“We should tell our stories in the first person because this is the best way we used to share our stories and exploits as children growing up in the village. I still see and hear kids in the village doing the same today”.
– Simon Pentanu
Picture 1 Above : The faithful canoe still very much in use to take you anywhere : Modernization has brought speed and progress but will not take the fun and joy away from using canoes.
As I remember, growing up more than three score years ago, Pokpok Island was covered with a lot of primary green forest, thick jungle, dense canopy and impassable undergrowth. Along the coastal beaches the forest laden with its vines and creepers came bearing down to meet the sea.
This was before Lucas walkabout sawmills, Stihl and Husqvarna brand chainsaws, purseiner nets, and material affluence and its effluence from mining arrived and happened on Bougainville.
Growing up on the Island what we mostly liked and enjoyed was what we did, not what we had or acquired. Our idea of abundance and being happy growing up was not toys, computer games, gifts of sorts for every occasion or a treat in shops where mum and dad could get you whatever you asked for.
Picture 2 :Children still create their own fun climbing up or sitting on tree branches above ground
Rather, and looking back, it was more about what we did with a lot of time we had like making kids bows and arrows, going up trees and hanging from their branches, getting into canoes and paddling out, staying out in pouring rain and playing in puddles or small floods, swimming a lot, or running into the bushes looking for wild fruits and nuts and admiring the pingtu (praying mantis).
Growing up in the village you couldn’t miss noticing the Island always teemed with a lot of life and innocence that was simple. Everyone then seemed more caring. The whole Island also looked bigger and taller with taller and bigger old growth trees still standing from the beaches up to the hills and mountain.
Possums, other tree climbing marsupials, and snakes roamed the island from end to end along tree tops and along the forest canopy without touching the ground. This might sound like something like a story with drawings from a children’s story book.
No, this really is true about what was then before human habitation, starting with first initial years of settlement of the Island by Chief Sarai and his son Miramira.
In the bushes, brushes and shrubs the hissing flow of pristine creeks was unmistakable for anyone walking or doing gardens or hunting and gathering that wanted to quench their thirst.
Near the ground on the small branches and vines the pingtu always camouflaged itself well but its stationary, slow motion stick dances and sways gave them away.
I used to wonder what they ate and lived on. As for the kids we could wander and walkabout most of the day feeding off the bush on wild fruits, ground tucker and tree nuts like the galip.
Birds sang as they liked, the crickets cranked, the cockatoos blah blah’d at the slightest sight of any human movement below. Other birds shrieked and whistled their unique sounds.
You could never miss the flying hornbill couples by the continuous harmonica like noise produced by the flapping of their wings.
We came to know and realise that the deep-thong gooey sounds of some birds meant it was time to make headway home before the sun set and night fell quickly.
A lot has changed since of course. And not all of it for the better. Along with many of the old growth trees have also gone family members, relatives and friends.
But those of us that are still here still remember them by the trees that still stand, the same bush tracks that we used to walk following each other, and by the familiar sound of birds though they aren’t plentiful and boisterous anymore.
Pokpok Island still supports its inhabitants in increasing numbers. The Islanders are more conscious and have increasing awareness and respect for the environment. There is less and less food gardening in the hills.
Fishing is the mainstay of food for protein as well as being the main reliable income earner.
Picture 3 :Modernization has brought speed and progress but will not take the fun and joy away from using canoes.
To all inhabitants this is their Paradise, a safe and peaceful haven where everyone knows and respects each other.
It is an Island of peace, of peaceful people and is quickly becoming an allure for day visitors and short stayers.
Our traditions in Bougainville are founded more in sharing than in giving and taking. This is the case with most traditional societies in most parts of this planet.
We share the lavish beauty that surrounds us, the food that we grow in family or communal plots, the sunshine we allow everyone to get by sharing open spaces with no boundaries, the beachfront where we swim and play together, and staring into each other’s eyes and faces as a gesture to acknowledge we all have similar differences.
Picture 4 : Sharing village beach with young Australian visiting Marist students.
If you venture to Pokpok Island today you can still soak some of the past but it is a stay that is more about how much time you have to enjoy what is around today.
Accommodation is available at Uruna Bay Retreat that is already catering for the quiet, adventurer short sayer type that want to be left on their own, that prefer swimming, snorkelling, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, bit of surfing and other water sports. Trekking is included in the mix.
It’s fun. Come and rejuvenate, enjoy, and leave with a clear head, as a kinder soul, and with a mindful heart. It is in places and surroundings like this that you can find peace, stop talking and listen to and understand the language of your heart.
😇 May you enjoy the rest of the remaining days of your life with joy, peace and happiness as you desire.
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