinea. For the last 30 years I have been away living abroad, I have only come back about ten times to visit my families. Every time I have returned there has been always changes. We live in a time of profound changes and challenges – economic, environmental, political and social. These then creates a change in our lifestyle or standard of living. The most ominous of these changes is the impact of the ageing which I have seen my mother, aunties, uncles and cousins have changed, including me. For many others – including children are sure to face it in years to come.
It was time for me to take a flight back home to Port Moresby international airport. I was totally filled with joy, excitement and most of all, I couldn’t wait to see everyone. Though, it was only a short flight from Cairns, the flight seems like eternity to me. Finally, as I stepped out of the automated exit door I was greeted by my family members. I felt that, I have come home at last. As we headed towards our waiting vehicle, I could see the changes all around the place. We then, headed out of the airport to the main city roads, I could see and sense the smell of uninviting atmosphere. It looked to me, most of the places were a dumping ground. The streets were crowded with people, public buses were very unsafe for public transportation and the pot-holes on the road were eminent. I felt like, I was on a dirt corrugated road in the outback of Australia. After few hours on the road, I became immune to the bumpy and swaying of the vehicle. I thought to myself, this is certainly, a very unsafe place to come for a vacation on my own without knowing anyone. However, my main priority was to visit my families both living in the city of Port Moresby and back home in the village.
As we got onto the main road – Magi Highway, it was the direction where we headed home to Inuma village. I could see the vast changes along the way. Inuma village is located within the Rigo District in the Central Province, south-east of Port Moresby. Historically, the villagers at Inuma were part of a larger community based in Alepa village, which is south-east of the town of Kwikila.
As we continued our drive along this newly bitumen road, I could remember a while back driving along this very road – ‘Magi Highway’ that once ran through miles of low-land plain areas and trees. Twenty years ago there were wild wallabies and a myriad of birds in this vast areas of unspoilt environment. But now most of the trees are gone, most villages have relocated to the side of the main highway and this was visible mile after mile. There were stalls of variety of items on the side roads for any passing vehicle to buy. I felt like, I was on the roadsides in South Africa. I could see the similar situation in the village. I felt a great melancholy, and also anger. This anger was not directed against the poor subsistence farmers/gardeners who were trying to eke out a livelihood from the inhospitable land, but again mankind in general. We humans multiply and we destroy, chopping and killing. Now, in this desecrated areas, many dig up the roots of the trees they have long since cut down to make space for crops.
Finally, I made it home to my village. There I noticed, many changes, especially the social structure. As I recalled, it was a tight-knitted family atmosphere where everyone embraced each other and everything was virtually shared among everyone. They all belonged to the same clan and all related somehow when family-tree was orally explained by the elders. It was a tradition that I knew where elders were well respected As they said, “good old days” are now gone. From what I noticed, this close social-structured has changed to individualism, competitiveness, disrespect and individual power status. The traditions have changed due to the major influence of Christianity. Changes in demographic where today’s modern families now prefer to live in cities and this contributes to the declining number of younger generation seen in the village. The traditional dialect language is slowly disappearing. It is all part of the evolution process where the change is taking place but at a very slow process.
Considering the changes I have seen, it was profoundly family time. I spent a lot of my quality time with families in the village. All I did most of my 7 days up there was to eat, sleep and walk down to the rivers for swim. Most of the village don’t have electricity, bathrooms and other essential facilities that we take for granted down here or people living in the city. Most family members contributed to doing all the things together, which I found it more enjoyable and fun. Every process was a real family production line. Everyone automatically knew their duties. I must say, I was so thrilled and honoured to be with my family members and spending that precious moments with them was very gratifying to me. It was something that I took away so proudly which is constantly very fresh to me. Since, the whole village is Seventh-Day Adventist, it meant that from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, everyone virtually stop work between those periods of time. It is a day of worship and they keep the day holy where gardening, chopping of anything, cooking during the day time is totally prohibited. This is the moment where the community comes together to worship
From personal perspective: For me, travelling back home is very fulfilling, fun, enjoyable and so valuable to me. Like anyone visiting families and loved ones, it is always sad when we leave. For me, I know that, it will be few more years before I return back home and every time I returned, I always witness changes. Whether it is for better or worse is anyones’ guess.