Feature Articles

Welcome to this week's feature stories. The stories are from various Papua New Guinean writers. The main highlight this week is the story on .....

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Home and away

Jack Metta reflects on what happens when you're not at home
GOD has put a brain in your head and a heart in your chest; use them well.

That is a phrase that had been reverberating in your mind countless times since last Sunday's church service.

It made a lot of sense because these two parts of the body play vital roles in one's personality. Hence, it stuck to your mind like a leech, readily available for the juggling when your emotions overwhelmed you in any given situation.

Initially, it was meant to remind you of your responsibilities to the society that you are a part of and to adjust accordingly should you err or fall by the wayside on the path of life.

But most of all, it was to ensure you follow the norms of society and adhere to the rules that guard them.
Once in a while, exceptional circumstances would emerge calling for the rules to be stretched and bent to suit the circumstances, but the phrase would come to the fore urging good sense and reasoning. Most times, good sense wins out.

So when the phrase kept springing to mind in conditions one does not deem exceptional, alarm bells start to ring and you start to question whether you're not in a madhouse.

The madhouse in this context refers to the settlement you are thrown into, not by design but by circumstances.
Rising rents, power and utility bills, expanded responsibilities in almost all facets of everyday life including the dreaded wantok system, literally throw you into the confines of a squatter settlement to set up house.

And more wantok system woes are invited but that is part of the deal, you know.  It is inevitable to interact with your own people because one has to be among his or her own kind to be able to scratch a new life in a complete new setting. You would think twice about settling into a new setting if you didn't have any wantoks around, would you?  This is a fact of life in most urban centres around the country.

But as time passes, you wonder if the so-called 'new life' is worth it all or should you kick yourself in the shins and say 'serves you right'.

All these had come to pass because your arithmatic, scratchy as it is (one of your worst subjects in school), dictated that you move while you had the chance.

You calculated that paying rent a week multiplied by the year, times the number of years you've rented the place, came to several thousands of kina - money that could have been better put into the construction of a reasonable permanent home in the settlement. There would have been enough to settle the bills and tip the wantok some toea for his or her bus fare on occasions. 

You rue the day you left the confines of your childhood home to start a new life. That new life appeared glamorous from the outset but as the days and years wore on and nature took its course, your life was now sinking down to the doldrums.

Lately, things have really hit rock bottom.  The home that you had started to build had become a source of bitter dispute ... you not being a part of it.

Since your work takes you out of the city from time to time, it was prudent that you appoint a caretaker to look after the place while you're away.

The head on your shoulders juggle a few names from the settlement and the heart points to the appropriate characters.

Having done that, you are disrupted by a telephone call from a neighbour three weeks later that the person you had appointed had been chased away by your cousin, who has since moved in with his clan.

"Oh," she had said in passing, "the cousin's wife's clan are also holed up at your place..."  The latter remarks sounded more sarcastic than advisory, but you didn't linger on the thought because the reminder came gurgling out from the confines of your mind like air from a burst balloon.

The cousin's mother and family had sold their house after their father died and now they've marched into your home without any authorisation whatsoever.  And to think that he had taken it upon himself to kick the person you authorised to be the caretaker without so much as the courtesy of seeking permission  from the owner.

You start seething when you latch onto the fact that they had sold their house without so much as a thought of their own accommodation in the city.

Complaints came then, like a tap opening.  Nary had a day gone by when complaints came via telephone, letters, even visitors to the town of your temporary transfer.

The former caretaker, the closest neighbours and other relatives in the neighbourhood had something to say about the occupants, their pastime and advise as to what you should do about it. 

By and by, you just became ears ... you know, let the words pass through one ear and out the other and that was that.

"There are no more coconuts on your palms; drunken youths have taken a bush knife to your trees, young palms, bananas and hedges just to show how tough they are; the trees in front of the house have been chopped down because too many youths are gathering there to drink home brew and smoke marijuana; your place has become a gambling den of sorts with every Tom, Dick, drunken Harry and his dog are making a habit of being there every day and night..."

Oh, the list went on and the reminder kept popping up. 

Above the rage in your core, there were bitter tears over memories associated with the trees and coconuts in particular.  They were planted for a purpose - to prevent erosion, act as wind breakers, and provide a shade for leisure and the children boasting in later years of having planted the trees as young toddlers.

The windbreakers in fact, were cut down because a neighbour  reasoned that his action would prevent drug bodies from using the shade.  No thought was spared for the years of growth, nurturing and trimming.
If this guy had a head on his shoulders and a heart in his chest, should he be respecting the property of its rightful owner?

You'd have thought he would have had enough sense to distinguish right from wrong and not entertain or discourage totally activities that brought the place into disrepute?

Disputes erupted over these activities between the 'cousin' and concerned parties in the neighbourhood culminating in boisterous exchanges of heated words and ultimately violence on a couple of occasions. 
The activities and disputes were fodder for the settlement's gossips and, woe of woes, ammunition for further reports to your end.

The reminder never did have time to rest in the confines of your mind for the entire period you were away.
Messages were returned to get the present tenants out of the place and install the authorised person, but this fell on deaf years. Another message was sent that you were on your way back and that the place should be vacated.

They called your bluff and when you did arrive, they were still occupying the place.
But they did the fastest disappearing act you've ever seen in your entire life.  One moment there is a hive of activity, the next, the place was quiet and deserted like it was never inhabited.

You feel sorry for yourself as you appraise you home and yard. No doubt, it was totally abused.
You had a head and a heart and you had used these to develop a cordial relationship with the locals including your cousin. And how do they return the courtesy.  Abusing your place?

You tore the house down thereafter and the materials have since gone walkabout, once again courtesy of the very people you know.  And once again, there hasn't been any permission sought from the owner.

It is said that home is where the heart is but in your case, the heart has shifted because the heads on the shoulders of those you believe you could trust, had torn it out and thrown it away.
If Louis Armstrong was to enter and blurt out in his croaky voice   'What a wonderful world'' perhaps he could be invited to be a caretaker for a while.

For now, the head's thinking about the future, the heart's pumping and the words of the Wise Counsellor: 'Forgiveness is a lovely idea until one has something to forgive' is resonating in your ears.


The pregnancy experience continues


"THE pregnancy experience - an all-expenses-paid holiday" article published two weeks back stimulated a lot of interest amongst many readers.  More than 200 people reacted to the story by email asking a lot of personal and interesting questions and requests.

I have ve tried my best replying to most of the questions but for those about the symptoms and signs of early pregnancies, I have reserved the answers to this follow-up article.  This article wishes also to illustrate two important features of the pregnancy experience.  Firstly the signs and symptoms of the pregnancy experience.  Secondly, we should know as husbands and wives the physical changes happening inside a mother's womb during pregnancy.  Keeping records or track of what's going on inside that comfortable villa of our wives' wombs is important. 

Let me begin with an email I received.

"My friend's girlfriend did not have her menstrual period last month.  We are not sure if she is pregnant or not.  If she is really pregnant, they are not ready yet for a child.  Can you give us some tips how she can do abortion?" Well my dear friends.  Abortion in PNG is illegal.  Therefore I don't have a clue or advice as to how you can execute this act. But the reality in this country from observation is that illegal things are legal and vice-versa.  People are selling smoke and buai at places where they shouldn't be trading these things.  Sex is a thriving business although it is illegal here in the country. As indicated in the Post Courier 10 abortion cases are reported every month in Bougainville (Post Courier March 19 2010).   This is for one province. What about other 19 provinces in this country?  What is happening to this type of unintended and unwanted pregnancies?  Someone in authority can shed some light on this. 

The confusing thing is that we normally do not think of the outcomes when two loving couples cuddle each other in a loving sexual affair.   When the female partner starts sharing her feelings some weeks or a month later like my friend above, we start searching our pockets for ideas and even excuses.  To avoid that, I wish to introduce you to some practical analysis of the pregnancy experience. 

Pregnancy symptoms differ from woman to woman and pregnancy to pregnancy; however, one of the most significant pregnancy symptoms is a delayed or missed menstrual cycle.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of pregnancy is important because each symptom may be related to something other than pregnancy. Some women experience signs or symptoms of pregnancy within a week of conception. For other women, pregnancy symptoms may develop over a few weeks or may not be present at all.

Below is a listing of some of the most common pregnancy symptoms. If you have been sexually active and experiencing any of the following symptoms it is important to take a pregnancy test.

Implantation bleeding: Implantation bleeding can be one of the earliest pregnancy symptoms. About 6-12 days after conception, the embryo implants itself into the uterine wall. Some women will experience spotting as well as some cramping.  Actual menstruation, altered menstruation, changes in birth control pill, infection, or abrasion from intercourse can also occur then Delay/difference in menstruation: A delayed or missed menstruation is the most common pregnancy symptom leading a woman to test for pregnancy.

When you become pregnant, your next period should be missed. Many women can bleed while they are pregnant, but typically the bleeding will be shorter or lighter than a normal period. Excessive weight gain/loss, fatigue, hormonal problems, tension, stress, ceasing to take the birth control pill, or breast-feeding are other symptoms.

Swollen/tender breasts: Swollen or tender breasts are a pregnancy symptom which may begin as early as 1-2 weeks after conception. Women may notice changes in their breasts; they may be tender to the touch, sore, or swollen. Hormonal imbalance, birth control pills, impending menstruation (PMS) can also cause your breasts to be swollen or tender.

Fatigue/tiredness: Feeling fatigued or tired is a pregnancy symptom which can also start as early as the first week after conception. Stress, exhaustion, depression, common cold or flu, or other illnesses can also leave you feeling tired or fatigued.

Nausea/morning sickness: This well-known pregnancy symptom will often show up between 2-8 weeks after conception. Some women are fortunate to not deal with morning sickness at all, while others will feel nauseous throughout most of their pregnancy. Food poisoning, stress, or other stomach disorders can also cause you to feel queasy.

Backaches: Lower backaches may be a symptom that occurs early in pregnancy; however, it is common to experience a dull backache throughout an entire pregnancy. Impending menstruation, stress, other back problems, and physical or mental strains.

Headaches: The sudden rise of hormones in your body can cause you to have headaches early in pregnancy. Dehydration, caffeine withdrawal, impending menstruation, eye strain, or other ailments can be the source of frequent or chronic headaches.

Frequent urination: Around 6-8 weeks after conception, you may find yourself making a few extra trips to the bathroom.  Urinary tract infection, diabetes, increasing liquid intake, or taking excessive diuretics.
Darkening of Areolas: If you are pregnant, the skin around your nipples may get darker. Hormonal imbalance unrelated to pregnancy or may be a leftover effect from a previous pregnancy.

Food cravings: While you may not have a strong desire to eat pickles and ice cream, many women will feel cravings for certain foods when they are pregnant. This can last throughout your entire pregnancy. Poor diet, lack of a certain nutrient, stress, depression, or impending menstruation.

If you think you are pregnant you may purchase a home pregnancy test such as those made by Clearblue Easy, or find out more about taking a pregnancy test.

Calculating the day your baby begins to develop and keeping track of your pregnancy dates can be a challenge. The development of pregnancy is counted from the first day of the woman's last normal period, even though the development of the fetus does not begin until conception. Pregnancy is calculated from this day because each time a woman has a period, her body is preparing for pregnancy.

Healthy pregnancy development may vary due to the mother's health or a miscalculation of ovulation. Gestational age is the age of the pregnancy from the last normal menstrual period (LMP), and fetal age is the actual age of the growing baby. Most references to pregnancy are usually in gestational age rather than fetal age development, but we have included both so that it is clear what stage development is at. Measurements will be given in total length from head to toe, but each pregnancy can differ in weight and length measurements.

Pregnancy is also divided into trimesters which last about 12 - 14 weeks each. Similar to development, these can be calculated from different dates so not all trimester calculations will equal the same. The following information divides the three trimesters into a little over 3 completed months each. The first trimester is week 1 through the end of week 13. The second trimester usually ends around the 26th week and consists of the 4th, 5th and 6th completed months. The third trimester can end anywhere between the 38th - 42nd week and is the 7th, 8th and 9th completed months of pregnancy.

Vaginal bleeding can occur frequently in the first trimester of pregnancy and may not be a sign of problems. But bleeding that occurs in the second and third trimester of pregnancy can often be a sign of a possible complication. Bleeding can be caused by a number of reasons.

Some basic things to know about bleeding are:
  • If you are bleeding, you should always wear a pad or panty liner so that you can monitor how much you are bleeding and what type of bleeding you are experiencing.
  • You should never wear a tampon or introduce anything else into the vaginal area such as douche or engage in sexual intercourse if you are currently experiencing bleeding. 
  • If you are also experiencing any of the other symptoms mentioned below in connection with a possible complication, you should contact your health care provider immediately.

...... to be continued next week
Bernard Narokobi: A great supporter of the development of renewable energy
Liu Zhaoxiang, one time resident of Papua New Guinea and currently living in Beijing, China, recollects his first encounter with late Bernard Narokobi. Liu believes PNG should have more of late Narokobi in his personality, knowledge and above all, his ideology and wisdom.
I WAS extremely sorry to learn last Friday afternoon (March12) when news was received at the PNG Embassy in Beijing that Mr. Bernard Narokobi had passed away. I was shocked and saddened and immediately wanted to ring his house and convey my deepest sympathy to his family members, but I didn't know his telephone number.

To get his number, I then called two good friends of his, Mr. John Momis, PNG's former Ambassador to China, and Mr Joseph Gabut, the former Secretary of the Department of Petroleum and Energy (DPE). Unfortunately, I couldn't reach either of them.

As is known to all, Bernard was one of the most prominent lawyers and one of the most honorable politicians in PNG. However, little is known of his great and firm support for the development of renewable energy in PNG.

First Meeting at Manila Airport

I was invited to go to PNG as a private citizen by former Ambassador Larry Hulo in 1994. Soon, I found PNG was facing a serious challenge of power shortages not only in its rural areas where more than 80% of its population lived but also in all its urban centers where blackouts were daily occurrences. So, I made up my mind to do something about the power issue in PNG.

In the following years, I traveled extensively throughout PNG conducting a series of field studies about renewable energy. I found that PNG is blessed with very rich renewable energy opportunities due to its favorable and advantageous geographical, topographical and geological characteristics.

PNG has almost all forms of renewable energy, including solar, wind, hydro, biomass, geothermal and ocean wave energy. I was confident renewable energy could provide the people of PNG with indigenous, affordable, reliable and clean energy.

In June 2000, we shipped the first batch of six wind-powered generators from China to PNG for demonstration purposes. I happened to take the same flight from Hong Kong to Port Moresby with Bernard Narokobi, the Speaker of National Parliament, who had just completed an official visit to China and was on his way back home.

We had a one hour stopover in Manila, the Philippines. I met Bernard for the first time on his way to the VIP lounge. With some nervousness, because of his position and my lack of any earlier communication with him, I asked him whether he was interested in wind power.

To my surprise, he said quietly, "Yes. Come and explain it to me."  I was very happy and followed him into the VIP lounge. At the same time he asked some other members of his delegation to join us.

Bernard listened attentively, and looked carefully at the brochure I gave to him. From time to time, he asked questions. At last, he told me, "We have wind all the year round. We need wind power and it is environmental friendly. I fully support you. If I can do anything for you, just let me know."

Then, he gave his name card to me. He was so humble, friendly and warm. This first meeting with Bernard has stayed in my memory ever since.

A photo in front of the wind -powered generator
As soon as wind-powered generators arrived in PNG in the first week in August 2000, we erected one of them in the corner of Waigani Village near its front gate. Waigani Village is just on the roadside of Waigani Drive, and it attracted the attention of many drivers and passengers.

Mr Collin Taimbari, a reporter for Post-Courier, interviewed me in the following week, and Post-Courier carried his report on 15th August 2000.

I wanted very much to invite Bernard to have a look at our demonstration generator. So, I called him the following day. He said he was delighted to read our story in the newspaper and he would like to visit us during the weekend.

At 7:30 AM on 19th August 2000, Bernard drove himself to Waigani Village. He switched the lights attached to the generator on and off twice.  He looked at the inverter and battery and asked how long the battery could last.

When he learnt that the battery could last only for three years, he said it needs to last longer than that because it would be inconvenient for the villagers in remote areas to replace it.

A photo was taken of us standing together in front of the wind-powered generator. Whenever I look at that photo, I always remember his smiling face.

Also before he left, he encouraged me to write something for the media about renewable energy because at that time not many Papua New Guineans knew about it. With his encouragement, I wrote my first article entitled "Develop PNG Renewable Energy to Realise Electrification" and it was published in PNG Business (January, 2001)

 A letter of recommendation 
Just at that time, DPE was looking for a renewable energy consultant. I guess it was through the news, my articles and interviews in PNG`s media that led DPE to assess me as a candidate.

I was selected after an interview by Mr Vore Veve, Director of Energy Division of the Department.  In order to complete the appointment process, however, he needed a letter of recommendation from a prominent figure of PNG.

I told this to Bernard. Without any hesitation, he said to me, "I will write a letter of recommendation for you to the Department." Two days, I was given his letter at his house. Bernard`s recommendation letter was very important for me.

After three months of scrutiny by departments concerned and upon the approval of Consultancy Steering Committee, DPE formally engaged me as a renewable energy consultant on 10th April 2001 for a term of three years.

The first and major term of reference of my engagement was "Improve awareness coverage of the renewable energy sector in Papua New Guinea". From then on, I became very busy, and often I had to work seven days a week in my small office in Gordons.

Great encouragement
During the three years, I tried my best to conduct extensive work by undertaking research into identifying appropriate renewable technologies given PNG conditions. Mr Joseph Gabut, Secretary of DPE recognized the value to PNG of the technologies I had identified and kindly wrote in a performance assessment report that, "Mr Liu has fulfilled all the requirements of the terms of reference, resulting in proven record of achievements. He has done an excellent job as a consultant, and I am satisfied with his work."

I could not have achieved all these without the help and encouragement of my colleagues and many readers, among whom Bernard was the most outstanding one.  He had given me the utmost encouragement. Many times after I published my research papers, Bernard would call me and urge me to "keep up the good job".

On 1st May 2003 in his Column "Seliter Whispers" of The Independent, Bernard published his comment entitled "Liu Zhaoxiang`s vision of PNG`s renewable energy".

He wrote, "Mr Liu has done more than writing these great energy sources available to us. He has a vision for our country's modernizing itself with a maximum of energy sources which are both cost effective and environment friendly," and "from his tiny office at Gordons, Mr Liu has generated enormous energy."

I think Bernard was over complimentary of me and my work. His words always inspired me to work hard for the development of renewable energy in PNG, which, I am sure, is in the best interest of Papua New Guineans.

Bernard Narokobi had a rich full life and lived every minute of it to the fullest. May his vision and enthusiasm for a brighter, sustainable future for PNG remain as a beacon to guide us all now that he is no longer with us.

In his book, "The Melanesian Way", he wrote and I quote, "Melanesian has been invaded by a huge tidal wave from the West in the form of colonization and Christianization... Whilst acknowledging our beautiful past along with its constraints, we also recognize the good in the new ways, and mindful of the bad ways of today. With the freedom we have, we can make conscious decisions to opt for what is best in both worlds.

"Today, we Melanesians stand at the crossroad. More than any people in the world, we can choose. We can choose to ape the West and the East or we can choose to be ourselves in our philosophy, our life-styles and our whole beings."

Can PNG leaders today guide PNG in the true Melanesian Way, yet live the current globe?

For comments, contact Mathew Yakai on email: m_yakai@hotmail.com or SMS 71489901