November 6th 1983

posted in: The way back | 1

Awoke early, + fixed ourselves, at Pauline’s behest, a simple but much appreciated breakfast of Rice Krispies + milk, toast + coffee.  Afterwards Ray, rather the worse for wear for his night of indulgence, suggested a trip up to the Craft Centre, 135 kms or so towards Goroka, + Pauline, whi gets out little enough, I imagine, agreed happily.  We, of course, were delighted, since we were by no means sure we would have been able to catch a PMV on a Sunday.  First, tho’, there was a brief trip to Burns Philp, one of the 2 dominant chain dept stores throughout PNG, primarily to fulfil Peter’s request + my own requirements by buying some shoes, but also to stock ourselves up with a few basic provisions.  The others all bought soft drinks, + this occasioned an ugly little scene.  Pauline was driving, + as we pulled out + swung round a corner, the opened bottle which she had rested on the space next to the gear-stick, toppled + spilt some of its contents.  It ws stupid of her, but Ray’s reaction was disproportionate: he yelled + swore at her.  It was both rude, being in front of guests, + degrading, being in front of their children.

The journey was pleasant, driving out from Lae towards the mountains towering before us, but a little uncomfortable, since I suspect Ray was repenting at leisure what he had offered in haste – a long + tiring trip.  It didn’t help that 2 of the kids were in sulky moods, + I was relieved when we finally turned into the centre.  By lucky co-incidence there was another ex-pat guy standing there in the car park, + it seemed he + Pauline knew each other, tho’ not well.  They established their connection, + she then asked him if he was going on to Mt Hagen, + whether he had room for 2 more – the answer to both was yes.  A lucky meeting for us indeed.  His name was Eddy, + we all went into the Centre to have a chat, + some coffee – they served excellent coffee.  Indeed, the whole place was a revelation to us – they had a vast array of the most varied assortment of crafts, both modern + traditional, + all of it of a very high standard indeed.  This was our opportunity to buy Ray + Pauline a present for all the troubles they had gone to over us, + we chose a small pot with a lid.  We deliberately avoided ethnic or traditional work, since they would know so much better than us what would be worth having, plus, of course, what they would already have.  We then took our leave of our old friends, + set off with our new.

Eddy was a travelling salesman.  At least, his title was marketing manager, but in fact he was, at least for the present, doing a rep’s job, selling clothes.  He would be in Hagen tonight, he told us, + tomorrow as well, + would then be slowly be working his way back to his home in Madang, if his timetable would suit us.  Which, we agreed, was a definite possibility.  We soon discovered Eddy to be a most congenial personality, + we soon found areas of sympathy.  He was a Londoner, but had lived for some years in Welwyn Garden City.  He had come to PNG purely to make money, with no sympathetic feeling towards the Nationals, but had now taken a new job with a cut in salary in order to be able to stay, + now found the native people warm + friendly.  His sense of humour + mine dovetailed very nicely – he even liked the new styles of music.  He did carry a gun in the front seat, it’s true, but he hastened to explain that it was for purely defensive purposes, that it fired a mixture of tear gas + chloroform, + that, on one of the only 2 occasions he had used it, he had knocked himself out, by firing it ahead of him, + then running smack into its cloud of gas.  On the other occasion tho’, it had effectively scared off some “rascals” who had barricaded the road.

We arrived in Hagen a little before 6, + Eddy assured us we were more than welcome to share his motel room – he was confident the difference between a single + a double room would be a mere K5 or so.  We were then horrified when the lady at the motel told us the tariff was K20 per person for bed + breakfast.  Eddy was quite unperturbed, however, + signed us in.  He told us later that he would normally stay at the far more expensive hotel in town, that he was only staying here because he wanted to do business with the proprietress’s husband, that the company paid anyway, that it was on them.

Thus relieved, we went to dinner (for which he paid, our share anyway_ + had a pleasant if unexciting meal.  Eddy was quite in accord with us in purloining the individual jams etc left on the table, + was, all in all, splendid company.  In the evening we sat in the lounge, read + wrote, + watched the video, this latter being particularly unexciting.  Then, being kicked out at about 10, we retired to our room + chatted for a good while.

No, no pictures of Ray and Pauline, but no great loss there. In fact, it was a relief to have stumbled onto a far more congenial host, and not to have to bite one’s tonguer when referring to the local people. More ex-pat life, of course, though it did have its advantages, in terms of food and accommodation, certainly in this case.

  1. Pamela Blair

    It must have been so upsetting to witness Ray coming down so hard on Pauline. It makes me wonder if he did anything worse than verbal abuse when no one was around. Maybe your presence saved her from a slap “upside the head.”

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