The influence of my teaching experience in Papua New Guinea on ‘Nothing But Rainforest’

My first teaching position was in 1987 with Voluntary Service Overseas at Koroba High School in the Southern Highlands Province. The school was funded by the World Bank in one of the remotest parts of the country. When I arrived, I was told that my predecessor, an African Canadian, had left after teaching on contract for several years. He was a quiet man who I knew little about. I was given a well-equipped modern house with solar hot water and washing machine.

Stephen Williams – Writer of fiction. At his teacher’s house at Koroba High School, Southern Highlands Province, PNG

Stephen Williams – Writer of fiction. Trade store, Nipa, Southern Highlands Province, PNG

Most of the students were either Huli or Duna. Huli men are known for headdresses of human hair and yellow and red face decoration.Stephen Williams - Huli Wigman, Papua New Guinea

Since the school was remote, and could only be accessed by private transport, I bought a second-hand motorbike. I was told I might be able to buy one from SIL-PNG, a community of Bible translators outside of Kainantu in the Easter Highlands. It was a fenced town that resembled suburban America with cinema, shops, guesthouse, school and yellow school bus. They only had off-road bikes available and I was advised to ask the Australian manager at the coffee plantation near the main road about the bike he had for sale. It took three days to ride the bike back to school.

Stephen Williams – Writer of fiction. Woman and child on Highlands Highway, Nipa, Southern Highlands Province, PNGOne holiday some students showed me the Levani Valley which was a two-day walk away. We started at 1,700m above sea level and crossed a 2,680m range. The valley was only accessible via bush tracks and had limited contact with the outside world. In ‘Nothing But Rainforest’ I used this valley as a backdrop for the fictitious village of Karani. 

Stephen Williams – Writer of fiction. Levani Valley view from mountain track, Southern Highlands Province, PNG

Stephen Williams – Writer of fiction. Levani Valley, Southern Highlands Province, PNG

Stephen Williams – Writer of fiction. Graveyard, Levani Valley, Southern Highlands Province, PNG

Stephen Williams – Writer of fiction. Woman and child, Levani Valley, Southern Highlands Province, PNG

On another holiday, I visited a Ghanaian volunteer in the Trobriand Islands. The villages there were used as a coastal setting in ‘Nothing But Rainforest’ for the fictitious community of Akolau.

Stephen Williams – Writer of fiction. Village, Trobriand Islands, PNG