STARRY NIGHT

There is never a dull moment in Papua New Guinea and this week’s excitement came in the form of a plane crash. Fortunately, no one was killed when an Air Niugini cargo plane crashed into a creek just after takeoff in Madang.

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The headlines that day also covered a brazen robbery of an armoured car carrying 6 million kina (about 2.5 million dollars – the kina has dropped a lot since the Government decided to nationalise a huge copper mine). The robbery was in broad daylight and right at the end of my street. It is now known that it was an ‘inside job’ with members of a security company defecting to join criminals and making off with the loot. It has been located in dribs and drabs by the police but it is unlikely that the full sum will ever be located.

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Back to the plane crash. The cargo on this occasion was cigarettes being transported for British American Tobacco. The plane landed in the water and the pilots escaped unharmed. However, despite the risk of drowning and the fact that the plane wreckage was still ablaze, looters descended on the site and began pillaging the cargo. Apparently, within minutes the cigarettes (presumably rather soggy) were whisked away. It has been suggested that Air Niugini consider hiring some of the looters because their baggage handlers certainly can’t clear a plane that rapidly.

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The big event in the expatriate community life of Port Moresby in recent times was the Australian High Commission Ball. It is one of the quirky elements of life here that continues a long tradition of Europeans moving to the Pacific and pretending that they are still in Europe. The ball provided a wonderful opportunity for ladies to pull out a fabulous dress from the back of the closet they brought here just in case, and for guys to dust off the suit that they never wear to work because it’s too damn hot.

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The ball was held at the Yacht Club and caused quite a stir. On the day beforehand, they had moved all of the chairs out of the restaurant area and stacked them up downstairs so that they could bring in special tables and chairs for the ball.

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Like most people, I attended pre-dinner drinks at a friend’s house, which had me getting dressed up at 15:30 in the afternoon, despite the blazing heat. Fortunately, the venue was air-conditioned.

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The organisers had put a tremendous amount of effort into decorating the hall and indeed it looked amazing. They had twinkling lights and shiny stars hanging from every square meeting of ceiling space.

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Of course there were speeches and the annoying MC who thought he was funny – some things can’t be avoided wherever one is.

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There were around 320 guests – a far larger crowd than I had anticipated. Australians came out of the woodwork. I met several that night whom I had not yet met through other social events. The food was mediocre (very Australian), but the night was a lot of fun. There was a band playing outside and once people were drunk enough to dance, the night went into full swing. No doubt there was many a hangover to be enjoyed the next morning.

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In other news, Christmas has arrived already in Papua New Guinea.

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From the first week in October, Christmas trees and decorations were available in the stores.

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Just what everyone needs this Christmas – a “Toy’s Santa Snowing With Music”.

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The amount of Christmas junk available is truly impressive. The RH Hypermarket has a collection that would be worthy of a Wal-mart back home.

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But don’t worry – Halloween was not forgotten in the October Christmas rush. There was one table devoted to Halloween stuff at least.

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Mangoes are back finally, after the long winter break. I buy as many as I can get my hands on.

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PNG has an acute shortage of blood donations at the moment, with some hospitals having no supplies at all of even common blood types. I’m planning to get down to a hospital and make a donation.

20131015_114248HIV infection rates continue to rise in PNG, causing much consternation, but little in the way of changed behaviour. The articles talk about how things like Mobile Phones and Pornography are to blame for the increase in infection rates. Perhaps they’re missing the point. There has also been a growing degree of anti-Asian evident in the Papua New Guinean community.

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Unlike Australia, where everyone is too scared to admit their prejudices in public, here they cry them from the rooftops. In this article, the Veteran’s association makes it clear that they would like all Asians to leave.

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In one positive development, Betelnut (Buai as it is called here) has been banned in the city centre and this time, the Government means business. The streets are much cleaner as a result. The City Rangers have been out in force, overturning tables like the Messiah returned, and enforcing the by-laws with big sticks.

20131011_113952I had to laugh at this article entitled, “Beware of thugs posing as cit rangers”. It must be extremely difficult to tell the difference.

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This article talks about how the police wrongly accused a chap and beat him only to find out later that he was innocent. Let’s hope that the police brutalise the right man next time.

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I can forgive the less educated for the sloppy use of apostrophes, but I happen to know that these businesses are run by expatriates, all of whom must have at least 10 years of education. Apparently, it didn’t cover plurals. I rated them an “F” in both cases.

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Under the category, “Only in PNG”, we have Singer Sewing machines with a foot pedal being sold brand new – which actually makes great sense in a country with such a poor electricity supply. I just found it surprising.

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Perhaps more surprising though – this article about an ordination ceremony that incorporated traditional dancing. Where else in the world are the newly-ordained priests led into the church by a group of topless women?

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The “Pimp My Ride” award of the week goes to this guy and his colourful minivan.

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$400 for a blu-ray player seems fair to me. Welcome to PNG.

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Having to call Microsoft via Skype and then waiting on hold for literally 3 hours…gotta love that.

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And no day in PNG would be complete without risk to life and limb. This enormous snake had a run in with a car on the road right outside my house. When it comes to snakes, I am with Indiana Jones.

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I guess that’s why people drive vehicles like this one – so that they can be ready for anything that PNG throws at them.

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What’s the best way to encourage drivers in PNG to drive at sensible speeds? An advertising campaign with the slogan, “Slow down you goose”.

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I went out to see a local band called “Jokema” play this weekend.

20131019_235102They are very popular here and have been getting a lot of airplay. I have to say that I was genuinely impressed. It’s an upbeat, island kind of sound with a strong reggae influence.

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Amazingly, there are now two businesses in town offering free wi-fi. Kopitiam, a Malaysian restaurant, and Eagle Boys pizza.

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The food at Kopitiam leaves much to be desired, but the place is crowded with people updating their Facebook status.

20131017_122700I spotted this fellow with a string bag known as a ‘bilum’ around his neck and had a peek inside.

20131010_090341I was amazed to find that there was an adorable little baby inside.

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Until next postcard…

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