This piece was written by my 14-year-old daughter, Aseneth. For the record, I had no part in editing or setting the scene of the story.
A great many thanks to Barry, Rosa, JC and the bunch of crazies who took on the "other side" and for helping Aseneth and her brother develop a social conscience and awareness.
As the sun sets on a heavily populated Melanesian city, an old man whose face and hands were wrinkled with struggle and memories sits and listens to his talkative grandson asking questions on various subjects. When finally he asks “ What was it like in your time? Did you live in a city like this?”
The old man suddenly sat up straight, which was surprising because he often slouched.
Then replied “ I will tell you a story instead “.
“Many years ago before you were born, we lived in the rainforests. We hunted wild animals that were tastier then frozen chicken and ate vegetables that were grown in our own gardens. I was a landowner at that time. I lived in a small village in the mountains. We never used money because all our resources came from the forest. We all lived happily until.... They came.
“People, strange people, wearing strange clothes who said they would bring sustainable development to our village. To me sustainable development was good roads and other accessible services. So we welcomed them to our village, we showed them our forests and other sacred places.
“And you know what they said?”
“They said we were already sustainable so they just had to bring in development. I did not know what would happen I said yes without thinking. I guess I was just curious to find out what would happen if I did. Who would have thought that the small village would become a large city.”
“So then what happened?”
“Wet pastaim na mi pinisim buai.(Wait let me finish my betelnut)
“The first thing they did was block our forests with sharp metal fences. Then, they chopped down our trees. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Most of those trees gave us food and medicine and now they’re gone. I angrily asked one of the men what they were doing.”
“He said ‘Your people disgust me they do not know about the modern world, they are savages’.”
“That was when I realized that those people did not really want to bring development, they only wanted money.
“I tried reasoning with them but they weren’t listening. So I had no choice but to wait and see what would happen to us. And this is what happened” he says quietly.
“So you see” he adds to his grandson, “ I made a terrible mistake which I cannot change. But you can.”
“You’ll know” he smiles at the little boy. “You’ll know”
As the evening wind blows out the candle, he quietly lies down and remembers all the lush green vegetation and his village.
‘ The vanished paradise will regrow‘ he thinks to himself.