By GYNNIE KERO
AMERICAN volunteer teacher Jack Iasiello explains what he had for breakfast thus: “Mi kaikai pis na praim na kumu (I ate fish with fried sago and greens). A very healthy diet.”
Jack arrived in the country in September 2018 to take up a teaching position as a volunteer teacher at the Korogu Elementary school near the Sepik River in East Sepik. He returned home in February last year.
Jack, 25, is from North Carolina. He left behind his parents, a brother, 23, and sister, 21, to come and experience a new way of living on the other side of the world.
He heard about the teaching position from a friend based in Madang. It took Jack about 18 hours to arrive in the country, transiting through Brisbane, to Port Moresby, then to Wewak. He then traveled by public transport to the school.
“I taught English. I tried to give the students confidence in the English language. Many were shy at first but warmed up to me over time. We worked on conversation and proper English pronunciation through phonics.”
The students taught him tok pisin too.”
“I am not fluent, but it was quite fun.”
The five months of teaching at Korogu village was an experience like no other.
He learnt local dialect gradually, and most importantly the way of life.
“ Mi save long pul kanu. Wanpla taim kanu ibin kapsait na ol skul pikinini lap (I know how to paddle a canoe. At one occasion the canoe tipped over and the students laughed).
“Plenti mosquito tru. It was hard at first. Getting under the mosquito net before it gets dark, and staying under it all night. Korogu (villagers) kept the grass cut to keep mosquitos away.
“The hardest part for me was having no (internet or phone) connection to home. There is no electricity, except for solar power. I only charged my phone once a week and barely have service. I had to climb a mango tree just to get one bar.
“I learned to enjoy it though. Korogu became my second home and they treated me like one of their own.”
Jack learned new things during the five months at Korogu.
“Mi save long pul kanu. Wanpla taim kanu ibin kapsait na ol skul pikinini lap (I know how to paddle a canoe. At one occasion the canoe tipped over and the students laughed).
“The Sepik River is a world much different than my own. Every morning, I sat in front of my house and watched the river as the sun peaked over the horizon. Distant rumbles of a garamut (long slit drum) echoed from the Haus Tambaran.
“Every morning, mothers carried their canoe down the village to begin the day’s fishing. The Sepik River was awake.
“It was then that I began to understand what this river meant to my village. These moments were interrupted by a few of my students running to the river to wash before school. They knelt on a wooden dock to drink first.
“The river was their source of water. We would have breakfast together before we left for school. Fresh fish and sago.
“The river was our food. The kids helped me paddle to school. There were no buses to take us. The river provided our transportation.”
He sincerely hopes that the country’s biggest river is allowed to continue providing the people food, transport, and source of life. He hopes nothing is done to pollute the river or ruin its natural grace and beauty.
“To those assessing the feasibility of a mine there, I implore that you take the health of this river seriously. Please consider what a disaster would look like for the people who rely on it.
“The Sepik region has so much untapped potential. It can be developed sustainably through agriculture, tourism, and respect for the local environment.
“I predict that decades from now, we will look around the world and notice the harm we have caused and ask: Where were our leaders?”
The five months had given Jack a new perspective of the world, and an enriching experience he will cherish forever.
Tenkiu tru PNG