“Why didn’t you come home straight after work? I have been waiting for you all night. The land lord has issued us with the amount for our rent. But all you think about is drinking kava. How are we going to pay for our rent and food for our family?” the mother asks her sleepy eyed, kavaholic husband and starts to sob.
A woman doing her power walk, walks past the 24-hour- on nakamal and overhears the painful words. It is 5.30 in the morning. This is not the first time the mother has cried for the same reason at the same spot. She is also embarrassed because her faith does not allow her husband to drink kava. He is a backslider.
Further down the road a group of stern looking young men also watch the scene in silence. “Aunty, what is that other aunty telling her husband?”, they ask the power walker as she walks past them. This is not the first time they have watched the scene while waiting for their transport. They are construction workers.
“She is complaining to him for going to the nakamal on his payday instead of going home first to settle their rent. She says they also need money for food”, she replies.
“Man, I could just walk up to the man and punch him to sleep”, one of them spits out the words. He is angry.
The power walker relates the story to the writer of this article and adds with a smile, “But I have a similar story which may interest you, my husband. One early morning while you were away on one of your travels, I heard our dogs bark and looked down the slope. There was a neatly dressed young woman there. I walked down and greeted her. She asked, ‘Are you part Ambae/ Ambrym?’
‘No we are full Ambae’, I replied.
‘But the description of the house and location is the same as the one my husband told me’, she insisted.
‘Sorry, what did your husband tell you and why have you to our house?’, I asked perplexed.
As I watched her, tears started to well up in her eyes. I opened the gate and invited her to our house. She looked hungry. We had breakfast together.
‘Now you can tell me your story’, I told her. She put on a brave smile and told me this story.
“I am married to a man from Ambae and I am from Ambrym. My husband works in security at night. We have four little children. I do my best to care for our family. My husband is never home because of his job. We live at Teouma and so it is far from his work place. I have this gut feeling that he is not faithful to me. Many times I take the bus to leave my last born baby with my sister at Number 2 then I go looking for him”.
“Where do you look?”
“In night clubs, bars, casinos and kava bars. We are low on cash and like now, I have been up all night checking in all these places in vain to find my husband”, and she started to cry again.
“I have come to your house because my husband says sometimes he does not need to come home because he stays with his relatives here at your house”.
“Sorry my sister, I do not know your husband and he is not telling you the truth because we have not accommodated him or anyone of your description here. My husband wouldn’t allow it unless we called you first to let you know that he was staying with us”.
“Let me suggest that perhaps you could encourage him to negotiate with his boss to work only in the day or find a daytime job because he has to help you to care for your children. Also you live quite far from town”.
After encouraging her, I filled some rice and canned meat in a plastic bag. I gave her the plastic bag and paid for her bus fare. We prayed together before I saw her off. She said she did not know how to thank me. She asked me to visit her family to get some greens for our house from their garden. I thanked her. I think I would have got lost at Teouma.