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Whether it is "Redefining literary techniques and devices", "Justifying Papua New Guinea Literature", or "Translating the Bible into Anuki", these offer valuable reading for the paperless student of literature, and indeed the best sort of literary entertainment you can get out of Papua New Guinea. Check them out either on Soaba's Storyboard or The Anuki Country Press.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013


This is the revised version of Chapter 4 of Russell Soaba's novel, FINAL ISLANDS IN THE SUN. More on this novel can be read on Soaba's Storyboard.



    Earlier at his office in Alotau, Tomwaya had obtained from the passenger for his own business records scant details on what village he was traveling to, how much that would cost, the type of transport appropriate for the trip – except, of course, asking for more information on the client’s employment, location of job, spouse, dependents, next of kin if any, and so on. He simply said fill in this form, sir, and the girls will complete the rest of the details later. He was more concerned with the thought of earning some good money that day. Aside from that, he resolved not to allow any one of his employees handle his brand new and coveted double-cab four-wheel drive in transporting the passenger from Port Moresby, except himself.

     The passenger came in the morning flight surprising those at the Numwaya Nathalie Lodge. Since the whole town would not begin conducting business until 8.00am the shuttle simply left him at the reception desk without any directions of where to go or who to see. But the man seemed to be sure where he wanted to be. Foroga and Mimi were the first to set sight on him, and rushed over thinking of a familiar face only to stop short in their tracks and smile apologetically. Then they had asked, while setting out to prepare breakfast, if he wanted to sign in. There were rooms available, there was also breakfast. The man shook his head.

    When Nathalie and Tomwaya walked over from their abode, they regarded the visitor with the same air of curiosity. Only Nathalie looked the man over a little longer and then being sure he was a total stranger proceeded to the kitchen to begin directing the girls to prepare breakfast. Tomwaya was then left to the duty of asking how he could help the visitor whereupon the man said that he needed transportation to the north coast. And that didn’t sound like a request, Tomwaya thought.

    “Good, I’ll need some forms filled in then… if you don’t mind,” he said instead.

    The man nodded with a slight sniff and followed Tomwaya to his office where a form was given him to look over. Tomwaya then explained the necessity of the forms and left to help with breakfast for the guests of the lodge.

    A while later and as breakfast progressed at the lodge, with chores of the day carefully planned out and each worker assigned a duty, Tomwaya still wondered about the visitor from the city. Some gnat was buzzing around his head, hard to snap at. Finally, he turned to his wife and announced he would be taking the man to the north coast or wherever it was that he wanted to go.

    “There’s five hundred secured,” he said, in a tone that made Nathalie know he was asking for permission to travel that way.

     “I keep my side of the business neat and tidy, my good husband,” she said after a moment of reflection, and her husband heard the crunch of burnt toast in her mouth.

      “Trust me, nothing will go wrong,” he said reassuringly. “He looks like a good customer. Just worry about our guests and the trip to Samarai.”

      Nathalie was not convinced. She had her eyes narrowed at Tomwaya. She had warned him then of whom he chose to transport across the rough terrain from Alotau to the Raba Raba district, including the dreaded Cape Vogel area. Hadn’t he noticed, she went on, they had to let Pomio Queen remain at anchor out at the bay for two hours while the police went through each passenger’s baggage checking for drugs, evidence of arms smuggling, black market liquor and so on. There were rumors going on as well that people from Baniara within Cape Vogel itself were now sporting strange connections with certain religious sects throughout the country, hadn’t he heard? He should be more careful with whom he was dealing. And anyhow, she concluded, you can’t trust these Baniaras. The Deputy Governor of the Milne Bay Province is from Baniara, mind you.

“And you, my dear, are also from Baniara, let us not forget,” said Tomwaya with a smile.

     “I know... and so my concern for your welfare and our business. So listen to me, my good husband. I am serious. You must know your customers well. You must be selective. Think of all those good clients you always have, who pay ready money and without complications – the government ministers, the public servants, the landowners, the academics, the researchers, the lot. Why this one? How can you possibly trust him? ”
     “Nathalie, he looks trustworthy enough. I mean, look at him. He looks… well, imposing, a bit pompous to say the least but, believe me, he would be that sort of character not to stand on other people’s toes. When I talked to him briefly I felt that of him. He would be that kind of man. Too old to be travelling, too grey, a little bent, but gold enough, that’s for sure. He could even be loaded with retirement money, you know - if you’re worried about prompt payments and all that. And, well…yes, there’s something oddly peculiar, something intriguingly familiar about this man – a teacher perhaps? An advisor to some important leader in ages past, perhaps? A professor, even, a millionaire pretending to be poor, or a retired colonel, perhaps? ”

      “You are so sure of yourself in your judgment of character, Tomwaya,” said Nathalie, taking another nab at the overdone toast then swallowing hard at her tea to wash the crust down. “You just talked to him briefly and now listen to yourself go. The next thing you’ll be telling me is that this man, this total stranger standing over there, looks like my dead uncle.”

     Tomwaya almost choked sipping his tea.

     “And which uncle might that be?”

     “The poet.”

     “Ah, that one…yes,” said Tomwaya and appeared thoughtful for a moment.

     He had decided not to argue with his wife any more. But she let him take the north coast road with the passenger.

     Now, as Tomwaya looked at his passenger slumbering away beside him in the double cab four-wheel drive, it occurred to him that his wife could have been speaking sense after all. Did he know his client’s name? All he did was ask the city traveler to fill in the required forms “and leave the rest to the girls” without taking the trouble to check what was written there. Now he just did not know who his passenger was, least of all memorize his name if he had to.


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