The great Expat Exodus – PNG to the World

Well, it’s that time of year, when the schools are finishing up, kids and wives go away for Christmas waiting for hubby’s to catch up later, and then all those families that go pinis (go finish – leave) after finishing up 1, 2 or 3 year contracts, and even those that have moved on from life here in the tropics – the long termers…

This time around is having a profound effect on the Bird family with lots and lots of our friends and PNG family leaving this December. Most people are now finishing up 3 years and some 2, but it’s the ones that came up the same time as us that is really hard to say good bye to. They were the families that shared the shock of new culture, of living behind razor wire, and of finding their way in the Land of the Unexpected.

They leave, and we consider the journey, friends lost today, but gained forever.

PNG does strange thing to people, brings us together even though we might never be “mates” anywhere else. Gets us tolerating those little issues that might piss you off back home, and gives us an appreciation of other countries, cultures and ways of life. It changes you… Mostly for the better, and that’s why it is so hard to say goodbye, so we don’t. We say “congratulations” and plan to meet one day, somewhere else, if only for a short while. And we do…

Our children, so resilient, see their friends depart. The tears, the frustrations, but also the knowledge that the world is a small place, and they will always have their PNG friends.

You all know who you are, you are still reading my blog :). Thank you all for being a part of our adventure. Remember, when you want to get away from the craziness of the world, there’s always beds here in Port Moresby – the insane sane place in an insane world.

And once you have left, and can’t hit me, I’m gonna post photos!



Expat Living in Port Moresby

There is something to be said about life in another country, it either makes you a more tolerant person, or less so. Sadly, here in Moresby it can flit from one day to the next, but there is one thing most people here can’t abide and that is those expats that think they are better than everyone else.

A prime example today, we were grocery shopping and on leaving the grocery shop, here’s a van blocking all the traffic whilst a bunch of young expat blokes disembark, only for the van to move forward 5 meters and drive into a vacant car park – sorry guys, but that’s just rude. A little sign in the front of the van “ADF”…

Then there is the big white Prado, that sits blocking the entrance to whatever entrance it can find so it’s passengers only have to walk 2 meters to the door. These big white Prado’s are pretty recognizable as Exxon Mobil vehicles – commonly with people inside that get told off if they stand in the sun….

And then there is the van that takes kids to the school and parks on the pedestrian crossing where the other children have to cross. It has diplomatic plates too….

Or the guy that yells across the cafe for another coffee because he is now a lazy shit that realizes he can only get away with it here.

And the diplomatic plated car that always takes 2 car parks at the grocery store, same one everytime. Maybe drive a smaller car bro.

And the guy who can barely dress himself, yelling at the store assistant because it took a little longer for the assistant to get the computer to record the transaction.

Or the car driving up the freeway in excess of 140km/hr during the school run when there are little kiddies walking up the side of the road.

So, if you are coming to Port Moresby, or Papua New Guinea. Forget about being the “big boss man”, drop your baggage at the airport, embrace your new expat life, try to be respectful to the locals, and remember – there is no need to do things here that you can’t get away with at home…


The wages paradox here in Port Moresby

I’ve been thinking a lot about the wages situation here in PNG, lots of us talk about the same issues….

The big issue for our National staff is family commitments, with no social welfare, and very little in the way of significant employment, our teams by default start being the caregiver for their whole families. Where we in NZ get plenty of government assistance, Papua New Guineans are reliant on family or the village in order to live.

And here lies the paradox – the wage trap, the skill trap, the sole earner trap.

As soon as someone starts earning more, there is a lot more pressure to ensure that they are looking after everyone else. As income rises, so does the expectation. And don’t get me wrong, I think it’s amazing that this happens, and maybe it’s a blueprint for crowd sourced social welfare. But the impact is significant, and as the expectation grows, the employee may start slipping in those standards that got them there in the first place. All of a sudden, they are the taxi driver, or the funeral director, or the university funder. So often I watch young Papua New Guineans drift from being the person at work first in the morning, to now not getting in on time due to having to drop off cousins, brothers, sisters etc, or ensuring that the family is OK. I worry that this will then turn into performance issues, then disciplinary action, then all of a sudden – the rising star with the big ideas and great opportunities ends up with no job, no money, and having to create a new start.

It is also amazing watching those that earn the least, being the ones getting themselves into work early, working hard, and doing their absolute best. They really need to keep their jobs, and having less money means a lessened impact on family commitments….

So today, I coined the phrase with Jono (one of my team) “the minimum for the maximum”

In other words, we need to get people to live the minimum way of life, to maximize their income, to maximize their opportunities, and to maximize their future. To work like they are just starting out, to live comfortably, and maximize the growth that they have by ensuring a future that exists for all.

Can it be done? I don’t know, but unless we do something for our young men and women, they may not be the future of this country, they may be those that just get chewed up…

3 years on, our PNG adventure continues

I began this journey well over 3 years ago, but arrived here in Port Moresby on the 18th August 2011, 3 very short years ago.

Over the past 3 years, I think I have answered a few thousand emails from people wanting to move to PNG, met lots of people via my blog, and I think it’s fair to say, generally given people a balanced viewpoint on living and working here in Port Moresby.

Some people that have contacted me through my blog have become our lifelong friends, our family. Moving here with a young family has meant that we have watched our children and our friends children all grow up together, and as some of our friends depart these shores to parts and places all around the world, we know that in the future we will meet again. Our children will always have wantok’s no matter where they go, and the world becomes a much smaller place.

When we arrived here, my little one was 1 year old. She doesn’t remember living in NZ and Papua New Guinea is her home. We go “on holiday” to New Zealand, which must be amazing for a little girl. She doesn’t “see” race, or skin colour, and she is happy with the little things she has. My big kids need more, but they are now more in tune with the effects of poverty and hardship than they ever could be back in NZ, and I hope that when they grow up they will take a lot of the life skills they have learned here in PNG and turn them to do good in the future.

And although this might be the end of our 3 year contract, it isn’t the end of our journey here in Port Moresby. My company has extended my contract for another 3 years, which really sounds like a lifetime away now. As the older children transition into High School, we may have to reassess if things don’t work out, but we are still here, still trying to make a difference, and still helping new people and families with the information and tools that they need when they move here to PNG.

Sadly though, we have watched many of our friends depart. Some have finished contracts, some have had other opportunities, a lot are finishing up this year. It is sad knowing that your support group is leaving, but I am sure that those voids will be filled by other families, and our close bonds will get closer.

We have experienced amazing things; just 2 weeks ago, Xanthe (our eldest) had a week long school camp at Tufi Dive Resort. Last year it was Kokopo and Rabaul… Awesome memories! We have had some real highs, (Kokopo was a high) and some real lows (being stuck in the middle of a bush knife fight), but we have never really regretted the decision to come here.

We have watched Port Moresby grow into a very modern city at such a fast rate, and have watched as my staff have gone from
a young team, to one that could easily perform on the world stage.

We are onto our 3rd High Commissioner (maybe there is a job there for me one day – not!), and back home in NZ we are about to have another general election (the 2nd since leaving). Our home back in Dunedin is onto its 2nd lot of tenants, and the place might needed to be painted this year – it is hard having a rental back in NZ, and if I did it all over again, I would have sold the property so that would be one less thing to worry about.

We’ve also had some fantastic holidays, not just back to New Zealand, but also here in PNG, to Singapore, Australia, and Vanuatu. Next year we may go a little further and take the children to Disneyland whilst we are all together.

We never bought a boat here, and for some reason don’t get invited out that much, however – with 3 kids, it can be hard for others to invite such a big family… If I was to move up again, I would have thrown a couple of jetski’s into the container – much cheaper back home than here. But we are Ok with the time we get to go out, and of course are very grateful when we do.

I have some pretty cool ideas to take the next step with my blog, and have been doing some video’s that I intend to upload to YouTube so hopefully I can get that going soon.

But until that happens, there is plenty of work, Bedisloe Cup watching with the Kiwi Club, and the bi-annual Kiwi Club ball is coming up in October. There’s always plenty of parties – sometimes too many, we’d love to catch them all, but it can be hard. And there is the annual trip back to NZ for Christmas coming up soon. Jacinta and the kids get out for the entire school holidays as it is a little boring, but also damn hot here in Moresby.

As I turn another chapter over, I would like to thank everyone for commenting on my blog, and making it into the resource it is. There was nothing like this when I moved up here, and I trust that the information and insight into PNG and Port Moresby really does help.

Again, if you see us out and about, please stop us for a quick Hi! We really appreciate knowing that we helped in your decision to make a difference here in Papua New Guinea.


Lunch this week at The Aviat

Thought this might be valuable for those of you coming up to see what a nice lunch at the Aviat costs:

Daily Specials
7th July 2014
Monday Lunch
Garlic Prawns w/ rice & vegetables K30.00
Pepper Steak w/ chips & salad K25.00
Stir Fry Chicken w/ fried rice K25.00

Tuesday Lunch
Sambal Lobster w/ spicy fried rice K40.00
Beef schnitzel w/ chips & salad K25.00
Peppered Chicken w/chips & salad K25.00

Wednesday Lunch
Pork Loin Chop w/chips & salad K30.00
Garlic Chicken Breast w/ fried rice K25.00
Beef & Mushroom Pie w/ mash & peas K25.00

Thursday Lunch
Roast Pork w/ roast potato & pumpkin K30.00
Beef Goulash w/ mash & peas K25.00
Chicken Schnitzel & Sambal Sauce w/ rice & vegetables K25.00

Friday Lunch
Beer Battered Barramundi w/ chips & salad K30.00
Peppered Chicken w/ chips & salad K25.00
Lemon Pepper Chicken w/ fried rice K25.00

At the moment the exchange rate means a K25 meal = AUD$9.80 or NZD$10.50 – yes, that’s Lobster on Tuesday for well under 20 bucks ;)