Tuesday, November 26, 2013


THERE was something in the last picture I posted that caused me to write this.
If you are lost at sea with no land in sight and have lost your bearing, how can you tell if there is possibility of reaching an island in a certain direction?

Answer: Look out for clouds piling up into the sky over the horizon, like those over the island that could be vaguely seen in the picture posted earlier. Study that picture again.
(Precipitation processes on big islands cause the formation of clouds - wooly, cumulus types - over them.)
This knowledge is basic for many islanders in the Pacific.

In Polynesia, particularly in Tahiti, traditional sailors out at sea, returning from a fishing, or sailing, trip look out for a particular glow that rises up over their atolls.
That helps them paddle/sail in the right direction.
(I got this bit from reading the book “The Boy Who Was Afraid” by American author, Armstrong Sperry.)   

Others search for certain stars to get their bearing right. From my own research, I know people in the islands of East Sepik and Manus who (though educated in the western world) still search the night sky to set the course of their boats. Amazing, don’t you think?

I am sure there are others in the New Guinea Islands and Milne Bay who do the same.

(NB: I am an advocate for traditional sailing knowledge.)


(This is an example of writing about a personal experience and was written particularly for aspiring writers.)
I know this will sound weird to a lot of people – but from experience, I can say this (teaching the small ones to pray) can turn everything for you if life seems to be against you.

Yes, yes, good parents pray for their children.
Where your children go your prayers will follow them (if you are parent).
Now, if they, your children or nieces and nephews, know how to pray early in life, they can be your greatest supporters in asking God for your protection and guidance (in today’s crazy world).

Let me tell you about something that happened back then; more than ten years ago.
I was then reminded of the truth in the Bible verse of Psalms 8:2: “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.”

I was in an outboard banana boat with a five-year-old niece and others in January. We were between a group of islands almost 60km out at sea and the mainland, when the boat’s engine died.
We were travelling back to the mainland from one of those islands when we faced the engine problem.
(That is the same body of water where four men, islanders, went missing when their boat capsized in July 2011.)
We righted the boat towards the islands because the mainland was much further away than the islands.
We tried paddling towards the bigger one from 3.00pm until sundown, having no way to let anyone know of our situation. (Mobile phone communication network would only be set up five years later.)
Blisters formed and broke on our fingers and hands, our backs hurt and our skin turned brown and become parched from being without shade in the boat under the hot tropical sun.
We also become very thirsty.
There were nine of us – the boat operator and his crew member (both relatives of mine), a married couple with their fourteen year-old daughter, two teenage girls from Maprik who went to the island to spend some time with their church friends, my niece and me.
The two Maprik girls were the only ones without any island blood. Yes, they were scared. (In fact, most of us were, though the islanders did not show it.)    

Photo: The big island could be vaguely seen in this photo taken from Wewak Hill, East Sepik.

We paddled all afternoon with the hope of reaching one of the two islands, the bigger one.
At about 7.00pm, another boat out at sea passed by, about 20 metres away from us. We saw nothing, we only heard the sound of the engine of the boat.
The men on our boat called out in the pitch-black darkness for the other boat to stop.
The boat did not.  
They called again.
The boat did not stop.
Then the crew member on our boat set alight his T-shirt, after drenching it with fuel and hoisting it on a paddle, while standing at the bow of the boat. (He did that to keep away from the fuel tank at the stern in case that also caught fire.)
A bright purplish-pink flame lit up the night, and with the men on our boat calling again, in the local language, the other boat slowed down. (We could hear that from the engine’s sound.)
The boat then turned and came our way as our boat’s operator called out his name to the people on the other boat.
Then men on the other boat, upon recognising the operator, broke out laughing.  (The fun in the islanders came out as the men on both boats started talking excitedly.)  
“Ey, what happened to you guys?” they asked.
And the operator and the crew told them what had happened.
“Did you hear us calling earlier?” Our crew asked them.
“Sorry, we heard but were wary of pirates!” they said.
We understood.

Not too long ago, a boat with people went missing further past the other islands to the west. The overturned boat was recovered days later minus the people and the supplies that were in it.
And also, there were stories of pirates with powerful firearms travelling in those waters.
The men on the other boat who came to our rescue towed us for one hour at least towards their island, the bigger of the two in the group.
As we removed the stuff in the boat to a house and walked to a creek to wash up, the man who was with his wife and daughter in our boat, said quietly under his breath that if we had remained and paddled, we would have never reach the island because we were so far out at sea.
The tide would have swept us into open sea, he added.
Three days later, another relative who lived on that island with his teacher wife and family told us that he would ferry us – the two Maprik girls, my niece and me – back to the mainland.
“The others can come later. You are a teacher and need to get back to the mainland before the school year starts,” he said.

We left early in the morning in his small banana boat.
The early morning waves were huge.
We rose up a giant one and then plunged into another.
The three girls sat under a blue canvas.
I was sitting a bit to the front without a jacket.
The operator and I were drenched wet within 20 minutes of leaving shore.  
(The rise and fall of the boat on the giant waves reminded me of another stormy trip that I experienced when I was eight and travelling with my mother and siblings from the island to the mainland.
The boat we were on was made of steel and was the best and strongest boat in the province in those days.
It rose up above a big wave and then cut cleanly into the next one, causing water to shoot in sprays into the air.
All the mothers and children were forced into the captain’s cabin while the rest of the passengers sought shelter in the hull, which was filled with dried copra and fish. I was with the group in the captain’s spacious cabin. The floor of the cabin was wet with vomit from seasick mothers and children who were clinging to one another, trying to keep still in the madly-rocking boat. Some of the children were crying, more from being seasick than from the waves pounding the blue glass windows above their heads. I was unaffected by the whole thing. Also in those days, I was kind-of strong – back then, I was immune to seasickness.)

We continued to push through the waves for almost two hours in the small banana boat before we reached the mainland, which was now bright and sunny.
When the niece got home, she told her parents that while we were going through the giant waves, she was praying under the canvas that the boat would not capsize.
I think the Maprik girls did the same ... and I know their prayers were answered.
I learned the power of a child’s prayer then.

Now, to my question: Is any child praying for you?
It is time you taught the little ones to start praying, don’t you think?

- Written for Pacific Indigenous Writers in Facebook           

Monday, November 25, 2013


I JUST witnessed something.
I went to the tucker shop on the other side of the road to get some flex cards (to top up my phone credits) when I saw a PMV truck from one of our Central villages (I heard them speaking in a language that I kind-of recognised) parked on the side and a crowd was gathering around it.

There was a man at the back of the truck screaming at a woman/mother outside, who was also shouting to others on the vehicle to stop what they were doing – fighting!
Also at the back of the car, there was a young man and another exchanging punches.
Yet another was trying to pull them apart.

I went into the shop, got what I wanted and walked out.
I saw that the fight and shouting were still going on.
They had separated the young man but he was still unhappy and wanted to have another go with the older man who seemed to have been the better boxer.
I could not understand.

This was Monday, not Friday. Such fights and screams are more common on Fridays and over the weekends.
And it was strange that villagers were sorting out their issues with violence, at night, in the city.
As I was passing by, I smelled alcohol, and I understood.

When alcohol is consumed by the majority of people, they throw all common sense out and chaos is the result … and that can be accompanied (in most cases) by violence.

I just thought as I walked away – “if only they can stop consuming alcohol, the mother would not be standing there screaming and the men would not be fighting”.
“If only more people stopped consuming alcohol, what peace we all would enjoy in our homes and neighbourhood.”
“If parents can abstain and teach their children to also abstain, there would be no need for a father attempting to pull apart intoxicated teenagers throwing punches at each other every time they sit around to drink”
“Ah, if only … if only … if only …”   

Sunday, November 24, 2013


I AM just reminding you of something I said some time ago: “A writer lives many lives.”
To create plots, the writer gets into the shoes of others and tries to see the world as the characters would.

Also, it is a time to learn – learn other views, other skills, other things, not learned in school or in the environment that the writer grew up in.
That is the amazing world that the writer lives in.
When s/he really gets into a story, there is no boredom ... just growing intensity sensed as s/he goes from one sub-plot to another.

As long as s/he lives, the writer will continue to learn ... for more learning enables him/her to make the plots more exciting, more realistic and richer.