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.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Pet Hates

OK, maybe it is because I have been here a while now, but there are a few things now that are starting to bug me. So I thought I would have a bit of a whiny session and put all of these pet hates into a list of the top 5. Let me add first though that these are bearable and it is just me having a whinge. I will make up a list of the top 5 things that I love just to counter this one, and to let you know it is not all bad. So anyway here they are counting backwards from 5 down to the real annoyer.

5. Loitering:
OK I might be a hit harsh, seeing as the unemployment level here is very high, but it gets on my nerves how people will just loiter around for a whole day waiting for something to happen. You go into town to the shops and you will have to walk past a dozen people just sitting around chewing Buai, looking at you as if you are today's entertainment.

If some sort of action happens, ranging from construction workers laying water piping, to a raskol being chased by a security guard and to a preacher spealing out his gospel it will always attract a massive crowd because people have nothing else to do. Invariably though it is usually men in this category because due to the Melanesian culture the women will be out in their gardens, or down at the market selling there produce.

4. Blackouts:
Power problems are a really big issue here, it seems to be going off and on every other day, which makes it is a massive pain when you are typing away, and the power goes out, and the two hours of database changes you have just done are all gone. Of course you learn how to deal with this and make sure saving is taken care of, or in my case make sure a UPS is purchased to give you the opportunity to save and shut down.

What is worse though is when you think you are doing the right thing, and save all your docs and files onto the University Staff server, which you were told was backed up, only to find out after the thing dies from the power going off and on that in fact it had not been backed up for 6 weeks, in which time you have created a complete database of computer assets - about 6 weeks worth of work. Ahhh. Lucky I am an easy going guy. If only I could infiltrate the ITS dept and fix their systems up, and teach those no hopers a thing or two.

3. Personal hygiene:
OK, again I might be being harsh here, as most people live in simple village huts on the edge of towns, but it still doesn't stop the fact that the smell in our department dramatically increases in the afternoon when we are open to all the student enquires. It is a strong musty odour that permeates throughout the office, seeping into every corner. I know this as I am about as far away from the front desk as you can get.

In the first weeks that I was working here it made me nauseous and even gave me headaches, such was the combined strength of the dozen or so sweaty students. I think I have either now grown accustomed to it or perhaps it is the fact that I am now making sure that if it becomes too unbearable I open the louver windows in my little office, in the hope of extinguishing the smell.

2. Dogs:
I used to really like dogs. Unfortunately the dog tolerance level has now been stretched. On their own they are great. But when you get the cocktail of there being masses of them, throwing in the fact they are treated like dirt, mix in copious amounts of doggie hormones running wild - looking for a bit of lovin' - and it's pretty bitter drink to swallow.

Fights break out all the time, anytime. Howling is started by a single specimen and then the whole place erupts in a communal howl, not good at four in the morning. Watch where you step or you might be spreading it around all over the sole of you shoe and footpath.

1. Spitting:
It is not hard to work out why this is a pet hate. I was warned before I went to China, by people and books, that the spitting there was pretty bad. It was not pleasant, but it was not that bad - though in the mornings the Chinese do get a good hack going trying to clear the sinuses - pleasant. But now that I have been in PNG I can safely say it is on another level here, in type and quantity.

Here the problem is not only just people spitting on the ground, which happens all the time - can't they just swallow it - but it is exasperated and made ten times worse by the added combination of Betel Nut (buai) chewing. With the Betel nut, you get the unsightly look of a massive wad of red being deposited anywhere convenient. You can tell when it is coming, the cheeks are bulging, and they are looking around for the nearest spot to let loose. In the centre of towns this is usually in a communal rubbish heap turned unsightly bright red with gallons of spit, add the fly's that gather and this becomes quite unpleasant.

You have to be careful where you go, sit and who to talk to otherwise it could be unpleasant case of you wearing some red stuff. Personally I have nearly been hit whilst departing from a PMV - always a particularly dangerous time, once those piles of junk are stopped people feel the need to lean out the windows - and have worn some by a drunk guy who wanted to have a conversation with me. Flecks flew when he talked about what a great relationship PNG and Australia had or how the Maroons were going to win the State of Origin series or some other such spakman (pidgin for a drunk guy) talk. I had to occasionally wipe the stuff from my face.