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.

Aaron

New Expat to Port Moresby?

I know my blog posts have died down, but that might have to do with all the emails I crank out… I thought I would create one of those posts where I hope some of my fellow Port Moresby resident expats can help by commenting … Please :)

So, you are thinking about the adventure, maybe you are just going through the interview stages and its looking good, or you might have accepted your contract and you are coming up for a look/see whilst your visa and work permit is being processed. You will be thinking – what to bring! So here is my list of things you should bring with you, even if you have no interest – trust me :)

  1. iPods, music systems – preferably big and loud (for the parties you will hold). You will want normal party music, lots of it. Don’t worry about what you like, just bring stuff that everyone else likes :)
  2. Portable hard drives. You never know when someone has that great movie collection, and you need to copy it.
  3. A great electronic movie collection – if you share, you make more friends!
  4. Something like a WD Live or Apple TV to connect your movies to your TV (which you should also bring)
  5. A good BBQ – at least 4/5 burner. Yes, you might have a small family, or just be a single – but trust me, a big BBQ is perfect for BBQ parties.
  6. Lots of wine glasses, and an extra dinner set including cutlery
  7. A proper coffee machine. No pods here – but the best ground coffee in the world
  8. A UPS for your electronic stuff, make sure it’s a good one.
  9. Surge protection, Belkin do great 6/8 way boards
  10. Black Tie for blokes, including bow-tie and ruffled white shirt.
  11. Ladies – maybe one cocktail dress, you can get plenty here in the 2nd hand shops so don’t go overboard.
  12. Sport shoes. Good quality ones, and if you intend to really pound the roads, bring a spare pair
  13. Tennis racket and balls – even if you don’t play, you will get invites
  14. Squash racket and balls – refer 13.
  15. Your favorite sporting team jersey or shirt. Even better if it a rugby one or league…
  16. Noise canceling earphones – for all the flying in and out
  17. A frequent flyer membership! Figure out how to use it properly, check http://www.australianfrequentflyer.com.au
  18. Good quality dive/snorkeling gear. Make sure that they are suitable for the tropics.
  19. If you golf – bring your clubs, if you think golf might be something you’d do, bring some clubs
  20. Life jackets for everyone!
  21. At least 2 pairs of Polaroid sunnies
  22. Lots of dress ups! Face paint, crap like that, as you will be bound to go to dress up parties…
  23. If you like fishing, or would like to fish – bring some fishing gear
  24. Kindle – a normal one, the light is bright, so you really need the Matt screen
  25. Smartphone – easier for Facebook etc. you can pick up a cheap old school mobile for nix here
  26. Camera – spare batteries and cards
  27. Rechargeable AA and AAA batteries and charger
  28. Torch
  29. Freestanding Light (like a torch)
  30. Really good kitchen knife set
  31. Containers that seal shut
  32. iPad or other device
  33. DVD player
  34. Battery or power mossie zapper
  35. Suncream
  36. Top shelf alcohol
  37. Fitness gear if you have it.
  38. A good bed if you need it. If you don’t, then don’t bother
  39. A small chest freezer
  40. Pack of cards
  41. Laptop
  42. Good quality suitcases
  43. Good quality backpack
  44. Chilly bin/cooler/esky – Large, Small and fabric
  45. BPA free water bottles
  46. A good jug
  47. Toaster
  48. Frying pan etc
  49. Cotton clothes
  50. Good quality sheets, pillows etc

If you have anything to add – please do,

Aaron

Fishermans Island Port Moresby

 On Sunday we went to the annual RPYC (that’s the Yachty) Christmas party at Fishermans Island.  If you have a boat, then it’s a nice trip out of Fairfax Harbour and across to Fisho’s.  Unfortunately, we don’t have a boat, and haven’t been invited on one… Note to new expats that read my blog, and come over and buy a boat – we have kids, but we’d still like to come for a cruise!

So, Jacinta hasn’t been over there and I have only once.  We went across on a Steamships barge, which was pretty cool.  On the way we past a guy on an upright paddle board paddling his way across.  This is no small feat, it must have been easily in the mid 30’s and it is quite a distance, 45 minutes on the barge…

We had a great day, it was very hot, and since it was a family day – we left the booze back in Moresby :). Santa came and visited, and basically we just soaked in the beautiful clear water.  We honestly felt that we were in a beautiful island paradise – and of course we were :)

The next day I woke up to a fully sunburnt body, including the tops of my hands.  Very sore!  And then to top it off, Deliotte Tower lost a circuit breaker which meant no AC, water or lifts…

Oh to be back on the island!

It’s getting very hot now – I’m really looking forward to cooler weather back in New Zealand at Christmas!

Heres some Photos: Xanthe and Xaria waiting in the shade

Getting on the barge

Happy dad, pissed off son

Xanthe checking out the Harbour

Checking out the front of the barge

Yay, almost there

Lunch area

Xanthe surrounded by local girls having a swim.  

Xavier got grease from somewhere, how the hell do boys find dirt?  Here he is getting clean…

That’s me checking the barge out getting ready for the trip back

All in all, a great day :)

12 Months in Papua New Guinea

Today, officially – I have been in PNG for 12 months.  So far – it has been an amazing journey, all be it frustrating at times

From a work perspective, my IT team has grown immensely – I am very proud of their achievements.  When I arrived, they didn’t have a lot of real world IT direction, and now they are on track building their careers and enjoying what they do.  I am very satisfied, that my team has had zero turnover – they obviously see the real benefit in my mentoring approach.

We have achieved a lot, including Project Management Frameworks, Change Management Policies right through to our technical projects.  This year we deployed Windows 7  Enterprise and Office 2010 to 180 odd clients, migrated from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange, and deployed Sharepoint 2010.  We have done heaps of work on disaster recovery, have moved into a Virtual world with Hyper-V and are gradually pulling things back into a framework that Papua New Guineans can manage – such as moving from Pervasive SQL to Microsoft SQL.  This might seem odd – but it’s important here to ensure that systems are self managed using locally developed skills.  In general, it is very expensive to access the internet, use power or even buy a PC – so the type of research that we would do in New Zealand is decidedly difficult here.

On the home front, Jacinta and the kids have settled into PNG life.  Xaria (our youngest) is off to the lik lik pikinini school (little kids school) on the 20th of August, and both Xavier and Xanthe have made good friends in their respective classes.  Both the two big kids are on the advanced side with schooling, with Xavier being an almost straight A student and Xanthe not too far behind.  I was very proud when Xanthe was told to stop reading school supplied books after school.  She has been reading some of our fantasy novels that we have at home :) and Xavier is part way through The Hobbit.  Not bad for a 9 and a 7 year old…

We now get cold when it is 24 degrees, and the pool at our compound looks rather fresh – I hope it warms up soon!  Our social life is pretty hectic with the weekends generally full starting with the Friday drinks…

Of course – we enjoy being Kiwi’s here, and make sure that we shout it out…  Today, I am wearing an All Blacks top to work – just to piss off the Aussies.  And on Monday, when we win the rugger this weekend – I’ll be wearing Black business attire, just to rub it in some more :)

We have made many friends here – and lost some to ended contracts – but not lost for good…  Expat life in PNG can be tough at times, and good at other times – it can be very isolating…

Our life is luxurious compared to how some Papua New Guineans live, but in general – I think we have a better quality of life in New Zealand.  We do have a house keeper here (Maria – Our Haus Meri) but more for the fact that we are employing someone, than any real need.  It also does mean that Maria can babysit on the odd (so far once) occasion that we go out with no kids.

I think some of the frustrations I have here – is with the Sir Michael Somare coined phrase “Boomerang Aid” that is prevalent.  I don’t really get why Aid workers are on such high, untaxed salaries, except that it sets them up back home for the future.  It would be interesting to look at all monetary aid in PNG and find out the percentage that actually hits the community.  Even so, some of our friends work for Defense and AusAid – and are wonderful people with amazing jobs and attitudes.  I just wish the Aussie government would grow a pair and review the methodology in aid packages.

I’d also really appreciate anything from the IT community out there to help me develop my team.  Literature, magazines, software etc.  Anything physical can be mailed to:

Aaron Bird, PO Box 1141, Port Moresby, NCD 121, Papua New Guinea

Appreciate anything you can throw our way J I don’t mind that it takes 2 months to get here

Above all – thanks for continuing to read my blog

Aaron

Ela Beach Craft Markets Port Moresby PNG July 2012

I purchased a new lens for my Sony NEX-5N camera in Thailand (55-210) makes it a little  easier to take photos at the markets as I don’t like standing there pretending to be a tourist…. :)

I did include a photo of Xaria with her new Bilum (string bag) that we bought from the markets.  Location: a little coffee trip to Duffy’s (our sanity coffee shop) :)