We were told to be there at 8 AM. Hundreds of us parents and family with the Prep, Grade 1 and Grade 2 graduates. We'd scoured the secondhand shops and Chinese dry goods for the hard shoes, socks, long trousers, black skirts, white or blue shirts and neckties prescribed by the teachers; the kids were scrubbed, dressed and ready to receive their certificates and awards.
But of course no one was there at 8 AM. No school staff or assistants, just small clusters of family snickering and saying 'PNG taim' as they realized it would be hours before the start. Slowly, methodically, the tables arrived, were covered, tinselled and crepe papered, and then fille with individually wrapped prizes for hundreds of lucky kids. But there were no announcements, no apologies, as mother settled in to market cucumber slices, ice blocks and slabs of tapioca.
There was a fashion parade of relatives at hand.
Rumours circulated around 11.30 that the ceremony would begin.
Stocking up on ice blocks.
In the infinite wisdom of the teaching staff the older kids were awarded ceritifcates first, to be sure that most of the younger ones had thoroughly melted down by their turn.
Some good shaves all around.
Some of us kept out cool for a full five hours. PNG time, say it again.
Kusbau haute couture: jersey with chiffon, socks with heeled sandals.
Punking it pink