Sometimes smells get me. It has happened to all of us at one time or another, the waft and flavour of something triggers a reaction, a memory or another sense. There is a smell. It is a hot pavement smell. But not just hot. Very hot. And there is the dust. Dust beaten by the relentless ferocity of the sun, stirred gently by a threadbare wind.
There is a moment. A moment where I am standing on a street that is unaccustomed to heat, in a land usually drenched in rain and gloom. And then I am not.
It is hot. I am walking down a street? A path. The path is not of concrete, but of earth and stone and dust. The heat is relentless, the discomfort punctuated by the brief respite of tree-spun shade. Ahead of me lies the town, behind me the voices of my brother, our friends and their mother. I am walking on a dirt path high in the mountains, in a land of mountains and jungle and heat.
We are walking to Kainantu. It has been over a year since we moved here, and in a few months time we will be gone, prudence for our safety more than overcoming my father's formidable courage. In less than a year he will be kidnapped at knifepoint, and only the cliche of a dive from a moving car saves him from death. We will move because of it.
I am not yet eight.
The day is hot and we are going into town to visit my mother and do some shopping. I am too young to recognise the ramshackle nature of the place, or to fully understand that the men hanging around, waiting to spend their kina on alcohol and betelnut, are casualties of an economy and world not of their making.
It is hot, but the thought of frozen juice is in my mind, anticipated with a child's singular delight.
That morning we had raced down the valley side on which our house perched, the cardboard sleds protecting us from laser sharpness of the tall grasses as we hurtled to the valley floor. We did it time and time again, breathless with exertion and excitement. Across the valley is the crude golf course the expats had constructed years before. On Sunday my father will sit on our porch, whisky in hand, and play Scotland the Brave to golfers at full volume, just as he does every Sunday. Theirs will be a ribald and affectionate salute.
We go to school in a dumper truck, a mass of laughter and shouts and excitement piled haphazardly in the back. The missionaries who teach us treat us all with a care and attention and a fairness that I do not recognise as unordinary. We are many; native, white, black, asian and mixed. We are children.
I am not yet eight and I have been into the bush and into the villages and seen women birth into the dirt. I have seen sing-sings and sat in the midst of battles of spears and guns and teargas. I have climbed trees and paddled in rivers. I have walked and explored and adventured, with only my dog Whisky at my side.
I am walking down the path, to see my mother, and later, when the sun starts to set, my father will be home, and I am looking forward to seeing them both together.
And then I am standing on a pavement, in a land removed by time and distance and memory, with tears in my eyes.