‘When the waves break near your bed’


SUNDAY January 1 2017 was an exciting day for me. Not only was it the first day of the new year, but I was at Jacksons Airport on my way to visit a place I’d never been to before. It promised to be a beautiful sunny day and already things were looking up for me on that first day of 2017.
Just over an hour earlier, I was asked if I wanted a ticket to my homeland of Chimbu, or one to East Sepik. There was no time to lose and I had to make a quick decision.
East Sepik it was. I joined the line to check in and before long, flight CG8509 was called over the terminal speakers. Now all puffed up with happiness, I bounced through the security checks and on to the departure check point. Not long after, I was looking down from my window seat, taking in the splendor that was unfolding below.
The calm blue sea, the green of trees, grass and shrubs. Soon ox bow lakes, tributaries, inland lakes, swamps and grassland came into view. The impenetrable canopy of trees were soon coming into view.
Dense, dark and mysterious with shrouds of mist still clinging to some parts like soft cotton wool. Fifty minutes later the plane was on the tarmac at Nadzab airport in Morobe.
My amazement continued as the aircraft soared into the Markham skies, bound for Madang. The canvass of artistic creation unfolding below as the plane clocked up kilometers was anything but mesmerizing.
With my face still stuck onto the oval plane window, I soon realized we were already in Madang. Tallswaying palms and isolated atolls seemingly glued onto turquoise sea came into view. After a short stopover at the Madang airport, we were off again. Boram airport, here we come, I thought to myself.
We soon flew over some thick stratus and as I looked down I noticed fresh traces of lava flows and newly grown jungle and I could even spot a fresh, dark smoke coming up from a crater! I swiftly realized we were right above Manam Island and its active volcanic mountain.
In no time, the sound of the plane engine indicated that we were nearing our destination and sure enough, as I peeped out, the exotic beauty of the sea and beaches around Moem military base just outside of Wewak came into view.
The shiny white sand Meni Beach was now in line of sight. I could see new developments springing up in some parts of town.
This was Paradise, I thought as the plane touched down at Boram airport.
I was in PS country.
My beloved brother and colleague from the University of Papua New Guinea, Newton Savi was waiting to greet me. His first words were, “Simbu man, welcome to PS country.”
Newton pointed me to a vehicle and the next thing I knew I was taken for a spin all around the suburbs of Wewak. Wow was the one word that emanated from my lips as I was shown around the nooks and crannies of the East Sepik capital.
The view from atop Wewak Hill, looking down towards Kairiru Island was a magical moment for me.
Eventually, I was introduced to my new home away home, the ‘hausboi’ (boy house) which is exclusive for males only.
According to custom, the area is taboo and females are not allowedto enter the hausboi. I was told that I had to swim in the sea so that the spirits of the Sepik would welcome me home.
I willingly joined Newton and a team of boys in the drink which was only about 10 meters away from our place of residence. As I got nearer the edge of the water, I paused for a bit with thoughts of alligators, sharks and other aggressive marine creatures flooding my Highlands mind.
That thought lasted only a few minutes and I was soon swimming with the group further out to sea.
But fear soon got the better of me and I shouted at the top of my lungs for my comrades to take me back to shore where I could swim with my feet touching the sand. I really enjoyed the seaside, more like beachside, swim and am confident that the spirits initiated me into the Sepik Community.
Evening fell and the dinner was served and we were called out to the dinner table from the hausboi. I was welcomed with a Sepik specialty- the nangu dish which is the local’s way of welcoming new friends and visitors to their fold.
The food was delicious and there were other varieties of food on the table to choose from. As the shadowsgrew deeper and darker I listened to stories and jokes. I felt that I was already part of the big happy Savi family. As the night wore on the boys and I agreed to call it a night and returned to the hausboi.
After a few phone calls, I turned in and closed my eyes. But my mind remained wide awake and sleep wouldn’t come.
Then I realized that the sound of the waves was keeping me awake. I had never spent a night next to a shoreline before and I was, in fact, gripped with fear.

  • This article is the first of a 2-part story. Next week, this University student will pay a visit on Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare as well as venture into the West Coast of Sepik to witness
    more hausman rituals.

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