Lost in the Bush

Photo by Julie McGowan

Paul didn’t know he would fall in love with Anna/Ako after their first meeting; she knew she loved him though. She never let him forget either.

He was a young Australian patrol officer, off on the adventure of a lifetime. Anna, a bush Mekeo young woman, was training to be a nurse and moving further away from village life. They met when he was carrying out some census work.

Once he had to travel deep into the Papua New Guinea bush to see her. He became completely lost. That could have been the end of it – another missing foreigner, never found, or discovered dead, but the villagers saved him and took him to see Anna.

Not everyone encouraged their love. They actively tried to keep them apart. Their employers sent them as far away as possible from each other. But the people of Anna’s village recognised love when they saw it. Anna’s parents accepted Paul, especially after his trek through the bush.

Soon despite all the obstacles Anna and Paul married, had a baby (that was me) and when I was under a year old left Anna’s home country and family, for an Island thousands of kilometres across the sea, to Paul’s homeland Australia.

When my parents arrived in Australia Paul’s Mum didn’t accept his new wife. Some of Paul’s work bosses made racist comments about her, and he protested once by quitting a job because of it. Life wasn’t easy. Paul was estranged from his parents for over ten years.

Paul had a motorbike to give him some joy in life despite the challenges. But after a shocking accident on his bike he gave it away to buy a little red car.

Anna was homesick and kept looking for sweet potatoes and sago in the supermarket. She grew corn and kept chickens, instead of pigs. She used to look after the pigs of her village when she was a growing up. She tried to grow hibiscus, with some success.

Paul looked for jobs to support their expanding family (three sons were born in Tasmania), and had to be away from home a lot to work in the mountains. Eventually he went back to school and so did Anna.

My parents did a lot for love; they were things you don’t appreciate as a child. They had many trials and good times, but they stuck by each other through it all. Eventually Dad’s parents came around to visit us and my Mum welcomed them without any resentment.

The tale of my Dad lost in the bush, trekking to see his true love, my Mum, became a passed down village story that one day reached the ears of an anthropologist. He was studying my Mum’s village. I met him at a conference. He told me the story of my Dad being lost first.

I want my children to know about how their grandparents met and their lives as children. I remind myself to tell them the story of how their own parents met, so they don’t have to hear it from an anthropologist first.

Have you ever asked your parents and grandparents how they met and fell in love?

This has now been published at ABC Open 500 Words. Things We Do For Love.

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