Jungle Flashback: Growing Up in Papua New Guinea

The last blog I wrote kinda kicked up some memories of my prehistoric days. Transported me back to the years when I swang (swang? I don’t think that’s right. Swung, maybe) on vines and rode bareback on gorillas.

Nah, not really. There weren’t any gorillas where I lived. Actually there were no monkeys at all, which most people find hard to believe since the country was tropical and three-fourths covered in rainforest or swampland.

I used to know why no monkeys were there, but I’ve forgotten now.
My parents were linguists and because of that they had moved from the comfort of their California homes—and their families—to an island nation that was pretty backward and undeveloped at that time.

There was hardly any infrastructure to speak of. Not a lot of roads, few cars, and only a few pretty provincial towns.

They lived there (with me and my brother) for sixteen years. By the time we left, I was 18 and there had been a lot of improvements throughout the whole country.
Anyway, back to the early days. We lived in a house in a village. It was up on posts, hand-hewn plank siding, windows with no glass or screens, and a roof of palm fronds. And an outhouse for a toilet. That was a temporary place until my dad built our own, with help.

The second house had a corrugated iron roof, woven bamboo walls, and a floor made of the thick bark of a limbum tree. It was up on posts too, so breezes could circulate underneath, and so roosters could walk freely and crow their hearts out at 4:30 every morning.

Neither house was impervious to creepy crawlies. We rarely had snakes in the house, but we always had rats, roaches, gigantic spiders, and the occasional scorpion or centipede. These were not your mother’s centipedes. These things could be eight inches long, jet black, with lethal pincers.

My brother had one on the wall crawling past his pillow one night. My dad took a picture first and then killed it. (Always the photographer!)
Our beds had mosquito nets tucked in all around them, so we could sleep without fear of being bitten or attacked or dropped on or crawled over or. . . .
We had no electricity which made night times interesting when it came to bug life. You’d think that growing up in that environment would render me fearless of bugs. Not so.
Oh, so not so.

I did not like any of those creatures. The spiders and roaches especially freaked me out. I’d take a kerosene lamp to the dark parts of wherever I needed to go at night in the house, stand in the middle of the room, hold the lantern up high, and carefully scan all four walls, the ceiling and the floor.
Any sign of a creature and I’d yell for my dad. It was only as an adult—with my own kids in a country 5,000 miles away from that first country—that I summoned up courage to squash spiders and cockroaches.

Yeah, so that’s a bit of what I’m remembering from that flashback that happened during my last blog!

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