The mosquito net was white, light and airy. I could see everything outside my enclosed bed. I would not have been five yet, and mother and I shared this bed on the floor. It was made of a blanket and a sheet with a pillow on the wooden floor. The room was packed with our clothes and things. To cover, we would use one of mother’s laplaps.
The mosquito net flopped around me. Mother had tucked its ends by weighing the net down with some clothing. At the bed head, the net was tucked under my pillow. To keep the net from touching my head, my old T shirt was rolled length-wise into a sausage and laid behind my pillow. If the net did touch me, the mosquitos would penetrate through the holes and get me.
Mother was a nurse. She knew how seriously and often I got attacked by Malaria. She had told me last time I was too tall to be carried to the nearest clinic, several hours walk away.
In this bed, the mosquitoes will not get me, and Malaria will not touch me. I drifted off in my sleep and enjoyed the comfort of my luxurious bed in Wagang Village, outside Lae, Papua New Guinea.
I prayed: “Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for his mercy and endurance, forever and ever, Amen”.
After what seemed like a whole night had gone by, I was woken by strange voices talking. There were two new voices. I could also hear my Uncle Sam speaking in English. Uncle Sam only spoke English when he joked or when he was drunk. His English was impressive. His voice was quiet but Uncle Sam sounded confident. “Yes, you can go and see her”, Uncle Sam told someone.
I recognised my grandmother’s low disapproval as she told Uncle Sam that no-one should disturb my sleep. I heard footsteps coming towards me. They walked up the old steps of the Fibro and timber house. Mother and grandpa build this house from his teaching and her nursing money. Most of the fly-wire was ripped so I could hear everything.
At the top of the landing, the shoe soles brushed the sand on the wooden floor as they approached my room. There were more than one person. I felt nervous and I wanted to call out to my mother but I was not sure if the footsteps would come to me.
The footsteps stopped at my door. My heart pounded. My door opened and I looked up. In the light of our small kerosine lantern by the bed, I saw two white men peeking down at me through the mosquito net. One was fair and the other had dark hair.
“Mama! Mama!”, I yelled out.
The one with the dark hair sat down and reached out to me, smiling. I saw his white hand come to me and I threw my cover and crawled to the end of the bed. The man’s thick black hair was brushed back neatly. His eyes were dark with thick eye-brows. I stared at his face. I had never seen him before. I started to cry. The man tried to hush me but he seemed nervous. He said in English, “It’s ok! Everything is ok”.
The more he tried to speak, I became terrified and recoiled into the further corner of the mosquito net. I called my mother and cried louder as I backed into the corner. There was no way out and they were at the door. The man with the dark hair put his hand in his pocket and pulled out some notes and coins. There was a lot of money. He put them on my bed and beckoned me. He told me that money was ALL for me. I had never seen so much money. I was sure I was not dreaming. It was unbelievable and scary. “Come!” he said again.
“Mama!” I yelled and my mother came running up the steps.
She walked into the room and the fair haired man stepped outside. My mother smiled and I could not understand it.
Why was mother smiling at this stranger? And why was the stranger giving me money? Was he going to take me? Was he going to buy me from my mother? I did not move. I wanted my grandmother.