An Australian volunteer who was doing whatever volunteers do in PNG.
I was there for 2 years until Dec 2005 .. I hope I made the most of it.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Work Tripping to Goroka

I have been and returned from Goroka again, but this time it was for work and not a holiday, although it seemed a bit like one. Drove up on Thursday with the printer guy from the office, Sanga, who can only speak in pidgin. Managed to get by on the communication front without too much hassle. Although I am still mixing a few words up in my tok pisin (pidgin). An example would be "Wanem" and "Likem". The former means "What" and the second can mean either "I want" or "I like". So occasionally I will say "Mi wanem dispela kau kau" instead of saying "Mi likeim dispela kau kau" (I want that sweet potato). Anyway my vocabulary is slowly increasing and like I said I am getting by most of the time.

Up in Goroka I stayed with my "wantoks", Monica and Widya, while I dumped my colleague off at a guest house. Much more homely with friends. On the Friday night I met a new volunteer from AVI who has been there a month now (hard to believe I have been here for four) whose name is Jennifer. She is working in the local government in some capacity that I can't remember. Monica told me beforehand that she was a bit weird, and I tend to agree with her now, though perhaps just a tad eccentric or crazy is more apt. I did invite them all along to my Tropfest film festival that I am having mid June. Monica and Jennifer will come down, but Widya, is too much of a stick in the mud to even attempt to bother to see any other part of the country. There are some people I just don't understand and those are usually the ones that have no desire to travel. Ohh well. In case you hadn't heard I received the DVD of the 2004 Tropfest finalist, so seeing as I wasn't there this year I decided to host my own. I sent out a cool e-mail to all the local volunteers and ex-volunteers in Lae that I know, the response has been good so I should get about 20 people turn up. I am going to borrow a multi-media projector and use a laptop and sheet to recreate the atmosphere of the Domain in February, or so I hope. Something to keep a real tropo sane at least, nothing like a big bash to do that.

On the drive back from Goroka (4½ hours) on Saturday I made the mistake of stopping in at the frontier town of Kianantu (picture a one street town, add about 2000 people wandering aimlessly up and down, and you have it). The reason was because there is a cool Cultural Centre (apparently) that I was told to visit by various people. Well after trying a few combinations of my limited pidgin to describe to Sanga that I wanted to see the Cultural Centre (conversation goes something like this - "Mi likeim long lukim long Cultural Centre" somehow that phrase just kept getting misinterpreted - I think it was the words "Cultural Centre". Perhaps I should have used this phrase "Mi likeim long lukim haus bilong olpela sompela" - I want to see the haus with old things), I eventually found a sign for the Kianantu Lodge that had I also heard about and headed towards that. Something in my brain twigged that the cultural centre and lodge were connected. Anyway I was wrong, so after drive up a hill on rough road and talking to the security guard, I discovered that the centre was back down on the main road. Sanga at this time became animated as he now knew what the hell I now wanted, so he took the steps in directing me to the building that I was after. Before I got there I dropped Sanga off (who is actually from Kianantu - hence my initial thought that he would know where the place was), as I thought he may want to meet up with his wantoks while I wandered around looking at pottery and rugs etc. I do have a kind streak you know.

Well it then turned out that the centre was not open anyway (later I actually found out that the shop was open and where I had been directed to was the factory), as it is closed on the weekend (so much for tourism in this country), so I now had to find something to do for the next half and hour while I waited for Sanga to return. One of the cardinal rules in this country is never expect a Melanesian to abide by time. Most of them don't even have watches, those that do will still look at the sun first. So half an hour turned into a 3/4 of an hour then an hour wait. Have you ever had to wait in a nothing town with nothing to do for that long? Well I can now tick that box. Actually I ticked it a while ago waiting on the border between Russia and Mongolia (5 hours then) - but hey that is another story. I used the time to collect some provisions consisting of a can of drink, some scones and chewing gum, and then walked up and down the busy street, whence upon I decided to wait for my colleague to return. Eventually he did but not before telling my I have to drive down the a side street to the market where he then had to go and collect his "pikinini bilong mi" (kid). This involved him trotting off again past the market to some villages. Before he left, I told him if he wasn't back in 10 minutes he could catch the bus back to Lae. I think it was the first time I had seen a local run. He was back in 5 minutes, kid in tow.

Well last night was a big night in the social lives of PNG'ers everywhere. It was the annual clash between New South Wales and Queensland in the Rugby League State of Origin. It beats the hell out of me why a bunch of people living in another country would get so passionate about a particular team that they have no connection with what so ever. But they do and they really do get passionate about it. So far no stories have emerged, but I'm sure it will that a loser was pissed off with his wife/girl friend/mate who supported NSW (who deservedly won) and decided to beat her/him up. Apparently it happens every year. Last year some guy was killed in one of these fights. As to myself I went into town with my boss to watch the game at a club. It was good to give it to him afterwards as he supports those noneities from north of the border.

Well as you can see I have attached a pic from my trip back from Goroka. I hope you enjoy. It is from the spot at an altitude of around 1500m where you start to descend from the highlands down to the Ramu/ Markham valley, which Lae lies at one end of. When I stopped I whipped out the camera and did some shots, and stitched it together into a panoramic. From the point where I took this photo, it is about another 150km to Lae (way off to the right-hand side of the pic), or if you head to Madang (off to the left) another 200km. The valley itself is about 20km wide and 300km long and is pretty much dead flat the whole way. The reason is because it sits astride the point where the Australiasia plate meets the Pacific plate (so does Lae incidentally), and causes a type of rift valley.

The Ramu/Markham valley from the Kasam pass

Of course the camera can't quite convey the actual experience of standing there and looking down into the valley with the wind still nice and cool, watching the smoke swirl from the sugar cane burning in the Ramu Sugar fields, but at least you get an idea of what it's like.