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, September 29, 2005


Crossed over border Tuesday [stop] Having fantasic time [stop] Stayed in Jayapura two nights [stop] Little Asia in New Guinea [stop] Traffic, traffic, cars, bikes and smog [stop] Dogdy hovel hotel with rats first night [stop] Second night upgrade to suite [stop] Got barber shave with cutthroat [stop] Neck in one piece still [stop] Cheap feeds of Nasi Goreng from street [stop] Won't starve [stop] Left town [stop] Now in tropical island paradise of Biak [stop] One degree south of Equator [stop] Accomodation costs Au$12 a night [stop] Room overhangs ocean [stop] Perfect [stop] Bintang beer galore [stop] Snorkel and beach tomorrow [stop] Life's good [stop]

Friday, September 23, 2005

Go West Young Man

It has been mentioned, but now it is nigh. I am escaping the country at last, and making a border run for Indonesia.

On Sunday I will be heading to Goroka, meeting my accomplice, and then on Monday fly down to Vanimo town this side of the border. A little bit of diplomatic wrangling in getting a visa will ensue and then over the border we shall go.

So all this going to plan, this time next week I will have added a new country to the list - it is somewhere in the 30's at the moment - and I will celebrating another birthday in new country, something that I have managed to stretch back to 2000 (Luxemburg in 2000, UK in 01, China 02, Australia 03, PNG 04 and Indonesia 05). Next year being my 30th, I should, and probably will, have it back in Oz again - I try to avoid over hype about turning another year older but hey any excuse for a big party I figure.

Anyway before I get too far into the future I should contemplate making it there and back safely. I will be sure to check the bags before venturing in either direction across the international barrier. There have been enough news items about Australians in Indonesian jails without adding myself to the list. Besides by the time I got on the evening news, the majority of Australians would be inclined not to give a shit, probably because I am a) not female and b) not a model or beauty student. The incident would be left on those ticket-tape scrolls along the bottom of the screen: "... Another Australian arrested in Indonesia, maybe drugs, who knows? ... Sport: ..".

Before that improbable event, I will be watching the AFL grand final on Saturday at the Lae International hotel. I am actually taking more notice of AFL this year (most likely because the Swans are going well) than I have in the past and I have noticed that it is quite a good game, especially when you get those close finishes. It is certainly for me beating the inanity of Rugby League. Who gives a toss about the Eels and the Cowboys ??? Even when Newcastle won a few years ago, it was like yeah cool whatever.

Although some knowledge of Rugby League has been beneficial in living in PNG. Everyone seems to follow a team in the competition and the grand final is a big watched event here. So I use it to break the ice when meeting new people. When I have been giving speeches at schools that we go to promote my department, I tell everyone I grew up near Newcastle and Andrew Johns is a wantok (a slight stretch of the truth, but hey, depends on your definition of wantok). This always goes down extremely well.

Certainly the State of Origin is a huge event here as I have mentioned before and admittedly this is probably the only time I do actually enjoy watching Rugby League at the moment. I have a real team I can barrack for in NSW. This was reinforced for me a few years ago when I was working in Brisbane at the time of the games and overhearing comments in the office like "there are only two things I hate, a New South Welshman and a such and such... ". The speaker sounded like Pauline Hansen, so I didn't blame her too much.

Anyway enough digressing. Signing out of here for a little while. Tune in later with new tales from another land ... different, yet similar.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Computers, oh Computers

Computers; They're great aren't they? All the amazing things you can do. Keep in touch with loved ones. Make new friends on the internet. Write all you want. Show your photos. Oh they are just so Amazing. Great and amazing. Super. Amazing and Super. Just .. well great .... ... .. .. UNTIL THEY DON'T PHARKING WORK!.

OK .. hmm calm down. They're not that bad. I am writing this away on one now. Luckily it is a Mac and not the Linux beast I have unleashed upon myself at work.

Go Open Source they all say. It is the future. Linux can handle everything. Yeah up until you start pulling your hair out trying to get the thing to work with windows. I usually blame Microsoft - who doesn't - but now I am wishing I had installed it on this machine (well I couldn't actually because I don't a copy of the version I want).

Anyway I have been doing battle all week. There is a thing in Linux called Samba. Evil Samba I says. In a nutshell it is supposed to be able to allow you to connect a Windows machine to a Linux machine so you can put your files on there - and vice-versa. Well so they say.

I have never been one to follow manuals - name an IT person who does. Software is supposed to be designed intuitively so you don't need to use them and can work things out for yourself. Unfortunately when the bunch of geeks around the world were puting together Samba, they left their geek hats on and thought everyone else would get what they meant.

OK so other users have noted this problem - the problem being that you have to manually change text files to configure it (oh this is Linux in a nutshell by the way) - so they went out and started to develop about 10 different tools to allow you to configure it. None of them seem to help any.

So you switch to the last resort. The manual. The same geeks write these lovely 3 easy step documents on how to set it all up. You follow it the first time configuring it for the way you would like to work. It doesn't work. You scratch your head.

Then you lessen your configuration a notch and try to make it a tad more simpler. Throw away excess access accounts and the like, taking a level of complexity out of it. This is designed to do two things. One, as I said, make it easier and two to check that the thing actually works. It doesn't.

Then you throw all the settings out the window and you go for the open slaver approach. Set it so every man and his dog should be able to connect. Wide open like a PNG manhole. And the result de nada. Bang head against table.

Of course then if you're like me, you continue to try it from about twenty different approaches, every angle counted, tiny little things tweaked that you thought initially "oh that, nah that wouldn't make any difference" but you change it anyway and it still bloody doesn't work! Start thumping the screen and take a valium.

So I have three options left. Take it down to the lowest level - rebuild the machine. Get some extra help from an expert. Or use something else for us to store our files for our department - like my workstation is doing at the moment.

The first one is out. I have already got too much other stuff working and configured on it. Oh Linux is good .. when it works. MySQL is magic and so is the DHCP and Routering. But sori tru Samba you just don't cut it.

I think I will call help, surely there must be something simple I am missing. It just can all wait a little while. Holidays again next week. More on that later.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The End Is Nigh ...

... for the rainy season.

I can tell. My solar hot water system is actually heating water again. During the middle months of the year it seems to go into hibernation - like the sun - and I get nothing but cold showers. This morning it was hot.

As to why it is hot again I think it may have something to do with the angle that the sun strikes it at. The middle of the year, being summer in the northern hemisphere, the sun is at a slightly lower angle. In theory it should strike the solar heater at an optimum perpendicular angle as the panel is on the northern facing roof. For some reason it just does not work, even when the rare full days of sun occur. But when the sun comes more overhead and strikes it an acute angle the thing suddenly starts to work again.

Mi no save but am happy now that the things is giving me hot showers again. Ironically, of course, the time of year when you actually do want hot showers, when the weather is foul, is the time that you get no hot water out of a solar heater.

Oh, there is one of those buttons you can press to boost the solar heater. The problem with that is that it doesn't turn itself off. You have to switch it off at the mains power board. I forget to do this and get the big power bill.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Independent Face Of PNG

Some more photos from Friday's celebrations, as I can't think of anything else to post up at the moment. So here is a proud Simbu and Papuan New Guinean mama.

I was really taken by this woman as she basically just lunged at the camera to have her photo taken .. like most Papuan New Guineans. Gee it is a hard place to be a photographer.

Friday, September 16, 2005


Well today is the Papua New Guinea Independence Day. I spent the 30th anniversary at home, venturing outdoors in the morning to discover what was happening. I found a vibrant atmosphere with the colours of the country being worn, painted and flying. The patriotism was impressive.

I will tell the story with pictures.

The flags of the nation

New Ireland man

Proud students

Kavieng laplaps

Pikinini bilong Finschafen

Cool Simbu mama knows how to hit a kundu ... with a thong

Patriotism taken to the next level

The whiteies with the drums and trumpets were a hit

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Ode to the Pothole

Low and supine you are spread,
Growing on rain and tread.
In streets and roads you stay,
Oh, pothole, cancer of Lae.

Trucks and cars continue to swerve,
The drivers try to hold their nerve.
They struggle to wonder why,
"No gat moni", the government cry.

Big or small, shallow or deep,
No size or limits you will keep.
Rocks and mud temporally fight,
Your all too common sight.

Inside, outside, near or far,
All but one, loathe where you are.
The one love you all around,
Luckily we can now, "Run them down".


New accountant in the department. Only takes him a few weeks to uncover the depth of fraud cases that our students have been pulling over our eyes.

We knew that we had a few cases of students deceiving us with their fees. But now we are discovering the really juicy ones.

The usual scenario is due to our system of registration. The students have to deposit the fees directly into our bank account at BSP and then come and give the deposit slip butt to us. Somewhere between the bank and our desk, out comes the magic biro and an extra 0 or two is added to their original deposit. For example, some of the courses costs 170 kina, the kid puts in 17 and gives it a touch up.

Fortunately this will be easily fixed. We make our own deposit slips to give to the students which have four carbon copy sheets and where they have to write in words the amount they are depositing. The bank takes one sheet, the student one, us one and one for the university admin books. This is something we should have done a long time ago.

The really clever fraud or at least the really ballsy one we have unearthed involved the described situation above but up'd a little. Student deposits 6 kina. Changes it to 660 kina (the cost of a couple of courses added together). Then he registers. Then he withdraws two weeks later (we give them a four week period where they can get out). We (and here is where we really screwed up) get a cheque organised for 620 kina, taking 40 kina for admin costs. Sneaky.

Getting a department accountant has been a good idea.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


This is to clarify that this blog, 'Papua New Guinea Life' (hereafter known as 'the blog'), is solely devoted to all things connected to life in PNG as seen through the author's eyes.

No further mention of Cricket will be embellished on the blog.



Monday, September 12, 2005

¡Ándale, Ándale, Arriba, Arriba!

Tacos. Fajitas. Ponchos. Sombreos. Senors. Senoritas. Cerveza. Tequila. Just another Saturday night in Lae. The things you do as an ex-pat.

The Lae Hash Harriers annual drink fest - and these guys know their drinking. It was open to all gringos from México, and plenty turned up.

I attempted - like most - to rock up as the Man with No Name. It was a good attempt which could have been made better with a hat, a cheroot and a Colt 45. All things that I no doubt could have found in this town if I knew where to look.

After feasting on the nachos. Being given shots of tequila (I have discovered that I am finally over the 10 years of loathing this stuff - the taste, let alone the smell, does not make me gag any more) and filling up on cerveza, there was a Speedy González phase thrown in. Which most probably really came out and arriba'd along at the night club latter.

And finally around three or four the siesta stage came along.

You don't get big nights often in this place. You have to make the most of them when they do. All good fun - apart from the recovery yesterday.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Bigger Than Ben Hur

PNG is marking its 30th anniversary next Friday. You would be hard pressed not to avoid it if you looked at any of the local media. Everywhere you turn this thing is becoming bigger than Ben Hur.

Radio DJ's are constantly letting us know .. in case we forgot. TV ads are repeatedly shown, some with footage from the original 1975 Independence celebrations and others with footage of the small pool of national sporting heroes. The newspapers are not to be outdone either with regular updates on what and where is happening.

There will be the usual major festivals happening with a little bit extra thrown in. The Goroka show of course and the Hiri Moale in Moresby will sing-sing away. Lae is having its own extravaganza, in town and even the uni is having a float parade and great debate, amongst other things.

To top it off the Governor-General has only now (yesterday) announced that not only next Friday the 16th will be a public holiday but the 15th will be as well. A four day weekend. Any excuse I guess. Although thinking back to 1988 and the bicentennial celebrations in Australia, I can't remember there being an extra day off, and that was for 200 years.

I would have liked to have seen the original Independence celebrations here, because I am sure they would have been spectacular. From talking to my neighbour who was in Moresby at the time he said that there was a real nationwide pride and jubilation that crackled in the air.

Similar style pride and jubilation is obviously trying to be recreated 30 years later, but you sense that things are a little bit different. There have already been reports that certain high profile people have said that there is no reason to celebrate. They argue that in 30 years the country has gone backwards, not forwards (it is hard to argue against that ... but they will be at the Uni Great Debate .. should be interesting, though one-sided).

Whatever the overall sense of the occasion, and it should be big, my plans are this year to take in the activities in Lae. Last year I got to see the Goroka show, which was superb, this year I will see what there is to offer here.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Life in a Warm House

A change is as good as a holiday and I have had that over the last week. The change being a couple of flat mates.

It has been a while since I have had someone to share a house with for any length of time. Quite a few years in fact. And now since I have been reacquainted with what it is like, I realise that I don't mind it at all.

You get to cook for more than one person. Someone else cooks for you. The big current events are discussed (Hurricane anyone). Meaningless events are discussed. And you get to drink more cups of tea than you usually would. Not bad at all.

My co-conspirators and house warmers have been Jim and Jean of Tenkile fame. They have been in town doing their shopping. Shopping for rabbits, chooks and other protein for the obviously hungry folk of Lumi, Sandaun province. They have also stocked up on all manner of new gadgets that I have been playing with (Walking Talkies are just as fun as when I was 9) and had a mountain of cargo to ship back with them via Airlink.

While they were here they got to again experience all that Lae has to offer ... umm, drinking, drinking and hmmm, more drinking. This ex-pat life can get to you after a while. Pity that they have left today though. Not so much that they are missing the drinks tomorrow night, but they are now missing the cricket.

and pity that we lost the toss ... again. I hate watching us bowl! especially when we are being hammered.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Let's All Be Autonomous

Every time I seem to open one of the daily newspapers here (which is not that often) I stumble across another article about another provincial government wanting to be Autonomous. It seems to be the fashion that has started since Bougainville had their successful elections in June and wrestled a substantial amount of control of their destiny back from Port Moresby.

Leading the charge from the other provinces has been my own province of Morobe and its - for want of a better word - 'charismatic' leader, Luther Wenge. I am pretty sure Wenge is never happy unless his mug appears in the paper somewhere, and he does a good job of continually getting in there with various court cases or telling the PM to resign, now he is hitting new headlines saying Morobe should become Autonomous.

He wasn't the first either. It seems that all the island provinces have joined the band wagon and don't want to be left out if it turns into an autonomous free-for-all. East New Britain has said as much, West New Britain has been saying in kind and Manus doesn't want to be left out either. Call me a cynic but it seems to me that everyone wants a piece of a bigger politician pie.

And now along with the autonomous runaway train there is the current cry for a new breakaway province in the Southern Highlands, called Hela. Looks like there are plenty of people not so happy with the current situation.

OK a couple of things I am thinking, firstly all the provinces can't become autonomous, can they? Or can they? How would this work, would it be like a federation? And how does this differ from what is in existence at the moment? It also seems to me that what this country needs is a less complex structure of government not a more complex one. There has to be one of the highest politician to per-capita ratio here in the world. Creating autonomous provinces, or even new provinces, will not go about decreasing this.

My idea is why don't they reduce the number of provinces by amalgamating them together into states and then form a federation with them. The island provinces, without Bougainville, will obviously become a state. Mamose (Morobe, Madang and the Sepik provinces) join together. The highland provinces form and then the former Papua provinces form together.

Four new states together with Bougainville, ruled by independent autonomous governments and overseen by a national federal government. This is the current working solution for a lot of governments around the world and it will put the politician to population level here at a realistic level. Could this work?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

"Run Them Down"

This country just keeps getting better and better. It is now officially OK to flatten raskols on the road.
"If you see anyone standing in the middle of the road with a gun and who is not a policeman, run them down,"

So says the Lae Police Chief on the front page of the Post Courier.

Situation: Normal

On The (Long Distance) Buses

Getting about the town has been discussed, but what about getting around the country? It can be an adventure for the uninitiated and a stress inducing dilemma. But if you are the adventurous tourist and want to save the moolah in PNG you need to travel by road, not air.

Thanks to the caring and sharing kind of guy that I am, and the fact I have learnt a few things while being here, I thought I would pass on some of my wisdom in the realm of inter-town connections. So here they are in a straight shooting, no nonsense, sans muck around, layman?s terms wrap on getting up and down the highway - relatively stress free.

Step 1 - Timing
OK first up is one of the hardest parts of the whole experience, actually knowing when to turn up at the bus stop. If you don't like sitting around all day at a dusty/muddy bus stop, being stared at, then you need to get there at the right time. Best thing to do is to ask what the right time would be to any local mates you know. Ask only one person and go with their advice. Asking more than one will get you a different answer which of course will confuse you.

The time to get there will depend on a few factors, day of the week and whether it is coming up to a public holiday or not. Mid-week and there could be fewer buses and less travellers, on a Friday or Saturday and it may be a few buses and lots of travellers.

Usually the buses will try and fill up before 8 and head off. The quicker they fill up the better in their eyes. You will often here the 'bus crew' yelling "las tupela" (two seats left) to make it more attractive for the punter and so they can get going.

There are also afternoon buses on the Goroka to Lae, vice-versa, run, if you like your sleep in. They will approximately leave around the 2pm mark. Get there at 1 for these.

Step 2 - Selection
The most important step in my opinion is the bus selection. Sometimes this is not an option and you just have to take what's going, but if there is more than one bus to choose from this is what you want to look for.

Pick a bus that is three-quarters full. You will still get a decent seat and you will spend less time trapped inside before it takes off.

Once your decision is made and you climb aboard pick a seat close to the door - if you can - otherwise you will be climbing out over people to stretch the legs at stops. The seats are close together so stretching at stops is good.

The type is also an important consideration. There are pros and cons for either the larger 25 seater Toyota Coaster buses or the smaller 15 seater Hi-Ace mini-vans. The 25 seaters can take forever to fill, but some people say they are safer. The Hi-Ace takes less time but are more cramped and can be suspect. My tip is always go for the newest looking bus. On some runs you are stuck with only a certain type so just, obviously, take that.

Step 3 - Relax
Once on the bus just get into the flow and relax. The endless round and round and forever haggling and organising that the bus crew will do will probably be the most annoying thing of the whole trip. Even when the bus is full, it can take another hour before you are on the road proper. There are bags to collect at houses. Fuel to get. Wantoks who need to be informed ... it goes on.

Then when you are on the road, don't fret when the bus caroms at hundred miles an hour down the hills and around the bends. The driver has done it before (or hope he has at least) and it is best just to look out the window or talk to your new friend sitting next to you.

Equally don't worry about getting held up by raskols. It happens but not as frequently as to deter people to stop travelling by bus along the highway. I always take the opinion, if the locals are doing it, then it can't be all bad. But better to be safe than sorry. Hide most of your cash under the sole of your shoe with enough to pay your fare and some giamen money for the raskols.

Step 4 - Arrival
Usually you will have to defend for yourself once you reach where you want to go. Sometimes they will take a select route and you can be dropped off on the way. For instance coming into Lae, they will go to Eriku then town and then off to the final destination of the Market.

If a bus gets into town after dark it will do the nice thing of drop you off at your final destination. For the Hagen to Lae or the afternoon Goroka to Lae or vice-versa this is what will always happen.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Citizenship Decided

A few weeks ago a major debate here was finally, it seems, put to rest. Surprisingly considering the editorials and letters it provoked before this ruling the precedent seems to have gone rather unnoticed.

It involves the citizenship of Papuans born between 1948 and 1975. There was an argument that Papuans were in fact still Australian citizens because Papua at that time was a territory of Australia (as opposed to New Guinea which was a trusteeship). The High Court of Australia seems to have finally put to bed the argument in a precedent case.
Amos Bode Ame argued in Australia's highest court that he had remained an Australian citizen after his native country became independent and had never become a PNG citizen because he did not take steps to renounce his Australian citizenship.

He was born in 1967 in the Southern Highlands province of Papua, which with New Guinea was administered by Australia.

The history behind this is something I find interesting. When the Brits and the Germans were imposing themselves on various parts of the country in the late 19th century the Germans took the north and the Brits grabbed the south. Finally they agreed to a border between their two colonies and drew a line between them on the map. That line went straight through the highlands ane down to the coast south of where Lae is now.

Little did they know that their line actually passed through the most densely populated part of the country. By the stroke of one line 500,000 unknowing people became either German protected or British protected. This little line later caused a few political issues once the highlands opened up. It was easy to have a simple north and south areas for colonial administrative purposes, not easy once their north and south got hazy in the highlands.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Plans, Plans, Plans

I love making plans. Especially travel plans (who doesn't). Was talking about going through Bougainville into the Solomons a little while ago. I have now changed my mind. Still want to spend my birthday this year in a new country, shall just do it to the west now.

I asked my mate if I could borrow some Indonesian guides I knew he had. Luckily he is a top bloke (this is the same guy who after all is lending me a TV - champ) and he came through with a bundle. The key one I think will be the phrase book - mi no save tok Bahasa.

At this stage two weeks is being booked starting at the end of September and I will be flying to Vanimo on this side of the border. Shall get an Indon visa from the Consulate and catch a bus to the border. Walk across, get on the back of a motorbike or whatever and head to Jayapura. Spend a few days there, soaking up the complete cultural change and then fly up to the Baliem Valley to look at the difference between PNG Highlands and Papua Highlands ('tis a tad confusing this naming - we have Papua New Guinea an independent country and we have the province of Papua on one half of the island of New Guinea in Indonesia).

Depending on time, I might look at where else I can get to while there. From all accounts flights over there are as cheap as chips especially when compared to the sky high costs you get here (K1400 rtn, Lae to Vanimo). Apparantly they even have proper service, with cute little hostesses. It also looks like I might have company for the trip, another volunteer wants to come, so that should make it even better.

Apart from this immediate upcoming travel, have been looking at what I will be doing at the end of the year once my contract finishes and I have made some rather big changes there. Won't disclose just at this point though.

Travel plans for next year is still going ahead. I want to spend the better part of it going around South East Asia and Asia in general. Hong Kong and southern China are first on the cards in March or April and then followed by Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. My sister and her man are looking at coming along for a chunk of time which should be brilliant.

After they leave me I am thinking I will continue on and see a bit more of China. In particular I am getting excited about seeing if I can get on the Qingzang Railway which should be open up mid next year. A train ride into or out of Tibet would be a huge highlight for me! I know the poor old Tibetans will be more exploited because of this rail line, but being one of the first to travel on the highest rail track in the world would not be a chance I want to miss out on.

Island of Banished Shorts

Following up from the Academic drivel the other day, in the paper today is the annoucement that all women in Bougainville are forbidden to where shorts or trousers. The decree has come from various Chiefs who obviously still have some sway there (and no sense).

Their reasoning is along the same lines as my uni colleague, shorts and trousers promote violence against women. Nice to know they're thinking about their safety, but paaaalease, get real old men.

Skirts seem to be alright, though I wonder though how high they can go. And as was pointed out by 'The Drum' column, what would the chiefs say if the meris went back to wearing their traditional clothing - grass skirts, bare tops.

Islandbaby has a good insight into the thoughts of a modern woman in PNG and tackled this little topic on Monday - check it out as it is a good read.