Friday, June 22, 2012

Postcard From Papua New Guinea

I work part time as a volunteer for a charity which does development work in many countries, one of which is Papua New Guinea. One of my colleagues whose role is in the development area is currently doing field work setting up a health facility, in conjunction with the local government in Bougainville.

He sent me these photo's yesterday which brought back lots of memories of my time in PNG when I was in business. PNG is promoted as the "Land of Surprises" which it most certainly is-some "surprises" might not be of the kind a person might be looking for though! My Niece and her husband did medical missionary work there and spent their entire time in a compound behind barbed wire.

PNG is incredibly mineral rich, stunningly beautiful and has amazing wildlife. It is also under developed and has a number of social and political problems.The people are astonishing varied with,as pictured the highland people exhibiting cultural traits going back into the mists of time. Their cultural ceremonies are well documented as presenting a phenomenal picture of  human adornment with symbolism that would be meaningless to an outsider but would tell a multi-faceted story of the wearers rank.

The highlands are not be places one would wish to be wandering around in alone, the colloquially named "rascals" might be a problem. When I arrived I hired a driver for the entire time who as we got to know each other advised on that aspect and many other of interest. "You are better off not going into the highlands as "an accident" might happen to you" he suggested. 

My experience with the taxi driver whom I engaged at the Port Moresby airport decided me in favor of getting a full time local. On the way to my hotel he pulled over into a secluded spot and said menacingly "You pay me now" and asked for an outlandish price. I decided it was best not to argue,especially as I could chalk it up to expenses anyway. When we got to the hotel he zoomed off as soon as my feet hit the ground.

My subsequently hired driver soon took me into his confidence "Boss, I have a big problem and woudl like your advice" he asked one day. It turned out that times were tough and "I have three wives and I have to get rid of one, if I describe the to you could you let me know which one I should let go?" 

I demurred stating I was not familiar enough with the local customs. PNG/Bougainville is a fascinating country and we are honored to be able to make a contribution to its growth. It has so much to offer and hopefully a balance can be struck between its very real economic needs based on mineral exploitation and the pristine natural beauty, flora and fauna.

Here is my colleagues photo of a welcoming ceremony. If Europeans live in the community and work with the locals and are seen as non-exploiters most certainly a warm relationship can develop.

There are more languages in PNG than any other place on earth.A village on one section of a beach can have a totally different language from the next village just along the beach front. Pidgin is universal, even on ketchup bottles, and one quickly gets into the rhythm of it

This gentleman is running for a local office, my colleague said he looks like a good candidate for sheriff !

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