Friday, January 27, 2012

Children of the tide and the seasons

Do you remember our story of November last year (Lahara’s poetic stance 11/11/11)? It became one of the popular storyboard articles for the pre-Christmas/New Year holiday season.

A week ago storyboard felt saddened to see the two little ones stricken with malaria after being away at the village for the holiday season. Yet their story was about helping their parents to sell fruit and that meant sitting all day at a particular spot, waiting for customers.

In fact, that story wouldn’t have been popular without these two. So storyboard sent his daughters and granddaughters to go visit them with noodles and a packet of rice and bully beef, as a way of delaying the effects of malaria a bit before they could go to the clinic the following Monday.

Something else there is that needs to be told about such children. They go wherever we go as parents, do whatever we do, because we are their living examples of what they will become eventually. We must consider ourselves fortunate too that free education has now reached our door steps again since of course the times of the pre-independence era when all was indeed free. They are now able to go to school without the parents having to worry about how much they will struggle to sell by way of garden produce in order to raise funds for school fees.

And now that all is free how relieving it is to cast an eye across the landscape and see that these children are indeed enjoying themselves. And we must seriously ask, can school these days be more enjoyable than those previous years of struggle, both for parents and children.
Such questions are best answered for us by good people like Ms Wari Karona and her kind assistants Ms Rhonda Michael and Joseph Poe. These three are just a few of those who take care of the new and popular idea in child literacy projects called Buk Bilong Pikinini (Children’s Libraries).

The idea was initiated and established in 2007 by Anne-Sophie Hermann, wife of former Australian High Commissioner to PNG (2006-2009), Chris Moraitis. Since then altogether 8 libraries were set up within the National Capital District, including the ones in Lae and Goroka.
Ms Karona advised storyboard that another such library will be set up in Alotau town shortly this year.

Sponsorship to the establishment of these little libraries comes from various organizations within and outside the country. The one at the Waigani campus run by Ms Karona’s team was sponsored by Hastings Deering and Oxford University Press. This little matchbox looking library caters for the Waigani, Morata, Gerehu, Rainbow and Ensisi Valley suburbs and settlements. 
Barely has the school year started and the sight of children running around at 10 o’clock recess is exhilarating, evidence of the notion that they are indeed enjoying themselves. Ms Karona states that the trick to all this lies in the careful management of phonics, particularly in the minds of four to seven year-olds. Children learn to recognize printed words through sounds. And they catch on faster than in a class room environment.

Ms Karona, herself a great story-teller as storyboard discovered, told of how a 9 year-old hated school so much he stayed at home and didn’t want to have anything to do with books. Even at that age he could not read the alphabet. This in turn became self-inhibiting somewhat, and the parents feared he would miss out on school totally. So they approached the Waigani campus Buk Bilong Pikinini library in late August last year. The result? By October he was not just able to recite the alphabet but read a whole book as well. From then on he told his parents not to worry so much about him; he had many friends, he was actually enjoying “school”. This year he will start school at the Karr Memorial Primary School just like any other continuing student.

When the organizers of these little libraries approached Professor Ross Hynes last year, the VC welcomed them warmly. A space was allocated next to the University Chapel, and today the little library stands securely at a convenient spot for mothers bringing in their children from the surrounding suburbs and settlements. It’s a grand idea, this. It places the child on a firmer footing before actually starting school.

The library opens two times a day. It caters for the 4 to 7 year-olds from 8 to 12 noon, and for those of school age from elementary up at 1 to 4 in the afternoon. All the necessary guidance or tuition given the child is free of charge.

Elsewhere in the world we can only wonder if children of such generations benefit similarly. But all that is yet another story to tell. For the moment we can be content with the idea that these children are indeed there for all seasons.

The tide comes in and recedes, as do the seasons, and these children likewise grow up to be men and women, from which point they look back, as do we all, and sigh, “We learn when we are old.”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A poem by Michael Dom

          A dinghy ride by starlight

There is an echo even now. Awakening
From haunted dreams, late in the night
A memory of a dinghy ride by starlight:

The noise of the motor reverberating
Off the coast, above the rushing waves,
Cold and damp from sea spray and rain:

Phosphorescent glittering streams in
Our passing wake arise from unknown
Depths as we skim their salty matrix:

Dark ragged hills like a rip in the fabric
Of a jet black sky and the ghostly white
Foam of the relentless Solomon Sea:

A shoreline strewn with the debris of
That unending war: A warning to steer
Clear off, but to keep a parallel course:

Speak not of crows for I have seen them
In a mist shrouded morning at Rabaraba
Where they held their nodding congress.

And Champion’s surprise at finding me
There upon his arrival was worth a
Hundred voyages into Anuki Country.

Michael Dom
Bubia Station, 04:31AM 21/01/2012

Of this poem Russell Soaba said:


A good poem indeed. Deeply intriguing as the Anuki Country itself,
mysterious, yet ever close to the safety and comfort of the shoreline!

Qualities that good poems are always made of are to be found here.

Only a slight query, though. Last stanza. And Champion's surprise at
finding me... should Champion be singular or plural? If singular,
would suggest, "And a Champion's surprise..." If plural, then suggest
it read as "And Champions' surprise..." with the apostrophe coming
after the "s".

Thanks, Mike. I like the poem.
In response Michael said:

Thanks for that Russell. I'm glad I conveyed the sense of that experience. It was truly mysterious.

Champion Ando was the name of my traveling partner, whom I was supposed to meet at Alotau. When I arrived there around ten o' clock he had already left early in the morning. I took a bus from Masurina Lodge, went down to town asked the locals for a highway truck, got on and made my way around the coast to a dinghy place on the north coast (I can't recall the name, starts with 'N'). That's where my dinghy ride began.

Until that time I had never been to Milne Bay in my life. Champion had no idea where I was, and everyone else thought that I was still in Port Moresby.

You can imagine his surprise when he comes to shore at Rabaraba at six o' clock the next morning, to be greeted by myself, standing on the shore waving to him. He thought for sure I was a ghost (or bewitched). He had some difficulty speaking for a little bit, when I asked him what had taken him so long to get there. It will make a good short story some day.

Do let me know if you wish to critique the whole collection or if you will give an assessment based on my other works which you have read in the past.

What do our readers think? 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Informal book vending

Storyboard welcomes the window back as neighbour columnist next door. Reading Steven Winduo allows us to peruse each printed word with diligence. It is through his window of books and literature that we build up an intellectual capital for ourselves. We look forward to more of his offerings in the year.

On the subject of building up an intellectual capital what would be more appropriate than casting an archetypal glance at the amount of written material being sold in the streets. We suspect it was the students, the recent graduates and the senior students, of the Waigani campus that started this least noticed informal kind of business venture. Everything centres on the sale of text books not so much to make extra cash as to rid of what has, to the seller, become suddenly outgrown or obsolete. But it is a worthy kind of trade as at the end of the day you do manage somehow to retrieve some of how much your parents had spent in ordering and purchasing a year’s supply of required reading and research material. Texts books do become profitable, come to think of it, especially in the natural and applied sciences.

Not so in the world of literature and the arts. Hardly a second-hand looking scrap book of poetry gets noticed when lined up with the rest of the academic stuff in the streets by an informal book seller. But the good thing we notice here is an informal trader’s choice of selling books.

The reader may recall our brief mention of informal book vending in last week’s storyboard article. This Monday, believe it or not, our informal book trader did so well that when storyboard checked again there were but a handful of primary text books left. And what a success story it might have been for our book vendor, who was nowhere around to be interviewed but whose “agents” consisting of his wife and relatives informed us he worked as a security guard by day and as an informal book trader from 4.30 to 6.30pm daily. The agents or informants also told us that he got his supply of books from students anxious to lower their prices in order to fly home for Christmas holidays. Most shoppers the informants told us consisted of men who bought off the thrillers and mothers (accompanied by children) who went for the text books from primary school up.
Discussions with bystanders on this informal Waigani "book fair" led to the understanding that course text books obtained through standard means often proved costly for the parents. Some were government funded handouts which went back to their schools giving the pupils and older students little chance of close perusal of texts in relaxed environments such as at home. This would help them get a good grip of a given subject matter for study.

Other discussions, which touch lightly on the poetics (meaning politics) of book trade, revealed that informal book trade ventures anywhere in the country were quite excusable and that established international publishers such Oxford University Press or McMillan should see no cause to complain if their books were discovered being sold in the streets. Indirectly, these publishers were benefiting more from the government’s purse than a local book publishing shop or workshop such as The Anuki Country Press, Manui Press, Buai Press or even the University Book Shop at UPNG. And the copies sold at these street sites would be useless to the publishers because they looked marred by time and weather, not to mention the occasional betel nut or coffee stain on the covers and the pages.

But the most important thing to consider here is how much the informal book trader can make in order to sustain a family. The activity warrants support as much as encouragement at various urban community settings so that both the trader and buyer are compensated in one way or another. The trade itself becomes their subsistence activity, as it were.

What storyboard feels so excited about such informal book vending is the way they enable a child to go back to school armed with that hardly affordable science or mathematics text book.

Looking at the activity from a broad perspective we realize that street book vending has been around since the invention of paper and the printed word. Hundreds of years ago the Japanese haiku composers did their text messages on bamboo slits which they sent out to lovers or suitors. Thousands of years ago a certain Roman called Atticus employed a hundred slaves to sit and compose texts on papyrus as dictated by a supervisor. These, when completed, turned out be books which were sold out in the streets. Rumour has it that Atticus, who was the father-in-law of the governor of Judea, might have been one of those responsible for the first and Grecian printed version of the Bible.

On the subject of the Bible who can deserve more praise in the business of informal book trade than our good old Jehova’s Witnesses. Time and again we see them gather in clusters under rain trees for a word of prayer and encouragement from their leader before venturing out to homes to sell their literature. And they have been doing that in Papua New Guinea for many years. A journalist whose name now slips storyboard’s mind once wrote a nice line for the JWs in the then Niugini Nius or the current National. Indeed, long before Carol Kidu’s call for an enactment of the necessary and relevant laws on this type of self-sustainable business venture for the ordinary Papua New Guinean, the JWs have been selling and sharing their thoughts at various homes that could receive them often for as little as 20t or a glass of water. And still they do it. And still they remain as rich and strong as ever.

Perhaps the greatest lesson we all can learn from this idea of informal book trade is by looking at a prize winning Papua New Guinean writer, Martyn Namowrong. One moment he sells betel nuts and cigarettes, the next he is writing, and again the next instant he is running a web log that is read all over the world. There is one thing missing here, though, Martyn. There should be some books next to your other goods for sale, such as copies of The Watctower and Awake!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Informal Monday: things I like

An informal book vendor at the Waigani Market
Monday this week turned out to be the brightest day there was after the gloomy Christmas and New Year break in Port Moresby. And it was rather pleasantly informal, as storyboard noted, saying hello to one and all here and there, knowing of course that what would follow would be Friday 13th, meaning today. He’d anticipated then that the weather would hold out till this morning. But if it didn’t it would have to be another Black Friday and that would be it.

He was nonetheless elated in spirit when he walked around the vicinities of Waigani: the campus strolls during the best part of the morning, the Rainbow Stop N Shop at lunch, and the Waigani Market later in the afternoon. The whole day lasted as such, one which would qualify as Louis Armstrong’s idea of a “wonderful world.”

Around the vicinities of the Waigani Market itself storyboard stopped by at various stalls from cigarettes and betel nuts to the good old lamb flap huts that run parallel to the second hand clothing racks. But there was one area of the market that caught his eye. A display of books next door to the second hand clothing stalls and the main garden produce market. It was perhaps a little isolated but looked convenient enough as it is set along the main pathway that joins the Waigani TST and Stop N Shop shopping centres. A man bought a book there for K10 and storyboard could not help but marvel at the sight.
Now the idea of selling books at market places seems new somewhat but an economically plausible one. Everyone wants to and has to sell something at certain odd spots at one time or another, in order to eat at all at the end of the day. We will bring you more on informal book vending later on in our articles.

Noticing how remarkably informal that Monday afternoon was storyboard ambled about a bit then decided to let the lazy afternoon wear away slowly. Two of his buddies around the area, the taxi drivers, walked over for a chat. Barry and Mausgras as they are known complained a bit about the scarcity of clientele due to the holiday period but storyboard kept assuring them that by evening there would be customers, consisting of mothers doing their dinner shopping and needing to get home in time.

Storyboard suggested the three walk over to the Banana Club and the two protested strongly. “Where’s the money?” Mausgras kept blurting. “We didn’t make a single toea in the last few hours.”

“I agree,” comforted storyboard, “Let’s just talk about the weather and perhaps some poetry?”

The two laughed. And it was well that the afternoon should progress that way, since by that time a lot of the University crowd was arriving at the market and shopping centre to do shopping, while away the remaining hours, or simply walk over to the club for a bit of palaver.

Some bade each other belated New Year greetings and a few spoke with regret of UPNG’s losses over the holiday period. Malaria became the subject of conversation then, and it was amazing to note how this dreaded harbinger of ill-health had advanced over the years. It came in many forms, exclaimed a few academics in passing, evolving and re-inventing itself minute by minute it seems. One moment it’s diarrhoea, at another some complications with the urinal passages or the entire circulatory system of fluid transmission throughout the body. We have to be extremely careful of the little mozzies that we consider harmless.

 A few fashionable and rich looking ladies walked by and storyboard and his little crowd of bystanders obliged them with slight bows of greetings. Mausgras nudged storyboard and chuckled why don’t you compose some poems about those lovely ladies? Why not? shrugged Barry and others.
Storyboard's buddies Barry and Maugras.
It is a lovely Monday afternoon and thank God it ain’t Black Friday, all agreed, none more so than the great St Nativeson, quite possibly loitering nearby and not far from us.


I like the way you see things
Reading, writing, looking up
With a reserved smile
And that sidelong glance
That gives the world
A reason to hope

I like all things bright
Colorful and beautiful
Like the wave of your
Bright hand in the sun

I like the weather
That promises warmth
And tenderness
And I like the way
You touch my heart
Caress my sorrows
Heal my wounds
And build me up again

Everything that you offer
Adds up to things I like

By James St Nativeson

P.S. When Friday 13th did arrive this morning it appeared cool as Monday!