“The ramblings of a regretful old fool…”

January 15, 2012 at 4:01 am (Angoram, Commentary, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, PNG Health, Sepik River, Wewak)

The title of this post is taken from a comment left anonymously by one of my fans on my blog, so here are some more ramblings.

On his deathbed George V asked, “How is the Empire?” Our present Queen on her deathbed will be hardly able to ask such a question. Gough Whitlam, I suspect, on his deathbed, won’t ask, how is Papua New Guinea anymore than he’ll express any concerns for East Timor? However, I suspect, there will be a number of expats from the former Australian administrated PNG who on  dying will have many thoughts about the former Trust Territory. For those of us who lived for sometime in PNG, the saying is apt, you can take the man or woman out of Papua New Guinea but you can’t take PNG out of them.

The uncanny attachment some Australians had and have for PNG came home to me many years ago when I used to listen to my late brother-in-law, Kevin Walls  talking about his war experiences in the Territory. Kevin served in New Britain and the Sepik. As an officer with the Allied Intelligence Bureau in the Sepik, he was decorated with the MC. His regard for the native people was made obvious to me, together with the strong desire he had to make a return visit to the country, which unfortunately, he was never able to do. His regard for the country was a strong motivating factor for me to move there after I left school.

Dreams and thoughts about PNG and its people are an important part of my psyche. This is why I’m concerned that the Wewak Hospital hasn’t had a working X-ray for a number of months. I often think about Kami and his family. In the old terminolgy Kami was my mankimasta (domestic),and he looked after me for 13 years. He was famous in Angoram for his donkers – a mixture of flour and water fried in oil, and served with butter and jam. Kami came from Torembi Village and he’s buried there. His wife, Anna still lives there. Members of my old malaria control team often come to mind – William, Thomas. Henry, Abraham, John,  to mention but a few. Gawa, Bopa, Potoman, Agri, and others I remember. The local medical staff at the Angoram Hospital were a credit to the Department of Health, men like Tobias, a senior medical orderly, who gave years of medical service to the community. I could go on mentioning many others, but I suppose there’s a limit to ramblings, but there’s no limit to my feelings about PNG.

As a “regretful old fool” I would like to end on a poetic note from Thomas Moore:

Oft, in the stilly night, Ere Slumber’s chain has bound me, Fond Memory brings the light Of other days around me.


  1. Stephen Smith said,

    Thanks Dave

  2. deberigny said,

    Originally, I wrote: you can take the man or women out of Papua New Guinea but you can’t take PNG out of them. In the interests of parallelism I changed this to: you can take the man or woman out of Papua New Guinea but you can’t take PNG out of them.

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