Revisiting PNG: Graham Jones

That so many delightful and interesting stories fill the pages of Una Voce and PNG Attitude convinced me to add my small contribution to the mill.

In October 2010, after years of procrastination, I decided to revisit Madang by myself over a 10 day period (my wife declined). Madang, because our first daughter was born at Yagaum Lutheran Hospital in May 1964, after a dramatic early morning flight (she was a week early) in Doug McGraw’s MAF Cessna 185 from Banz, where I was teaching. Also, Lae (where I taught at Lae Technical College 1969-72) and Hagen, my two other preferred options, apparently have significantly lower levels of law and order.

I had a most exciting and enjoyable time (all too short) and some thrilling highlights.

Revisiting Yagaum Hospital again was a special experience. The buildings were virtually unchanged and the maternity ward and delivery room were, apart from maintenance and technological improvement, as they were back then. My wife is currently nursing at an Aged Care facility here in Sarina, Queensland, and the residents had knitted about 20 “premature infant jackets” (my term), which I took to distribute as needed. The Sister-In-Charge at Yagaum was delighted to receive
them and to my astonishment when we visited the ward, a one-week premmie baby had a ray lamp on him. So the jackets were indeed welcome. After much discussion with mum she declared she would name her newborn after our latest grandson
Xaver. All the other mothers and wantoks were delighted to hear me tell “our story” (which I retold many times in other situations) and were amazed that we had a baby there “way back then”.

Other highlights:

  • The CWA (we had stayed there occasionally) is still there! And managed brilliantly.
  • Meeting such interesting people as Busy Bee (Madang Resort) and Maureen Hill (long time resident and public benefactor par excellence).
  • Visiting Alexishaven (visited an old, dying German Nun who had spent her life there).
  • 2 days at Divine Word University for an international resource development conference (would love to tell you more on that: China, Deep Sea Tailings Disposal, hoodwinking people, etc). Met a delightful young woman from Enga province who is a lecturer at DWU: the life obstacles she must have had to overcome!
  • Kalibobo Village (Madang Resort) was a delightful place to stay.
  • Transport is a real problem for potential tourists.
  • First Kokomo Cultural Show (it will be held again this year). This small village is about 1 hour drive into the mountains. Although a small event (compared to the outstanding 1964 Hagen Show) it will hopefully develop into a similarly extravagant affair.
  • Visited a couple of schools in the mountains, one of which occupied a particularly spectacular location on a ridge looking towards the Highlands. (Distributed classroom material I had brought from Oz which was most welcome).

To conclude, the people were always friendly and helpful. It was a delight to launch into Pidgin again, which was surprisingly easy to do. Even though I’m a North Queenslander, the tropical ambience of the country is palpable, exotic and addictive (as so many of you know).

My wife declines to “go back” and so many people over the years said “don‘t”, but this was my first foray and I intend to now “front” the apparent threats of the Hagen-Banz-Wabag area later this year. Any suggestions?

Em tasol (sorry, couldn’t resist it!)

With thanks to Marie Clifton-Bassett and Andrea Williams for encouraging me to ‘do it’.

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