Life in Papua New Guinea is never dull. There is always something interesting going on, although I don’t always have time to write a blog entry about it. Nevertheless, I continue to post new blog entries when I can. This time, the focus is on Cyclone Pam, which devastated Vanuatu recently. Papua New Guinea got off lightly by comparison, however the effects were certainly felt here.
This is a house in my neighbourhood that had its roof blown off by the strong winds that occurred where as the cyclone passed.
The paper carried stories of flooding and other damage around the country, including this land slide the blocked a road that I use coming home from work.
This rather expensive fishing boat is a little more underwater than it used to be as well. The whole area stank of carcinogenic diesel fumes for a week after it sank. That was weeks ago now and it’s still there. Presumably someone will come and re-float it at some point.
Cyclones aside, this country has plenty to deal with already, without nature coming in and making things worse. HIV/AIDS is at a crisis point in this country. One of the main reasons is that only 30% of couples have access to any kind of contraceptives (including condoms).
Corruption is a constant threat to development, and the institutions that were conceived to deal with corruption seem to be losing ground.
Meanwhile, this woman tried to sneak a baby into the country by putting it in her checked luggage.
In other news, the preparations for the Pacific Games in July are continuing at a frenzied pace. One of the “initiatives” being undertaken is to force people to take down the fences around their properties as they are considered unsightly.
Someone in the paper floated the idea that instead of making people take down their fences, they could tackle the crime that makes people feel the need to erect huge fences around their homes. Fortunately, no one listened to that madness, and so the knocking down of fences continues.
Of course, it’s not fair to say that the police aren’t tackling crime. Like in this case where they addressed the burning issue of fake rugby jerseys being sold. We all sleep better knowing that they’ve taken care of that problem.
Perhaps one of the reasons that violent criminals about is that the justice system is straining from the massive backlog of cases that are waiting to be processed through the courts. A recent newspaper article explained that the oldest such cases date back to 1983. But I’m sure when they get heard, the perpetrators, who are now probably in their 70s will be taught a stern lesson.
Crimes come in all shapes and sizes here. One of the more common and frustrating crimes is the deliberate destruction that occurs when the people of an area are opposed to a development. In many cases, it amounts to extortion. They don’t seem to care about the development itself – but rather that they don’t feel that they received a sufficiently large cut of the profits.
Another example that defies belief is the burning of cars. It has been a weekly occurrence here lately. Here’s how it goes down. A car breaks down – sometimes just from a flat tyre for which there is no spare in the car. The owners abandon the car out of fear for their lives. Looters come in and steal everything they can from it. Then the vandals come in and smash it up. Finally, someone sets fire to the wreck and leaves a toxic mess in the street when the fire is extinguished. I have watched the process too many times to count now. It usually takes about 12 hours from breakdown to burnt out shell. Sometimes less. The really discouraging part is that in many cases, the car is lost for the sake of a repair that would probably cost less than $100. But such is the mentality of the criminals around here – anything that is exposed or vulnerable must be exploited and then destroyed.
Speaking of heinous crimes, there was a recent graffiti crisis over some spray-painted writing on the arm of this blue swimmer dude at a key intersection in Port Moresby. It’s always hard to read graffiti, but as best as I could make it out, the writing said, “Boobies”.
There was public outrage that people would be so disrespectful to the nation’s blue swimmer dude and the police took swift action. They did eventually round up the perpetrators, who were given community service.
This is a doorway. You wouldn’t know it from looking at the photo, but that is wet paint on the doorway. I discovered it, not by observing a “Wet Paint” sign on the doorway (oh no), but rather by brushing against it and ruining a practically new shirt. It would seem that, the person painting doorways has plenty of paint but no paper for making “Wet paint” signs.
But this sign asks that I close this door after me. Of course, that would be more of a problem if I could open it in the first place.
This really is a country of frustrations and mysteries at times. This bookshop covers every book in the place in plastic so that the books won’t be sullied by sticky fingers. I get that. I see the point. But the dictionaries too? Really? They’re concerned about people coming in and looking up the meanings of difficult words immediately after having an ice cream melt all over their hands?
And men’s underpants with a zipper pocket in the front? WHY!??! To make it easier to stuff a pair of socks in there? The mind boggles.
One of my personal favourites though is the inefficiency of the supply chain. Because so many things are unreliable, basic issues like reordering of stock are not dealt with properly. There are a myriad of elements that have to come together for a business to have stock and here many of those elements break down. This supermarket was pretty much cleaned out of fruit and vegetables for a few days recently. So the next time you go to a 24 hour Safeway and have a choice of about 3 dozen types of fruit, thank some guy you will never meet named Dave who sets his alarm for 3 a.m. every day to go down to the loading dock for the produce delivery.
One of the biggest challenges business owners face here is absenteeism. People frequently don’t show up for work and they don’t seem to mind not being paid when they don’t show. It’s almost like an informal part-time employment arrangement. Some businesses are taking to installing these fingerprint scanners for staff to try to address absenteeism.
I had to laugh at the irony of a store called labels that prints three labels to tell people the name of the store and then puts one right over the top of another. Again, why? I ask myself that question a lot around here.
I don’t mean to complain, it’s just that it’s hard to avoid noticing the challenges and I forget to appreciate the wonderful positives of this country. Like the butterflies. There are wonderful, colourful butterflies all through the gardens and forest areas.
And there’s lots of fun to be had too. Some friends and I pulled a little band together and played at a few parties and such. That was a lot of fun.
This one was for a St Patrick’s day Toga party. It was a blast. And yes, that IS a hideous moustache. I’ll explain that in my next blog post. 🙂
I also went to see the filming of a TV show called “Vocal Fusion” recently.
It was fun to see the production process. They are very professional.
Singers from all around the country perform.
And the judges rate them and then kick a couple off the show each week.
This is me with one of the singers, who has made it into the finals.
I traveled home for a break recently and went through Sydney.
It was fun to be a tourist in my native land again.
I walked for kilometres, just exploring the city.
This is Sydney Tower. I went up there on a school excursion when I was a kid.
Most of the architecture is modern and functional, but dull and ugly. But some of the older buildings are delightful.
I went to the Opera House and saw a show, which was a lovely way to pass an evening in Sydney.
When I booked the hotel, I wanted one close to the airport. This is the view from the window of my room, so I think it’s fair to say that I achieved the desired proximity to the airport.
I’m back in PNG now and enjoying the uniqueness once again. Like this death notice, where the poor deceased gentleman’s photo has been squished out of proportion by the clumsy newspaper staff.
My favourite bumper sticker spotted in Port Moresby so far.
Oh what a difference a “Y” makes. Until next postcard…