It’s planting time

by planter’s child adventures

An expatriate friend of mine on LinkedIn said Markham and Ramu Valley kids have the best potential future of any youth in Papua New Guinea nowadays.

Why? Because these kids do know how things should be done on the ground. And also, it’s important to show these kids how it should be done properly.

I continue to share stories and promote agriculture at Markham Valley Secondary School because I believe agriculture is the solution to hunger, poverty and unemployment.

And schools like MVSS are better placed to influence and guide students for positive outcomes.

It is important to teach life skills to students and prepare them for a self- reliance lifestyle. Indeed self-reliance lifestyle is healthy, rewarding and fulfilling.

Yesterday MVSS principal, Mr Billy Kayo shared pictures of new agriculture developments at the school.

This nursery of drumhead (round) cabbages are ready to be transplanted in the agriculture gardens. Considering that the Markham plains are generally hot, and that this vegetable may not do as it would in the colder regions, it is an interesting challenge.

In 2020, the first trial turned a healthy yield. The school has two other plots for self-reliance. In two weeks time, they will harvest the first block for 2021.

And I am keen to share this first harvest too.

While it is fulfilling to see these cabbages grow and mature, students will be assessed on various skills including nursery skills, planting, and crop management skills.

Agriculture is a sustainable lifestyle so let’s change the narrative around agriculture education in PNG and make it a happy and healthy lifestyle for young people.

Patriotism combined with humility

With a career spanning 38 years in the aviation industry, both military and civil, Francis Utah’s journey to become a licensed aircraft maintenance engineer at Air Niugini is an unusual one. Inspired by patriotism, he joined the PNG Defence Force in 1983 and ended up in a challenging yet rewarding job of ensuring aircraft is airborne and safely flying.

  • He became the first Papua New Guinean to attain Aircraft Maintenance Specialist Inspectors Certificate in Non Destructive Testing.
  • First Papua New Guinean to become Quality Control Manager at Air Niugini, a role previously held by expatriates.
  • Has worked for 20 years with PNGDF and 18 years with Air Niugini in both military and civil aviation.
  • He studied Theology to enlighten his personal understanding and relationship with God.

I owe my gratitude to my sister, Lucy and uncle Francis Utah for this remarkable and inspiring story worth spreading.

by planter’s child adventures

Most often very few stories of humility ever make the news. Politicians and sport starts fight for the spotlight and the media gives it to them. I believe people we should emulate are those who don’t need the spotlight.

I first met uncle Francis Utah in 2019 at a family gathering in Port Moresby. He is aunty Gloria’s husband and aunty Gloria is dad’s first cousin from Kaiapit.

What really inspired me at that meeting was Uncle Francis’ humility. He joined Aunty Gloria to welcome my friend, Michigan and me and made sure we had enough food to eat and bring back extras for dinner.

 While making a first impression is imperative to becoming an influential leader, serving people is one of the most powerful way to guide, teach and inspire others. This was when I decided to write his story to inspire and motivate young people to achieve their dream jobs with determination to learn and discipline.

 I later learn that Uncle Francis was more than a well-respected aircraft maintenance engineer, he was a Sunday school teacher, mentor, counsellor and role model to many.

Francis Utah was born in Hinno village, North Solomons Province, on 19 October 1964. He received his initial formal education at Katuku Primary School in 1971 and continued to Rigu High School in 1977 before going to Passam National High School in East Sepik.

In 1983 there was a border incursion by Indonesian soldiers and a subsequent shootout with Papua New Guinea Defence Force soldiers around the border area in West Sepik. Having studied history as a student at Passam, the atrocities that Indonesian military was committing then was no convincing for him. Overcome by a sense of patriotism, Francis joined PNGDF on December 5, 1983 at the age of nineteen.

The conflict of 1983 was resolved diplomatically and soldiers were given opportunities to take up special fields of interest.  This was after six months of very hard military training at Goldie River outside of Port Moresby.

Francis chose aircraft maintenance engineering and he was sent to Igam for another six months of training and studying Apprentice Bridging Course in preparation for a training with the Royal Australian Air Force.

In 1985, he became the dux of Adult Engine Fitters course at Royal Australian Air Force School of Technical Training in Wagga Wagga in New South Wales. He returned to PNG and served in the army.

Having sworn an oath to serve God, Queen and PNG at enlistment, when the Bougainville crises flared up in 1998, Francis served the PNG government with loyalty during the years of conflict.

“I reached the rank of a sergeant and in 2003 I voluntarily retired from the PNGDF when the retrenchment exercise was conducted. I sacrificed 20 years of my life for the people and country that I love,’’ Francis said.

Francis is now a retired member of the PNGDF but his peers still reach out to him from time to time to assist with advice on specific things they require or have little understanding of. “Once a soldier, always a soldier. I will always be a soldier in heart until I exit from this earth,” Francis enthused.

One day in 2003 in his 20 years of working for the army, two senior staff from Air Niugini came looking for him while he was out on lunch. At that time they did not have an aircraft maintenance specialist to perform ultrasonic inspections on their F28-400 aircrafts and Francis was asked to do ultrasonic inspection on number 2 Rotor fan blade of F28-400 aircraft engine.

He obliged and they went to Air Niugini engineering hangar and he performed the inspection. After signing the documents for this inspection, Francis was asked to see the maintenance controller. The maintenance controller came out and told him blankly that today was the start of his employment at Air Niugini.

Francis went back to PNGDF Airport Transport Squadron and as the PNGDF retrenchment exercise was going on, he volunteered for early retrenchment and was officially discharged in 2006. The rest was history, he has been with Air Niugini since 2003.

Francis described a typical day at work as there is never a dull moment or time of relaxing on this job. It is go right from the hangar building till 1700 hours or even extending late into the night.

To become an aircraft engineer was not his dream job. “I did not have one. When I joined the PNGDF, I looked at all the job opportunities available and aircraft engineering seemed to be the most challenging job amongst all the jobs so I chose this field.’’

He continued. ”I have no regrets for taking up this field of trade as it has taken me to places around the world I would have not reached. It’s a challenging job but these challenges are always rewarding when you see the aircraft airborne and safely flying to various destinations within PNG and abroad. The remunerations of a Licensed Aircraft Engineer is very high especially if you have dual ratings.’’

To be an aircraft engineer, as a young person you have to be a rational person, ready to face challenges with a sharp mind always thinking out of the box for worse case scenarios regarding personal safety, aircraft safety and safety of passengers flying on the aircraft and process safety and be able to read and understand instructions.

In 2012, Francis became the first Papua New Guinean to attain Civil Aviation Safety Authority PNG Certificate as an Aircraft Maintenance Specialist in the field of Non Destructive Testing (AMS2).

The highest achievement of his career happened in 2018 when he received his maintenance specialist license and aircraft maintenance license from CASA PNG and his license as a Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (LAME).

Francis said the driving force behind his achievements was becoming a born again Christian from a religious driven life of the past.

“I am privileged to have studied theology as it helps me when relating to issues at work when staff come to me for advice or counselling. God also uses me to preach in church as a Sunday school teacher for men and women and preach in the church when the pastor is out of the church.’’

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL (Francis Utah)

1. What are two highlights of your career at Air Niugini?

 I. I became the first Papua New Guinean to attain the Aircraft Maintenance Specialist Inspectors Certificate in NDT. My AMS 2 number is # 2. Thus my AMS 2-02. Now it has gone into hundreds.

II. I am the first national Quality Control Manager in Air Niugini Ltd. Previously it was all expatriates.

2.  What is your biggest achievement?

The highest achievement in my life would be the attainment of my Aircraft Maintenance Specialist Licence and my Aircraft Maintenance Engineers License. I was the only PNGDF Defence Corporation Program (DCP) to have successfully passed all disciplines of the Non Destructive Testing Methods with distinctions.

The highlights of my career is performing Non Destructive Testing for Marshall Islands in March 2021. I was flown in the Falcon aircraft, which was chartered specifically for my travel to Marshall Islands. The crew waited for me two days until I completed the job and they flew me back to Port Moresby. Others would be performing Ultrasonic Inspection at Mt Kare in Enga Province and performing lightning strike inspection on a Boeing 737-800 aircraft in Manila, Philippines.

As an auditor it would be my audit of Singapore International Airport Engineering Company in Singapore and here at Air Niugini would be leading the team [Team Leader] at Air Niugini Engineering for the company to pass the IOSA Audit, BARS Audit and CASAPNG MOC Renewal Audit and other third party audits.

3. Who has made the biggest contribution to your success?

I would say it was God who made things happen. He used my uncle (dad’s younger brother) to pay for my school fees from primary school to Grade 12. My dad passed away when I was in grade 5. The rest was me putting the puzzles together and of course God was in it all.

4.  What’s the best advice you have been given so far?

 Put God in the equations of your life to balance things for you–same like the mathematics lesson (Algebra).

Be honest to yourself and to others– You will go a long way with it.

Have self-respect and respect for others.

Humble yourself – humility and meekness are not weaknesses as people see them. They are the inner strength of any person and are much stronger and powerful than boasters high minded and narrow minded people.

5.  If you could give aspiring soldiers or aircraft maintenance engineers some advice, what would it be?

 You will have to be self-disciplined, have a positive outlook on things in life and lot of self-sacrifice and have a teachable spirit and be a team player to achieve your dream job in life. Nothing is impossible. Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me. 

Markham Valley Secondary School embrace agriculture for life skills & livelihood sustenance

Pictures supplied.

by planter’s child adventures

About 1400 students at Markham Valley Secondary School are privileged to have teachers and managers who are keen and determined to invest in agriculture as a life skill to equip students for life after school and to sustain them while at school.

This to me is gold. Why? Because it’s time we all change the narrative around agriculture and education in schools.

Instead of giving false hopes to students and encourage them to migrate to towns and cities for job hunting,let’s educate children to grow their own food to sell for income and create jobs for themselves and for those around them.

This mentality that agriculture is hard work and very little money need to change. Agriculture is a lucrative career choice for hard working young people. Teaching agriculture and agribusiness skills to adolescents will build their skills in farming practices and prepare them to become farmers.

This piggery has the capacity to hold 60 pigs.

Why agriculture at school? Agriculture equips young people with life skills for self-reliance. In agriculture students can develop team work skills and value nutrition.

By learning to grow food you can feed your family and create jobs for others.

It’s interesting to learn that students grow aibika, Pakchoi, cabbages, capsicum, taro and pawpaw as part of their assessment in their school garden plots apart from growing for the mess supply. These gardens are an effective way to improve student knowledge and attitudes to food, gardening best practices and nutrition.

The more variety, the balanced and nutritious.

With 7 hectares of arable land to grow crops, breed pigs, raise chickens and feed cows, students can have enough food to eat and this can help the school cut down on mess cost.

Why agriculture? Investing time and resources in agriculture is a long-term solution to cut down on spending and of course drive home a a culture of self-reliance and healthy lifestyle.

Students planting pawpaw in their school garden.

Why rural people? Because change starts here. So many of the problems of hunger, poverty, youth unemployment and forced migration have deep roots in rural areas. If we all invest in small-scale agriculture and inclusive rural development, we can solve these problems.

Markham Valley Secondary School is a rural government school with a student population of 1200 boarders and 200 day students. The school is located approximately 121 km outside of Lae and a day’s trip into town takes about 2 hours depending on road condition.

Hydrangea, Staglands Wildlife Reserve, New Zealand

by planter’s child adventures

I took pictures of these blooming hydrangeas during a visit to Staglands Wildlife Reserve in the summer of 2015.

Why hydrangea? I first saw one virtually thanks to Cinderella movie made popular by Hillary Duff.

Since then, I’ve made it a habit to take pictures of plants, both flowering and non flowering so I could share later with colleagues and learn their names as a pastime research.

On this note, I wish you all a pleasant day of learning and actively caring for your gardens.

Importance of maritime security & the role of the navy

  • Protection of life at sea is a moral obligation
  • He who controls the sea controls the wellbeing and prosperity of a nation
  • Everyone has a duty to care for planet earth & a pristine marine environment

by planter’s child adventures

One of the most inspiring graduation speeches I ever heard in Port Moresby was one delivered by Colonel Tom Ur on the occasion of the graduation of seamen at Port Moresby Maritime College in 2016.

That speech fuel my motivation to join the navy. Don’t ask me why do me a favour look up and see the blue sky and wear your brevet with pride.

It was December 4,2016. My cousin brother invited me to attend his graduation along with 45 other men after the completion of basic seamen course at Port Moresby Maritime College.

Colonel Tom Ur from the naval branch of PNG Defence Force was the guest speaker at that time.

He began his speech by quoting the famous American Naval Strategist, Alfred Thayer Mahan who defined maritime strategy as ‘he who controls the sea controls the prosperity and wellbeing of a nation.’

The protection of life at sea is a moral obligation.

“Phenomena like typhoons and tsunamis, climate change, and man-made problems like piracy have all broadened the way we look at maritime security now.”

I recalled: “As part of a good global community, we have to also play our part in addressing these challenges.”

 Ferries, dinghies, and boats play a crucial role in the movement of people and goods. Sometimes it represents the only possible or affordable means of transport.

He explained that this strategy basically meant keeping the sea-lanes open for job security, food security, economic prosperity and political harmony.

In other words a happy global community.

  And if we look at it globalisation has made maritime environment and security quite complex.

“Mother Nature’’ also reminds us that she still controls some aspects of maritime security.

Navies could not stop the tsunami in Japan or typhoon in Philippines. It is beyond human intervention.

 Oil spillage from ships and tankers that run aground pollutes the oceans. In addition, oil and mercury from damaged vessels endangers the food supply chains in both fresh and salt water.

Each and everyone has a duty to care for planet earth and humanity to maintain a pristine marine environment. The job comes with wider responsibilities.

 Similarly curbing sea piracy is a shared responsibility between and among agencies like the government, maritime education and training institutions, public and civil society.

I hope after reading this article one can understand and appreciate the work of the navy.

Beatles Monday

Let me take you back to the 60s where the voices of four ordinary Liverpool lads ruled the airwaves & revolutionized pop music and culture.

by planter’s child adventures

I woke up this morning at 6am and skipped to the Beatles on my way to the kitchen for a cuppa tea.

I decided to play “Here Comes The Sun ” and sang along proudly for a new day.

I just love the Beatles. Courtesy of my father, a diehard Beatles fan who first introduced me to this band.

Don’t ask me why I became another diehard Beatles fan. Simply do me a favour. Please listen to ‘Hey Jude’, ‘Yesterday’, ‘Twist and Shout, ‘You Cant Do That’ and ‘Let It Be’.

After you hear those songs let me know what you think.

For me personally some of their songs are an inspiration. Songs that really broadened my outlook in life.

I actually learn my English from listening to the Beatles. The choice of words are compelling for a writer or poet.

These songs took my mind to England to the rolling meadows, wild moors, open fields, man-made lakes and castles.

Intellect, accent, literature, architecture, English football to name a few.

I would listen to these great tunes and imagine I’m in England touring a quaint village or standing next to a hanging cliff near a rugged coastline watching ships sail away in the company of the English.

The Beatles were an English rock-band formed in Liverpool in 1960 regarded as the most influential band of all time.

Here is a borrowed Wiki picture to identify the Fab Four.

My favourite Beatle is Ringo Starr. He is the drummer which is the reason why I love watching him do justice to the drums.

Who is your favourite Beatle? Is it John, Paul, George or Ringo? Tell me.

John Lennon is the frontman. In this picture, John is second on the right. I fancy his exotic taste of fashion and his distinctive Scouser accent.

Many people say Paul McCartney remain the most handsomest Beatles, of course I agree but I love Ringo to bits. Paul McCartney’s dance moves are contagious. I still watch his show and find myself dancing and clapping in delight.

George Harrison, first on the right is the guitarist and composer of this greatest song ‘ Here Comes The Sun’.

What I love about this song ‘Here Comes The Sun’ is the association of weather, it seems as if winter in England goes on forever but when springtime comes you deserve it.

So today you deserve a bright and warm outlook with a taste of good old English music.

Believe In Greater, Make It Happen

Inspiring young people across the country.

by planter’s child adventures

Timber milling operators at normal day of work in the swamps.

When Brendan Sasanui left his job as a geologist in 2017, he invested his time, effort and resources to start a business in Markham. It took time, patience, a lot of hard work and money. With the help of his father, he now sews timber with unemployed youth from the community.

“I grew up in a rural setting and I feel obliged to give back to the community,’’ he says.

Faced with the enormous task of getting his business into shape, Brendan realised he would need guidance and his father was happy to oblige. “You have to know when you are in too deep and ask for help,’’ Brendan says.

Like any other parents who would want to see their children succeed, his father did not only offer mentorship but financially supported him from the start.

After some trials and tribulations, CURAQ Timbers (a subsidiary of Curaq Engineering Consultants) now renders rough sawn kwila and taun as timbers for clients.

For every tree felled, there is a plan to plant two trees as replacement.

Most of the youth involved in this small business have dropped out of school in grade eight and ten with no formal education but are willing to learn.

“I tried to help the youth by introducing a team building session to give them the tools and knowledge needed for growth and resilience,” he says.

Brendan’s parents have been supportive from the start of his entrepreneurship journey. “It’s not so easy trying to convince my parents especially my mum and dad of what I set out to do,” Brendan recalls.

Inspired by the idea of doing the extraordinary and to realise his potential in a different pursuit, Brendan realised he would need his younger brother, Collin to get involved to get things up and running.

“It’s about going into business with the mindset where you look at problems and provide solutions. The more solutions you have, the more money you make and Papua New Guinea needs more entrepreneurs,’’ he enthused.

Dispatch team making their usual loading of sawn timbers onto the company truck at the landing site.

He believes that success is found in gifts, talents and passion. “If you think you love what you are doing, keep on keeping on.”

The Mayur Resource’s iron sand exploration team at Orokolo Bay, Gulf Province in 2015. Brendan is first on the right.

Brendan graduated from the University of Papua New Guinea with a degree in science in geology in 2015 before deciding he’d rather give back to the community and maximize his potential in a newfound entrepreneur journey.

Staglands,Upper Hutt, Wellington

by planter’s child adventures

Staglands is one of the best places to visit for a unique experience. It’s an hours drive from Wellington to the scenic Akatarawa Valley near Upper Hutt. I once visited Staglands in the summer of 2015 and fell in love with the pine trees and the unique wildlife. You can visit their website for more information.

Below are some of my photos.

Hope these pictures remind you to stay connected with nature to remain motivated and blessed.

Life with a ‘didiman’

Memoir by Doreen Philip

This is specially dedicated to my father who first showed me the difference between planting and burying.

by planter’s child adventures

There are some people who despite their own struggles will still reach out to help others. This is dedicated to my father, Giame Amos Jagun aka GP who first showed me the difference between planting and burying.

 I would like to thank all the ‘didimen’ and only ‘didimeri’at Mutzing, Kaiapit who have devoted their lives with passion to ensure people strive to achieve better living through agriculture especially in the art of growing crops and raising animals for food and for income and for livelihood sustenance.

 I would also like to specially thank all the farmers from Umi Atzera, Leron Wantoat and Onga Waffa who have been kind enough to appreciate dad’s passion and hard work. They have made my childhood more memorable and truly special.

 I am also grateful to all my friends and colleagues who have encouraged me to embark on writing. I wouldn’t be able to do so, had it not for the inspiration and support.

I must also acknowledge the source of inspiration I have been able to glean from the following writers: Russell Soaba and Dr Steven Winduo from the University of Papua New Guinea.


This story is based on my personal experience as a kid growing up with my father in the rural outstation of Kaiapit in Markham, Morobe Province where dad work as a ‘didiman’- an agriculture extension officer. There were times when he was appreciated for his contribution to the community on farmer extension work.  There were times criticism mattered to certain people. Other times undisciplined youth stole Chinese cabbages from dad’s past time vegetable garden. They have never made it far in life with this kind of attitude.

The happiest times were those spent with farmers in the villages. The best moments were those spent watching soccer every weekend at Ragidumpiat and Sauruan. The fun filled days were those spent with aunty Manai in buai gardens in Bampingyafan.

  I miss those happy childhood days spent with dad. Looking back now, I realize that it was a very special and unique situation for me to grow up in such a place and I’m very appreciative of that. I am thankful for the Grace of God that brought me to realize the challenges dad had encountered and the resilience that has helped him to raise all of us.


I grew up with dad, mum and my two siblings, Elizabeth and Jerry at Tsuia Sub-Health Centre, at the old Kaiapit Station. Tsuia, pronounced, as Chooya is approximately twelve kilometers from the main highway at Mutzing. Dad was the only didiman among the community health workers at that time.

The house that we lived in for seven years was a typical colonial house built by Australians during the early administration. Located near lush green hill and a creek, this became home for seven years and life was pretty simple and stress-free. There was so many fresh and organic food to eat and fruits to share with all families.

Dad had a fervent passion for agriculture. He was an agriculture practitioner indeed. I admire the great zeal of enthusiasm and motivation behind his work. There was never a thing as lawn. At least certain portion of the lawn was transformed into a vegetable garden. With the justification of not having to spend money on benzene to cut grass, dad turned a huge piece of land next to the coconut trees into vegetable plots. He chopped down trees, collected dry coconut fronds and build nursery for Chinese cabbages, beans, tomatoes and onions.

Everyone at the house, including mum was always reminded on the importance of looking after the nursery. This meant collecting water from the creek nearby and watering Chinese cabbages, tomatoes and onions in the morning and sometimes during the afternoon. The only time we were free from these duties was during rainy days. Dad’s nieces who came to spend school holidays ended up sharing this daily chore with us.

Caption: Our home for seven years at Tsuia. Life was pretty simple, happy and stress free.

No one disobeyed dad’s instructions. Regardless of gender and age, one rule right across the board for everyone. For those who knew dad, he was a very hard man.  He made sure his house rules were enforced the way he wanted. Disobedience to his instructions was neither a choice nor an option. It was simple, no work, no meal, and no pocket money. Nothing was free. The best resort for anyone who disobeyed him was simple, just pack your clothes and go home to the village to seek sympathy of his sisters. Remain in the village for some weeks until the tension is calm and then return. Dad’s four sisters’ aunty Siba, Nanufan, Kituring and Irini were kind enough in helping out in such circumstances allowing each and everyone of us to experience the village life and appreciate the values of growing up in a traditional Markham society. It is something that I have come to treasure.

I was the main culprit who would often complain at times at the amount of tasks given by dad. Basically, they were not that difficult to do but because I was quite lazy to do a proper job at that time. I later realized, in doing so dad was preparing us for the tough challenges in life.  The spades, watering cans, garden forks were tools needed to build our capacity with creativity to achieve resilience in life.

I failed to get away in sulky moods. It was easy to figure that. Often dad would come by quickly to check on what I was doing. Too much water on the plants was a reflection of me trying to rush off from a house duty. Less water applied around the weak stem of plants meant I was too lazy to go back and fetch more water.

“C’mon Doreen come back and do a proper job. You are only killing the poor plants with little amount of water.’’

My response at times was to go back and pretended to be enjoying the job. Sometimes, out of frustration, I would pour quite a large amount of water on each plant. Poor plants. I was quite lazy back then and failed to realise this was essential part of learning to grow my own food to help cut back on spending money and live a healthy lifestyle of gardening for a living.

“Can you ask others to do the job too.’’ I would complain to dad.

You know as a kid you don’t see the importance of responsibility. Often I thought dad was biased in assigning tasks but actually it was the best way of learning to take lead around the house and be able to help bring food to the table at the end of the day. Also growing your own garden gives you confidence. When you see plants growing you feel confident through the success of your own garden. This success builds skills and give you pride in your abilities and a sense of satisfaction for a job well done.

 Dad’s reply to my attitude of complaining was always the same regardless of any circumstances.

“C’mon Doreen, do not pass the bark around. I’m asking you to do this.’’

Dad knew everyone who does good job around the house. For me, watering plants was not an enjoyable task at first. There were others, which I highly enjoyed as hobby. I love digging a new plot for him to transfer seedlings from the nursery. To me that was a much easier job because of the fine textures of the loam soil. I love to hum one of those favourite Michael Learns to Rock or Backstreet Boys tunes while digging. The only time I would stop was upon discovering the appearance of a blister on my feet or when dusk fell. I would stop, as usual clean the spade, wash it, leave it to dry and store it away at the right place before heading to the creek to wash.

 Washing and cleaning of garden tools after work use was very important. This was a practice dad always emphasized on and he made sure everyone understood what this meant. The washing and cleaning of tools after work helped to minimize the risk of pests and disease spreading on plants because of being in contact with soil. This also helped to avoid the spread of weeds, insects or diseases. Soil that remains on the spade can also cause rust, especially along the edge of the spade which makes digging more difficult when you need a sharp cut on the sand or loam. This was a best practice in agriculture. Another task I enjoyed doing was the task of building a new nursery. I often fancied chopping down trees to build small houses in the garden. I would quickly erect a small garden house and chop off coconut fronds or young kunai grass (impereta cylindrica) as roof for the shelter. This was creativity indeed.

Dad always stressed on the importance of shading for seedlings growing in the nursery. By saying this, he meant nursery should be built in a way to at least allow some sunlight to the plants. If we put too much shade, he would remove the leaves or grass on the house and do exactly what was required for plant growth.

At a very young age, I mastered basic agriculture science. I knew the type of plants that could grow well on a loam soil and those that do well on sand.  I knew well the kind of crops that could adapt to certain climatic factors. For example, the kind of food crops that people could plant for food security for dry season or those food crops that could adapt to change in climatic conditions. Scientific names of food crops were more like daily jargons. I was a planter’s child through and through.

 Back in school agriculture lessons quite fascinated me. I performed extremely well. I could relate everything dad had taught me at home and theoretically linked lessons to practice on the ground. I own garden plots at the primary and high school and planted corns, taro and peanut for class assessment. It would have been a different story if I had studied agriculture after high school. I would be the female version of my father.

 Every weekend at Chooya was always full of excitement and adventures. I had a gang of friends whom we were inseparable. Debra, Betty, Sharon, Serah, Jayjay, Ceslyn and Rose formed a huge part of my memorable childhood. They were the children of dad’s relatives who lived in Ragidumpiat, a village next to Chooya. Serah was the lovely daughter of my cousin sister, Jean. Her sudden passing left everyone in devastation and grief. She was very young indeed.

We would go camping on the hills during weekends, roast bananas and taro on campfires near gushing streams in the lowland forest and on the foothills of the mountains. Sometimes we would cook rice in bamboos for authentic flavour and roast pork meat over the fire for special meals. This became a group tradition until I left for boarding school at Markham Valley High School in Mutzing.

Other times we would go to Bampingyafan and Mamaringan with Betty for betelnut and coconut supplies. These villages have long been known in the Gugurup area for huge coconut and buai plantations. People depended on these crops for livelihood sustenance. You will never go thirsty in these villages where fresh kulau juice is a real thirst quencher and there is surplus garden food to eat and share.


View from Ngarangngarang. I just love the rolling hills at home.

Dad’s village was a walking distance from Chooya. To go to the village, you will have to go past Sauruan and the old Rumpung Ampan Primary School to reach home. It was situated at the foothills of the mountain.

 In the village, most of the gardening was done on the slopes on the mountain. We had several gardens just like every other villager and these gardens were well maintained. I still boast of my humble beginning that goes back to the roots of village life in Kaiapit.

Just like anyone growing up in the village we were already familiar with village chores and expectations of growing up in a village setting.  I still love the simple village that I grew up in. There was plenty of fresh organic food for different occasions and there was plenty to share with families and relatives.

I was amazed at the progress, my younger brother, Jerry made. He would go to the village and helped the boys carry plaits of bamboos down to the village to be woven as blinds for the walls of traditional houses. He would often go to the garden and wrap all the bananas. A skill every Markham boy in a village has to master. Jerry fulfilled my expectations for a brother, of someone raised and mentored by a real man. Apart from gardening, he was a skilled hunter at a young age. He would fish in the river; hunt birds and flying foxes using slingshots at night. He mastered life skills I envisioned everyone should posses.

At Jerry’s pass out at Bomana, 2014.


Dad was a true bushman, a true Markham man. He would finish work in the afternoon and on the weekends set home for his hunting expedition. As much as he emphasized on safety, he ensured he was properly attired in correct PPEs. And these are boots, coveralls, armed with a torch and batteries for light, pocketknife and matches for fire.  He would return in the morning with bandicoots.

Sometimes Jerry and I would accompany him to his hunting sites during the day to ensure There we would help him clear the track that he could use to walk at night and build a small bed just above the ground and put ripe bananas as bait for bandicoots. In Adzera this is refereed to as sisimp.

Dad was my hero and mentor. He had green fingers, he could plant, and he could hunt in the forest very well. He was my inspiration, my role model, and my outlook in life. If anyone would be proud to be a planter’s child, hell yeah I am a living testimony of the positive influence of my father.


Dad loves music and I mean good old golden oldies. He was the first diehard Beatles fan that I came to know. He had music books written with guitar scales that he often enjoyed while playing the guitar. He knew very well all Beatles songs that became popular during his time. I learnt my first English from listening to the Beatles at a very young age. I could sing Hey Jude, Get Back and All My Loving with conviction in the company of my siblings, courtesy of English literature.

At the house dad was a music tutor. He had a whiteboard with marker for every lesson taught after work. Some of the easiest way to learn guitar was through learning songs and guitar scales from Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) music and other great groups.

Often dad would remind Jerry and Elizabeth that in order to master the art of playing the guitar, it was very important to master guitar scales. This, he said matter most to very professional guitarists. And dad could play the guitar well too. He boasts of being an amateur guitarist and I’ve seen all his tutorial lessons completed via correspondence to an Australian music tutor named Brian Thiselton. It would have been a different story if dad had pursued the music pathway when he was younger.


I went to Ampan Lutheran Primary School from grade three to grade eight.

Dad was my number one tutor, full stop! Period. I didn’t have any problems with writing essays and report in school. Dad made sure everyone one of us received equal tutorial sessions at home on weekdays. He would proof read and edit all written composition and explain new words in the event that a teacher had to ask for what it means and the use according to the context of the writing.

I did fairly well in English and Social Sciences. At a very young age I knew I was going to be a writer one day, I had a good grasp of spoken and written English. This continued on to high school and I did fairly well enough to make dad proud. From the first history class, I was absolutely confident of scoring distinction in both subjects. I had the map of Europe and Asia at the back of my mind and was fascinated by history of Europe because of dad’s introduction to novels and great reference books.

And I wrote about the life of John Lennon in my grade twelve written essay. I was old enough at eighteen to scream to the songs of the Beatles and mention in my essay that I was another diehard Beatles and Liverpool fan too.

Apart from theoretical knowledge, dad emphasized on the importance of basic life skills. His experience in agriculture extension provided a platform to impart knowledge and agricultural practices through farmer education which all of us had the chance to learn at an early age.


With Max and Mero at Mutzing.

Dad just loves dogs. He would drive home to the village on some of his farmer visits and if he spotted a sick puppy riddled with skin infections, he would stop go out and pick up the dog and take the dog home. He would then pour a small amount of benzene on a clean cloth and gently apply on the fur. After weeks of actively caring for the dog, that dog becomes another family member. He made sure we cook food for the dogs and give them the much needed attention and care they deserve to live.

I am indebted to my father. He gave me the greatest gift someone would have given another person, he believed in me and for this I’m proud be a planter’s child.