I woke up on Wednesday, 16th September and as I drew the curtains, this was the sight I beheld that morning. As the rising sun gradually chased away the night clouds, it was anybody’s guess what kind of a day was going to mark PNG’s 34th Independence Day.
I recalled when growing up that if the previous day ended with grey clouds the following day would be a great sunny day. Well, when I watched the dawn slowly break over Middlesex I kept on wishing that it was going to be a great sunny and dry day. I could not remember what the sunset was like the previous day!
As the sun sluggishly rose behind the leftover night clouds, I began to feel an adrenalin rush. Today was a big day for all PNG wantoks who have been invited to the Independence Day celebrations that evening to be followed by the first ever contemporary PNG art exhibition. I really was looking forward to an Independence Day celebration with a big difference – to witness history being made. Wow, tarangu PNG yet ya!
Funny how every so often I stopped to think about nature and how God’s hand is in everything that’s around us. I wondered if the day was going to be different but more importantly whether the difference was more about my own thoughts about the day than the rising sun outside or anything else for that matter. I decided that I’d allow my thoughts to shape how I was going to celebrate the day. How many of us take a day for granted everyday? – just plowing through the day without thinking about it’s significance for that moment in our lives. I know, I am one of those people.
The excitement of 16th September and the fact that in a few weeks after the Independence Day I would be clearing 5 full years on my job contract was significant. My thoughts turned to that momentarily. But I decided I’d remain focused on the celebration of 16th September.
Meanwhile the rising sun, although not as spectacular as some of the ones I’ve witnessed growing up in Milne Bay and later on in Port Moresby, created a brief suspended moment so peaceful, it was hard to describe. All I could think about at that moment was how great our God is. He is Omnipotent.
I wondered whether the sunrise, the fact that I’m noticing if for the very first time, was a direct correlation to the significance of 16th September. The lyrics of the beautiful Hetei Dickson classic came to mind, “…16th of September, a day to remember, as brothers united we stand.” Oops, perhaps I can sneak in “…as wantoks united we stand” – just so gender-sensitve people don’t get hot around their collars. Anyway, as far as I was concerned 16th September was going to be my bestest day.
The curtains now fully drawn, and with the sun’s rays streaming through the double-glazed glass windows, I allowed my adrenalin rush to take over as I charged the battery to my Nikon D80 and looked forward to the photographs I would be taking at the Independence Day reception. I was definitely taking photos! As I buzzed around getting ready for my daily commute to the office, I hummed the timeless Hetei Dickson classic and felt extra special. I was the only PNG person – yes, mi wan pis tasol long wok ples so why not. Feeling special for a special day was free.
Additional excitement…this was the day when the PNG flag will be flying high over my office building. This is a tradition of the organization, don’t know when it started, but whenever it was a national day for one of the Commonwealth member countries, that member country’s flag will be flying over the building on the designated day. Today was PNG’s and how fortunate, privileged and proud I felt as I anticipated seeing the PNG flag atop the building today. I felt blessed and excited as the day unfolded. The flags are always fresh and crisp and what pride one feels when one sees one’s country’s flag flying high over London. Perhaps not so high as my office building is only 3 storeys high. But it was better than nothing.
Back home as I took off for the train station my thoughts turned to the “Hailans to Ailans” historic international exhibition of contemporary PNG art which was to be officially opened by PNG’s High Commissioner to the UK and Northern Ireland and, I was going to meet five iconic PNG artists. I wanted the day to be the best for all of us – the PNG wantoks and me. I wondered too who I was going to meet at the reception and whether the wantoks I know were going to be there…
Well, the day ended, a dry sunny day not a rainy and windy one. I recalled the grey dawn and sunrise over Middlesex at the beginning of that day and wondered whether there was a great sunset on 15th September and therefore a good omen for our 34th Independence celebration on 16th September. I’m not sure whether the traditional anecdotes from my Suau-speaking tribe handed down through generations of mothers and aunties is worth keeping in my bank of traditional knowledge of unwritten facts of life. Could I hang on to it? That a grey end of the previous day heralds in a bright sunny day in the next? As the celebration ended and I headed home, I smiled and grinned like a Cheshire cat as I reflected in silence – yes, without a doubt, it was a great 16th September, a day with a huge difference. How many wantoks felt the way I did that evening…one of these days I’m sure to find out.