It was my first day on the job with Kundu2 TV in 2011. My late dad escorted me to my new job.
He was so proud, announcing to every Tom, Dick and Harry on the way to the studio that I finally got employed.
It was a tradition; from my internships to my real paying job, he made sure he came with me.
We entered the studios and there we met the greatest newsman in Papua New Guinea, Jerry Ginua. I clenched with nervousness.
“So… this is Miss Kuson?”
“Hallow, nem blo mi Jerry.” He extended his hand.
“Eva,” I mumbled.”
It was not the first day on the job nervous, it was Jerry Ginua who shook my world.
“Ok bye, good luck,” Dad screamed along the corridor as he took his leave.
I stood there twiddling, looking at Jerry.
My years growing up along the corridors of National Broadcasting Corporation headquarters had prepared me for a journalism career. But none so profoundly motivating and inspiring like watching Jerry on the 6pm EMTV news.
His ease with words, the embodiment of the report, the tempo of each piece, the pace of words, the lucidity in the report.
He was a sleek clean news reporter, he made journalism a perfect career option for me.
My first official assignment for day was parliament sitting.
“Ok daughter, mitupla bai go long parliament.” Off we went.
At the entry to the media gallery, he told me that he needed to go somewhere to see someone.
“Yu karim note book blo yu kam ah?
“Yes boss, stap long bag.”
“OK go sindaun antap long media gallery na kisim story blo mitupla.”
“Noken wari, just raitim tasol ol main toktok, bow long speaker na go insait”
I stood there dumbfounded.
It was on a Thursday, grievance debates were on.
The grievances debate is an opportune time for our good members of parliament to speak and debate on any matters under the sun.
The speaker is asleep most of the time, the media gallery is usually empty. A handful of people were in the public gallery bowing in silent sleep and occasionally jolting up to the bellowing and rumble of members’ in the chamber.
I found myself a seat, the headphones were not working, my phone voice recorder ate away my battery, finally it blacked out.
I was drowned in half a notebook full with scribbles of almost every exchanges in the chamber.
It was so hard. I found myself on the verge of crying.
I could not fathom the information on the parliament standing orders. I did not understand the exchanges and the agendas discussed.
The order of business was read signalling the end of the sitting, I even noted it thinking it was news worthy!
I felt useless. I didn’t even note the adjournment.
I walked out of the parliament house all stressed and my top collar snugged my neck, drenched in sweat.
I waited outside, wrecked with fear, when Jerry arrived.
“Yu kisim sampla nius tu? Wanem taim bai ol sindaun ken?” He smiled and sped past me.
He always had the tendency of walking ahead and talking to people. I hated it.
At the studio, I started to write out my report. Thirty minutes past I was still stuck. Five O’clock came and I was still on the first paragraph.
Jerry walked in, handed me a note.
“Em ya readim displa, bai mi readim narapla tupla repot.”
I recorded his his voice over, he recorded mine.
We had a good lineup of news. We always do when the big dog is in the house.
I found out some parliament sessions later that all offices in the house have wired speakers. That’s where he picked the stories from. Such a sly bugger.
I learned, creativity.
On a Saturday morning he called me up.
“Daughter, wanpla wok na mi laikim yu long kam long ofis hariap.”
I walked to the front entrance and he stood outside with the camera and tripod.
“Hariap, karim camera na go, one day trip. Ol big lain waitim yu long airport.”
No ticket, K7 in my pocket, I exchanged my bilum for the equipment, and headed to the airport.
We drove past Air Niugini, the cargo area and then to MAF hanger.
I asked the driver where I was going, he shrugged.
I rushed into the hanger heaving under the weight of the camera and tripod and fear creeped in.
I met the late Goilala MP late Daniel Mona.
“Oh good, you are here, we have to go now, the cloud’s cleared.”
“We couldn’t take Jerry, balus liklik na em traipla man tumas so he sent you.”
I sighed a F as I walked into the aircraft. In my head I was flying every foul words I could think of.
The aircraft hit off the run way and we came face to face with the obtrusive Papuan Ridges. I begged again to God for forgiveness for my former sins and asked for his travelling mercy.
Third level craft, small, low compression, precarious and unpleasant to the pits of my breathing gut.
We flew over Tapini and my Lord, I have never seen a dreadful runway in my entire living being. It was a steep inclination on top the mountain and the landing was a dirt road.
Any wrong turn by the pilot, to the left or right of the runaway and we all be well dead. I thought of my daughter, my mother and all my siblings.
The pilot did a grand landing, I almost hugged the poor red faced New Zealand pilot.
I walked out of the aircraft. I set foot in Tapini, Goilala district, Central Province.
The nuisance and stereotype of the Goilala people had nothing on me. I met the most gorgeous spirited people.
Stocky, loud, mystery-eyed and their language was strange different, beautiful.
They took me down to their huts after the event, we had kaukau, pork, padanus nuts, sweet dwarf bananas and kavivi.
The kids laced a beautiful floral arrangement of shrubs and placed it neatly on my bun. They high fived themselves and rubbed cheeks with me and gave me more Kavivi and spoke sweet nothings to me.
I arrived at the studio at around 6.30pm.
“Trip orait ah?” Jerry asked as I was downloading my videos.
“Boss, it was the best”
“Lukim mi tokim ya, bai yu orait, noken wari.”
“Sarap, yu no tokim mi wanpla samting tu, yu salim mi go nating.”
“Camera tu nogat battery. Mi recordim ol samting long phone!”
He laughed his head off and then asked to buy his buai.
“Kaikai displa,” I gave him a full plastic of kavivi.
I learned adventure.
Jerry called me into the studio some time after the Tapini trip.
He began the opening speech
“Daughter,” He said, skinning his teeth.
“Igat wanpla tri…
“Igo wer?” I interrupted.
“Tari”, he said looking past me.
“Why yu sa hamamas long salim mi go long kain ples osem?”
“Nogat daughter, sore long ol lain blo yumi,” he began
“Ol last Papua blo yumi stret na em niupla provins tu na em gutpla stori.”
“Ok, ok. Em orait bai mi go.”
“Wanem taim?” I asked as he thanked me.
He looked me straight into my eye and said “Tumoro,” and walked out.
I flew the biggest F ever, the mic was on in the presentation studio booth and everyone seated in the prompter room heard me.
Next day I was on the Heliniugini helicopter, bound for the new Hela Province.
I arrived in Hela, plastered from POM-Mt Hagen- Hela trip, I fell on the cold floor and slept.
The next morning I came out of the room and I was greeted with the friendliest warmest smiles from the ladies in the kitchen.
I came out for a smoke and I met Shirley Pate, the lodge owner.
We chatted about Hela, the LNG project, the challenges of running business.
Typical highlander conversation, she nodded with nose squinted to band of lodge workers and revealed that all her employees are widows, divorced and single mums.
Shirley was a pioneer Hela businesswomen and the only woman running her business up there. She told me how her cruiser paved a small passage into Mendi.
She travelled with her all female gang back and forth since then to bring supplies into Hela.
“Em ino isi wok, but ol mama ya, ol sampla kain tru ya, ol no sa givim sans.” She praised with her heavy accent.
In town everyone wore the new bright yellow huli wigman flag, drinking coke, playing bomb, shooting darts.
The driver picked me up and we headed to the Tagali Bridge opening. The bridge links Tari and Koroba-Kopiago districts.
There I met Hon James Marape. He took us to the stage and I met his dad.
A devoted Adventist elder who never missed Saturday church services. The bridge opening ceremony was postponed to Sunday so he could attend to officiate the blessings.
I returned to Port Moresby three days later with a doco piece, feature and various news reports.
Jerry called that night,
“Daughter, Tari orait ah?
“Ples blo mitupla em orait, na orait olgeta.”
I learned hard work.
After two weeks, the hype of 2012 general elections hit the country.
I walked into the office, he met me at the door. He always has a funny way of delivering urgent news, and it’s usually at the entrance of the building.
In his usual air of things, scratching his head with the biro, slight smile.
“Daughter, come see me in my office”
“You don’t have a bloody office, its a studio for Lord’s sake!”
“Daughter,” he pulled in.
“Wanpla story ken, but noken wari em wan day trip.”
“Wusait ol, na go wer?
“PM’s department. Ol gat wanpla seat tasol, so mi makim yu long go because yu save long operatim camera.”
“Campaign trail blo O’Neill,” he continued.
He paused, “Nau yet yu mas go long airport. Bai yupla go long Mt Hagen na kam bek.”
I shook my head at him.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk, yu wanpla kain boss stret”
I seated in the jet forker across Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his mass of escorts and advisors.
We had a good chat about work and life of politics, he spoke highly of Jerry.
That day, we went to five provinces.
Mt Hagen to Tari then back to Hagen, then to Goroko and then to Simbu and back to Hagen and onto Mendi and arrived in POM at 9pm.
The highlands is truly the food bowl of the country. There were so much food given to us.
We were in Karamui-Nomane, Simbu province, a community leader insisted we take his live muruk as a token of his appreciation for the visit.
The PM’s body guard negotiated with him but he already bounded the muruk in the talking process, shaking his head while dragging the poor flight less bird to the landing site.
The advisor was told to shut up and load the muruk into the helicopter. I stood there almost in tears because he was begging for us to take his ‘gift’ with us.
Finally, the Prime Minister of the country came out and they both had a nice 15 minutes or so chat. The chap finally accepted it and we took off.
In Obura-Wonenara, Eastern Highlands, we were welcomed with massive sugar canes and the path leading to the stage were decorated with cabbages, brocolli and cauliflower and colorful laces of the everlasting flowers.
We were walking back to the helicopter when a lady ran over to me and hugged me. I had the camera on me and we landed on the ground.
Thank heavens the equipment was not damaged. She held me tight and caressed my face and pulled me up.
The escorting police pulled her away.
“Isi long em, lusim em go,” I pleaded.
She shooed the escort, not uttering a single word.
Everyone was already seated and the advisor was calling out for the escort and I to get on.
The lady came running back to us, with a huge bilum with a variety of fresh vegetables.
She pointed to the bilum and then to me, pointed to the escort and waved no.
“Em tok, em blo yu, na em no blo me.” Escort said dryly.
A voice shouted from the crowd, “em maus pas ya, noken busy long em.”
I took out K10 and handed it to her, she pushed my hand aside and pointed to helicopter, gesturing us to hurry to catch our ride.
I nearly threw the money on the ground so she can just take it, but it would seem wrong protocol wise as a PM contingent.
The highlands is rugged heaven on earth. The people were warm, their dirt faces, semi-dressed, babies hanging on their mother’s breast, swatting flies, laughing when the big people laughed, danced, graced us with more food.
When they shook hands, it was almost as if you can feel their soul and heart. They meant business with their embrace too.
We returned to POM at 8.00pm.
The next day I met Jerry on the way to the studio.
“Daughter, trip orait ah?
“Yu kon na tok Hagen tasol na kam bek, mi pinisim highlands na kam!
“Next taim, noken giaman, harim ah!” He laughed so hard.
I handed him a huge bag of vegetables and walked up the stairs to the studio.
He struggled with bag weight but I pretended I didn’t hear him.
I learned gratitude.
When I left NBC after three years, he made a huge fuss about it.
“Painim moni raun lusim, stap na yumi wokim wok blo gavman.” He teased.
I left anyway.
I made sure that everytime I go into Kundu 2 studios, I must have money to give him, because he always issue the usual melanesian ‘hait toktok’
Daughter, mi thirsty ya or daughter bel touchim bun baksait.
It would have been six months and some weeks into my new job.
My dad called me up at 8am on a chilly Saturday morning.
In a shaken voice he broke the news,
“Daughter, Jerry Ginua lusim yumi pinis.”
It sounded almost like Jerry delivered the bad news himself.
I broke down, pillow soaked and head drumming from ear to ear.
I was in the car heading to his Gordons house and it hit me.
Jerry never called me by my name, his addresses were always daughter.
I learned valuable friendship.
I received life lessons in some insanely unexpected places because of Jerry.
He didn’t mentor or advise me of news works he threw me into the deep end and I came back knowing more and learning more.
That is his style of mentoring.
I miss him especially today as I struggle to draft a news piece and I remembered him as a wonderful father figure and an outstanding brilliant newsman.
Never gone father. Thank you for your life Kukurai🌷