Here we go with the first password protected post and it’s nice to be able to talk candidly. Not so much about the local situation but about the AusAid one.
The situation here is OK. Many of the things promised by the upload company (Deployment Services Unit, who have been hired by AusAid to do the logistics of getting people here) have been delivered – i.e. we now have a good house, as well as a good housemari, and the school is good, fees are paid, and generally we are getting to know our way round pretty well and have embarked on the process of making local friends which is also pretty cool. Life here is generally stable and liveable.
The downside – other parts of the package simply haven’t been delivered. In particular, we still do not have a decent internet connection. This is turning into a major issue because there are so many things we cannot do without it, i.e. work, study, organize our lives. Similar situation with car security – we still do not have GPS systems or alarms in our cars, or anti-shatter film on the windows to protect against rock-throwing. We are supposed to have that. It’s part of the deal.
The essential problem is that things are slow and slack and no-one wants to do any work. Most local people get around this by simpy bribing the local operators with cases of beer to do the work, but AusAid can’t do that because technically it’s corrupt, so our jobs end up on the back-burner. We are also in the hands of DSU here because if we do anything ourselves it still won’t happen until the DSU pay for it, and if we pay ourselves, it is very tricky to get reimbursed.
It is irritating to be told that “this is the way it goes in PNG, things take time” – it raises the immediate question of why they didn’t start earlier. After all, they are supposed to be the expert developing world deployment company. If I wanted it done slowly and badly I’d try to do it myself.
Anyway, we are going to Port Moresby next Thursday for two weeks – it’s school holidays, and we are going to be staying at Kitogara (an apartment block in Port Moresby run by AusAid), then a dive resort, then back to Kitogara again, then back home. We’ve told DSU that if things don’t sort themselvs out by the time we get back then we are going to have a pretty big problem.
On four of the days in Port Moresby, we are doing cultural awareness training. We might also be doing anti-carjacking training. This will be the second time these things have been juxtaposed in this way and that always amuses me. “In the morning, we’ll show you how to be friendly with Melanesian people and respect their culture. And in the afternoon, we’ll show you how to drive through a crowd of them throwing rocks at you.”
It will be good to get to the resort, which is called Loloata and is on an island near Moresby with good diving and snorkeling, walks etc. I say this because so far we have only seen Moresby and Lae and this is a little bit like having a trip to Australia and seeing Ottway and Wingfield (for non-South Australians, insert the names of your ugly epi-urban industrial suburbs here).
Trip dates: Leaving on the 15th and coming back on the 28th. Call us on our mobiles – mine is +675 74274211 and Louise’s is 71005396.
We all ritually scoff down our Malarone each morning and so far no hint of Malaria, which is good becuase people get it here all the time, several of the kid’s schoolmates have gone down with it so far. Much worse than in Honiara.
The kids have gotten interested in collecting lizards, frogs, snakes, turtles etc. This began in Port Moresby with the epic adventures of Cuddles the Cane Toad and the Obsessive Hand washers but has now become a semi-grown up interest. We have an aquarium and plans to build more. We are going up to the Rainforest Habitat on the weekend with some friends and apparently this is a good opportunity to collect such animals. Basically, the kids want a reptile house in the courtyard. They look after their green tree lizard quite well so far so I am happy to indulge this.
I have not been taking any photos because lugging around an SLR in a town full of petty criminals seems like asking for trouble. I will take it to Loloata which is very safe. When we go to other places I might take it but actual shots of Lae are going to be rare.
In terms of friends – we have so far made friends with long-term expats and locals rather than short-termers like ourselves. This is partly circumsantial, but also it is nice to be in the company of people who actually talk as though they live here. With other short-termers the conversation drifts inevitably to security, politics, malaria and money, and I get sick of talking about these things. With our “lifer” friends, it is about boats, what Lae was like in the 70s, who went to school with who, local gossip, the rental market, and what it is like to run a business here.
One guy in particular is a good person to know – Sigmund Pelgen, the son of a German immigrant to Australia who moved to PNG and started a small-goods business in the 1960s. Siggy is half German and half Chinese and has spent his life in PNG. He looks Chinese, sounds Australian, runs piggeries and makes good sausage. You couldn’t make someone like that up, could you? I am playing squash with him on Saturday.
Anyway that is enough for now. Be seeing you in a couple of weeks or so.