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, February 28, 2005

Crazy Letters and Views

I am going into 'serious mode' again. I just have to report and comment on some of the crazy stuff that you see in the letters section of the newspapers here. This was from a little while ago:
Make condoms an illegal product
The AIDS virus is spreading across our nation and the globe like a bushfire. Any mode of preventive measures by the governments and other agencies have failed as far as the records and statistics are concerned.
The AIDS prevention 'awareness' campaigns have so far campaigned with double-edged slogans. On one hand, "AIDS is a virus that kills the human race by way of sexual contact". On the other , "It is okay to have sexual contact s long as you use a condom".
The double-edged scenario here is that "it is okay by laws of this land or by any standards to have sex outside marriage and have fun. As long as one uses a condom he or she doesn't contact the AIDS virus and pass onto the married partner". It basically means that the laws allow sexual contact and adultery but it's unlawful to pass the AIDS virus onto your partner, as this would eventually be passed onto the other's married partner.
What a joke! By any standard, having sex outside marriage is supposed to unlawful and traditionally unethical and the law of this land prohibits that.
Now the AIDS awareness campaigners and their agencies are promoting that sex outside marriage is alright as long as a condom is used, but is illegal to pass and multiply the AIDS virus to others. We should talk real and serious on this deadly virus by upholding any law on sex outside marriage and immediately put a stop to and make condoms an illegal commodity in the country.
Eric, Goroka

Hmmm, where to start on this. First, I am not sure where he is getting these quotes from, but my hunch is that they are ones he is just making up. I can't imagine an AIDS awareness campaigner saying "it is okay to have sex outside marriage and have fun".

Second, his argument seems to be the old 'abstinence vs. condoms' one, although he goes in a roundabout way by saying the law should step in and police adultery - easier said than done. That approach is also forgetting a large swath of the population who are sexually active, yet not married - something he just seems to have forgotten.

Thirdly, he doesn't actually say it but I assume he blames condoms for promoting promiscuity hence they should all be banned. It is a disjointed argument and I am kind of hoping that the reason is because of the editing done by the Post-Courier. Otherwise it looks like I am attacking a poorly written diatribe that doesn't even deserve mentioning.

It seems like they are breeding these guys up in Goroka. At the Goroka show last year there was a stand by a local AIDS awareness group, that went against all convention and logic by condemning condoms in a very public way. They wanted to get rid of condoms as well not because they promote promiscuity, but because they don't work. Had handwritten drawings and diagrams were tacked up in the stand to aid their argument, that the AIDS virus passes straight through and therefore do not use them. I think their alternative advice was just to abstain.

The guys there were probably Catholic, or have been reading some of the stuff that the Vatican has been saying in recent years i.e. that condoms are permeable and the virus passes straight though. According to the WHO though that is of course a load of bollocks.

I have nothing against the abstinence argument, but recent reports suggest that this just does not work. There is no doubt though that condoms need to be used as the chief weapon to fight this battle.

Unfortunately everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if they are backward. Hopefully education will be able to not only help defeat the looming AIDS crisis here but also the backward thinkers - a double-edged attack.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Bedroom With A View

It is a human trait to just adapt, accept and forget. Sometimes you need to wake up and appreciate the little things. So it is that I have to remind myself that I won't get to view the Sarawagets looming just out of reach back home.

Through the louvres

Misty early morning

Friday, February 25, 2005


As requested in the comments from my Congrats Time post, here is a synopsis that John has written regarding his book AIDS: My Brother's Story. I am not sure when it will be available to purchase, but if you are keen you can contact Longmans Australia.
The book AIDS: My Brother's Story was prompted by my elder brother Jimmy (alias) who is the main character in the book. When Jimmy found out he had AIDS, he was devastated. He also did not know what to do. He tried to hide the disease and blame it on the asthma, because he was a heavy smoker. But soon people in the village caught on and while being sympathetic of the physical degradation of his body, many thought it was his problem and he deserved to die.

Jimmy accepted the fact that he had made a mistake and would now pay for it. But he wanted others, elder people like himself and even youths to know more about the consequences of the disease/virus. He therefore, asked me to write his story and the books AIDS: My Brothers Story is in fact his story, written by me. He believed that if someone could read a factual story about the AIDS epidemic and stop unprotected sex, it may save his life. This would make him happy to know that one life had been saved through reading the story in a book form.

The book tells about the AIDS virus and how it affects the immune system (our physical body). It tells the trauma of looking after one person with AIDS. The heart of gold, that is required of a person to clean the waste, urine and filth deposited on the sheets because in the final stages of the virus attacked, like Jimmy, a person is unable to control his bowl movements. To clean and wash a person smelling of shit is not an easy thing. Jimmy saw this happening and was deserved.

But my family regraded him as one of our own. He was a brother, father, son, uncle friend to many and we looked after him. He wanted people to know that please, "never neglect a person with AIDS." He needs to know you love him and if you take care of him positively, he will die a happy man. That's all they need, OUR LOVE and CARE, until they meet their deaths.

I am glad that the National AIDS council has taken the initiative to use the book to help fight the spread of AIDS. The public, after reading a real life story of an AIDS suffer and his struggles to accept his fate, can make the right choices in life. Young people can read book and know that AIDS does not pass through touch or by sitting on a persons bed. These phobias are not warranted. "You can get AIDS through Unprotected Sex as Jimmy did. One mistake and it caused him to die, and in the most terrible way." That is the message and we all have the freedom of choice.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


Two sad diasters have made the news in the last day. The first one was one of a harrowing ordeal that lasted for over two weeks. Below is the report as it appeared in the Post Courier.
Four found after harrowing ordeal
FOUR out of six people who went missing in Manus seas were found 18 days after their canoe capsized early this month.
However, two children - a boy aged nine and a girl aged seven - died of exposure after clinging on to their capsized canoe for two weeks.
Manus administrator and chairman of the Provincial Disaster Committee Wep Kanawi said the six - three adults and three children - were on their way to Mal Island from Liot Island in the Ninigo group when they met their fate early this month.
They were taking the children to school when they were hit by a big storm which caused their canoe to overturn.
Mr Kanawi said they clung to the overturned canoe and drifted on the open sea for 18 days.
Two children however died from exposure two weeks after their canoe capsized and the survivors held on to their bodies for another week, hoping to be found.
Mr Kanawi said without food and water, the four could not hold on to the bodies any longer so the two children were buried at sea. Their bodies were bound together, wrapped in heavy material and sent to the bottom of the ocean after a brief funeral service.
Last Thursday, the four people arrived on the shore of an uninhabited island, which was about 35 kilometres from the eastern tip of mainland Manus and 15 kilometres from Biti Island.
Mr Kanawi said the four were then rescued by some people who had gone fishing at the island.
He said the survivors had drifted for 650 to 800 kilometres in rough seas and windy conditions for 18 days.
The four survivors were now recovering in Lorengau hospital after being treated for hypothermia and skin problems.
The second one only happened on Tuesday. I cut and pasted the report as it appeared in the New Zealand Herald but it is also on the front page of today's Post Courier.
Two New Zealand pilots have died in a plane crash in western Papua New Guinea.
The two men were flying a Twin Otter aircraft with 11 people on board when it crashed in Star Mountains.
The pilots were working for the Mission Aviation Fellowship which today named them as Richard West, from Auckland and Chris Hansen, from Rotorua.
A spokesman for the fellowship, Rick Velvin, said both men were married with children and their families were in Papua New Guinea.
Mr Velvin said the ten passengers and one other crew member on the plane were not seriously hurt.
They were all Papua New Guinea nationals, he said.
TVNZ reported that the plane crashed as it approached an airstrip in bad weather.
The mission's general manager in Papua New Guinea, Mike Jelliffe, said the deaths of the two pilots had rocked the community.
"We weren't able to receive identification of fatalities until late yesterday afternoon.
"It has a huge impact on us. We are operating out to many of the rural communities and the communities are in shock as we are," Mr Jelliffe told NZPA.
The crashed aircraft was based in the western area of Papua New Guinea.
Mr Jelliffe said the mission was now concerned with maintaining a service to the people in the area and would re-evaluate its entire programme.
"We are setting up processes to debrief our staff today."
He said staff would be offered counselling and support and special arrangements had been made for the families of the dead pilots, who had yet to be named.
There is a reason that I am mentioning these stories here. It is because they are both things that I have done in the last six months. I took a banana boat in Manus on that week long trip and mum and me flew with MAF, in the same type of plane - a twin otter - when she was over. I even suspect that one of the guys who was co-piloting on that trip is one who was killed, Chris Hansen.

These are the images that are appearing on today's Post Courier front page. The guy on the right was (I think) the one who piloted us in the Eastern Highlands.

It just goes to show again how easily it can all end. I am not one to question my own mortality, why bother doing that - I believe if your time is up it is up - but this has still brought it home that we are not immune to danger.

My Top 10 list hasn't changed. Though I was thinking of changing my plans for Easter to climb Mt Wilhelm again, instead of flying to Teptep. Not because I want to avoid flying with MAF, but because of the logistics of getting there, and the fact I don't want to use up some of my holidays just yet. Will save the Teptep trip for when someone comes and visits.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Current Bad Habit

Confession time. I have a bad habit that I am currently doing that I really shouldn't. Something that I never did back in Australia or elsewhere, but one which I have picked up here due to the circumstances.

My sin. Testing out my aim throwing rocks.

Innocent enough. Unfortunately my aim is being tested by the moving targets of scampering dogs. To be more precisely one dog, the neighbours across the road.

Explanation. Every afternoon upon coming home I find this bloody dog hiding behind the plants on my front porch. It seems to have taken a fancy to sleeping there. The first couple of times I just shooed it away, with a "piss off". That worked, but then it gets cocky and will run halfway across the street, stop, start scratching itself while smugly looking at me. Cocksure bloody thing! At this point I find the nearest stone to pick up and take aim, by which time it has scampered over to its own house across the street.

I usually missed by a long margin, but still managed to get a satisfying yelping sound out of the mongrel. All you have to do is throw a stone anywhere in it's vicinity and it will run off with a yelp.

That was how it started and unfortunately it never learnt it's lesson. It keeps returning and being more cocky. Although now it will, upon hearing me crunch the gravel walking up to the door, bolt out when I get close to it. My habit is getting worse though. Missing it was not enough. I wanted to hit it. So it has now progressed to me being ready upon walking home, finding a couple stones along the way, and being ready to rapid fire when it flies out.

Yesterday I managed to score. Once at close range and then another at a longer range while it was nearly across the road. Good throws really. Satisfying.

Is this wrong, to enjoy throwing stones at a dog? I mean I don't hate animals. I love them. But up here there are some dogs that really shit me. Maybe that is because there are so many and they make a hell of a noise at night barking and carrying on. Also the dog belongs to the neighbours across the road who really get up my nerves by having loud lotu (prayer sessions) at ungodly hours. Early morning around 6, or at 10 or 11 at night. Because it is still at that time, their singing, clapping and pounding on the floor noise travels straight across to my bedroom, cheesing me off. Taking aim at my dog is a satisfying 'get-back'.

I have been trying to teach Patches to rausim the thing. But so far it is just content to sleep nearby and wait until me or Martin returns home. You would think that my place being in her territory that she would be all over it in a flash, but no, she only starts to chase it once I am throwing stones.

I might have to try that old trick of leaving a plastic water bottle half full of water lying there, to see if that keeps it away. I have never worked out if that works or not. Maybe this is a good time to try and maybe that might stop me from my bad habit.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Flaps: A Not So Meaty Matter

Ahh lamb flaps. PNG's meat of choice. I promised I would discuss this and I don't go back on promises. Besides I have a good opportunity at the moment as I am being thrown this stuff to eat on a regular basis.

With this registration going on at the moment we have been getting a free feed (well the department pays) from the university Kopi Haus (coffee house). They don't do coffee - well you might get a cracked mug, a packet of instant and some hot water - but they do lunch boxes. Hence the following picture.

My lunch yesterday: delightful

A lovely meal of lamb flaps, thick gravy, the odd veg - either a bit of carrot and broccoli - all on a base of rice. Lamb flaps and rice stew.

Now at this point most people are now asking "what the hell are lamb flaps?". A valid question. I had never heard of this before coming to PNG either. The reason of course is that you would be hard pressed to buy them in Australia or any other westernised country as most people realise that they are just mainly fat. In fact judging from looking at them I think they are more than 50% fat, though probably average around the 30% mark.

It seems New Zealand is to blame (it's great to blame them for something). They have been dumping their mutton scraps on to countries that are too poor to refuse. You see the term lamb flaps is also a bit of a misnomer. The majority of the meat is actually mutton.

Of course NZ don't like being seen in this light, and have hit back. "Cook Lamb Flaps right and they're choice" says Meat New Zealand. Yeah, spend an hour trimming off all the fat. As if the local villager is going to do that. Chop it up, chuck it in the pot and gobble it down later, is more like it. Also how can Meat New Zealand be taken seriously by saying "choice" at the end of a statement?

Anyway, because they are so cheap, they have managed to become the favourite red meat added to meals. Not exactly sure of the price for a packet of five or so lamb flaps - not much of an investigative reporter am I - but I do know you can buy a big 20 kilo box of frozen lamb flaps for around K120. Making it around K6 (or AU$2.50) a kilo, cheap meat as I said. It is not uncommon to see people wandering around or hoping onto buses with a whole or sawn in half box of flaps perched on one shoulder.

As to what all this is doing to the population? Well you would be hard pressed to see any obese people here as of yet, the economic situation is a big reason for that and it is probably not in their genetic makeup like the Polynesians, but if they are banning it in other countries surely that is saying something. The people with money here - including some of my university colleagues - and are overweight do have various health issues that are only occurring because of a change of diet. Diabetes is on the increase and gout is quite a common complaint.

As to actually eating them. Well you have to have a strategy and good observation to make sure you are not swallowing chucks of fat. A sharp knife will help to slice away most of the gristle, or pick out the best cuts of meat and throw the rest of the sheep to a waiting dog.

Today my lunch was roast chicken and sweet potato chips. Better.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Congrats Time

I briefly mentioned previously about my colleague John who had written a book, AIDS: My Brothers Story. Well he launched the book last Wednesday, down in Moresby. It was attended by quite a few big wigs, and made the two national papers (National and Post Courier), and local TV.

To appear on Amazon soon

At the book launch - From the National

I have to say that I am pretty proud of him. This has been an ambition of his for years and luckily I am around when he gets his first book published and launched. Well done mate and a huge pat on the back.

This will also pretty good financially, as the book has been picked up by the Education dept and will be distributed to all the schools. He has been asking me questions about money, and even though my advice is probably not worth listening to, I have made sure to stress that he gets a good financial planner and invest the money - lock it away before all his wantoks come and grab it.

He also has another book published called "Mulzi", which is about a Papuan New Guinean boy who goes to University and the culture clashes. And he has another book in the pipeline, which he is writing and will be published.

To demonstrate what a small place PNG is, the guy in the photo, standing behind John, Daniel Paraide, was one of the attendees at the Telecentre conference, in Brisbane that I went to at the start of December. We had numerous chats during the conference.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Stick Figure

Yes more bloody pictures of insects. I promise this is the last, unless of course something more impressive turns up in my garden.

Martin found this guy in the backyard and called me out. Even though he is an old hand at this tropical caper he was impressed. I even think the day guard was impressed and he is a local. You can see him below holding it up, with it perched on a twig. I think he might even be an unknowing Buddhist as he helped it back into the guava tree after we took pics of it and not kill it like I thought he would.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Registration Time Again

For the last week I have been caught up in that wonderful time of year. Actually .. one of those wonderful times of year. The time when I help man the trenches and write out receipts, until my hand goes numb, to the long line of students wanting to do our courses.

It also is a time when I get to see the fabulous names that Papua New Guinean parents are naming their kids. From my limited experience I think the standard here for flamboyant and different names greatly exceeds other countries. Just from the last week I have seen quite a few that have given me images and flashes of other people. For example, here are ones that I have noted:

Ludwig - A deaf maestro
Woody - Cheers
Bono - Sunday, Bloody, Sunday
Napolean - Megalomaniacal short guy
Herman - Images of a big guy with a sloping forehead
Titus - One of the twin founders of Rome?
Kipling - Jungle book
Cresensia - Not sure about this one
Wondring - Same goes for this one
Sixtus - The other twin that founded Rome?

Of course there are quite a lot of biblical names in the mix (even old testament - Moses, Abraham, Solomon etc), with this being a very Christian country, but on the whole I think there are lot more cool and unusual names than most countries I know of.

Anyway got to get back to it. This is just a short break while the flow has trickled. All of next week is going to be the same. In fact it will be worse with it being the last week to get registered and today being payday Friday.

Arrgg .. actually really need to get outside at the moment .. the paint fumes from the extension work is making me feel sick.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Little Barber Shop Of DIY

There are some thing that you take for granted and don't think about before you leave to go to an exotic place. For one I didn't think that I would have to learn to be able to cut my own hair.

Of course there are hairdressers here. And I am sure they are alright. But barbers don't exist and I like going to a barbers.

Solution: Learn to cut your own hair. So I have.

Cheap cuts at the back door

Every four or five weeks, I pull my clippers out of the cupboard, grab some scissors, a little mirror and a comb and set myself up at the back door.

Number 4 up the sides and back to start with. Then number 3 but not as far up. Then 2 to trim the edges. That's the easy bit.

I don't worry about getting a totally even length, I like it a bit hacked looking. So hack away is what I do on top. The tricky bit though is at the crown, the bit I cannot see. There I run blind, taking it slow I eventually get there by touch and feel.

Trimming the edges is the other troublesome bit, especially the back. This can be achieved though by using two mirrors. Standing with my back to the bathroom mirror and holding up the little one. Dexterity is thrown out the window with this though as the poor old brain gets a tad confused, like the crown I eventually get there.

The whole time I am shirtless, so at the end I look like the world's hairiest man who has just escaped from a freak show and fled to PNG. Nothing a shower doesn't fix.

As to the result, I don't think it looks too bad, I am sure others will vouch for it. Well they haven't said anything about it yet.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The To Do List

The 10 things I should do in PNG before I leave:

1. Climb Mt Wilhelm from the Western Highlands side
2. Go up the Sepik river
3. Hike the Kokoda Trail
4. Visit the Trobriand islands
5. Learn to Scuba Dive
6. Stay in a remote village
7. Go to Teptep and climb 4000m unnamed peak
8. Cross border to West Papua
9. Whitewater raft down the Snake river
10. Land on a steep runway

Obviously I am not going to do all of those. But it is good to have an aim. One of the things I am thinking of doing is a trip to West Papua when I finish up. So I might be able to fit in numbers 2 and 8 in the one go.

I am seriously thinking of doing the Teptep trip this coming Easter. MAF fly there, they are same mob I used to when me and mum tried to get to the village in the Eastern Highlands. Logistics of when they fly is the problem. Every Tuesday from Nadzab. So it may be possible to fly up on the 22nd of March and back on the 29th, though I am not sure if Easter will disrupt there flying schedules or not. The other problem is getting someone to go with. Might see if Knox wants to go up there - unfortunately I doubt that he will have the cash to do so.

Also as I have noted before, MAF have a habit of forgetting your bookings if you make any. May as well give it a shot though?

All the trips are on the adventurous side, but hey you only live once.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Parking Rage

OK here is a little story that does not file under PNG life, but it's a good story to write about and this is as good a spot as any to put it. I wrote it a little ago and only now am bothering to post it. I should have done it straight after the event, so that it could have been part of Oz life. The chief characters are inner city Sydney, one car park, two cars, a few frayed temperaments and one crazy guy.

Back on New Years day, I was in ol' Sydney town, staying at my oldies house in the inner city. This area is pretty yuppified these days and with that comes a problem with on street parking. On crazy days, like New Years day, you get the occasional case of Parking Rage - an offshoot of road rage, part of the same family.

Anyway there were quite a few of us staying at the house, as a whole heap of us were doing the annual pilgrimage to the SCG for the cricket the next day. So parking spots for the casual tenants - let alone the rest of the city - was on the scarce side.

On this particular care-free evening, we were all out the front chatting and on alert for a park. With the lack of parks around we had one of our cars illegally parked across the back gate. Even though it is our gate, we can still get booked by the Brown Bombers, when they're hovering around, which seems to be all the time. Just three days earlier I had parked a car out the back and got a $75 ticket.

After a while a park becomes vacant almost in front of the house - prime location. So my sisters long-term boyfriend, Al, races out the back to get the car and his crazy mate Brian is asked to run over and stand in the park, warding off any would be intruders.

By the time Al gets the car round the front, which would have been less than 30 seconds, a Mazda Somethingorrather comes along and sticks it's blinker on. Brian being the absolute nutter that he is, lies down in the spot and plays innocent. For a moment there is a stand off, Mazda guy waiting, Al behind waiting for him to go and Brian just lying down relaxing.

The crowd of us, on the front steps watching, go into the 'too embarrassed to watch mode' and take shelter inside, peeping through the window.

At this stage the driver of the Mazda, an Indian guys, gets out of his car, walks up to Brian and politely asks him what he is doing and if he could move. He trots out the story that he has been driving around for half an hour on the look out for a spot. Brian politely explains that we are bagging the park, for the car behind his, as we had been waiting for an hour for one to come along. Polite exchanges continue, with neither side budging. Brian gazing up at the guy and the Indian waving his arms around.

From the front steps I decide that it is time to head over and explain that we are locals and that we have been waiting for this park for an hour and that even though we are locals we will still get booked by having our car parked across the back gate as it was. From the polite conversation that it was, my entrance into the debate takes it up a notch in the tension.

My explanation did not work for the bloke. With a continuation of his previous theme, he does not give up and keeps arguing his point that he was here first so therefore the park is his. With this he jumps in his car and creeps it forward almost willing to see if Brian will budge. It was a bluff though and he soon stops and gets back out.

With this, Al has decided to jump out and enter the fray. The Indian is now ringed by one crazy guy lying on the tarmac, one semi-reasonable guy in me and Al who immediately takes it up a notch and tells the guy to fuck off and go and find his own spot and with that turns and jumps back in the car to wait for him to leave.

The stalemate is going nowhere. A crowd has gathered in the windows of the pub across the road, bystanders are forming, one Indian guy is back in his car and two cars are waiting for the one spot.

I decide enough is enough and indicate to Al to just drive round the freak and reverse park in - which in hindsight is what he should have done much earlier.

Al does this and reverses in, Brian jumps out of the way and the prick jumps out of his Mazda Jap-crap, waves his arms and yells at me for telling him to do that. He then proceeds to inform me that he now knows where we live and that we better watch out. My retort was "And do what!?" to which no reply came. The park was filled, the bastard drove off in a huff and we were all worried that he was going to come back later and 'key' the car.

Luckily nothing was done to car, the car hardly ever goes down there so he would be doing well to find it there next time he is in the neighbourhood. But it just goes to show what a tension filled society that the western world has now become. Arguments breaking out over a bloody car park. A week early the pub two doors down was the scene of the owner being killed by some pissed off customers who threw a bar stool. A few days before that there was a bashing from a road rage incident in Glebe. Tensions, tensions everywhere, and they say PNG is a dangerous place.

Brian asking me "when the hell is Al going to park the car"


I will be writing more anecdotes from my past, usually regarding travel, but seeing as I want to keep PNG Life, just about PNG life, I created another blog awhile a go which I will use to post these tales to. It is appropriately called Nomad Tales (, and it will eventually take over as my long-term blog once PNG has been left behind. Keep an eye out for my first anecdote soon regarding the border crossing from Mongolia to China and the smuggler.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Village Escape

The usual weekend was operating as .. well .. usual, until that is yesterday. I got an invite from Nick, a fellow AVIer in town to join him for a trip out to a fishing village that he knew, on the coast, north of Lae. Always up for an adventure I immediately jumped at his offer.

It was not without trepidation though. You see Nick has a trail bike, one of those annoying bikes I used to curse growing up when the Fosters from the next farm tore around their paddocks making a hell of a noise. I had only been on the back of his bike once before and that was on a trip from town back to the Uni. The whole time I remember thinking "if we come off at this speed, most of my skin is going to be left behind on the bitumen".

But come yesterday morning I jumped on anyway and was waved off by the neighbours kids as we tore up my street. It seemed there was something about kids and motorbikes that drew attention to us. I spent most of my time on the back acting like a member of the Royal family waving to everyone waving at us. My hand didn't leave the grip for long though and it flashed back to keep tight.

My fears that I had had on the previous trip though were almost non existent on this sojourn. I got into the swing of things and enjoyed cruising along new roads with new scenery, crossing shallow river crossing, over rickety wooden bridges and through road works that were miraculously being done on a Sunday.

At times Nick let it rip and we passed trucks and cars chock-a-block with people, as though they were at a standstill. It was exhilarating to leave those villages-in-a-ute, full of wholesale smiling waving people, and their dust and let them have ours.

I had no idea how fast we travelled along these dirt/gravel roads at, as the speedo was not working, but Nick quietly informed me on the way back that we were doing over 100k's. In hindsight I wonder why I was not terrified. I am sure gravel hurts just as much as bitumen.

Out at the village, which ended up being about half an hours ride, I met Nick's befriended mate John. I also met his wife, his wife's sister, their cousins, his brothers-in-law, his sister-in-laws husbands and all their kids. A normal village really. Nick gave the wife some lamb flaps (I really have to talk about these in detail but I will do it later) for some lunch later. We had a brief chat, a catch up, talked about who I was and what I do and then we went for a swim.

The reason Nick comes out here in the first place is because the village is right on the water and you can swim and not be surrounded by multitudes of villagers. The beach itself is the typical flat surf variety that you get around here, with little sand and old dead coral underfoot in the water. Still it was great to paddle around and enjoy it. As I have said before, this town would be great if it had a decent beach.

After the was was long sol wara (swim) we went and had a look at some vanilla beans that were being dried by one of the village guys. Vanilla is one of the big boom agri businesses in PNG. A couple of years ago, the price per kilo had gone up to astronomical heights of K800-K900 a kilo, and there were guys in the Sepik (who had been farming the stuff for years) making a fortune. Now the rest of country has caught on to the craze and the price has dropped down to current levels of around K180 a kilo. The guy at the village had around a kilo drying on black plastic.

Later again, they got me to try buai (betel nut), the ubiquitous habit of PNGers. My impression, not worth the effort. You create voluminous red spit with the result being that you feel a bit light-headed, you get a mild shake and then you have a sweat. It was all over in about 10 minutes. I gave it another go later with little effect and ended up with lots of pulpy red stuff that I had clean out of my mouth.

Can't say I will rush back to try again. It seems these pacific habits just don't suit me i.e. Kava. Though, as they say, when in Rome ... Besides it is a great way to break down barriers with people if you try their customs, especially if they offer you some.

We storied some more for a few hours and then I got my camera out and shot quite a few shots around the village and the village kids. We had our kai kai (lunch), consisting of the lamb flaps, kumu and cooked bananas. Everyone joined in the feed, even the dogs, though Nick did cause a major fight between them when he threw a lamb flap bone to the wrong dog.

Around mid afternoon we headed back the same way we came, tearing up the dirt and gravel road, waving to kids and passer-bys. It was a brilliant day - confirmed by the fact that my shoulders became quite pink - and if I am offered again to go, I will again jump at the chance.

Village haus with parked bike

View over the Huon gulf

Fishing village life in its simplest

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Captured In The Garden

Having more fun with the macro lens on my new camera.

This guy looks particularly mean.

Is it Preying Mantis or Praying Mantis? Both would equally work.

Just googled and confirmed it is in fact praying. Bless.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Tropfest Nogat

Well Wendy didn't make the Tropfest finalists. It seems that unless you are in the industry already or the son of a famous playwrite, you don't have a chance. Plus the fact that there were 700+ other entries and only 16 spots for finalists. Oh well. Maybe next year.

I will therefore be premiering "All or nothing" at my planned Tropfest night (date TBA) if of course Wendy sends me a DVD copy of it.

Port Moresby On Alert

Here is a humorous little story that I received, via Larissa, from another AVIer, Mark, in Moresby. Mark is the manager for the city mission down there.

This is very recent, as it all happened in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
I just had to let you know about my latest head shaking episode. I just love it. Port Moresby has a lot of villages and settlements along the coast. Houses built on stilts over the water, thousands of people live this way. Now around this time of year, the tidal changes are more extreme, don't ask me why, they just are. Well around 2am this morning, the tide went out quite a long way. Someone from within the village has noticed this and put 2 and 2 together and got 5. Obviously it's a tsunami. Have you ever been in the water when someone yells "SHARK!!!" no one stops to confirm the validity of this statement, everyone just makes a mad dash for the land. Well the same thing happened here, its just taken one person to say "a tsunami's coming, look, the waters gone!" and 3 villages in a matter of ½ hour were cleared out.

At 2am this morning literally a thousand people had grabbed their belongings, piled into cars or ran up the hill past City Mission. Men, women, children, the elderly, dogs, everyone and everything. It was a mass evacuation. The boys from City Mission decide to go down to the village (only 200-300 meters away) to inspect this, sure the tide was out a long way, but what was even stranger was a completely empty village. The whole village had been woken up and whipped into a panic as they fled up the hill. Not only this village, the next 2 villages along the coast had done the same thing (aaahhh don't we love the power of the mobile phone). People from this village had called friends from the next village and told them about the approaching tsunami. Thus also whipping that village into a frenzy.

For the next 2 hours, people were ringing the City Mission asking for updates on if the wave has hit. By 4am the tide was slowly working its way back in again. But it took until 6am for the majority of people to feel safe enough to come back.

Now before I get emails of complaints, No, I am not making light of the terrible disaster that recently occurred. This is a separate incident and no one was injured (except for maybe pride and rest). So please, just treat this as it is, a slightly humorous example of how the masses can be so easily led by the few.
Thought I would share it on here - before L does on her blog :P. She does have some great pics of Hanuabada, one of these villages built over the top of the harbour.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


It doesn't happen very often but last night my brain actually clicked over and thought of something worthwhile. Usually it gets stuck in a loop arguing with itself about various irrelevant topics.

So last night as I was cooking dinner - a nice stir fry - my brains clicks (or was it a sudden 'pop') and a brilliant idea comes into my head. It was just like in a cartoon. Same thing. Light bulb pops up overhead. My finger goes up and I utter an "Ahhh".

I was thinking over the post I wrote yesterday and about buying myself a bike. Then this idea clicks and I think why don't I help out Knox and his riding club with a bit more of a contribution than just riding with them to Madang. Specifically why don't I use some of my skills and set up a website for the club.

The site could be filled with previous stories from trips, lots of photos, plans for future trips, why they are doing what they are doing and maybe even, if people are so willing inclined, have a Paypal account to get donations.

I know there are about a gazillion of these types of websites out there, trying to raise money for this appeal or that appeal. And I know everyone is currently appealed out due to the big disaster. But still at least one thing will be achieved, there will be a little corner of the Internet devoted to a group of guys from Papua New Guinea, doing their own little bit to help stop the spread of AIDS and the devastation that it is no doubt likely to cause. Papua New Guineans helping Papua New Guineans.

According to some stats I have heard bandied about, in five years AIDS in this country will be as bad as in some African countries. I know I have promised before that I will do a write-up about AIDS in PNG, and I have not forgotten, it is on the list and as soon as I can find some hard facts I will finish it off and share it on here.

But back to the website. I have talked to Knox this morning and he is going to talk to the club executives to see if they approve. According to Knox this should be a formality. He can already see the benefit of it and his initial reaction was "yeah that's a really good idea".

I have also offered to go along to the club meeting (if they have something so formal) and have a chat with the guys and even join up. I guess if I am going to ride to Madang I should become a member of the club.

So there you have it, my brain actually, occasionally has worthwhile ideas. Watch this space for updates. And I will be counting on the regular readers to spread the word about the website, once it is up and running.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Another Buying Debate

Been thinking about getting a TV recently. But I am in a conundrum. Must be because I am a Libran.

"It has been over twelve months since you have had a TV, so why should you bother to get one now", the little white angel sitting on one of my shoulders says.

"Get one and then you can while away the hours on weekends watching sport and video clips", says the little red devil complete with pitchfork sitting on the other shoulder.

"But the cricket has now finished and you hate all the hip-hop and R'n'B shit those youngsters are listening to nowadays. All the movies shown are the shite type on Hallmark, you will be cursing the thing after a week". White says.

"The news, you like watching news. BBC, ABC even Fox". Red says.

"Exactly, don't get it, they have Fox News here". Good point.

"Don't listen to goodie two-shoes, think about it, you will be able to watch DVDs on a bigger screen than your laptop". True.

"The laptop screen is not too bad and besides think about the extra cost, a volunteers wage is pretty miserly and it will cost an extra 40 Kina a month just to use it". Very true.

"Ahh don't listen to that little know-it-all, listen to me I know what I am talking about". Alright you have now resorted to name calling, argument off!

I have decided what I am going to do. I will spend the money on buying a bike instead.

Even though I have already had one of these debates about buying a bike, I have decided that I will get one now anyway and there is a good reason for me to change my mind.

Knox our department storeman, who I have mentioned previously (he came up Mt. Wilhelm with me, and we made it to the top together - what a weekend that was!), has told me his tale about what he did during December.

With a group of other adventure minded locals, they took it upon themselves with their own initiative to gain funding for a bike ride from Lae to Port Moresby. It was all for a good cause, AIDS awareness and a Stop Violence Against Women campaign.

Now if you have ever looked at a map of PNG you will realise there is no road to Port Moresby. There is a reason for this. It is because there is a bloody big mountain range called the Owen Stanley's in the way, which includes some seriously challenging terrain. Even so PNG must the only country in the world where the two biggest cities are unconnected by land transport.

Anyway, they rode up the existing road as far as possible and from there they followed the bush tracks along what is called the Bulldog track. They all slept out overnight, met locals gave them leaflets and stickers and told them what they were doing.

He told me about one village in the mountains where the locals did not have any normal clothes and were still wearing bush clothes, grass skirts etc. He felt so sorry for them that he ended up giving them some of his shirts he had packed. I thought it was interesting that Knox would feel pity about his own countrymen who have been living in this way for millennia. Personally I think it is great that there are still people living in a traditional way - makes me wonder how many more of these villages are out there.

They eventually made it all the way to Moresby after a couple of weeks of tough work, where a lot of the time the bikes were riding on their backs as they carried them over impassable terrain. They were greeted by the media and met the politicians and then got stuck there because they didn't have the cash to get a flight back to Lae. Eventually Knox managed to get the cash from somewhere and arrived back - a week after I did.

So, as to why I want to get a bike. Well Knox has told me that they are going to be doing a similar ride from here to Madang at the end of the year, handing out leaflets and stickers and I thought that this would be just about the endurance that I would be able to cope with. So if I get a bike now, at least I would be able to put in a bit of training before the big event. May as well plan ahead. Beside it will be a great way to finish up my time here in PNG.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Search Queries

I was saving this for a rainy day (hypothetically speaking) and I guess you could call today one, because buggered if I can think of anything to post about. Well anyway here goes ...

When you start one of these blog things and start to add content, writing about events, thoughts and so forth, you forget that unlike the old days, when you had to actively promote (if you wanted to) your site on the search engines, these days they seek you out.

Another evolution in the web site technology is that today you can actually keep track of what searches people use to find your site. So it is with that I have keeping track of a few of the search queries, that people type into Yahoo or Google etc, which then leads them to my little blog here.

So today I will share some of the stranger and bizarre ones I have seen pop up. There has been ...

... the little bit misdirected ... "typical day in the life of a Myanmar student". - There is only about five thousand kilometres between here and Myanmar (Burma).

... the bit odd ... "Toyota coaster 30 seater buses". I know I have written about these in the past, but I am no used bus salesman.

... quite a few of the obvious ... "papua new guinea naked ladies". - You sad gits, go and buy some old National Geographics.

... the weird ... "New Guinea tribes have stick fights". - What the ... ?? They used to use spears and bow and arrows, yes, not sticks.

... and the downright strange ... "who's your papua". - I am sort of hoping this was a typo. Otherwise another, What The!

My only concern is that now I have actually posted with these words, they will got collected by the search engines and therefore more of these weird and wonderful people will visit. Enjoy!

Monday, February 07, 2005

Weekend Life

How a weekend these days usually pans out ... in pictures.

Starts off with a bit of swing in the hammock, complete with book in hand.

Movie on the laptop will come on later once I get sick of the book or the heat becomes too unbearable, whichever comes first.

And lately it has been going into town on Sundays and watching the cricket at Alex's, before going down to the Yacht club later for a bit of pool, food (burger), more cricket and of course more SP lager.

There you have a volunteers weekend life ... not that exciting really. Unfortunately I don't have any trips away with work planned. Of course there is always talk. So far I have been told I need to go to Madang at some point soon. Hopefully soon.

Oh ... let me know if you like the new title bar up top, complete with cool face-painted eyes.

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Sing-Sing: Part II

Thought I would add some more pics to the site ... seeing as not many interesting events are going at the moment and nobody wants to continuing reading me belly-aching on about the Queen.

So as I have finally got all the slide rolls that I have taken since being here digitised, and it just so happens to include quite a few from the big Goroka show Sing-Sing back in September, I thought I would share a couple.

There was more Passion. More colours. More movement. More bilas (finery). Plenty more noise. Lots of pride. Heaps of effort. Not as much sweat (cooler day). And of course more Singing than the Unitech Cultural show. But they were both good in their own way.

No idea what group these guys actually come from ... I should really ask one of my co-workers. To be sure though they are highlanders. Most probably from the Eastern Highlands.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Irked By Club Etiquette

After casting my discerning (although inebriated) gaze over the Huon club last week. I thought that I would highlight an interesting tradition from that other bastion of colonialism, the Yacht Club. The reason for this sudden interest is because I am still slightly irked off by an incident, involving that tradition, which happened there last Friday.

To call it an incident is probably overstating it, but if there is one thing that is guaranteed to irk me it is the combination of being told what to do and the Queen.

Now I don't mind following rules. I can handle that. I also don't have any problem with authority. So I admit straight up that I should have obeyed the club rules regarding wearing of a hat inside the club.

I also don't mind being told when I am doing the wrong thing. I would tell someone if they were doing something wrong, though in a, like I received the other day, amiable and jovial manner.

The problem I have though is that the reason I was in the wrong, for wearing a hat inside the club, was because there was a bloody picture of the Queen on the wall.

What the ...? Do people actually still care about the old bat that much? If there was no picture on the wall would it be ok to wear a sombrero? Showing off hairy legs sticking out of shorts is ok but covering a bald patch is not - not that I have a bald patch.

Besides it is not even that good a portrait, small, faded and with a thin border. The location is slightly dubious as well, hanging above the bar, slightly above other photos of the latest club renovations and about in line with the menu board. You can probably tell that I voted for a Republic at the referendum.

It gets worse, if you are caught wearing a hat, according to club tradition you can be in trouble. Old Bob, one of the long timers here, quietly whispered on Friday night that if the bell rings while I am wearing a hat inside, because of the portrait, I would have to buy everyone in the club drinks. I thanked him and promptly removed the hat and then stewed over it.

I shouldn't moan. I choose to go there. I guess I just need to abide by their rules. But what a wanky rule? Bloody old colonial geezers.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Out Of The Cupboard

I am finally coming out the cupboard.

It is being traded in for a new improved, updated, latest and greatest model. Complete with large window, lots of light, big benches, two network ports and partition walls so I can converse with my colleagues. All it needs is just to be finished off.

So big I need a fisheye lens to fit it all in the same photo

Yes our renovations are finally getting somewhere. Seems like it has taken forever. Actually it has taken forever! I remember seeing the plans 12 months ago for this. And work started 5 months ago back in September.

I am doing my little bit to hurry it up by crawling around underneath the extension running the network cable, sticking it conduit, drilling holes in the floor etc. Something at least to get me out of looking at monitors, writing proposals and trying to make old PCs work.

We officially should get the IT Services dept to do this for us, but I have used them before to network up ports and they are completely useless. It is one of those bang your head against a wall, bureaucratic situations. The story goes like this.

Firstly I have to write a memo signed by my Head of Department, stating that we want a quotation for getting some work done at our office and explicitly stating what work that involves. Then we send that to ITS. We wait while they fiddle with their thumbs and finally come and do the measurements etc and make up a quotation. Then they send that to us. We approve it and then raise a general expenditure (GE) form for the costs. We wait about a week to 10 days while the Bursary is processing the GE. Once we get the cheque, we send it to ITS and then they go and purchase the equipment required. Eventually they come back with the all the gear and do the work. In total it can take up to a month to get a simple thing done.

Anyway when my boss said why don't I do it and circumvent the Muppets at ITS, I jumped at the chance. It didn't really cross my mind at first, but it is something that I have done before and can easily do - most probably a lot better. At least also now I know it is going to be done properly, with flush wall plates for the network ports and all the cables hidden by running up in the wall cavities. If they had done it they would have just tacked the cable onto the outside of the walls.

Another bonus of me doing all this is that avoid the goose who heads up the networking side of things over at ITS. They didn't know that we were doing it all ourselves and circumventing them, but they do now. He spied me this morning running the CAT V cable underneath the building and gave me a filthy look, while I had a big grin as I looked back.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Bus Fare Increase

This doesn't affect me but out of curiosity there is a bus fare increase in Port Moresby. A radical jump from 50 toea to 70 toea.

Somehow though even because there is an increase, I don't think that the quality of the service will improve greatly.

It is probably only a matter of time before they increase the cost of the buses in Lae. At the moment the situation arises where the more people there are waiting for a bus the shorter the trip will be. For example if it is a peak time at the Unigate the bus will cram in as many people and then go to Eriku, half-way to town. If there are not many people the bus will probably go all the way to town.

Going into town is pretty easy. The problem as I have said before is coming back.

Anyway the cartoon below came out in today's Post-Courier and I think it sums up what the bus service is like. Like most of the Grass Roots cartoons the drawing is good, but the joke is lost on me. I guess I am losing some local quirk in the literal translation of the tok pisin (pidgin). Click on it to get a full size version.

The translation goes as follows. The first guy says.
Eh please!! We've paid the 70t new bus fare already. Where is the improved service.
The next guy chips up ...
No worries. The driver said we will push the bus to 6 Mile and there he will buy a betel nut for each of us.
Like I said not particularly funny though it is a pretty accurate drawing of a bus.

Eventually I plan to do a photo exposé on the public transport system in this country. Getting up close and personal on the buses, minivans, trucks and even guys riding their bikes with big bunches of bananas hanging over the handlebar. I might even try to find a friendly bus driver and sit in the front with him for half a day and get shots all around the place - and of his bus.