A part of me remains in the Sepik forever!

September 16, 2013 at 2:43 am (Angoram, Commentary, East Sepik District, Sepik River)

I recently watched: “An Englishman Abroad  a 1983 BBC television drama film, based on the true story of a chance meeting of an actress, Coral Browne, with Guy Burgess (Alan Bates), a member of the Cambridge spy ring who worked for the Soviet Union whilst with MI6. The production was written by Alan Bennett and directed by John Schlesinger; Browne stars as herself.”

Source: Wikipedia

In this Burgess is portrayed as something like a fish out of water. He is exiled to Moscow, but still remains an Englishman through and through.

For some strange reason, which to me just now is not obvious, I thought of the numbers of former PNG expatriates now living abroad from Papua New Guinea with that country still deeply imbedded in their hearts.

For those of us who went there as young people, the experiences and the people we encountered have remained with us forever.

As a young man of nineteen I worked on a plantation in Papua.

What a strange inexperienced, racist, and rather objectionable individual I was in those days – a person indoctrinated with a Catholic view of sexuality which condoned only one form of sexual activity outside of marriage – the wet dream!

I can remember being rather amazed to learn that some whites had sexual relations with the local woman. One Australian acquaintance explained things to me like this: “Don’t worry about it young chap, they get whiter and whiter the longer you stay here!” I think he thought to himself where to hell I came from.

You, I’m sure, can imagine the stupid way I sought to direct and control the labourers on the plantation – for my troubles I was somewhat sorted out by four of them, and severely bashed up – something I well deserved, but unfortunately they were sent to prison for it.

I must say I did improve after this, and two years travelling around the world did wonders for me! But PNG still beckoned, and I did a stint working on plantations near Rabaul and Madang.

After this I was very fortunate to meet Dr Jan J. Saave, who was head of the Malaria Control Service with the Department of Public Health. Jan was a legend, in his own time, and reams could be written about him. He saw something in me and employed and posted me to the East Sepik District, where I more or less stayed for the rest of my time in PNG.

Probably where I really came into my own was after my posting to Angoram. It was there that I meet and worked with the river people – the Keram and Grass Country people.

In Angoram the expats developed a certain affinity with the local people. The women of Kambaramba Village were often more than welcoming to the single white males there – images of enchanting black bodies still linger in my subconscious. At this stage I didn’t just have to wait for wet dreams!

I do still return to the Sepik, usually each year. It saddens me to see the breakdown of government services in the country. But the old people remain the same, and are still very dear to me.

Guy Burgess, by all accounts, in spite of his supposed treason remained an Englishman at heart. David Wall, in spite of many misdeeds, and some good deeds, remains forever a PNG expat with a love of the country and its people.

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2 Comments

  1. Harold Krause, TP+NG 1968 ----PNG 1986. said,

    David, you, I and 10,000 ex PNG expats would love to go back to an as it was pre 1975 PNG. Sadly this option is not available today for us. Hotels charge K600 night, transport is not available, Airlines cater for Wantoks and guess who misses out, Yes the ordinary simple people including a dozen of my relations. Originally like Dr Guise, I favored 5 Provinces/States but PNG ended up with 20, all of them totally unaffordable. Meanwhile all the working Infrastructure we built is now wrecked, Highways derelict and the Highlands takeover of Port Moresby leaves much to be desired. PNG could have many retirees from Australia living there but they are going to Vanuatu, Fiji and Bali. What next, Chinese immigrants outnumbering PNG citizens and dominating business, construction and Foreign Policy.

    Vale PNG….Harold Krause.

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