By PETER ESILA
DROPPING out of school at Grade Three, going through the trauma of having to experience marital problems between her parents, and later with her husband, would have snuffed out the energy in most people.
Not Malen Kapo.
Malen, 29, with her five children to look after, is operating a food outlet at the Gordon industrial area in Port Moresby, frequented by locals and expatriates who love local cuisine.
“(Expats) do not want to eat the food they already have plenty of in their countries. They want to eat something new and local here. We pride ourselves in providing the best local food.”
She grew up in a village in Kendep, Enga known for tribal fights. Her parents had their problems and because of school fee issues, Malen dropped out of Grade Three, left the village and came to Port Moresby to live with relatives.
City life was hard and she had to work to earn a living. She prepared 10 to 15 lunch packs a day which she sold for K10 each to bus and taxi drivers at service stations around Gordon.
She later got married and had five children. Her husband left her two years ago.
She is running the Highlanders Food Kai Bar specialising in local dishes. She started the business with her former husband seven years ago. Now she is managing it herself.
“When I am sick, I make sure that the kai bar is operating. Customers will still come so I must prepare their food. This is our business to cook food and serve our customers.”
She employs six people.
Some expatriates who love PNG food come there, plus a couple of tourists.
Malen travels to the markets to get fresh garden produce.
“I go to Gordon and Boroko, and if there is no abika, I go all the way to Nine-Mile. The Goilala people come to Nine-Mile. I wait for them to buy fresh garden food.”
Malen gets kaukau from Goroka, potatoes from Mt Hagen and taro from Lae.
“ (Expats) do not want to eat the food they already have plenty of in their countries. They want to eat something new and local here. We pride ourselves in providing the best local food.”
“If food does not arrive from the Highlands, I must look around for it in Port Moresby.”
She is against keeping leftovers in the fridge for the next day.
“Whatever food is left in the afternoon, we eat it. We are Papua New Guineans so we must eat properly. We must not spoil our business by reselling leftovers the next day. We know our customers.”
Malen remains optimist about the future of her business. She knows the worst is past her and thanks God for the energy and determination He gave her to overcome all the challenges she had faced so far.
On top of it all, she wants a good future for her five children growing up in the big city. She hates to see any of them go through what that Grade Three dropout from Kandep had experienced.