THE SKY LIT UP LIKE THE FOURTEENTH OF JULY

The highlight of this week was when I received an invitation from the French Ambassador to participate in an event celebrating the French national holiday, Bastille Day.

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Inside was the formal invitation and my ticket into the auspicious event.

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The Bastille Day celebrations were held at Lamana hotel in the “Gold Club”, which is normally a raging night club.

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But last night, it served as the venue for a swanky event attended by 250 guests representing the French Embassy, business community and others with a connection to the French presence in Papua New Guinea.

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I received an invitation because I participate in a French conversation group organised by the Alliance Française.

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There was a lot of mingling and repetition of the generic conversation in Port Moresby that always starts with “So what are you doing here?” I met some interesting people, including the Ambassador, Alain Waquet, who is a charming fellow.

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There was a speech from the Ambassador .

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And then toasts to France and the Queen of England, with some lovely French Champagne.

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After the formalities, the skies were illuminated by an impressive fireworks display.

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It was the first time that I had seen fireworks since I arrived in Papua New Guinea.

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And of course, no event is complete without a cake.

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After the fireworks, the lights went down and the free booze and hors d’œuvres came out.

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Another noteworthy event this weekend. I completed the first day of a three-day First Aid training course.

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We learned how to do CPR.

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Here I am practicing my compressions on a dummy.

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And we took turns putting each other in the recovery position. When it was my turn to be on the floor, my guy was a little rough. He jolted my head around a bit, and frankly, I think he left his hand on my butt longer than was completely necessary.

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Then it was my turn.

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We learned how to carry injured people from the site to where they can be treated.

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And of course, how to tie bandages.

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I went for a walk along Ella Beach this week. There is a seawall there with a slogan informing me that I need Jesus. That’s weird because I thought I was OK. Apparently not.

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PNG has not yet fully embraced the concept of separation of church and state. In fact, Christianity is enshrined in the constitution.

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I had another frustrating Port Moresby moment this weekend. I went to buy fuel and after the fellow the car (there are no self-service stations here – it’s like 1956 buying petrol in Port Moresby), he informed me that their credit card machine was broken. I didn’t have enough cash to cover the transaction. I asked why they didn’t think to tell me that their machine was broken BEFORE I filled the car with fuel. No answer. I asked what they were going to do. No answer. So in the end, I suggested that he note my licence number and let me go to an ATM and come back and pay. So off I went, collected some more cash and came back and paid. The staff at the service station couldn’t believe that I actually came back. They were all smiling and waving at me as I drove out – like I was a celebrity for actually paying my bill. I guess not everybody in this Christian nation is as honest as this atheist from Canada.

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In a stark reminder of the ever-present risks in this environment, I discovered this mosquito in my office last week. It’s difficult to see in the photo but it has a black and what spotted body – a bit like a zebra. This indicates that it is the species of mosquito that carries chikungunya disease. It’s a new disease that’s apparently quite nasty and brings to four the number of life-threatening mosquito-borne diseases in PNG. The other three being Japanese Encephalitis , Dengue Fever and of course Malaria, which still kills 660,000 people every year. Whenever I see a mosquito I hunt it down and exterminate it.

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I was out walking on the weekend and spotted these women carrying faggots on their heads.

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At work, we’ve started a weekly ‘Walk For Life’. About twenty of us took off for a stroll around the city this week. The steep hills make it heavy going so I’ve renamed it “The Death March”.

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Wandering around the streets, one does come across some interesting sights. Like these basketball courts, which were being used by a women’s basketball team for some fairly serious training. I had no idea that there was a basketball league here.

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We strolled along the sea wall and passed all manner of vendors, including these ladies selling some kind of mystery chicken dish.

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And past Ella Beach hotel where I stayed the first time I worked in PNG in 2010.

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This street vendor was selling junk food and cheap Chinese imported toys.

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Our path took us through two of the most dangerous roundabouts in town. My friend the police officer told me that this roundabout is the site of an average of 4 carjackings every Friday night. I would have thought that would be grounds for the police to place some officers here on a Friday night, but apparently no one has thought of that yet.

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Here is the other one – at the other end of Lawes Road.

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The ambulance service, such as it is, bases its operations out this compound, conveniently located near the most dangerous roundabouts.

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This market is right next to one of those roundabouts. I have shopped here a couple of times, but I don’t feel terribly comfortable and I try to get out of there as quickly as I can.

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The trees in this country are magnificent. In fact, wherever there are no people, there is beauty.

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These guards saw me taking photos and insisted that I take one of them. People love having their photo taken here. In Canada, they would have said something like, “Not now, I don’t have my make up on”.

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Australia’s newly-recycled Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was in town yesterday. I passed his motorcade on the highway. There were about twenty cars, including police cars and an ambulance.

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But not all the cars are full of Rudd’s posse. A friend of mine is a journalist and he said that the press were in the motorcade too, but he was about 17th in the line. He had to be up early yesterday morning because Rudd is doing a press conference at 7 O’clock. I’m no fan of Rudd politically and the thought of getting up for anything starting at 7 a.m. is unpleasant. So the thought of getting up early to listen to Rudd’s pretentious ramblings is deeply unappealing. The Chaser boys were right to mock him for his catch phrase “In due season”. One could scarcely find someone less typically Australian. But I’m not complaining. Unlike the former PM, Julia Gillard (who sounded like a construction worker ordering a sausage roll for lunch), Rudd at least knows how to conduct himself like a statesman.

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I read the newspapers most days and I’ve concluded that they have a quota system that says that they must show boobies at least once every week.

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This article talks about the threat to betelnut crops this year. What a catastrophe that would be. People would have nothing to spit all over the footpaths.

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I spotted this poster at the yacht club on the weekend. I found it intriguing to think that over 30 years ago, people were participating in a yacht race from Cairns to Port Moresby.

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This is a one of a kind car in Papua New Guinea – a Ford v8 utility (known affectionately as a ‘ute’ in Australia). It’s a most impractical car in this environment with its lowered suspension, but somebody loved it enough to import it into PNG. The plant that makes these is shutting down next year, so they will become rarer still.

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I spotted this car in the same car park. Nikki has nice friends.

Until next postcard…

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2 responses to “THE SKY LIT UP LIKE THE FOURTEENTH OF JULY

  1. once again Chris, your observations and and witty writings make for some belly laughs here. Di

    • Thanks! I try to find things that catch my attention or make me laugh, so it’s nice to know that others enjoy them too. I see the stats that people are reading my blog but I rarely hear feedback from them so thanks for letting me know. 🙂

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