Goroka is always refreshing and despite the deteriorating state of infrastructure the warmth from these people reassures humanity there is more to life.
A couple of months back in July this year I had the opportunity to visit the famous Banana Block. It is not a place many city dwellers would like to visit on any other day. Yet this visit was a nice reminder of how modern developments in Port Moresby’s rush for growth are leaving behind the very people that matter.
As I share kaukau from this mama’s barbecue plate with my friend Awayang Namorong I looked back at the track we had taken this morning. It had been raining for the week and down here on this ankle deep muddy trek to our meeting point there were teapots, barbecue plates and dishes over small fires with kaukau, sausage and lamp flaps. Bingo, decks of cards, cigarettes and betelnuts are out and life goes on for them as they ushered us and made sure we didn’t slip and fall on this ugly mud. Some even apologized for the condition of the road.
A 15-minute walk had taken us paved-road trekkers or office dwellers some 45 minutes to reach our destination.
The ward councilor met us and rearranged the chairs now that the sun is out. He is a pleasant humble man of prayer from Lufa and he tells of his struggles to keep his community together and at the same time access government services for them.
For women in settlements like Banana Block life can be harsh. Kafe Women’s Association had started humbly to try and help curb their law and order situation but also find ways to help their women earn an income and live a dignified life in Goroka. In addition to literacy, counseling and peace mediation work they ran sewing classes some 10 years ago and today they are making professional PNG women’s wear and school uniforms for some schools in Eastern Highlands yet they continue to struggle with their law and order situation.
As more people move from their rural villages to seek work in towns the pressure is often on the settlements to house them. Banana Block is no stranger to the tag ‘notorious’ but it is not so on the edge any more as Goroka town grows. Proper sanitation, good road inlets, a stocked up health post and a school are necessary for a growing settlement. Creative opportunities for young people are also needed.
Life is difficult on the edges of cities but the perseverance of these people has for years helped to keep cities and towns alive. They are prepared to put in more work hours, go through the difficulties of keeping those jobs and getting less pay. It is in the margins that humanity finds meaning to life. They deserve to be heard.