Blogging can be a bit of a blessing and a bit of a curse. The great thing, is that it is therapeutic to get something off your mind and down on paper. The other side – is that sometimes I just don’t want to write, no matter how many months go by – I start, I finish, I read what I wrote, I delete it – it’s not what I wanted to write.
On August 18th, I officially completed 5 years here in PNG. It seems a lifetime, and in fact for one of my kids – it basically is. She doesn’t remember our dog, our cat, our house, she remembers nothing of her previous life – but she was only 1 when we arrived.
In 5 years, we have had our share of ups and downs. So many people have left – do they miss PNG? I’m sure they do.
Our downs have been bad, but we’ve come out of them with a big of anger, and sometimes just a laugh. Like the time Xavier and myself were driving down the road to do some fishing, and some idiot decided to throw a big rock at my ute. I swerved and almost collected him with the back side of the ute as the rock went sailing over us – still not sure who got the biggest fright, me (watching a rock get thrown at us), the idiot who threw the rock (as he was a second from being crushed by my ute), or Xavier (who thought we were doing wheelies). Or the time that my mate Troy and myself drove one of my company fleet cars down the road so he could see how they drove. A little Ford Fiesta, most likely the smallest car in PNG – and some idiot decides he wants to run out from the side of the road and swing a big massive pole at the car…. And it went straight over the top – missing us… The damage that could have happened if we were in the 4×4… I can only imagine! hahaha lucky!
And as I gradually creeped to the 5 year mark, I hadn’t given any thought to the fact that I had never been robbed nor carjacked, and then it happened – the Monday before my 5th anniversary and “wrong place, wrong time”.
I saw it coming, just after 8 at night, walking to my car – I just unlocked it as I approached, and they ran out of the road that leads to a local settlement. They were fast, and aggressive. I also tell everyone, just don’t worry – if you are in that situation, just hand everything over. But I didn’t. They looked very aggressive, and I quickly opened the door to my car and jumped in, one of them got the door handle and I wrestled it closed and hit the lock – really fast. I heard someone on the other side of the car – I had made it in time. Then I turned back to the guy on my side after hearing him yell at me and something banging against the window. He had a gun. He started banging it against the glass the barrel pointed at my head – trying to smash it. Breathe – calm – breathe – think – make noise – I yelled at him “FUCK YOU!” and pushed down on the horn. The gun was still there, he was pissed off. Breathe – keys – ignition – start – hold horn – no one helping – guards not coming – car started – in gear – accelerate – handbrake on – breathe – off handbrake – accelerate… they ran off behind me into the darkness. So fast…
I drive to where there are guards, they are hiding, I find more – yell at them. Breathe – adrenalin is cranking through my body. I try ringing my mate Simon who was just leaving too – no answer, I try again – still no answer. Somehow I have arrived at home – I don’t remember.
I walk into the house – Jacinta didn’t hear me. She finally spots me and asks if I have been drinking… no – I don’t tell her what happened for 2 days. I must have been wired. I get in touch with friends, they are rounding the rascals up – found out a lady got robbed. There were gunshots – I check my car – no holes. Breathe. I could have stopped that lady from being robbed – I can’t sleep – all I can see is the barrel of the gun pointing at my head – all I can think about is why I didn’t make sure no one else got robbed. Two days later – I’m pissed off and angry.
Colleagues asking if I pressed the duress button – breathe – another, are you alright? – breathe – I just need to internalise it and deal with it – breathe – normally, I would be the one helping them, so I just need to refocus and … breathe. It’s good medicine to breathe🙂
I tell my son Xavier, I haven’t told my daughter who is in Boarding School in NZ – she will read all about it on here. (I am OK – really!🙂 ) – Xavier basically shrugged his shoulders, he knew it may happen at some stage. What a trouper.
The next week – I am back there. There are only 2 choices for carparks, one is where I parked the week before. I park elsewhere. Not having a panic attack, but I am anxious. I am watching everyone.
I leave – and ask a guard to escort me to my car. A kid comes up and starts gobbing off at me – breathe. I feel wired again.
I drive around the corner, and here is a police checkpoint. I know that they are armed, and just doing their job – but it doesn’t make me feel any better. Breathe. I wind the window down and give the officer my drivers license, he checks it and says “thank you Mr Aaron, have a gud nite” – where was he last week!
I’m fine, but I’m not. So many people find themselves in these situations and don’t get away. I don’t know if it was dumb luck, my own stupidity, or they might have thought I was crazy… Either way, it was a wake-up call to remember – shit can happen anywhere and anytime. Here in PNG we are more exposed, poverty is so high, and it’s distressing thinking that these young men have to resort to violence to just get by. It makes me angry. I wish I could grab the little buggers and make them see that the life they are living will one day end – next time, they might rob someone who just shoots them.
I’ve always kept a balanced viewpoint of our life here in PNG. And always maintained that the majority of issues are “wrong place, wrong time” opportunistic.
And yes – it’s scary having a gun pointed at you, even worst when it is at your window pointing at your head less than 20cm away. But it also reminds me that so many people here live below the bread line – it’s sad. Such an unsustainable future.
How do we stop young Papua New Guineans from this way of life? I’d like to say I’m now sleeping well, but I’m not. I now worry that the young guy with the gun has been beaten by police/guards or worst. A week ago – I felt nothing for him, now I worry. Is it his fault that he may be uneducated, living under a tree, fearful of noises in the night, worried about how he was going to eat tomorrow? His options in life are slim, he may die of malaria, other gangs, or at the hands of people catching him, sickness, or starvation.
I feel sad.