The Crocodile Prize: More than a literary competition – it’s a learning centre

To promote the Crocodile Prize 2014 competition – see flyer, I have used my own experience in the article below.

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croc flyer 2
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I entered the Crocodile Prize competition in 2010 on the premise I could write and write well. Upon reading other contributors’ work, I immediately realised their superior inherent talents.

They knew how well to use words, and did quite eloquently. As I read their works, words maneuvered seamlessly into beautiful phrases and these phrases began to dance to otherworldly tunes and conjure up memorable images. This is the power of their raw talents. Talents that only thinking people will comprehend their origins.

In short, the quality of work that appeared on PNG Attitude was astounding. I knew right away there is more work to do in order to elevate my writing skills.

Then it dawned on me: Crocodile Prize presented me with a precious mine of literary work I could use to learn. Henceforth, I have been learning whilst contributing my own articles.

It has been more than three years and I must admit I have learnt quite a lot – about both the writers and issues they write on.

Enlightenment from poetry and short stories were spellbinding. Other works offered additional insights into politics, international diplomacy and some social issues I take for granted.

Soon I began to judge the world around me and its goings on with more caution and restrain, sometimes overdoing it.

My awareness level in general has taken a great leap – thanks to the Crocodile Prize, PNG Attitude and all the regular contributors.

Anyway, through Facebook, emails and my blog, I have been promoting this wonderful competition every year to my wantoks in order to arouse interest. Their responses however were not so modest – at least from what I know. Perhaps I am wrong. But only two brilliant individuals I know of have participated so far and their works are published in the Crocodile Anthology.

If everyone takes the competition as a venue to learn and fine tune their writing skills, the organisers will be overwhelmed with entries. But I think paranoia about not writing well because English isn’t their first language discourage many.

Perhaps only a few can see a light of opportunity to learn beaming from the Crocodile Prize Competition, so it will take a lot more to drive this message home. And if this reluctance is any indication, many Papua New Guineans are genuinely reluctant to help improve their apparent incompetence in English.

As a country in a world that is fast embracing the English language as preferred business lingua franca, how will we cope?

Many a time I have read pieces of writings from university graduates and they are always riddled with child like mistakes. Worse, these mistakes are repeated time and again. Even on social media where potentially their friends around the world would read their posts, mistakes are common sight.

Now don’t get me wrong. I also make mistakes. But if a university graduate repeatedly makes the same mistakes, then something somewhere is seriously wrong.

So who is to be blamed: our education system; or graduates’ lack of interest to continue to improve their English writing and speaking skills outside of the classroom environment; or the Papua New Guinea mentality and the way it thrives on ignorance and consequently promotes reckless complacency?

I’d rather blame graduates and their general lack of interest to take English seriously.

Learning English has been my journey and I relish it to a point it sometimes takes up my time for other things and become a nuisance, especially household chores.

As a suggestion, Papua New Guinea should start measuring its progress by levels of improvements in our collective proficiency in English. And also use it to measure how well our schools are doing in educating our children.

This is important as our own languages cannot be used sufficiently and effectively as modes of instructions in schools.

Take me for example: I got through four years of university education through sheer hard work and dedication, without fully understanding many of the concepts taught. And it isn’t because I was dumb. Rather, the language of instruction was English and as I wasn’t good in English, I spent most times trying to understand the words and meaning of instructions and less time on the concepts the words were explaining.

Many students face this problem. And those who cannot cope simply fail their courses.

With this experience, I have advised many I have had the opportunity to converse with. Often telling them to read a lot and of course try writing. And what better place to start then with the Crocodile Prize writing competition which promotes Papua New Guinea writing.

Potentially, the Crocodile Prize competition could teach many students with a keen eye the ways of writing. And with a lot of information being shared, one could learn much thereby increasing one’s own awareness level.

The competition and PNG Attitude has been a revelation to me and I hope others too will come to find its worth.

In ending, the Crocodile Prize is more than a competition – it is a learning centre. So join us now to write and learn.

New perspective and a new lease of life

Bird

Over the months of August and September, I roamed a barren land of non-writing, and perhaps non-thinking; clambered steep mountains, and strolled deep dark valleys often, alone through thick pools of quirky ignorance.

In abject cold and darkness, a whistle from softest of beaks harassed the ears, while scent of a rose sets off fire alarms in the olfactory mill. Even dance of evening sun, ends with me been shown the middle finger. And when a dawn appears promising, throughout the day I seem to try to catch up with something I missed in the morn.

Not a day ends in which I’ve given briefest of consideration to poetry and writing, let alone reading – not even my favourite blog PNG Attitude mattered. Such were my days between August and September. I however found something – a new perspective and a realisation of sorts.

This new perspective, result of culmination of years of blind ignorance, urged on by an unsound and unstable ideology sets me on a new path. It feels like I would be living my whole life all over again, this time from a vantage position. And I am really grateful life has given me another chance, so to speak. Perhaps I have found hope, but I am yet uncertain of its true nature.

During this time however, I roamed the filthy streets of Port Moresby – dark alleyways where corruption in any form plays out under flood lights; backyard waterholes where bartenders sell their own booze as well as their employees’; pimps oasis where pensioners flourish without care; and a card gambling haven where entirely families live on scones and Tang juice.

Learned one or two new tricks though, and I witnessed something common in all the people I’ve met: they have a spirit of joy. They all enjoyed what they do and I saw it in their eyes. This spirit of joy was dancing many dances and couldn’t care less if it missed the world. And there was peace and contentment, a kind I can’t comprehend. Only they knew. And that spirit of joy manifested in the ways they carry themselves: confident, content and certain of their respective tomorrows.

I have also discovered another face of corruption. It is a simple face with no designer glasses, nor scents of aftershave or oil. It is unshaven, adorned with rows of buai stained teeth and heavy black lips, and wears a gullible odour that reminds me of my grandfather’s smoke-filled round house.

Whatever conclusion one arrives at from these descriptions, corruption has reached the simple man and they too have become partakers in ways that blew my mind. Whether we let corruption flourish whilst we find our way to progress through its thick undergrowth, or kill corruption first then find our way to progress, I guess it is up to individuals and families as the government cannot be trusted.

For me, I’ve realised that life is but short. And I am not keen on wasting any more time suffering from complaining and talking about things I can’t do much to change. I will continue to do the things I love most though- write and read but with more passion and about life and its mysteries. May this be my new perspective, new inspiration, and hope it brings me joy and happiness.

Grade 8 dropout, a chef and a literature prize sponsor – who’s in the mix?

Learn englsih

THIS IS THE STORY of Joe Yagama, 38, whose mother and father are from Sinasina and Bundi respectively. He lives in his mother’s village and is happily married with a son who was born recently.

Many a tale of success pops up now and then. This one strikes a chord I am familiar with and to a certain extent I feel I should claim it. Anyway, here’s the story.

In 1991, while still in Grade 8, Joe dropped out of Kundiawa’s Catholic run Kondiu Rosary High School. Like many young and vulnerable people in the harsh world outside of school, he roamed the streets until 2005, when he got a job as a kitchen hand at the Airways Hotel in Port Moresby.

After nine months and numerous secret lessons from other kitchen staff, he managed to grace his boss’s radar and was promoted to trainee pizza chef.

His success at Airways enabled him in 2008 to apply for and secure a new job at the Shady Rest Hotel in Moresby. But after only a few months he found himself on the streets again – thanks to workplace lies, deceit and jealousy.

But fate wasn’t finished with Joe yet. In 2009 he was working for minerals explorer Marengo Gold at its Yandera exploration camps in Bundi. This experience in the extractive industry was to prove crucial.

He applied for and was offered a position with Kutubu Catering Limited – the company that feeds the entire Oil Search Limited (OSL) operations in the Kutubu and surrounding project areas. He was posted to OSL’s drilling rig 103 where I’m stationed and the rest is history.

Currently he is night chef – a position that requires him to manage the Rig 103 camp at night apart from his kitchen duties. He has handled things well despite the camp’s mix of international inhabitants and their demands for peculiar dishes.

What interests me about Joe is his recent revelation during a casual chat. He is sponsoring a literature competition at Giu Primary School this school year.

I, upon hearing about his project, at once lit up and pestered him to tell me more.

The school is located in Dinga No 2 in the Suai LLG area of Sina Sina-Yongomugl district of Simbu Province.

Joe stated that through the competition he aims to “motivate and spark passion in students from this rural school to focus on achieving and aim high”.

What really intrigues me is the question of why would Joe, given his education background, sponsor a competition that could potentially alleviate the level of spoken and written English in this part of Simbu, let alone the other positive effects it may generally have over students from Giu?

It appears Joe is an educated and intelligent man, albeit without formal qualifications. He is aware of the positive impact the English language can have on students of Giu Primary School and is actually doing something to enable students to learn to write and speak in English better.

Like Joe there are thousands of Grade 8 dropouts in villages, towns and cities across the country. Grade 10 and 12 dropouts are also plentiful. If all can think and do something to help themselves and their respective communities without doubt there wouldn’t be anyone left to cultivate and nurture the cargo cult mentality.

If only we all could do our bit, however little it may be for the country, we will all be meaningful participants in the development of this country and may turn this country around from its path to self destruction over night – if overnight is too fast than in matter of a decade.

I am referring to people-driven change and not government driven change as many a time changes or proposed changes sponsored by the government is always hijacked by a member of, to use Martyn Namorong’s words, the predatory elite class.

I think Joe is doing something noble and have contemplated supporting him in his endeavour. He is aware of and has tried to view and read PNG Attitude but poor network reception at our workplace has denied him access.

More on Joe and his literature competition will be published here in PNG Attitude.

Artist Jeffry Feeger paints for Paga Hill displaced settlers

Yes, It’s official! I’ve witnessed my friend artist Jeffry Feeger perform live for the first time. And boy o boy, he’s no ordinary artist. He’s a genius!

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As I watched his digits move about and around spreading colours here and there at no seeming order, figures began to appear. He continued and I thought I saw a face; not a face I am not familiar with but a face of an icon; a champion, a mother; a bubu. It was the face of the Dame; Dame Mary Carol Kidu.

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It was the occasion where artist Jeffrey Feeger who had decided to do a live performance, was doing a canvas job of the Dame’s face with other mothers.

I read on Jeff’s Facebook status that he would be painting live so I decided to pay my friend a visit. I went there and ended up becoming, albeit self invited; a part of the performance that afternoon.

Jeff used his marvelous artistic ability to raise awareness and funds through donations on the plight of the families whose homes were demolished only recently at Paga Hill. There are families with babies and children who are living in the open under temporary shelters. They are exposed to elements and yes, the anopheles mosquitoes. Whatever raised that that day will go directly to the displaced settlers.

Another artist Ratoos Hauopa Gary, who I discovered was Jeff’s teacher and mentor was there too. Apparently, he lives at Paga Hill too.

While there only a few people cared to gather and watch or inquire. Many cars with tinted glasses pass by. Others with clear glasses stared through glasses and even past us. I thought some had the ‘what the hell’ look on their expressionless faces. But many didn’t even bother.

Who cares; the afternoon dragged on and finally Jeff decides it was time to call it a day. He’ll complete his work at home. This day for me was a well spent afternoon. I mean I tried to do something I should have been doing; and that is to raise awareness about human rights the government of PNG is fond of abusing.

What’s missing?

PNG will turn 36 years come September 16th, and it is only a few days away. When Independence Day arrives, will every citizen of this country know the words of the PNG National Pledge and the National Anthem by heart?

 

Honestly, I have struggled to memorise the Pledge and would certainly fail should I be asked to recite it from heart. By extension, I can safely assume many are in the same boat and even more cannot sing the anthem without pausing to check if they are singing the right words. Don’t you think all educated PNGeans (all who have gone to school) should know them by heart?

 

This is not surprising as many of us do not think highly of our country PNG. We think only in terms of our regions or provinces or districts or clans. And there is very little evidence of patriotism for PNG. This compartmentalization, if you will, has unfortunately kept us from creating fruitful people to people relationships that may otherwise have set the foundation for a truly national force.

 

On this note I’d like to post below the PNG National Pledge. Please learn this and find a place in your crowded hearts to keep its words – words that are powerful enough to inspire the patriot in each of us to wake from an all conquering slumber.

 

The Pledge

 

WE, THE PEOPLE OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA—

•united in one nation

•pay homage to the memory of our ancestors—the source of our strength and origin of our combined heritage acknowledge the worthy customs and traditional wisdoms of our people—which have come down to us from generation to generation

•pledge ourselves to guard and pass on to those who come after us our noble traditions and the Christian principles that are ours now.

By authority of our inherent right as ancient, free and independent peoples

WE, THE PEOPLE, do now establish this sovereign nation and declare ourselves, under the guiding hand of God, to be the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.

AND WE ASSERT, by virtue of that authority

•that all power belongs to the people—acting through their duly elected representatives

•that respect for the dignity of the individual and community interdependence are basic principles of our society

•that we guard with our lives our national identity, integrity and self respect

•that we reject violence and seek consensus as a means of solving our common problems

•that our national wealth, won by honest, hard work be equitably shared by all

 

Now PNG has been politically independent for almost 36 years. During this time, we have witnessed upheavals that threatened our democracy; others harshly demanded an abrupt change in the course PNG was taking; while others tested the patriots in each of us. In our diversity and at the most trying of times we continued to hold on as one nation. This fortunately is testament of our resilience and determination to remain one nation, one country and one people. And this may well be the only shining achievement thus far.

 

Upheavals and many setbacks PNG experienced were unfortunately internally caused. And many would have been easily avoided if it were not for our Melanesian, or rather PNG way of doing things. For instance, PNG Time, Wantokism, the over rated Big Men system, cargo cult mentality/free handout mentality and etc. These are demons that have combined together to keep us from achieving bigger things.

 

We quite often preached education would liberate us from the stranglehold of our way-back ways, but the opposite is happening. In fact we use education to fine tune and utilize in smarter ways these demons, then, stand prepared to defend ourselves if the results are undesirable.

 

The conducts of our political and public service leaders are classic examples. Many commentators, especially foreigners, use the cliché ‘the land of the unexpected’ to mock us but we seem perfectly alright with the way things are going and seldom come together as one people to fight for what is right. Thus we’re all guilty of making this country whatever it is right now.

 

With a huge pool of educated leaders and public servants, successful business men and women, big multinationals and the massive potential we have in terms of untapped natural resources; so far nothing has gone according to plan every time we embark on what initially may seem promising. So what is wrong with us? Have we overlooked something?

 

I, in all honesty will not subscribe to any thought that may remotely or otherwise suggest lack of experience, knowledge, resources, or plain guts. In fact we have all but something seem to be lacking still. What might this be? I would like to think that it is wisdom that is missing.

 

It appears , as Wikipedia puts it; ‘a deep understanding and realizing of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to choose or act or inspire to consistently produce the optimum results with a minimum of time, energy or thought’ is glaringly lacking or non-existent in this country. Furthermore, ‘wisdom often requires control of one’s emotional reactions (the passions) so that one’s principles, reason and knowledge prevail to determine one’s actions’ is again almost missing.

 

Though this world isn’t a perfect one, when have we heard or seen something done in this country that consistently produce optimum results with a minimum of time, energy or thought? Or when have we heard or seen something done without producing half baked results or none at all? We as a country have been inconsistent thus far and the future seems unlikely to change. As another author, Martyn Namorong, correctly puts it; ‘the only thing consistent in PNG is the absence of justice.’ And sadly we excel in this regard.

 

We suppose to make the best use of our knowledge to achieve optimum results however, to our detriment, we have consistently failed and the state of this country is a testament to this. And this should send us all to the dens of shame and wailing. But why do we continue to maintain this status quo? Why do we still not react and be alarmed that in all these confusions and tragedies we live each day, we’re slowly drowning?

The illusion of wealth

The illusion of wealth

 

Have you ever seen a landowner whose land has been dug up or drilled into for resource extraction? I mean have you unconsciously taken a second look at one? And see how he/she carries himself/herself? Then mumbled something that isn’t a gasp of jealousy or a sigh of admiration but something that reminds you of a truth and that puts you at ease?

 

Have you ever seen a landowner who goes on a drinking spree as if tomorrow’s purse will always be full? And hear them brag about their reckless adventures? Then wear a smile akin to that of a person who has just achieved a milestone?

 

Seriously, do you sometimes ask yourself what drives the so called landowners mad with intoxicating confidence buttered with recklessness?

 

These landowners have a valid reason to be cheerful. They seem to have what it takes to pump up their adrenalin levels and maintained them at a certain high level for long periods. And sometimes it appears as though it is their nature to be cheerful.

 

The reason for their cheerfulness is basically their potential for wealth accumulation due to the impending or ongoing extraction of natural resources under or on their traditional land. Actually it is the thought of pockets full of money and owning expensive toys that is the basis for their cheerfulness.

 

Money, savings, investments, homes or other forms of “financial capital” Is what we almost always associate with wealth.  By wealth accumulation we all will think of accumulation of these and in PNG include number of wives. But wait a minute; is wealth really what we automatically perceive?

 

Wealth takes on different definitions, context-dependent, and there is no universally agreed upon definition. The word wealth comes from the Old English words “weal” (well-being) and “th” (condition) which taken together means “the condition of well-being”? And it is this that concerns me.

 

I’d like to talk about wealth in terms of well-being –happiness, joy and contentment one finds in the relationship with fellow human beings; in watching the sun sets; in listening to the orchestra of nature; in reading the poetry of nature as it is being written anew each new day; and in deciphering the mysteries of life as one grows older. I mean the things that make life worthwhile!

 

Do you sometimes find yourself really enjoying the company of your children, or your siblings, or your parents or spouse? And sighed; ‘wow’ then proceed to scribble these moments in your memory so that you’d retrieve them at an appropriate time in the future?

 

The satisfaction and joy derived from such social interaction with less material wealth is real wealth. It is wealth that can’t be purchased nor stolen or diminished in value with time. This is the wealth that landowners of PNG need; the things that make life worthwhile. The little things found only when a fruitful relationship with neighbours, family members, children or nature is established.

 

Unfortunately, a lot of the so called landowners appear to have no real wealth. A majority seem to suffer from bad marital relationships; alienation from their own children; bad debts; addictive behaviours; and spending very little time appreciating the glory of nature as it is splashed across the skies and space within our reach.

 

The potential of wealth (properties and money) accumulation has deceived many landowners into believing in the illusion that material wealth will certainly make life more meaningful and satisfying. In the process of acquiring this wealth many have fallen into a trap of their own making. And it is hard for them to escape from it.

 

There are many landowners who reside in the squatter settlements in and around Port Moresby; and live in impoverished conditions. Yet they behave as if they have material wealth, let alone real wealth; and make no attempt whatsoever to improve their livelihoods. Their lifestyles are actually tragedies; tragic tales that reek of recklessness, and unrealistic expectations.

 

All these landowners need is a pause and re-evaluation of their lives. Then start all over again by reestablishing broken relationships, spending more time with their children, appreciate nature and all that is provided for free by their neighbours and nature. Then map out a new path in peace and calm and proceed with life.

 

The illusion of wealth that is created when one’s land is been explored for resources or when resources are been extracted from one’s land lead many to be less aware of the real wealth-the little things that make life worthwhile.

Wings of hope

PNG’s rural areas are the forgotten lands; where lack of government’s presence and the consequent high illiteracy, and high maternal and infant mortality is a tragedy.

In such places, where many only hear exaggerated stories of the outside world and then conjure up mental pictures to charm their imaginations, there’s only one way out to the world they dream of. This is the way of the metal birds.

They come in different shapes and sizes; they are the sounds of technology and the wings of hope that grace the skies of remote rural PNG. They are the birds of Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), Seventh Day Adventist Aviation (SDA), and Airlines PNG to name a few.

These birds are the wings of hope for the very ill; they are the transporters of coffee bags; they are the only connection through which a glimpse of the outside world is manifested.

For decades, through thick and thin they have served remote rural PNG faithfully. Many who have piloted these birds over rugged terrains and into deep valleys are brave men indeed. Some have lost their lives while others continue, not because there’s a fortune to be made but because their hearts are burdened by the tragedy they witness.

The poem below celebrates these wings of hope and the men who fly them over PNG’s rugged terrain.

….

 

Wings of hope

 

On their gentle wings,

Women and children fly.

And sickman eventually finds

Peace, healing and more.

 

O how they grace the skies,

And hope they bring to many

A forgotten soul who, under

Cloud cover and thick jungles

Speak of dreams of hope.

 

And gather in enthusiastic crowds,

With smiles the sun and the moon,

Can only hope for in their brightest.

 

 Then their dreams fly,

Into clouds to sing to others who

Can hear and let their hearts beat.

 

To a disharmony that pervades

Many a fine land on cruel ridges,

In deep valleys and on lonely islands,

Where the sun and the moon

Mock day and night.

 

O these birds, sounds of technology

That grace our skies thru thick and thin;

Aren’t they our wings of hope?

…..

Thousands have benefitted and thousands more will benefit. Let us all together thank them for the things they have done. Thank you Wings of Hope.

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