John Gartner: What John did at Christmas

I decided to return home for Christmas as the entire family had decided to descend on Perth for the festive season. I obtained Bishop’s permission to return home for three weeks.

Kiunga on a Sunday Afternoon
I left Kiunga about 10.00 am on Monday 19 December. The morning was rushed because of the early departure and the need to book in early to avoid being off loaded (Bumped) should a small plane be used for the service. It turned out alright, but several things needed my attention which I spent a little time to undertake. People caught up with me to see me off at the airport.

I arrived in Port Moresby in the middle of a thunder storm. I got off the plane without getting too wet. Though the umbrellas they gave us had to be handed back at the half way point and we still had to cross a road in the downpour.

I was met by Lawrence Steven’s driver who took the envelope containing the proposal’s for the Lower Bamu project, the project I had completed just prior to leaving for Christmas. I then made my way to the international terminal and bought lunch and waited for both the check in counter and immigration to open.

The Lower Bamu project proposals involve building two health posts, three double classrooms and 10 houses, in five communities, in an undeveloped area of PNG where people live by fishing and growing vegetables when they can on land which is inundated regularly at high tides.

When I arrived in the house, I saw Flossie the new smoky grey cat that my daughter Anne had brought and Clare was caring for. She was asleep on the lid to the clothes basket in the Bathroom. She was unsure who I was so stayed there until later when I had more time and others had come home.

A car was available so I went and got a haircut which was desperately needed as it was over two months since my previous haircut.

In the evening I went to a cricket umpires meeting where I was made very welcome. I gave my Registrar’s report and was invited by Barry Rennie (WACA Umpire Manager) to umpire on the 7 January, I could even pick the ground, which I did, deciding on Breckler. I have been doing the registrar’s duties of record keeper as an activity while I reside in PNG.

The family went together to Midnight mass, where we heard the new organ Father Tim had brought. It sounded marvelous. Mass finished with Christmas cake and champagne. It was a different mass to the previous Christmas when some 30 odd christenings took place during a three hour mass. Parishioners asked after me and what I was doing, which was well received.

On Christmas day, I opened my presents that the family had given me. I received many practical things to suit my time in PNG, including a Kindle and clothes. Clare arranged that Christmas day would be spent at home, with a more or less a traditional lunch, but I had the job of bar-b-quing the steak, which I did satisfactorily. In the afternoon, Clare arranged for us to play a game of croquet together and the children joined in. We went home and had a light tea.

On Boxing Day, I managed to watch most of the traditional boxing day test match, then later in the afternoon, we joined with our next door neighbours to celebrate a Christmas with their extended family.

On New Year’s eve, Clare and I played croquet with friends at the Forest Park Croquet Club. Peter and Linley who run a farm had advised me on getting a lamb marking kit to use on the kid goats when we got some in Kiunga. I followed their advice and returned to PNG with the equipment to turn little boy goats into wethers so they could attract a higher value when fully grown, instead of being sold when small or allowing to turn into Billy goats with un-saleable meat.

The following weekend was hectic, we had visitors or went out to visit others on five consecutive nights as well as fitting a morning tea or two in between. I caught up with lots of friends and relations during that period. I had a morning tea with former work colleagues. I think they are envious that I had left, as one of them described, when I retired they were in the whirlpool fighting to stay out of the plug hole. Now they are in the S-bend trying to fight their way out. But they were very interested in what I have been doing, especially some of the girls who are very interested in the “Bride Price”.

It was all too short a time and I had to prepare to return to Kiunga. My return flight was via Melbourne. I caught up with Des who has just volunteered to work at Kiunga and shared a morning tea together at Melbourne Airport. It was good to share some of my experiences with Des prior to his coming to Kiunga, sometime in April once his visa and work permit are sorted out.

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True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice. - Martin Luther King Jr