Tea NO Sweet


This is an account of Hon. Kerenga Kua’s student days at Aiyura National High School as told to us by the man himself in 2014 when he was invited to
give a talk to the youths at the Youth for Christ Seminar, at Kama Adventist Church in Goroka.

I have a faint memory of the account but will try to tell it as he told it.

Kerenga hails from Sinesine-Yongumugl District in Chimbu Province, he was still a young boy in High School when PNG gained its independence in 1975, being the
youngest, he was given the privileged of hoisting the new flag of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea before the entire school, which he said was an honor and something
he would always cherish.
After completing High School (Forgot the name of the school), Kerenga went on to Aiyura National High School to do his years 11 and 12.
While at Aiyura, he gained the favor of a married couple from New Zealand who were teaching there. One day, the couple invited Kerenga over for dinner.
That afternoon, he put on his best shirt and went to the couple’s house. He knocked on the door and the door was opened by the husband who invited young Kerenga in,
he showed him the dining room and entreated him to sit and wait for the meal to be prepared as the wife was in the kitchen doing final preparations of the meal.
The husband then left Kerenga in the dining room and a couple of minutes later walked back in with a tea set and placed it on the table before Kerenga and left again
to join his wife in the kitchen.
Set before Kerenga was a tray with small cups, a steaming hot tea pot, and a small jar containing sugar. The cup already had water in it with tea bag,
so Kerenga picked up the cup and drank it, but to his disappointment, the tea wasn’t sweet, it had no sugar in it. Just then, the words of the elders echoed in his
head.
“If you visit someone’s house and the tea they serve you isn’t sweet, know that you’re not welcomed so get up leave, do not say anything, just leave”
Kerenga gently put the cup down and without a word, he sneaked out of the house and went back to the dormitory worried, he thought “Why would they invite me when they
didn’t even want me to there”, it was humiliating.

Meanwhile, back at the couple’s house, the hosts had finished preparing the meal. As they brought the dinner into the dining room, to their surprised, Kerenga was no
where to be seen. The cup was still full, where could he be?. They tried checking around the house but he wasn’t there. The husband then ran over to the dormitory for he knew
that’s where Kerenga would be. And lo, there he was, Kerenga was in his cube and he carried a long face. The husband came and sat next to him, “what’s the matter
Kerenga?
Why did you leave?” he asked. Kerenga didn’t want to answer but he finally let it out. He said, I felt like I was not welcomed in your home. This caught the husband by
surprise, why? he said, why would you feel that way Kerenga?”

The tea wasn’t sweet, said Kerenga, in my culture, when you visit someone’s house and the tea they serve you is sweet, it means they are happy you are there and
you’re welcomed into their home.
However, If the tea served is not sweet, that means that they do not want you in the house and you’re not welcomed so you should leave immediately without saying a word.
That is why I left because the tea you served me was not sweet, that indicated that I was an unwelcome guest in your house so I left without saying a word or even
bothered letting you know that I was leaving.

The husband upon hearing this burst out laughing, Kerenga did not seem to understand what so was funny that made the man laugh, this was a serious situation.
The husband chuckled and said “I am to blame young man, I should have told you when I set the tray before you” he smiled. The cup had just hot water in it with a tea bag,
there was no sugar because it was up to you to put how much sugar you want in your cup. That is why I also placed the sugar container with a tea spoon before you
so you can put sugar in your cup according how you want your tea to taste. My bad, I’m sorry Kerenga, he said. It’s how we do things and I’m sorry you had to feel that way.
You’re welcomed in our home, me and my wife are more than happy to have you in our home.

Kerenga could not believe what he just heard, how could I be foolish? he thought as he let out a chuckle. The husband turned to Kerenga and said, dinner is served, shall we go?
Kerenga nodded his head indicating yes and followed the man to his house. The meal was lovely of course, Kerenga recalls. However, He was embarrassed because during the meal,
he didn’t know how to use a knife and a fork when eating, the lovely couple however helped him with it.

But the story doesn’t end here, after the meal, the husband and wife sat down and had a talk. If Kerenga was brought up in a culture like that, we have to change many things
to help him and other students to adjust to and learn the Western ways. So one day, in the students dining hall. The students walked in to a surprising sight,
there were forks and knives on the tables and there, the teachers showed them how to eat using forks and knives.

Kerenga recalls visiting New Zealand after many years, he was now a lawyer. He went to visit the couple, the husband had passed away, the wife and their kids were there.
Kerenga took them bungee jumping. He asked if they had ever gone bungee jumping they said no and Kerenga said if you have never gone bungee jumping, are you sure you’re New Zealanders?

Kerenga’s story is a fascinating one, I was seated on the front row staring up at him in awe as he took us on a journey reliving his personal life and life in politics.

One of the youths asked Kerenga if he could write a book about his life and publish it, Kerenga being such a humble guy said “There are many other Papua New Guineans
who have contributed a lot to the development of this country who deserve to have their story told, mi ino yet”.

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