The political machinations PNG continue with no shortage of drama and a remarkable degree of complacence from the general population. What is now referred to as the “Parakagate” scandal continues and it’s hard to keep up with events that seem to be changing on an hourly basis. Arrest warrants are flying around the place, people are being fired left, right, and centre, and courts are handing down decisions, but little seems to be changing in any meaningful way. It’s a challenge to understand what’s happening and when one seems to get a handle on it, everything changes again the next day.
As is often the case though, students are one of the few groups that are very politically active. Last week two groups clashed out at the university of PNG (usually referred to as UPNG) – some supporting the Prime Minister, some opposed. There were reports of people running around with machetes and things turned ugly but the police intervened to prevent loss of life.
Despite all this excitement at the top, everyday life continues. I took an interesting excursion out to Sogeri a couple of weeks back.
I found this picture on the wall of the club fascinating – the thought that in the 1960s groups of friends went out there an enjoyed a few casual drinks just like we did.
The Country Club is a real oasis – the grounds are delightful and there is a huge pool.
They have horses for the guests to ride. I don’t do horses so I avoided it, but I liked the concept. It’s the first time I’ve seen a horse in PNG. Sogeri is a large farming area that produces a lot of the food that is available in the supermarkets in Port Moresby.
They even have a cricket pitch. I do love cricket.
During the one-hour drive back to Port Moresby, we stopped at this lovely place for lunch.
There was a fast-flowing river that was delightful, with just a subtle hint of human presence – like the wreck of the car and the pile of crap being burned for no apparent reason.
The big event in town a couple of weeks ago was the Melanesian Arts Festival, which brought together people from nations in the region for cultural shows and such.
The festival drew large crowds, who came to check out the cultural displays, dancing and of course the topless women in their traditional outfits.
These ladies sang and danced while banging their kundu drums. Their “hats” are made from human hair, which is both intriguing and deeply disturbing.
It was interesting to see these elements of their traditional culture. Of course, when their shift ends, they are ordinary Papua New Guineans like everybody else and enjoy their sugary soft drinks.
All manner of arts and crafts from different regions in PNG were on display for sale.
I picked up a couple of things. Some of the wood working is impressive.
Traditional instruments were on display too. And check out the headdress on the woman in the background.
This traditionally-constructed hall was one of the most interesting displays.
I asked permission to go inside, and I was surprised to see that it was being used as it was intended – as a meeting place. There was also some interesting artwork on display.
I quite liked these ladders that are used to access the different levels of the building – carved from a single log.
The PNG Constabulary was there, keeping order and carrying their weapons of choice – big sticks with which to whack the criminals.
All week, there were truckloads (literally) of folks around town in their traditional costumes.
Another big cultural event this week was the annual Bastille Day celebration for the 14th of July.
The event was especially big this year as there were 250 visitors from New Caledonia participating as they were here as part of the Melanesian Arts Festival.
The French can always be counted on for good wine, good cheese and good company. They also provided good music.
A local artist named Ratus was working on a piece that incorporates words for peace from multiple languages in the shape of the Eiffel Tower.
We’ve had painters in lately as part of the renovations. This fellow was standing on a bucket so that he could reach the top parts of the door jam.
I’m still puzzled by the lack of maintenance. I have been here for 18 months now and this door has never had a handle. Everyone just grabs the inside of the hole and pulls the door open while trying to avoid the jagged metal edges. I fix the things that bug me most but the chaos is just overwhelming sometimes.
Speaking of chaos, I had a typical PNG moment this week. Here’s how it went down:
- I normally buy fuel as soon as the gauge hits the one quarter mark. However, on the weekend I discovered that the fuel light was on because I hadn’t had time to buy fuel when I was out the night before.
- I went to buy petrol near the Royal Papua Yacht Club but the service station was closed for no apparent reason. They sometimes close because they run out of fuel. What I wonder is, “Who is responsible for the reordering?” I mean, they only have one product right? When it gets low, order some more. I would have thought it would be easy. But they had none so I had to figure out where the nearest fuel station would be open.
- I went across the hill because there are more fuel stations there – my logic being that if the only other one on this side of town were closed then I’d be stuck without enough fuel to cross the mountain.
- I went to a new service station and filled up. Then the woman who pumped the fuel for me looked at me blankly when I produced my credit card. They don’t accept cards. My normal fuel station does. All the others do too (although they did have a problem with their machines once). But not this place. She might have mentioned that when I arrived, except of course she doesn’t speak English – only pidgin. They could put up a big sign saying that they only accept cash. I’d go with something like “We only accept Cash – it was good enough for the Romans, so it should be good enough for you”.
- My fuel bill was 217 kina and I only had 202 kina in my wallet plus a Digicel credit voucher. They wouldn’t accept that so one of their staff said he’d come with me to get money from an ATM.
- Of course, because of the constant risk of theft, I don’t carry my ATM card with me. So I couldn’t just go to the nearest bank. I had to drive home to get some more cash.
- So this fellow (Jeff) piled into my car and I drove him half way across the city at breakneck speed (he didn’t seem the least fazed by that) to my house. He smelled like motor oil.
- I got to the house, grabbed the money I needed, paid him and then had to drive him back to his service station.
The moral to the story is one of my favourite sayings: Chaos breeds Chaos and Order breeds Order. I’ll be sure to stick to the rule of filling up when it gets down to a quarter in future.
The constant struggle for normality does wear one down after a while. Punk rock helps.
As does regular exercise. I go to the gym 6 days a week to burn off the stress. I have a lot of stress to burn some weeks.
The silly guard dogs love to wait by the gate for me to exit so that they can race next door and bark at the neighbour’s dog.
I caught a taxi the other day and was surprised to find it had a meter. Almost none of them do. Usually, one just negotiates with the driver.
The JWs are setting up displays on the streets of Port Moresby now. This place never ceases to amaze me. I wonder what god does think about smoking?
Sometimes every day things appear here and catch me out. Like these two guys riding skateboards. No one rides skateboards in Port Moresby. But I was shopping the other day and three young guys skated past. I was impressed.
There are almost imperceptible indications that a visiting dignitary is in town, but with practice the trained eye can learn to spot them.
This week, Shinzo Abe was taking time out from building robots to replace the aging Japanese workforce in order to come and visit PNG.
There were more Rising Sun flags in PNG this week than in 1942.
When the Japanese contingent arrived, they brought a party of about 200, I’m told. Enough to fill two Jumbo Jets.
I guess this is the Japanese equivalent of “Airforce One”.
This is what it looks like when the world’s third largest economy visits the 114th ranked country.
I didn’t get to meet Mr Abe while he was in town. But I did wait in traffic for 15 minutes while his entourage passed by.
There were busloads of them.
These guys look like journalists. Or maybe secret service. Who knows.
Normally, in the West we like to dissociate our meat from the cute fluffy animals that produce it. Not in PNG. This butcher’s section in the supermarket lays it out for the little kids so that they can see what the lamb chops used to look like before they were slaughtered.
Until next postcard….