Thursday, October 22, 2015

Nauru 70”s – All about the Boy

A dutiful, well behaved, privileged elder son growing up in Tuvalu and Kiribati where his father was a prominent educationalist/author throughout the region, the boy recalled his study overseas: 
He had thoroughly enjoyed this Australian time out in Darwin, NT, made the most of it to perfect his English and make his father proud.  At a time when most pacific islanders went for tertiary studies to Fiji, if at all, the boy was acutely aware of his opportunity and studied diligently.
Now a fully qualified chef/nutritionist, the boy went on to score a job with further learning and practical experience in the Solomon Islands. 

It was in Honiara he met his first love, a light skinned, almost white mixed race beauty.  He was fascinated with white skin!  It was there also that he encountered racial disapproval – her parents totally disapproved of him as not being good enough for their daughter since he wasn’t Pa’alangi! 

Meanwhile, back in Tuvalu and unknown to the boy, his parents had negotiated for him a wife who was moved into the family home to coincide with his return leave date. 
The boy recalled the atmosphere of excitement in the air and on the faces of his relatives when he disembarked from Sea Bee Air on the short banana fringed air strip at Funafuti.  This is almost a hero’s welcome, what’s going on!

He recalled the sense of impending doom he had felt when he realized an unfamiliar girl with her relatives greeting him on arrival at his home was somehow the pivotal reason for the celebratory mood of his family and gathered relatives.
His father quickly filled him in on matters confirming that sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
The boy objected strongly and an argument ensued with his parents as he did not agree to this customary marriage.  Ever the obedient son in the end, he allowed his parents to save face in front of the community and went along with the arranged ritualistic nuptials.
His thoughts were still back in the Solomon Islands and not with this new wife at all, so he used up the days meeting with friends, playing volleyball and swimming off the wharf in the small boat harbour and pretending he was still a single guy with his girlfriend waiting far away for the day he might talk her parents into accepting him.

After he had been home for only a very short while, the Nauru Phosphate Corporation ship called in on a recruitment drive.  The boy immediately saw a way out of his newly trapped existence, went aboard with his reference papers and signed up for work on Nauru as a  Procurement Officer. 
The boy packed his meager belongings into a metal trunk, without more ado, delivered this and himself onto the berthed ship along with other cousin brothers who had signed on. 
His parents were angry and there were heated arguments even as he left the house.  The boy told them to return his new wife back to her parents because he was not attracted, not in love and hadn’t wanted this sham of a marriage forced on him in the first place. 
Why push a young man to explore the outside world of tertiary education where he is learning to make his own decisions and then strip him of his right to make the biggest decision affecting the rest of his life?   Customary obligations are often at odds with the modern world he thought to himself.

So here he found himself in 1974, procuring food supplies to feed the hordes of contract labourers on Nauru.  There were Chinese, Filipino, Kiribati and Tuvaluan diverse dietary requirements to cater for. 
He was housed, fed and paid good wages most of which he sent home to his mother. He saved up for his radio cassette player and his motorbike easily as Nauru was totally duty free and luxuries were cheap.
After work hours were filled with different sports, fishing, night clubbing at weekends as well as community traditional events for weddings and birthdays as they occurred.
Life was good and he felt care free again.  He wouldn’t meet the girl until 1976 but of course he didn’t know that then!!

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