It has been another interesting week here in Papua New Guinea.
In the news recently in PNG was the story of a carjacking in Lae in which the chief of police for the city was the victim. Apparently, criminals have taken advantage of the terrible road conditions in the city and now attack cars as they slow down to navigate potholes. The police chief happened to be the target of one such attack and ended up in a nasty incident because he hadn’t locked his doors. I always lock my doors when driving around in PNG. That’s pretty much the first rule. The police chief had a gun with him and then incident ended without injury. The attackers fled but were tracked down. The local networks are so strong here that anyone whom the police target in a serious way is usually tracked down very quickly. I wouldn’t like to have been one of those carjackers once they were taken back to the police station for interrogation.
Speaking of police – apparently the Drug Squad are serious – one can tell from the way they have serious faces. Their giant marijuana haul makes them look serious too, as do their big guns.
Preparations for the 2015 Pacific Games are underway, including a large construction project at the sporting field near my house. This week, a competition was announced to design the official mascot. The 10,000 kina prize is impressive. Sadly, I am ineligible as it is only open to school children.
The talk of the town this week was that the French Navy Frigate Vendemiaire was visiting. With it came the General in charge of all French military forces in New Caledonia.
The ship invited selected guests aboard for a cocktail party on Friday night. Thanks to my French connections, I managed to secure an invitation.
I got a good view of the ship from the top of my building.
I had never been on a French warship before – and never on any warship in active service. I was bursting with anticipation and excitement when the evening arrived.
I had to wait to board as there was a ceremony taking place on the deck.
The tricolore of France flew proudly in the gentle breeze.
As the guests arrived, we were directed to take the ramp up the side of the ship and move to the helicopter pad at the stern.
We were greeted by the French Ambassador to PNG (the new one – I met his predecessor a few months ago) and his wife. I also met the French General in charge of all military forces in New Caledonia.
Port Moresby put on one of its spectacular sunsets for the occasion.
It wouldn’t be a French event without some quality wines and cheeses. I partook of particularly nice merlot.
The hors-d’œuvres were typically French – foie gras (paté) and escargot.
The crew were all enlisted to participate either serving food and drinks or liaising with the guests.
I chatted to a few of the sailors, all of whom were very friendly.
One particularly nice chap named Loïc offered to show a group of guests around the ship.
We started with the main gun – a 100mm canon that was recently fired in anger. The ship had been sent to Libya in the recent conflict there and this gun saw action in support of the allied forces.
Touring the ship was a real treat. We went up into the bridge.
There are lots of controls and interesting buttons to push.
I resisted the temptation to push them to see what happens.
But I did get a chance to sit in the Captain’s chair.
This sign says something like, “Aviation Zone. Entry prohibited to all persons not in the service.”
Loïc (a Lietenant de Vaisseau, but commonly referred to as “Captain”) showed us the hangar where they keep the helicopters.
His English was quite good, but he ran into trouble a couple of times and was grateful that I was able to interpret for him.
On the other side of the big white door on the left is where the cocktail party was taking place.
On one of the walls there is a picture of the ship in Auckland, New Zealand.
The living areas look reasonable comfortable, if somewhat crampted.
This sign was posted near the washrooms. It’s hard to translate but it is essentially a humorous comparison of the washroom to a futuristic amusement park.
At the end of the night, a group of guests posed for a picture with the crew.
Then it was time to leave and we all walked down the ramp and out of the port.
The “creative management of a broken windscreen” award goes to this guy:
And the “crashed out while waiting for your buddies at the supermarket” award goes to this fellow: