Yesterday I met 10 year-old Benjamin.
Benj had a crossword puzzle spread in front of him.
He was slouched over his aunty’ s buai market table, occasionally pushing the market items so he could see the spread better.
I looked over his head trying to figure what he was doing.
“Hi ma’am, how can I help you?” As he dropped the pen.
I was taken a back by his English fluency and smooth accent, but more so at his level of mannerisms.
“Ahhh, not really, was wondering what you are doing?”
“Can I ask?” He paused and continued, “do you have a dictionary on hand?”
“As a matter of fact I do.”
I unzipped my back pack and handed him my pocket dictionary.
“Thanks ma’am, I have one in my room, but I can’t leave the market. ”
“How old are you?”
“Ten and a half, ma’am.”
“Where do you go to school?”
“The Baptist school across the round-a-bout, the one next to Digicel headquarters.”
I was speechless, he articulated his directions sounding so polite yet rushed.
“Do need help with that?” I nodded to his cross words.
“Yeah, ok, sure, if you have time?
“I am waiting for my pick up, let me see.”
Lo and behold, he completed the full sets on the crosswords with a pen.
“I need a seven letter word beginning with C.” Benj said.
“Benj, you so intelligent, I don’t even have the patience to complete a full set. I gotta hand it to you, you’re excellent.”
Massive words.. Quicksand, dungeon, demeanour he had it down.
“Did someone help you?
“Nope, he frowned at me, with a hint of insult.
“I have never met a kid as young as you doing crosswords, it’s sort of a old man’s game.”
“No it isn’t, it’s everybody’s game. It’s great way to learn new words.”
“You’re my kind of party people.”
“Arrggghhh I can’t get this word.” He stretched out.
“At peace… happy, happiness, euphoria, erratic,” biting into the biro thinking heavily.
“Let me see.”
“Here!” He shoved the paper over the table’s edge.
I instantly picked up the word.
“You know?” He asked breaking into a smile.
“I think so.” I replied quickly.
“You’ve got C there.
Think Benj, when someone is happy and settled with life and doesn’t need anything more to make him happy, how do you describe that state of being?”
“Oh hell devils den, CONTENT!” He screamed.
“Benj, I think I am going to make a status out of you. Can I get your picture and post and tell everyone about you.
“Oh thank you, ma’am, but no thanks, I don’t like random people seeing my picture.”
“Well then, can I give you a hug, you so super intelligent.”
I gave him a hug.
As I walked off, he ran after me,
“Ma’am you left your dictionary.”
He handed the dictionary with glee.
“Ma’am, you’re my party people too, I have never met anyone with a dictionary in their bag.”
We high fived each other as I left.
All is not lost Papua New Guinea ☺