When we arrived in Manus on Monday afternoon, we were met at the Momote Airport by, believe it or not, a former high schoolmate who was representing the provincial administration. He was with a female colleague. They were assigned to our delegation.
He recognised me first – mentioned my name as he extended his hand and said how happy he was to have been assigned to us as part of the two-person welcoming committee, and so was I. They were to escort us to the town centre, which was almost a 20 minute drive away, and then later to the showgrounds where the Manus Province was holding its main 35th PNG Independence celebrations.
I felt a little embarrassed that I had forgotten his name. But didnt’ need to. He had always been as I remembered him a very warm person and engaging, good-natured and very kind and respectful. As we chatted about mutual friends and class mates we both had to juggle our memories – its been more than 30 years since we graduated from secondary school – no kidding! We chatted and updated eachother on the ones we could both remember. We laughed at some of the funny and not so funny incidents at high school such as stealing sprouted coconuts from a nearby coconut plantation, to feast on after night study ensuring the duty teachers did not catch us. The boys did that and so did we at our respective dormitories.
I think our colleagues may have been shocked at our high school antics but we all laughed as we related our ‘colourful high school histories’ .
I can assure you these were not funny incidents and many a time we were warned and threatened with expulsion. But we were driven by hunger so we did what we had to do then (in the late 60s). Well, when dinner was served at about 5.30pm (thereabouts) we were definitely be hungry about 9pm. Mind you, we were young active teenagers and always, it seemed, hungry – boarding school had its own culture.
We must have eaten so much coconut in those days…coconuts we did not have the right to help ourselves to, but growing hungry kids needed to be imaginative/creative. I almost forgotten about these so-called midnight feasts which took place from time to time at 9pm at night! I think the teachers knew but turned a blind eye or ear for that matter. Well, come to think of it, they had food in their fridges to snack on. We didn’t. Our hopes were always pinned on sprouted coconuts! They were free as far as we were concerned. We owed the owner of the coconut plantation a huge debt of gratitude.
My former schoolmate has lived in Manus for 30 years plus. He has made Manus his home. I felt so happy for him. Our three colleagues listened to our reminiscences and in a way I guess they learnt a little more about us as people than just co=workers they meet at the office.
On our way into town we stopped at this scenic lookout. From a tourist’s point of view the signage needs some work done, and by the looks of things, urgently. Both our hosts took note.
The views were breathtaking. Well, coming from downtown Port Moresby, this is a scenic view, indeed!
My first ever visit to Manus and meeting a school mate who happened to be our programme coordinator was a rich blessing. It was a joy to meet him and later his family.
From the time we met him and his colleague at the airport I knew we were in safe hands. We learnt alot from their local knowledge – now that is a huge bonus.