Remember where you are

It’s Sunday 11am, Jacinta has been back in NZ for a week with the littlest, whist I am solo-dad to the 9 and 11yo – only 1.5 weeks to go till Jacinta gets back.

I’ve offloaded Miss11 to her friends place, ducked into work – and now sitting outside awaiting brunch with master9 who is doing his best to ignore me.

The sails are flapping from the Yacht Club next door, and the cafe is very busy with not a spare table. Beautiful warm breeze, great coffee, cold coke.

It’s easy to forget where you are :)

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Working in PNG – the short version

I know I haven’t posted much in a while, actually – in quite a while…. Needless to say, it’s primarily due to the “PNG Work” factor. One of the things you get to experience here In The Land of the Unexpected, is the most work that you could ever crave for – it’s a workaholic’s dream, and a partners nightmare…

Before you decide to make the move, ask yourself “is 50 hours too much?”, “is 60 hours too much?”, “is 80 hours too much?”. Am I happy living my job, socializing with my colleagues, getting on each other nerves, dreaming work, having lunch interrupted by someone trying to do a deal, having your evenings and weekends decimated, your wife and/or husband pissed off with you. Yup – welcome to your Expat Job here in PNG! That’s not to say that there aren’t great rewards, however most of the unhappy expats are those that aren’t happy with the amount of work… Even harder is seeing other Expats (tax-free ones are the best) going off out of country, or over to Tufi etc, whilst you are doing the hard slog trying to get through to a holiday.

But then you have to take stock – you are living in the tropics, an hours flight from Cairns, with diving and fishing on your doorstep. You don’t need to both be working, someone does your cleaning for you, someone else is paying for you to live, and paying for you to go on holiday. You have membership to exclusive clubs, and party up every month. Life’s not bad, and it could be worst – you could be spending 2 hours a day in traffic, connected to work because Internet is so cheap – never getting a holiday, having your staff not respect you and your boss not caring that you are OK… Your partner does the same as you, and the kids forget that you are their parent…

It’s not bad at all :)

Violence and Tragedy here in PNG

As you would have found out, Port Moresby is classified as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. And yes, POM does have its issues, and simple things like the banning of buai sellers may just increase crime in the city (that’s a post for another day).

I have always tried to keep a balanced viewpoint on PNG, and it would be remiss of me to not blog about some of the bad shit that does happen here, just as it happens everywhere else in the world.

What I am about to blog about are true stories that have affected me, or that I have been involved in. You do need to take into account that I am pretty happy living here, and that what is fine for me, may not be for you. It is also important to remember, that acts of violence can be significantly attributed to poverty, lack of social welfare, poor wages, lack of education, and of course the tribal nature that is PNG. Most acts of violence do not affect expatriates, unless you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I have removed some of the detail out, as I don’t want some of this to adversely affect people’s viewpoints, nor endanger Papua New Guineas tourism, or locations.

On Violence:

Unfortunately, myself and my family were in a very safe area, when a group of 20 plus men ran into the area chasing another man. They were picking up bricks, rocks, sticks and were carrying bush knives (machetes), and were attacking the man that they were chasing. They ran between myself and my 2 older children, and my wife with the youngest. I shielded the older kids, whilst my wife was able to move away to a safer spot as they proceeded to butcher the man they were chasing. During the attack, they grabbed a random young 11 year old boy who was an innocent, and proceeded to bash him. Grown men beating a young boy, it was horrific.
The attack lasted mere minutes, and they raced off (now a group of 30 odd) dragging the man and slicing him with the bush knives.
Whilst the attack was happening, I assessed, made sure my family was safe, and didn’t get involved. Then, once it had finished, I helped the other expat that was there and “muscled” up to try and intimidate them not to come back. We assisted the boy who had been beaten, who was then taken off to get help.

It was a pretty horrible thing to witness, and at one stage my wife was less than 2 meters away from a local guy yelling “kill him, kill him” and we were basically right amongst the violence.

It is important to understand, that the violence was a payback, and the man getting butchered had tried to cut off the arm of another man the night before. And surprisingly, he actually survived the attack, although I haven’t heard if he still lives now. The child being attacked was something I will never forget, not only was it cowardly, but as he had nothing to do with the other man, it was completely unnecessary.

I will never forget the sight of those men cutting and slicing the other man – it will stay with me forever. I will never forget the sight of grown men bashing an innocent child – it will stay with me forever.

This is not the Papua New Guinea that I love.

On Tragedy:

On Saturday, I was driving here in Port Moresby. I had been following a ute (single cab truck) that had 2 children in the tray. This is a common sight in PNG and is actually legal… The kids in the ute were tossing things like buai husks off the back of the ute, so I decided to pass them. After passing them, the ute driver decided that he was going to pass me back, and at about 110 km/hr and right beside me (I wasn’t going that fast) he realized that some stupid idiot had stopped in their lane. The driver locked his brakes up and started fish tailing, Missing me by centimeters, the ute then flipped on to its roof throwing the children off the back…

I slowed down, but seeing the crowd and knowing I was going to be in big shit (even though I did nothing) I decided to keep traveling… I rang one of my team to try and get hold of emergency services, which he couldn’t get through to.

There is nothing I could do, but I feel responsible. I could have helped, but if I had stopped, the crowd could have easily turned on me.

The sight of that ute and those children getting thrown out of it, is just cutting me up. I can’t sleep without seeing those kids. I’m frustrated, and angry. It’s just bloody tragic, and so wrong. I suspect that the children could never survive the accident, and I am racked with guilt and sadness…

Don’t let things like this stop you from coming here, just remember that this can happen anywhere. And although what we have seen was horrific, we are still here, we are still making a difference, and we will still speak highly of PNG and its people.

To our families – you may get stressed about us living here. I get stressed in an airplane :) We understand the risks living in a developing country, and they haven’t changed since we’ve been here. We don’t do stupid things, and we don’t take unnecessary risks, but we won’t be locked in a compound like some people live.

To my readers, and people wanting to live and work here in PNG. Check your local papers, there is always bad shit happening….

Aaron

Rabaul and Kokopo Part 2

Some more photos of our recent trip to Kokopo and Rabaul, enjoy :)

The road from Rabaul Hotel into town

The road from Rabaul Hotel into town

japanese tunnels

Between Kokopo and Rabaul is this series of Tunnels, apparently a hospital from WW2. As you can see – no-one has removed some of the tools and or artifacts, and long shall it remain this way

japanese tunnels

Pretty interesting view out of the tunnels

slaughter pit

This young chap was our tour guide, here is was explaining that this was originally a well, but was then used to chop peoples heads off hence the groove in the top. Personally, the truth should never get in the way of a good story ;) but it’s got some credibility, it does look like a good place for some head chopping

chinese memorial

Apparently a memorial to 3 chinese officers

barge base

Local kids setting up a little market outside the Barge Tunnels

barges

The tunnel goes some 200+ metres back and was used to hide Japanese barges from the Allied Forces. They had to be moved a large distance just to get to the cliff

barges

Took lots of photos of the Barges – in awe of what was done here

xaria barges

Xaria is outside checking out the local kids :)

barges

Amazing condition, and an asset to East New Britain

barges

They sure made them to last

xaria

lol – Xaria found another Aunty :)

xaria

Colour, Race, Wealth – means nothing to a 3 year old. Xaria, the aunties and the kids all had a great time

kokopo markets

This is the amazing Kokopo markets

kokopo markets

Peanuts for sale at the Kokopo Markets

rapopo

We spent Sunday at the Rapopo Beach Resort

rapopo

Nothing but lawn, beach and water at Rapopo Beach Resort. Pretty damn awesome!

zj_war relic

This tank is just sitting beside the main road in Kokopo

beach bungalow view

And if you happen to stay at the Beach Bungalow’s, this is the view looking towards Rapopo and the airport

We loved Kokopo – and would go back in a heart beat,

Aaron

Rabaul and Kokopo – East New Britain

Last week we were fortunate to visit Kokopo courtesy of a work trip for me, and then I just had to buy tickets for Jacinta and the kids (about K5000.00 worth!)…

We stayed at the marvelous Gazelle International Hotel where they had no problem shifting us around due to a really noisy band on Friday night, and then back into one of their larger rooms (hint – for a family, ask for an end room!).  The team there were fantastic, and the food was divine, in fact – I would say it was the best european food that I have eaten in PNG…  We were lucky to have the use of the companies single cab ute for the weekend, and spent plenty time driving and/or walking around.

We did go over to Rabaul and watch Mt Tavurvur let off some steam, and got a guided tour through a Japanese underground hospital (from WW2) and underground barge tunnels.  Mostly though, we enjoyed the peace of East New Britain, and were happy to walk around the markets, and just kick back and take in the real PNG.

I took A LOT of photos, as I do – so I thought I would leave you with a whole bunch of them :)  This first lot from Matupit Island (now a part of the mainland and accessible across an ash road, and of Rabaul.  If you do go there, travel into Matupit, and ask for Ray, he will tell you the history of the island and take you down to the shore.  Give him some Kina for his trouble and don’t forget to buy some craft from the local ladies.

Got a tour by Ray a local of Matupit Island - this property destroyed in 1994

Got a tour by Ray a local of Matupit Island – this property destroyed in 1994

Tavurvur just sleeping

Tavurvur just sleeping

Tavurvur let off a little ash - amazing to be this close

Tavurvur let off a little ash – amazing to be this close

Met Ray in the village and he took us to this spot.  If you want a guided tour and history, he is your man.  Here he is with his sister.

Met Ray in the village and he took us to this spot. If you want a guided tour and history, he is your man. Here he is with his sister.

So pretty - yet only just starting to recover from the devastation

So pretty – yet only just starting to recover from the devastation

Some local lads from Matupit Island about to tend some graves.  Jacinta kessim planti piksa (Jacinta took lots of photos)

Some local lads from Matupit Island about to tend some graves. Jacinta kessim planti piksa (Jacinta took lots of photos)

This is Rays Haus, the government paid for the small amount of roofing iron that you see, Ray has to live under the Haus...

This is Rays Haus, the government paid for the small amount of roofing iron that you see, Ray has to live under the Haus…

Tavurvur going off as we head back to the mainland

Tavurvur going off as we head back to the mainland

We stopped to buy some crafts from the local Matupit people - got this awesome shot of some local kids climbing on the back of the ute

We stopped to buy some crafts from the local Matupit people – got this awesome shot of some local kids climbing on the back of the ute.

The road past Tavurvur to Matupit Island.  Lucky we got across when we did as Tavurvur covered this just 30 minutes later

The road past Tavurvur to Matupit Island. Lucky we got across when we did as Tavurvur covered this just 30 minutes later

No words can brace yourself for some of the images around Rabaul

No words can brace yourself for some of the images around Rabaul

The Rabaul Hotel has been almost destroyed twice - but they keep it going.  Amazing history being the oldest hotel in PNG.  The swimming pool had a extra layer on it though ;)

The Rabaul Hotel has been almost destroyed twice – but they keep it going. Amazing history being the oldest hotel in PNG. The swimming pool had a extra layer on it though ;)

And then Tavurvur went BOOM! and blew ash into the air.  This photo from the observatory, Matupit Island is off to the right of the volcano and covered in thick ash.  Glad we got out when we did as it was still going 2 days later...

And then Tavurvur went BOOM! and blew ash into the air. This photo from the observatory, Matupit Island is off to the right of the volcano and covered in thick ash. Glad we got out when we did as it was still going 2 days later…

Xavier dressed himself for the occasion - I didn't notice what his shirt said until reviewing photos today.  TOTALLY AWESOME - buddy - how right are you?

Xavier dressed himself for the occasion – I didn’t notice what his shirt said until reviewing photos today. TOTALLY AWESOME – buddy – how right are you?

We went back into Rabaul so that I could take this photo - all 5 of us were crammed into the front of the single cab ute

We went back into Rabaul so that I could take this photo – all 5 of us were crammed into the front of the single cab ute

Rabaul is amazing – the determination of the locals to live there is incredible, and I highly recommend going there.

part 2 to come

Aaron