My first Holy Communion

The Holy Communion or body of Christ as it is called by the Catholic church is one of the things that fascinated me most as a child growing up. I would sit in the pew and watch people marching up in a straight line to the priest who put the communion in their mouths or sometimes on their palms. I always wondered what it tasted like and was tempted one too many times to walk up to the front and get one but stories told to us about people who played with the communion frightened the hell out of me. There was a story told often to us to remind us not to mess with the Holy Communion, the story said that a man once took the communion and poked it with a needle and blood came rushing out of it. As a kid, I believed it. This of course was not true. Just a story to scare us, not just to strike fear into our little hearts but to make us respect it and show reverence.

I was 8 years old doing Grade 3 when I first took the Holy Communion.

This is an account of what happened in the church in 2005 at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Six Mile.

I sat next to my cousin and watched him as he opened his mouth and rested the communion on his tongue, he gently closed his mouth and then knelt down on the pew putting his hands together to pray and meditate. Me being inquisitive and curious watched as he moved his mouth and after a while, his lips. ‘He must be uttering a prayer and asking for forgiveness’ I thought for that’s what I was told, you take the body of Christ and ask for forgiveness and God will cleanse you. I sat back and examined myself; I had committed a lot of sin of late I thought. I stole some coins in my mama’s bilum to buy hubba bubba yesterday. I need the body of Christ to cleanse me. That was of course the secondary reason for me wanting to take the communion; the real reason was to know what it tasted like.

When I was in elementary school, I thought it was really the body of Christ that they ate but it wasn’t. It was just a metaphor, the bread signified Jesus and the last supper. Same with the blood of Christ, which is wine.

I was in third grade now; I knew it was not the real flesh of Christ but a bread because my elder brother and cousin told me so. By now, my cousin and elder brother had grown tired of me asking them what the communion tasted like every Sunday. Since I already knew it was bread, I wanted to know what kind of bread it tasted like because it did not look like a regular bread. It was shaped like a circle. Did it taste like regular bread we buy from the Ialibu’s bakery or something else? They both saw the look in my eyes and knew I wanted it so to scare me, they would tell me stories of people who played with the communion and were cursed by God.

When my cousin finished his meditation and communion, he rose to his feet and slipped back into his seat. I leaned closed to him and asked ‘em taste osem wanem?’, irritated he said ‘osem hubba bubba’ for he knew I loved hubba bubba. He said it as a joke of course but in that little mind of mine, I was analyzing the whole thing trying to make sense of it. How can a bread taste like hubba bubba. I leaned closed to him again and asked him on how to take the communion, annoyed by my continuous asking; he gave me the instructions on how to receive the communion from the communion minister.

I watched the people standing in line to receive the communion. Some open their mouths and had the minister place the communion on their tongue while others put out their palms and received it. Those who got the communion stood in front of the minister and took, making the sign of the cross while others took it back to their seats and put it into their mouth before kneeling down. I had seen this repeatedly but every Sunday, and knew what to do by now.

I spotted my elder brother on the altar helping the priest, he was an altar server. I surveyed the congregation and saw most of them had already received their communion. The priest had retreated to the altar and the communion minister was giving out communions to the last of the people in line. I counted the people in the line, there was about seven, and the line was fast getting shorter.

I took a deep breath and thought if I don’t do this now, I will never get another chance to do this, so gathering my courage, I got up from my seat and walked up the aisle towards the communion minister. As I was walking up, all eyes were on me. This was a strange sight for the congregation, to see an 8 year old kid walking up the aisle to get the communion. I felt that all eyes were on me, I wanted to turn around and go back but I could not, I had come half way already. I felt my thighs go numb, and then I couldn’t feel my feet. My palms were sweaty. I kept my head down as the last person to receive the communion walked past me going back to her seat but turned around to see what I would do.

The communion minister having given the communion to the last person was about to walk up to join the priest and my altar-serving brother on the altar stopped when he saw me approaching. I walked up straight to him, looked up at him as he was taller than me, then opened my mouth and at the same time extending my open palms to him indicating I wanted to receive the communion. I had forgotten what my cousin had told me. There were two ways of receiving the communion and you had to only choose one but here I was, mouth open wide and palms out like a hungry starving kid begging for food.

The communion minister studied me carefully and then looked at the congregation, then at me, he didn’t smile, this was a bad idea. In my mind, I knew he had registered me as the kid who used to come to the church yard and make rubbish and noise. I thought ‘ok he is going to tell me to go back to my seat’. However, to my astonishment, he told me to close my mouth and then placed my left palm over my right palm, as the left palm is the palm you use to get the communion, while the right hand is for picking it up and placing it in your mouth.

When my palms were in the right position, he placed the communion on my palm and walked onto the altar. I stood there with the communion on my palm, then realizing I had to eat it, I picked it up and placed on my tongue to let it dissolve by itself because you are not allowed to crush it with your teeth, my cousin told me. The last person who crushed the communion with his teeth lost all his teeth and had blood coming out of his mouth, that was what I was told which was not true, just a story to scare me. So careful not to crush it, I left it on my tongue and felt it slowly dissolving. I then turned around and walked back down the aisle. The whole congregation was in shock, they had never seen a little kid take the communion before and here I was walking down the aisle, chest out proud cos I had just received the body of Christ and all my sins would be forgiven but it didn’t taste like hubba bubba.
I think the people in the church called me stupid for taking the communion because you had be in the holy communion and confirmation class before you took it, plus you had to be above fifteen years old, at least. What I didn’t understand until late in life was that the communion minister who gave me the communion knew I was not ready to receive it, he knew I was still a kid but he went on to give me the communion.

I went back to my seat and slid in, every eye was still on me. My cousin grabbed me by the ear and said ‘Mama ba kilim you, Jesus belat lo you’. Upon hearing these words, All my sense of pride and the feeling of accomplishing something went away as quickly as they had come. I sat there shivering cos I knew my mother would murder me. When the church service was over, I was the first one out. I escaped home and prayed my mother did not see my walking to up get the communion but alas she had, everybody had and I was the talk of the day. I heard her voice when she approached the house; she was screaming and rebuking me calling me the devil’s child.

She came and grabbed me by the ear so hard that I felt the flesh from my ear tear. She dragged me to the church while continuously making the sign of the cross asking God to forgive me. In the churchyard, I was presented to the priest; my mom asked the priest to offer a prayer over me asking God to refrain from punishing the mischievous little brat. All the nuns and catholic brothers had a talk with my mom while I stood silent crying holding the torn ligaments of my ear.

They said I was too young but since I already had taken the communion, I had to join the communion and confirmation class. The following Sunday, I was ushered into a building in the churchyard for my first class; inside I was surrounded by adults. I was the only kid inside.

After almost 2 months, I was ready to receive the communion, this time I was qualified for I had taken the classes.
I was the youngest to ever take a communion in that church; I would say ‘Mi mekim history’ though it is not something to be proud of. Years followed and some younger people and others younger than me were also allowed to take the communion.

Fried Rice

I was doing third year when I was terminated from school on disciplinary grounds, I decided not to inform my family and planned on running away, to where I don’t know, but it was a plan I had formulated in my crafty mind while I was waiting for my decision from the disciplinary council of Divine Word University. I was scared of going home; I felt it was in my best interest that I keep the not so pleasing news from my parents, I feared the news would break my mother’s fragile heart and send my dad into a rage. I just did not have the courage to tell my family about my termination so I hung around the campus for a while until an opportunity for me to escape popped up on my Facebook news-feed.

It was from the YWAM Medical Ship, they were going on their sixth outreach in Finschaffen, Morobe Province and were calling for volunteers so without hesitation, I applied and was told to come on board the ship, which would be docking at Lae Port. I packed my bag and took the road to Lae from Madang.
I was a drifter, a piece of wood floating in the vast ocean called life, wherever the waves carried me, I would go. The tide was favorable and so I found myself in Lae City, PNG’s industrial hub.

It was late when I arrived at Lae, I told the driver of the Lae-Madang bus “Ayang” to drop me off at the port where I was taken on board the ship by an YWAM worker. The outreach would last for two weeks so I thought when the outreach ended, I would find another place to travel to, somewhere as far away from home.

On board the ship, I met people of different nationalities, and some locals. The next day, the ship raised anchor and we sailed off to Finschaffen. However, I am not here to tell you what happened on the ship, rather what happened when we went on a patrol. I spent the first week as a volunteer on board the ship working with the Optometry team going out to rural areas, conducting eye tests and handing out glasses to people. The second week, I was put to work in the galley to prepare food for the volunteers on board, which I really much enjoyed as I spent more time in the kitchen eating every type of food I laid eyes on.

The first week, we anchored at Langema Bay at Butaweng and served the surrounding communities and villages, we went as far as Sattleberg. During the second week, we sailed and dropped anchor at Dregerhaffen. It was there that one of the team leaders of the patrol outreach approached me, and informed me that we were going on a patrol to one of the remote areas of Finschaffen.

Once again, I packed my bag and went to Dregerhaffen secondary school field with the patrol team where a helicopter owned by Manolos Aviation airlifted us to Makini, a remote village perched high up in the mountains of Finschaffen. The climate was like that of Highlands, me having spent a significant amount of time in the Highlands can tell you that Makini is even colder than the Highlands climate. There was no road no road network for the people, the only road I saw while flying was constructed for the logging companies to move their logs down to the river, going all way down to the coast. The area was only accessible by aircraft and by foot.

We landed at Makini on a small airstrip built for single engine aircrafts; the airstrip was located near the aidpost, which served the entire population in the remote region. However, the aid post had been shut down for almost two years; the medical workers left and never came back. When the helicopter dropped us and took off, a small number of people came and gave us a warm welcome even though the place was cold.
Those of us who went on the patrol were eight of us. Three nationals and five expatriates; each an expert in their own field of work who had come on board YWAM Medical Ship as volunteers. We had a guy from Canada, a lady from Switzerland, An American, Two Australians and us three locals, one from Finschaffen and another from Kabwum and myself, from Central.
We were then shown to the house we would be sleeping in and had our cargoes moved in. It was a traditional house; the walls were made from woven bamboos, the roof was sago leaf and the flooring made from trunks of betelnut palms or just palms. Most of the expatriates had never slept in a traditional hut before so they kept inspecting it to see if it was safe to sleep in it. They were even surprised to see a fireplace in the middle of the hut. I explained that it was cold up here so a fireplace was needed in the hut to warm it while we slept. The American lady said ‘it’s just like our heating systems back in USA, how cool is that?’. I nodded in agreement. You got that right.

When we had settled in, it was already afternoon so I started a fire in the fireplace in the middle of the hut without any difficulties which from the look and the expressions on their faces was like me performing a magic trick. Upon seeing this, the swizz lady startled at how quick the fire was started said ‘Wow Duncan, you’re an expert in starting fires, how did you do that?’. In my mind, I was like ‘really?’, but I understood that most of them have never started a fire in their lives. Coming from first world countries, they had no experience in collecting wood to start fires so I didn’t say a thing.
They were here to serve my people by bringing much needed services to the rural areas and also to experience new cultures so I felt that as a native, I had to make sure they enjoyed the experiences.

When the fire was up, I poured three cups of rice into a pot, poured water in, measured it and set it on the fire, which was now burning like the furnace in hell because the Canadian guy kept feeding the monster with dried twigs. I told him to stop pushing wood and save some as we would be needing it later during the night to keep us warm. The villagers were kind enough to bring us more wood for our fire.

My two PNG friends were outside while I was in the hut with the foreigners making sure the fire was burning and also to make sure the guy didn’t push anymore wood in. When I saw the rice boiling, I minimized the fire and told them to keep an eye on the pot and if possible remove the pot from the fire when the rice was cooked or just let the fire die down. When I was sure they understood my instruction, I went out to join my wantoks for a smoke. Outside, the sun was setting in the horizon, the view was so beautiful that me and my wantoks stood overlooking the magnificent jungles below us, while we enjoyed our tobacco the locals gave us.

While we were laughing away from the Kande’s jokes, the Kande poked me and said ‘Muna, Go na lukim rice ya, mi smelim em fire stap ya’. I lifted my head and sniffed the air, and indeed, rice ya woklo fire stap. I ran like a madman into the hut and lo, inside the hut was polluted with the smell of the over burnt rice. I picked up the hot fiery pot with my bare hands and dropped it on the palm trunk flooring of the hut, and then opened the lid. The steam coming out of the pot burnt my hands and my face. I was so mad and wanted to swear but kept my cool and asked why they didn’t remove the pot from the fire to which the American lady replied and said ‘we did’t know if the rice was cooked or not’. I was about to explode but then remembered that they had never cooked rice on the fire before and his was totally new to them so I explained how cooking on the fire, works. Now I wanted to know why the fire was burning like hell when I had clearly instructed them not to stick any more wood into the fire.

Just as I had a feared, when I left the hut, the Canadian guy was back at it feeding the fire with wood until the flame blanketed the rice pot, the pot was black like a dark starless night including the rice. I inspected the pot of rice and found that almost 70% of the rice was burnt. Only the top part of the rice was properly cooked, the poor ones at the bottom of the pot were burnt beyond recognition. The other lady being concerned asked me about my hands but I told her it was okay and then went on to explain the rice was burnt and had to be thrown away and a new one be cooked. I did not want them eating burnt rice but to my amazement, one of them got and said ‘It’s okay, we will just eat it’. I looked of the other lady in surprise, ‘No no, this is unfit for consumption’ I replied in my best English to the American. She responded and said ‘It’s fried rice’ to which her other four friends nodded their heads in agreement and said something about eating fried rice on the fire.

‘No, this is not fried rice, there is a difference between fried rice and burnt rice’ I objected. The Swizz lady then asked ‘It will still taste like fried rice won’t it?’. By this time, I was about to lose my mind and kick the rice pot out of the hut. I stood up and went out of the hut to inform my two PNG wantoks about the disaster in the hut. I asked one of them to go cook the stew while I stood outside and got some cool air.

The foreigners were still in the hut watching the soup being prepared; they were surprised when we dumped everything into one pot when cooking the soup. I just told them that this is how we cook in PNG to which they all made several comments. One said ‘Now I wanna try that, PNG soup yeah?. Everything goes into one pot’. We all found that comment hilarious and laughed while the Kabwum was tasting the soup he had prepared, like any chef would do, taste the work of his hand before serving.
When the soup was cooked, we served them the best part of the rice, which was properly cooked, and for ourselves, the burnt part.

During dinner, we watched as they enjoyed their meal; complementing our cooking while we sat quietly in the corner and tried our best to swallow our burnt fried rice.

Papua New Guineans need to be Educated on Peace and Conflict Resolution

Every Papua New Guinean needs to take a class on “Peace and Conflict Resolution”, this was one of the units we studied in school.
Only then can we be able to resolve conflicts that arise in our homes or communities. With the knowledge and skills in Conflict resolution, we can solve conflicts through conciliation, reconciliation, mediation or arbitration. We can also be able to approach potential conflicts in a manner which will stop the conflict from erupting and causing harm to both parties.
Through conflict resolution, we can resolve or end conflicts (end violence).

There are many types of conflicts:
1. Relationship Conflicts
Occur because of the presence of strong negative emotions, misperceptions or stereotypes, poor communication or miscommunication, or repetitive negative behaviors.
Relationship problems often fuel disputes and lead to an unnecessary escalating spiral of destructive conflict.

2. Interest Conflicts
are caused by competition over perceived incompatible needs. This sort of conflict results when one or more of the parties believe that in order to satisfy their needs, the needs and or interests of the other must be sacrificed.
Interest-based conflicts may occur over issues such as money, physical resources, time, perceptions of trust, respect and fairness.

3. Value Conflicts
Caused by perceived or actual incompatible belief systems. Values are beliefs that people use to give meaning to their lives. Values explain what is “good” or “bad,” “right” or “wrong,” “just” or “unjust.”
People can live together in harmony with different value systems. Value disputes arise only when people attempt to force one set of values on others or lay claim to exclusive value systems that do not allow for divergent beliefs.

As stated above, these conflicts can be resolved if we have knowledge on how to resolve and end them.

Many conflicts or acts of violence are perpetarted by some disciplinary officers and defence officers, I wonder if they are taught “Peace and Conflict Resolution” in Bomana or Army camp.

Some conflict resolution skills we all need to manage conflict in a positive way:
1. Manage stress while remaining alert and calm
2. Control your emotions and behavior
3. Pay attention to the feelings being expressed as well as the spoken words of others (Listening)
4. Be aware of and respectful of differences.

PNG has one of the highest rates of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in the world and only through education, not only through awareness like what most organizations are doing but through education.
Teach the men how to remain calm and deal with conflicts that arise in the home.
That is how we eliminate GBV in our country.

The Woodlark Islanders and Landowners need to be EDUCATED on ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

I find the landowners laughable.No wonder we’re treated like shit on our own land.
In the article about the kit homes for the Landowners, Woodlark Relocation Committee chairman Bosco Lapis said “These kit homes are no match to our local homes built with bush materials, these homes are a joke”.
“We want designs comparable to our Melanesian society and constructed with materials that can be easily maintained by us, our children and their children when the mine ends.”

The thing is that we already have all the things we need to survive on the land we are living on, we have forests to feed us and provide trees for our homes, homes made from bush materials that are suitable to our environment and can be maintained easily. But it seems we’re not satisfied with what we have at hand and thus look for people to come and build our homes with modern materials. We give them our resources in return, we give them the right to plunder and destroy our vegetation; forests and rivers.

When the mine ends, you will not have anything to fall back on. In a article published by Monga Bay, it stated that “the island and its unique inhabitants have an uncertain future. Lured by high-value timber, a logging company is planning to clear 40 per cent of Woodlark’s forests”. Half of the forest on the island will be gone in the next 10 to 20 years
The mine is also expected to result in increased road construction and discharge nearly 13 metric tons of mining waste into a nearby bay. Thus destroying the marine life and waterways.

The people and landowners of Woodlark Island must be educated about the impacts of mining and logging on their island.
The mine will do more damage to the environment destroying the forests and wildlife on the island.
According Fred Kraus, a herpetologist at the University of Michigan, Woodlark island is home to 7 endemic frogs on the island, 5 endemic lizards, 2 endemic snakes, 1 endemic marsupial, and 12 endemic plants, found nowhere else on Earth. Truly a “Biological Jewel”
Those plants and animals will vanish on the face of earth when the mine kicks off.

The landowners however are only interested and concerned about how the homes built by GeoPacific will be “maintained by them, their children and their children when the mine ends.”
What they should be concerned about is preserving and conserving their environment for their children and their children.

Talking about relocation, it’s funny how we let foreigners and corporations move and push us easily around from the land our ancestors have dwell on for generations. The landowners talking about Melanesian society, they must also know that the Melanesian Philosophy says that we’re one with our surroundings, our environment. We’re the guardians of our land. We must not stand by and watch while greedy multinational criminals working together
with your government destroy your land and forests and marine life/ waterways.

If the Woodlark Islanders were smart, they would fight against the Mine and Logging on their island like how the Sepiks are fighting to stop Frieda Mine from destroying the Mighty Sepik River, the home of the croc and the liveihood of the people along the Sepik River.

The first move was to reject the kit homes, the home-run would be to kick out the miners and loggers.
The government has failed repeatedly to protect the interests of its people. When the government does not protect the interest of the people, we know it serves the interest of multinational criminal (MNC’s).

You have rejected the kit homes, now reject the mine.


Production and Distribution of Steam in Communities in PNG.

This is a commitment I wrote early last year to Youth Against Corruption Open Government Partnership Design a Commitment competition

  1. What is the issue of Governance that is affecting the young people?

The Production and Distribution of illegal brew, specifically steam (Fire Wara in Tok Pisin) by youths around the country. This is now a major issue in the rural and urban areas. The increase in the production, consumption and distribution of steam is a result of the increase in demand of the brew in communities around PNG. This has led to an increase in law and order issues causing disharmony in the communities. Most people engaged in this business are Youths age ranging from as early as 15 to 29 years old.

The issue that needs to be addressed is the Production and Distribution of “Steam”, without the product, we would not have consumers and vice-versa.

Without any formal education/job training and employment, most youths in our communities have turn to producing steam as a means of income, it’s a lot cheaper producing and the takings are thrice as much as the expenditure. A steam container in a 500ml coke bottle costs roughly around k15-k20. In one brewing, one can fill up at least 6-7 containers making around K100-K150 which is good money. You can make that amount in a day or two.

  • How can the issue be solved?

Many approaches have been taken to solve the issue but have proven ineffective.

First method: Police been tasked to crack down and raid communities to confiscate and destroy the brewing equipment’s.

Second method: Youths have been asked to surrender their brewing equipment’s by the Community leaders before the presence of the Police.

These two approaches worked and was effective but for a while, after a month or so the youths revert back to producing steam again, this clearly shows that the two methods aren’t effective so a new solution has to be found for this issue.

When the Police raided the community to confiscate the brewing equipment’s and when the community Leaders asked the Youths to surrender their brewing equipment’s, they didn’t provide an alternate means of which the Youths can be involved in to earn money.

So the solution is to find alternate means of how Youths can earn money so they do not have to go back to brewing to make money. One solution that has been on my mind is sending Youths to the TVET Training centers. We can send the Youths through the help of Provincial government who will provide scholarships so the Youths can learn technical trades which guarantees them securing a job when they finish. They can also be taught in Small Medium Enterprises if they wish to start a small trade store with a startup capital.

When the Youths are no longer producing and distributing steam in the communities, we have less consumers because of low production of illegal brew thus we see a decrease in Law and Order issues in Communities. Communities enjoy peace and harmony when the Youths are actively engaged and kept busy.

  • Who must be involved in solving the issue?

Community Leaders, Youth Groups, Provincial Government, LLG, Churches, National Youth Development Authority, Department of Community Development and Religion, Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.

  • What steps can be taken to achieve your suggested solution?

First, we identify “all” the Youths in the communities who aren’t in school or have no formal employment. Then identify which of them are in the business of producing and distributing illegal brew. Separate the group and have a counselor or someone from the social services or community development department talk with the Youths about the consequences of their actions on how they contribute to the increasing law and order problems in the communities through the part they play in production and distribution of steam.

Then introduce to the solutions, tell them there are other means of earning an income. request funding from the Provincial Governor/local MP to help this disadvantaged Youths go to school and find formal employment with the help of NYDA and other organizations involved.

I just simplified the steps but it’s a bit complex.