The Linesman

In life’s struggles and successes, we are bound to meet at least one ordinary Papua New Guinean with an extraordinary story to tell.
In the Muka Valley of Kotna LLG, Dei district of Western Highlands, lives one such humble man.
His name is Gabriel Yoken, husband to Anita and father to Brenda, Wera, Nigel and sweet little Rayleen.
When Gabby noticed this lofty goal post hiding under the coffee trees last Saturday, he felt he had to show me how to pick the best berries.
“Lofty yu save dring tea or kofi? He asked. And added: “Luk olsem yupla ol Kerema ol lain blo holim traipla tea kap pinisim sugar blo tumbuna meri lo hot sun stret.”
I was taken aback but somehow I figured I had to drink coffee with this young Kepaka warrior.
You see once upon a time, Gabby was a linesman, no, not the type that sprint down the sidelines at football matches or the electrical ones that hang precariously upside down like Madang flying foxes on power lines.
Gabby’s previous job is one that very few people appreciate, and, even though it might sound simple, his past job does save many lives.
This is his little adventure story mixed with strong Kindeng hot tea, 10 spoons of Ramu sugar and the usual Gulf delight sago poi mixed with grated coconut.
“From 2000 on wards, I was employed by Dekenai Construction as a road crew on the Hiritano Highway project.
“You see all the white lines from Laloki bridge in Moresby all way to Malalaua, I was the one who painted them.”
Wow, I was deeply impressed as a regular PMV #600 passenger from PoM to Harisu Hills.
“Mi save lo ol Mekeo, buai em ol ya, na yupla ol long bun Kerema, maski hat lo toktok, dring tea na singsing em kala stret blo yupla.”
I suggested Gabby must have been bitten by the “yu yet kam na lukim” mosquito. He tugged at his maus gras and laughed.
After painting Hiritano Highway white, Gabby decided it was time return to his kaukau gardens in the fertile Muka valley.
When I found him, he, along with his fellow tribesmen led by their hardorking Kotna LLG president Jerry Anis, were milling timber in the Muka Valley forests for their new high school.
The red paint of his heart, Brenda, 16, is in grade 8 at Muka Primary School.
He hopes to complete building the high school by December so Brenda and other Muka children can open the new school as pioneer grade niners.
So if you are a PMV driver from Kairuku or Kerema, remember our kange connection and keep to your lane.
Gabby’s advice: “kaiye draiva noken spid tumas, tingim laif blo yu, tingim safety blo ol pasindia, na draiv lo mak.”
Soa hea lofeare mori seika, tanim wanpla moa 10pla spoon kap tea blo Gabby!

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