She remembers a little village where she was born in Papua New Guinea with thatched-roof huts perched high on a mountaintop six thousand feet up in the mist, yet so close to the ocean that on a clear morning she could look down and see the small boats which sailed upon it, and the Siassi islands and New Britain in the distance.
She remembers her mother scrambling for hours down that mountain and over the grassed limestone terraces below it with a heavy bag of the family’s parchment coffee to sell at the nearest trade store on the coast. Her mother would then return with a special treat for the little girl. A fresh fish to eat for dinner.
There was the homely cosiness of the cooking fire on the hearth in the middle of the night when the cold wind always started to blow across the Saruwaged Range.
Then suddenly the little girl’s life changed.
In 1962 she found herself perched high up on her father’s shoulders as the whole family trekked barefoot carrying their few material possessions half way across the rugged Huon Peninsula in the pursuit of a dream. Two older brothers slithered their way ahead along the track, sometimes balancing precariously on slippery log bridges over mountain streams and sloshing through ankle-deep mud on the narrow bush trails. The group stopped often to remove tenacious leeches from their legs.
The mother was last in the line of weary travelers with an infant boy encapsulated in a string bag (bilum) suspended from a groove worn in her head from many years of subsistence load carrying.
The little group descended to the crystal-clear headwaters of the Tewae River, then walked five hours over the range to bathe in the limestone-tinged milky-blue Masaweng before camping overnight at Gunabosin village not far from the river bank.
The following morning they commenced another full day’s trek to their final destination in the Mongi Valley.
Mum and Dad traveled with three boys and one little girl.
They were also accompanied by a dream.
The dream of an English-language education for their children.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Fast forward to 2011 ;
Son #1 is now retired after a long career teaching vocational skills to children in PNG.
Son #2 is an academic who lectured at the University of Papua Niugini before accepting a teaching offer in America where he has remained for the past 20 years.
Son #3 is a lawyer and magistrate in Papua New Guinea.
The little girl became a citizen of the world, an accidental and unofficial ambassador for her mother country, and a communicator who fluently speaks five languages.
She also became my life partner and best friend.
More importantly she excelled at the most important occupation on earth; Motherhood.
She has never forgotten the courageous relocation that her parents made in 1962 which enabled her and her siblings to have a better life in this world.
Her Mum and Dad would be proud to know that their little girl, forty-nine years later, made an emotional and physically challenging pilgrimage back to the Huon Peninsula to retrace those life-changing footsteps.