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.

Monday, December 20, 2004

In The Press

PNG is getting a bit of press down here for once. Perhaps it is the fact that a there has recently been a joint ministerial forum that has been held between the two countries in Lae of all places. Alexander Downer was there, so was that big cheese Amanda Vanstone. Quite a few things have been discussed and a lot of them good ideas by the sounds of it.

Vanstone was there on behalf of the idea of giving Working Holiday visas to PNG nationals. A good idea if you ask me. Get some of the youth up there down here to work for a while and see how things are done in a developed nation and then let them port those skills and ideas back into their own nation. The only problem I can see is how are they going to afford to get down here in the first place.

Downer was there because the Aussie cops are out on the beat in Port Moresby now - here is a good non partisen view. There are really only a handful that are in the country at present and as to what real difference they will make is debatable. In fact in total there will be only 200 cops around the country - hardly enough to dent crime, though it should have a better effect and help sort out the corrupt local cops.

Of course it is not just PNG that has its problems. There are plenty of them here too. I was reminded of this when I went out on Friday night with guys I used to work with and then came home late. Outside a local pub close by were a stack of cop cars, including detective and forensic ones. At 7:30 I was awoken by a banging on my front door. I answered it to a young copper who was taking statement to see if I had seen anything happen around 12:30 the night before. I told him I was out and then asked what happen.

It seems that the owner of the pub had been hit with one of his bar stools by some drunken yobs. The incident has gained a bit of press. The latest today being that the owner has now died. Just goes to show that it is not only PNG that can be a violent place. It is everywhere.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Back In "Civilisation"

Well it has been over a week since I have updated here and over a week since I have been back home proper. There could possibly be a connection there I think.

As to what I have been doing, well getting back in to doing things I have missed since being in PNG for most of the year. Some of the highlights have included:

  • Visiting a pub
  • Browsing a bookstore
  • Going to the Cricket!
  • Watching a film on a big screen
  • Parties and piss-ups with mates
  • Lazing around at a friends place
  • Getting back to the family farm
  • And of course being back home with the oldies and siblings

It is funny how you miss the simple things when you can't do them. But it is also funny how it does not take much to get your fix. I am not saying that I am over being back home, in fact I am enjoying it immensely, but I guess because they are small things that you miss therefore it is easy to do them.

I was pretty lucky with a couple of the things I have done over the last week. I originally was not going to the cricket at the SCG last Wednesday night, my old man was. He always gets free tickets and goes with his long time accountant mate, but this time he had overbooked himself, by flying back from Shanghai in the morning, so he gave his ticket to me and it turned out to be a father, son bonding session.

On Thursday I sent an e-mail to my old workmates, asking them if they were keen for a bit of a piss-up. Half an hour later I get a phone call from my old boss inviting me to the department Christmas party in the Rocks that night. Nice timing. I was great to catch up with all the old colleagues, and it was almost like I had not been away for the year. There were a couple of new faces, but mostly it was all the same people.

Saturday night was another party. This time with old mates from school, some of whom I have not seen each other for over five years. It was nice timing too since it has been ten years now since I finished school. So there was plenty of reminiscing.

Catching up with the family was the first thing I did once back. I went straight away up to where my oldies are, up in the Hunter Valley. I stayed up there, checking out all the changes that have been happening with what they are involved with, basically just enjoying their company.

And there is more of the same for the weeks ahead. Christmas is just around the corner. I have to get some shopping done for that, not something that I really enjoy doing, but have to. I am still making plans to catch up with other friends, and planning what I will be doing over New Years, which is very important. I have also to do other less exciting things like go to the dentist to fix a hole in my back molar, and see a doctor, which I am not looking forward to, but again have to do it. Anyway I have plenty to keep me busy.

Ohh and if anyone is wondering about the previous post and if I managed to catch a flight back. Luckily I managed to get the flight at 6:40, half an hour after the one I was supposed to be on. I still have shudders though just thinking about if I had lost my laptop.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

One Stressful Minute

Everyone has had one of those moments when it feels like your stomach fills with lead and falls south. When you suddenly realise something is terribly wrong and you freak.

It is a feeling that only happens for a spilt second before you take action to counter it. But it is still long enough for you to remember for a long time.

Well I had one of these experiences last night at Brisbane's Domestic Airport.

Finishing up at the conference, me and another participant had booked a cab to get us from Qld Uni to the airport. Of course Brisbane being Brisbane it managed to get stuffed up.

The cab company's computer fell over or something and all their bookings were lost. I had a 6:10 flight to Sydney, and we booked the cab for 4:15. By 4:30 we were ringing the cab company to find out what was going on. They said there would be over an hour wait before we would be able to get picked up. Great.

This was not my reason to feel sick to stomach though.

Plan B was implemented. We had to get to Toowong train station and catch a train to Central and then swap and get to the airport. The only problem was getting to Toowong. The buses around the campus are pretty efficient but it was now closing in on 4:45 and after a quick check we discovered that the next train from Toowong was at 5:10.

We needed quick action. So with the help of the Women's College manager we persuaded with the help of a generous tip to get the bar and kitchen staff to drive us. They were just young guys doing a part-time job to earn a bit of cash, so they didn't mind one bit.

We got dropped out at Toowong and caught the train in to Central. After a bit of a wait around we then transferred on to the train to the airport. The now six of us loaded up the luggage rack provided and gossiped while keeping check of the time.

It was closing in on 6 when the train pulled up at Domestic the final stop. I was first off the train charging off to get to the check-in counter to see if I could still some how miraculously get my 6:10 flight.

I was inside the terminal still steaming on when I realised. Like I said my stomach suddenly felt like a lead balloon. I had left my laptop bag on the luggage rack.

I parked my main bag beside a column - which I know is not a great thing to do in an airport - and then raced off back to the station. Back outside I could still see the train at the platform. Heart racing, feet pounding, arms pumping, I hurdled the steps up the escalator two at a time. Dodging through on coming travellers wheeling their bags I kept praying the train would not pull out and head off.

I was preparing to hurdle the gates when I saw my laptop bag beside the ticket booth. One of my new found friends from the conference who I had just goodbye to on the train before charging off, had collected the bag and left it at the booth. She was still explaining to the ticket seller the story when I came charging up.

I saw the bag, saw her, collected the bag, thanked her and then thanked my lucky stars that I wasn't a couple of thousand dollars worse off. A now out of breath, but happy me, returned to the terminal, praising my now best friend for life while slagging off myself for being so stupid.

In one minute I had managed to induce more stress on myself than I have done in the whole time I have been in PNG.

Oh, I managed to collect my main bag again also, without a swarm of SWAT guys surrounding it.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Bloating Conference

These conferences are designed to make you fat. I am sure of it. I have just come back from breakfast, where the selections on offer would not look out of place in Windsor Castle.

Bacon, hash browns, eggs, sausages, baked beans, croissants - plain or with a sausage inside, tomatoes, etc. Then there were about 10 varieties of cereal (which I have been loving - don't get much in PNG let me tell you). At the lunches there were about five different types of meat on offer. Dinner was much the same, massive selection. It is all a bit much for little ol' volunteer me. As the Yorkshiremen in Monty Pythons's Flying Circus would say "Lukshirie".

One day knocked over of the conference so far and it has been an eye opener. The best piece of news I have heard the whole time, has been about a cheap and fast satellite internet service, that would make a lot of things technically possible in what I am trying to achieve. Some of the presentations have been great. I was really impressed by what the Solomon Islanders have been doing to connect their islands together, they call it the People's First Network or Pipol Fastaem in pidgin. Shows what can be done with a bit of ingenuity, low technology and hard work. I actually read about these guys earlier this year, it is good to meet the manager of it.

Apart from that I am having a hard time adjusting to the time the sun comes up here in Brisbane. Too bloody early! Back in Lae, you can guarantee that the sun will come up around 6 and go down around 6. All year round. Here it is peeping its yellow dial out around 4:30! By the time 6 comes around it is blazing daylight.

Yesterday morning I actually thought my watch had stopped at some point through the night. When I read it, it said 6 o'clock. No way I thought, it looks like the sun has been up for hours. So in a mad dash I scramble around looking for my mobile phone to check the time off, but I could not find it. So then because I think I am running late for breakfast or the conference I get dressed and head out the door. Only to find no one around. My watch was correct.

Thankfully Sydney has their heads on forwards and have a thing called 'Daylight savings time' and I will finally be there on Friday night. Yay.