outback to jungle

Musings on experiences of volunteering in Papua New Guinea with some gratuitous domestic social and public comment

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


John has asked me to proof read three of his books which were written for literature study on the theme of AIDS education. I was surprised at how movingly and knowingly they are written. John himself is foster father to his brother's children on account that his brother died of AIDS and the language John uses to tell the story is confronting. I've never read anything like it although I think some of the TV programmes try to deal with AIDS in an enlightened way in Australia but the way John uses language and confronting imagery is a new experience for me: "I began cleaning the room. I found some plastic gloves and used these to remove the wet sheets full of urine and shit - you should always use gloves. If you don't have any, wrap your hands with a plastic bag. This way you don't touch the wet linen. Not that you get AIDS, but if the person had a contagious secondary disease like typhoid, you could get it..."
These books, targeted at senior secondary school students, are written in a challenging style to confront the students with the reality of child prostitution and unprotected sex without a karamup (condom). AIDS in PNG is a very serious problem and I hope John's work in the literature and education side will be useful in addressing the problem.

three languages culture

Papua New Guineans generally as a minimum speak three languages - their provincial language, the common language TokPisin, and English. Most education in schools and university is done in English. Some people close to the border with West PNG also speak Indonesian. The nationals operate the check outs at the supermarkets, they trade goods in the markets, operate heavy machinery in the mines, are the officials in banks, police stations and service shops such as computer and white goods shops. They are doctors and nurses, teachers, politicians, lawyers, engineers, computer operators. They manage and own businesses.
The Australian Way is to speak one language and to ridicule immigrants and tell the bloody wogs to go back home if they can't understand English in a taxi or if the public announcement at the Railway Station is delivered in a foreign accent. The Australian Way is to have no Aboriginal people at the checkouts or anywhere else in the workforce.
The University of the Darling River - doesn't that have a nice ring to it, teaching Aboriginal Health, Aboriginal Development, Aboriginal Law Customs and Tradition, Aboriginal Education, Aboriginal and Integration Politics. Set up in my home town of Bourke 800km west of Sydney in semi arid landscape, it would be worth trying.

ol i kam, ol i kam

I loved this call to meeting at the AGM of the Church narapela day. Ol i kam = everybody come. Fr Stanley preached on Sunday and he spoke about feeding his neighbour's dog Spoti. I give Spoti some scraps and bones and leftovers but God does not give us these things. He gives us good things. Pren bilong mi went as a young student long Canberra and he met a girl but before they got serious he said she should visit his village to see if she could accept his way of life in a single roomed house made out of woven grass and bamboo floor without the conveniences of running water na electricity. This is what Jesus expects us to do when we obey the call to follow him - forget the material thing of the multiroomed house with modern conveniences and come in to share his humble home with little facility for bodily cleansing but perfuming of many Godly hearts.
This sem pren bilong mi went with other prens to a hotel in Canberra one night and a gruff "Aussie" told him "Black bastards should go back to your own country". Mi pren said, I might be black but I am not a bastard. I would like an apology please. Ignored, pren said a second time and the "Aussie" hit him. Pren retaliated and to this day carries a limp finger from where he broke it.
A godly heart can only come from humility and there is much of it here in PNG but Australia has been flooded by arrogance even of the racist kind. The humility of the down to earth Australian has been robbed of us by Australian yobbos who persist in calling themselves "Aussies" - now a self endearing term robbed from the memory of soldiers who justifiably earned the endearing epithet in the trenches in WW1. These "people" use the memory of the good deeds of ancestors to bloat their own valour and importance. When we start to believe the deeds of our ancestors belong to the mythology of our own making, we become trapped in mythology and assume it is reality and we no longer create our own reality. The mythology of others is not built on by ourselves and we die. It happened to the Greeks after the Persian wars and the Romans and the British Empire and no doubt it will happen to the American Empire. Rogues like PM Howard have made the mythology of heroic exploits of others an art form which is disrespectful of those who own the myth and unproductive in creating reality which can become a new myth.

Monday, February 27, 2006

the library notice

Tok Save is Tok Pisin for Notice and I had to smile as I read this one in the Library just now. Most Libraries have notices all around about No Talking, Silence, Quiet. So to see a Tok Save in the Library which mentions nothing about noise but instead has three tambus: No Buai; No Smoking; No Alcohol. I was reminded of the time I went to get a Reader's Licence for the main Bodleian Library in Oxford. I had to put on an academic gown and to read out an oath, part of which mentioned that I would not carry thereinto any flame or torch or candle nor would I cause to light therein any flame or torch or candle.

We had one blackout for about 90minutes this morning and it is very humid outside as I discovered when I went to the Library.

two hundred kina

Asde, Sarere on the way home from Madang, John spent K200 on bananas, coconuts, buai, kaukau, taro, na pawpaw - enough for all the wontoks in the office. "We do that - it is the Melanesian Way, he told me. "You see that K12? - he had just bought K12 worth of buai from a lady. "It won't stay with her for long. She will send it around the market place to other traders buying bananas na kaukau then they in turn have money to come back and buy her buai. So my K200 today will do a lot of trading and make a lot of people happy today. It's the Melanesian Way".

When he went in to the market, John stood there smiling his big wide smile, fidgeting and you could see him thinking, "Who needs to be made happy first?" He is my boss and acting Head of Department and he, along with Peter my House guard, Father Stanley my priest, the Sisters at the clinic who fixed up my sore leg, the people on the PMVs - but not the conman or the pick pocketers all reflect alike the Melanesian Way - a way which shames my own country which has become deluded by false values and sense of its own importance.

I contrast their way to the ugly fourth world selfish humanity of Australian Treasurer Costello this week. He singled out Moslems (again!) who he imagined come to Australia to set up Sharia Law. This is the same man whose govt did not immigrate legally to Moslem Iraq to set up democracy but which, along with Britain, America and a few Esat European countries invaded and bombed the shitter out of Iraqi Moslems and established their western values in a Moslem country. This man and 52% of Australians who support him plus 90 miserable cowering Labor MPs cannot see the irony and hypocrisy of their own argument: You Moslems can't come here to Australia to set up your values but we Aussies can go to you - by force.

It was a similar story with the Australian Aborigines. They were told "We don't respect your values. We're comin' in with our values whether you like it or not. From now on you must respect our values."

This is the frustration of living beyond my country and seeing my values shat upon by inconsiderate, hypocritical and cynical men who think thir importance in history is going to be reflected upon with wonder in 50 or 100 years time.

What is troubling is that more than half of my countrymen are either beguiled by the craftiness of the important people or are too stupid to realise what is going on. They let their own humanity be robbed of them by these villains. They too condone the Austn Govt's proclaiming to the Moslems, "Your values don't matter, but by the right given to us by America, you'd better believe that OUR values do matter. Get used to it or get out!"

I have to live in this first world humanity Country PNG while the ugly fourth world starving humanity of my own country is transmitted for all the world to see. I won't justify it - I'm embarrassed by it. I wish I could do more to dissociate myself from the attitudes of the 52% plus 90.

Friday, February 24, 2006

melanesian, polynesian and australian ways

Unfortunately Australia has become a country that thinks its shit doesn't stink. Those who have let that happen, the sportsmen, particularly the cricketers the politicians, some businessmen, advertisers, marketers ought to hang their heads in shame. It's a pity we can't export them but what other self respecting nation would take them? Mostly they are plastic Australians from the big cities and they would be no great loss.
I said the other day that the PNGns detested Australia and always barracked for NZ in sport or anyone else but Australia so it was interesting today to read this letter to the Editor The National in Port Moresby. "We do not need Fiji. Get their products off our shelves. They think Papua New Guineans are backward and cannibals while they live like Australians, New Zealanders and the Americans. What a shame."

Thursday, February 23, 2006


John and I travelled up here asde - about 5 hrs drive, mostly good dual lane sealed road. Madang is the cleanest city in PNG so far - very little litter in the streets and certainly no evidence of burning rubbish and very little buai chewing and spittle that I have seen in my one day here so far.
We had a productive meeting with Br Steve at the Divine Word University this morning and we are seeing Br Steve for dinner at the Madange International Resort.
Tomorrow is to Tusbab High School and we return to LAE on Sarere.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

cultural sensitivity

One of the best ways to appreciate the Australian Way is to sit in the economy class of a flight out of Asia and listen to the bravery and intelligence of two groups of Alpha male Aussies (we use this term "Aussies" endearingly of ourselves ). You will hear conversation of the following kind if you can make it out from the boisterous fun loving laughter as they try to outdo each other with examples of how they demonstrated the Australian Way.
"Yair we wuz in this eeya (=here) Chink Ressront (=Restaurant) an I calls this sheila over an I sez Look eeya slope 'ead I'm an Aussie an I can't see T Bone steak an eggs an chips onner meenyuh (= on the menu). What's all viss uvver scribble? Aint yooz got no schools eeya to teach yez proper writin?"
"Aah that's nuthin mate. I calls this sheila over an I says Oi Sing YongChing You look too small for a touch up I'd go straight through ya. Where's ya mother? An she says oy ya oy oy yu ya yu yow an in comes this skinny bony arsed Ching Wong Ling an he whistles an in comes these Sumo crap beatin dudes so we run for it. An mate you shoulda seen them Chinky wogs go crazy so we runs for it downer (=down to the) beach where they're shit scared of the water after the tsunami. Aah mate, we nearly drowned from laughin so much."
I can imagine the sense of pride our PM Howard feels about his Aussies behaving in this distinctly Australian Way and it is no wonder he wants Muslim immigrants to embrace such endearing behaviour so that they too can share the Australian Way whenever they travel.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

three turtles left

I met Marcus the other night at the Yacht Club here in Lae. He is a German from Stuttgart in sud Deutschland nach Munchen. He is a marine biologist working for an Hawaiian Research institute involved in studying turtles and their survival. He had just come back from a research flight - the pilots plane is a short take off one and they can fly low at only about 120kph - i think he said kph and they were able to spot the turtles nests at about 100metres alt. I was interested in his work following his description of them as 800kg reptiles with flippers nearly a metre long and half a metre wide, with a body over two metres long and so bulky they had to use the high tide to get up on to the sand to lay their eggs but he was describing the precision of building their nests, in the latter design stages scooping only a teaspoonful of sand. But he told me about in Malaysia where once they had a population in the tens of thousands and now they had a population of - You guess he said. About a thousand. No, lower he said. Three. Three turtles.
He said you imagine being one of those three turtles and trying to make your species survive. Thought about in those terms I almost became claustrophobic. If I were the only one of my kind left, rather than imagine the space, I feel enclosed by having noone to share with. Such huge sadness for those animals with none of their kind to play with or hunt with. How does an animal bear the loneliness. We find it hard enough.

the australian way

One notices how the PNGns reflect on the Melanesian way and so after hearing the Australian PM reflect on the Australian Way - he said some Muslims are extremists who cannot embrace the Australian Way -, I thought I should as an ambassador of my country reflect on the Australian Way so I can show I am proud of my heritage too.

Australia is as Australians do. Terrorists suspects, drug traffikers, monarchists, extremists, con men, Wheat Board extortionists, shock jocks, Bible fundamentalists, politicians, cricket crowds, opera audiences, drunks and anyone else, along with me and other moderates, embrace the Australian Way because as residents there, there is no other way to embrace. It is meaningless but mischievous to say otherwise, but consider if it were so:

If baseball players embraced the Australian Way, they would play cricket.
If rice growers embraced the Australian Way, they would plant wheat.
If Toyota and BMW drivers embraced the Australian Way, they would drive Holdens.
If Soccer, Rugby or League players embraced the Australian Way, they would play Aussie Rules.
If teetotling PM Howard embraced the Australian Way, he would be a guzzling drunk in a pub.
If Pizza, Fried Chicken and Hamburgers eaters embraced the Australian Way, they would eat Roast Lamb.
If those outside prison embraced the Australian Way, they would do something to become convicts.
Did Ned Kelly embrace the Australian Way? If so, why did we hang our national hero?

Lots of things that Australians do are ugly. Take off your Rousseauian noble savage glasses and look at the Australian Way. At the cricket it is the Australian way to be obnoxious, racist and crude. When we travel to Asia, it is the Australian Way to be vulgar and offensive.

We make laws to prevent Australians being sexist in the workplace and to stop men from bashing their families so it is racist (and probably the Australian Way) to specify one particular form of mistreatment of women as not embracing the Australian Way. Shock Jocks and League of Rightists are extremists so why are they not singled out as not embracing the Australian Way? Because it is the Australian Way to be inconsistent and selective.

I've heard more hate and bile coming from Shock Jocks than I've heard from Religious Extremists. But that's the Australian Way.

Monday, February 20, 2006

mature age enrollers

I spent all afternoon (avinun) helping at the registration desk which we conduct under the trees. These enrolments are for Adult Matriculation and there were quite a few senior parent age people. Some of them were doing enrolments for their children while one of two were doiing enrolments in subjects like Bais Maths for their own education. I have mixed feelings about the situation: sadness that at their age in life they finally get an opportunity to learn; wonder in their strength of purpose; curiosity that they are enrolling for their children. I could not imagine a parent lining up in the main quad at Sydney Uni to enrol on behalf of their child.
I am trying to understand how it is that a subset of society is not contributory to the whole culture. PM Howard had something to say that, "Muslim extremists cannot embrace the country's ways". The country's ways in a multicultural society are as diverse as the different cultures. I do not embrace the ways of cricket crowds or of extreme Biblical fundamentalists or the glamour set and A list but I would not go so far as to say MY WAYS means THE COUNTRY'S WAYS. How arrogant. That is what PM Howard is saying - that HIS ways ought to be EVERYBODY'S ways, otherwise they are unAustralian. Certainly Howard is supported in his views by a small majority of the population. However the satisfaction lies in knowing that anything Howard sets in place will be undone just as soon as a reputable alternative ideology manifests, even if that is six or ten years away. The people who condemned Galileo and others as heretics have been shown up for the fools that they were. Howard will be shown up as a fool and a hypocrite by history and that is comforting. If I were in politics, I would rather be without power than without dignity.

frogs sing david nesbit

I don't know who David Nesbit is but in the rain last light there was a pair of frogs trying all sorts of variations on making rhythm out of David Nesbit. Da-vid Nes-bit Dav-id Da-vid Nes Nes Nes-bit.
No trouble at all catching the PMV into town for Church asde monin. It took off with only 6 passengers - not an economical number so it detoured through West Taraka - normally a no go zone - and got its full complement of passengers there. Sometimes I feel self conscious about being the only wait man on the bus - I wonder what the nationals think about a wait man catching "their" transport. The elegant ladies feel embarrassed about having to push and shove to catch a PMV - mostly they have spent time in Brisbane or other big Australian cities and they feel embarrassed about the way their countrymen behave - in the same way I feel embarrassed about the way our cricket crowds and cricketers behave and now this monin on the tele I see the tele too has gone all jingoistic about the Commonwealth Games. Is it any wonder there is no world peace when we carry on as though winning and subverting the other is the only reason for being.
What fun it is to have a landline phone again. This was connected on Thursday and I spent asde, sunde ringing so many people. Even called Pat and David in the US about 10pm. I thought it was dark here and assumed it was daylight there but as it happened I woke them up at 6am.

Friday, February 17, 2006

distance learning

I see so many students looking longingly at the notice board to check whether they have been accepted to do Adult Matriculation courses. Some of the ones who fail to be admitted on account of their grades come back with their parents to find out why their child can't do the AMC (Adult Matriculation Course). From the University's perspective it creates a dilemma in finding spaces because students entering directly from school have proved their academic credentials and when there are enough of these students and the AMC students also want a place, then there is a demand and supply problem. The Univ is trying to develop distance learning in accordance with Govt policy but it is going to need extra funds for the extra teachers to teach the distance mode students. The courses have yet to be written and once students begin doing distance learning, teachers are need to mark assignments, comment on them and be available for telephone assistance. I hate to see keen students miss out on furthering their education.
I must try to get a bush knife this weekend - it's a machete about 50cm long for the purpose of eating coconut. With a bush knife, I'll be the one to say to Crocodile Dundee, That's not a knife. This here's a knife! The steel is made by a Brazillian company and the irony is that these knives are on open display in most shops in their hundreds - they cost about 15 kina but pocket khives, razor blades and tin openers are behind the counters. The bush knife here is an extension of the body. You just walk around with one. I think I even saw them being carried on the plane if my memory is correct.

work progress

John and I saw the Pro VC Academic on Monday at which meeting I told him I needed to be working with Departments to get courses written and so he set up meetings with the Language Faculty and got John to work around the other faculties to determine which course we could get operating with my help. John and I met with Olive and Justin and Luke I think it was and we discussed how we could proceed and so at least we have a plan to get me involved. I will begin inservicing them and hopefully up to about a dozen staff from Agriculture and Mining in the next week or so. There are so many issues - such as if Language gets courses out to students, is this going to be the total of courses that the Univ offers by distance mode. We need lots of clarification from the Pro VC but he is very supportive - he's attended numerous Distance Learning courses himself and written his ideas for externalising engineering courses. He comes from Bangladesh himself where External is the most cost effective way for university to go. As for Justin's Faculty, they are keen to extend education by distance means because they want to see education in the minds of their countrymen so they see it as a civic duty. As Robert told me recnetly there are three types who come to PNG - missionaries, mercenaries and misfits. We still need people who have the care for the other in mind.
The frogs have been excited with the damp conditions - Pe Drr ...pe drr... pe drr or Den vrr... den vrr they croak. Then the birds this morning were chirping You can't come...through here. You can't come... through here.

news in PNG

The headline in the NATIONAL on Wednesday was "Ammo Seized" and the story went on to say "Police in Mt Hagen yesterday confiscated two boxes of live ammunitions from a passenger." Other stories were Sir Mekere lauds K160m profit by Nasfund; Corrupt senior cop goes into hiding; Increase in rape rings alarm bells; School flies out students in fear of reprisals.
My boss has gone up with the accountant to Madang today to investigate irregularities in the Studies Centre accounts. The University itself has been troubled by poor accounting practices: the semester had to be postponed by two weeks because it did not have the funds to pay the caterers for the residential students from last year. Staff emails have been concerned about pays not going in to accounts on time. The auditor wrote in 2002 "I was unable to satisfy myself as to the existence, location, identification of these assets which have a carrying amount of K61 903 791". They tell me there hasn't been an audit since because the auditor doesn't say the right things.
Going on from asde concerning the Bali 9. I imagined them telling the arresting policeman, "Yair but we're Aussies, mate, we're fun luvin beer drinkin, loveable, larikin, sports mad drug traffikin Aussies. We're harmless and popular. Everybody loves us cause we're great blokes and matey and good at drinkin beer y' know. C'mon, let us off. We're good guys, we're Aussies."

Thursday, February 16, 2006

so cool to be an Aussie

I'm sitting here just killing time at the moment -it's been a slow day for registration of students and I've got most of my preparation done for the inservices I have to present and so I am just reflecting on the vulgar summer of cricket which just ended. I hoped Sri Lanka would have won to bring the idiotic crowds and arrogant Australian cricket team to humiliation instead their heads are going to be bigger than ever. The PNGns always barrack for NZ in transTasman rivalry because they can't stand the skiting and loutishness of the Australians. Notice how we endearingly call ourselves Aussies - something I refuse to do. Young Australians set out to Bali and Thailand with this sentimental idea that "I'm everybody's mate, I'm cool an casual an I saved yez in the war because I'm a great killer of baddies and I drink loads of beer and that makes me exceptionally cool and loveable, an the world loves me so I can't help being so popular an I can't help it if I wear thongs and yez are jealous of me beaches and yair while I don't live in the bush and have never seen a kangaroo outside of a shopping centre holiday zoo, me grandfather sort of went west of Parramatta once and I can corpy the way loik that Crorckerdoil Dunbloodydee tawks like y'know an oim loveable 'cause oim an Aussie an jus git me ta tawk like as if I came from west 've Parramatta loik an git me ta drop me ing sounds y'know loik tawkin an shoutin and rootin an drinkin an drop me aitches an be loveable like all ve uvver Aussies cause I jus know yez 'll all be cheerin for us , not that I'm a sportsman meself like but yez'll be cheerin for us Aussies cause I know how popular we are an I'm sorry yous can't be an Aussie too an be popular."


Asde avinun we had three small tremors. The first was like someone jumping up and down on the floor and that's what I thought was happening. The next two shook my computer screen. There's been about six or so tremors since I've been here. We had really good rain last night, probably the best since I came back early January. Yesterday didn't feel like it was building up to anything - a reasonably cool day, not too uncomfortable humidity, sunny as I remember and the rain started pitter pattering on and off about 10pm and began in earnest about 11pm. If the decent people of the world need any more reason to worry about the Yanks after seeing more pictures of their "fight for freedom" against defenceless Iraqis which I saw on SBS Dateline last night then I just wonder what it will take to convince them about this new evil empire. It is no wonder they are hated around the world. Did anyone ever love the Romans? I love the story of Mithridates pouring molten gold down the throat of a captured Roman General. "You want gold? Here, I'll give you gold" he said as he tipped the cauldron down his throat. If the Yanks continue the way they are, people will begin to see Osama as a latter day Mithridates. I just wonder whether the phenomenon is not happening already with Saddam - cruel tryrant that he was to his people.
Just thinking again about Doreen, my Aboriginal Teacher's Aide of Wilcannia. Her mother Elsie lived through the time of white man's exploitation of the Aborigines as cheap stockmen. She had reason to be resentful of White man but she had the grace and dignity that Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Mrs Scott I think it was who was the inspiration for the civil liberties movement in the USA. I wonder where the grace, dignity and sense of self respect of my culture has gone? That little four year old boy the other day is for me representative of what my culture has lost. Him, and Peter's little girls, Peter himself, and so many others up here have humanity which seems to get lost in materialism.
As for the Tok Pisin language, I know it is used throughout the South Pacific but it seems to give the people a sense of belonging which has been lost to much of Australian Aboriginal culture. Where Aboriginal language survives the people seem to have a sense of purpose and dignity and value which seem to be lost when the language identifier is lost.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

skeleton in room

I read Robert's blog asde (www.schilt.info/blog) - a fellow volunteer. It was a story from the SMH of a skelton found in a room in a block of flats in Sydney. There were no suspicious circumstances -the person had lived alone and had not been missed. Fellow tenants blamed the Housing Authority - "They don't give a s..t". The tendency to blame a government authority or church or anybody else for social welfare issues does not happen here, that I have noticed, with the wontok system which puts looking after its own as its role in life. Wontoks pick up other wontoks if they have a car. If they have a bike, then the bike is for other wontoks to use. If they have a washing machine, then other wontoks use it. The system has its faults in that the productive people are socially obliged to look after the unproductive. One very good mate left PNG because the wontok system was taking advantage of him. It does have its faults in the way nepotism and old school tie has its faults in the West. Doreen Jones my aide at Wicannia called me to the window once to see a ute driving past with a washing machine on it. "See that she said, they buy one machine and take it around. As for me, my machine stays in my house and washes my clothes." As for the commentator who said "They don't give a s..t", it seems he didn't either otherwise he would have noticed the person's missing and done something about it himself. It is easier to blame "they".

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

the siren

I heard a siren this morning - first time I had heard one in PNG. It went for two seconds - enough to alert me to a noise I hadn't heard in this context. On the way to work too I saw this young mother and her friend walk her liklik pikinini son about 4 years old across the road whereupon he had to walk across the oval to his play school. He was the smartest dressed kid - long socks up to his shins, nice shoes, tucked in shirt neatly done, lovely brushed curly hair, bilum over his shoulder, but not yet even a metre tall. At four years, how different he looked to the grunge I have come to expect in the west. Even the older kids who go to school bare foot look impressive with neatly brushed hair and tucked in shirts. Bikpela rain last night was the heaviest at my house for some time although the storms have been just next door. This time it got to my place. They have been having severe rain up in the mountains, enough to displace people from homes and cause road disasters.
Thinking yesterday about the authority here. In spite of the korupsen, there is still respect for the institutions which is different from home. Church, Politics, Business, any sort of authority there has used up its store of goodwill and people are cynical to the point they lack respect for authority. As I said asde, here an elder speaks and people listen and act.

Monday, February 13, 2006

authoritarian society

I had to jot this one down because it follows on logically and thematically from what I was talking about this morning. We had a staff meeting and my boss chaired it. He spoke generously but in making his point he told Davon that he was now permanent and that made him responsible for his section. This means you must make sure your section runs smoothly. You must make decisions. You are responsible. If you do not take responsibility, you lose your job. So remember. You are the one responsible. You cannot keep coming to me or Adrian to ask our opinion. You make the decision or you lose your job. In other not even formal situations, I hear people saying Yu tok; Yu kam; No, yu go away; No, yu kam bek. I am too busy now. Yu no kam bek.
I think this must be a more authoritiarian society than the one I am used to. When one group jeered a speaker at a meeting last year, the elders turned as one on the group and for most that was sufficient but a couple of the elders voiced their thoughts - "Oy, you do not behave like that."
Even in church, the Chairman speaks authoritively. Leaders I think are expected to be decisive and authoritive because leadership is more a function of life and death in this society than in the more western societies where bad decisions mostly are not going to kill people - except my theory might break down with respect to the cavalier decision to invade Iraq and Afghanistan.

how would you know

What makes PNG as it is? Many things are the same as Australia - I live in an Australian style house in a street full of Australian style houses with manicured lawns and hedges. But the yards have coconut, pawpaw and banana trees and pineapple bushes. The roads are pot-holed and streaked with red spittle from buai chewing. The women (meri) are shorter and slimmer 130cm tall, 35kg mass) often barefooted and carry a bilum bag by wearing the strap across their forehead with the bilum bag on their back stretched full with produce from the market. People walk more slowly in groups - it is not rare but unusual for people to walk solitarily. They wear logod clothing which in most cases have been bought from second hand clothing shops. When I first saw someone with a logod tshirt that I was familiar with I nearly committed a faux pas and asked if they knew so and so and then I realised that wearing a logo did not necessarily associate the wearer with the place. The Professor of Chemistry wears a State Rail uniform shirt for instance - State Rail of NSW Australia that is - when clearly he has never worked for State Rail.
Asde I saw the con -man again (bulsitman they call him in Tok Pisin). I said to him that I hadn't seen him near my house and he said he had shifted residence.

Friday, February 10, 2006

not busy at work

Over the last 10 days I had been working on two inservice courses which I have to present to the lecturers to help them write courses for distance learning mode students who are otherwise independent learners. I've done these now and I am just waiting for feedback from the supervisors in my section. There is much confusion here about the direction of distance learning which is why John and I are going to Divine Word about 23,24 Feb and hopefully to Univ PNG in Port Moresby after that. Lecturers here are concerned that students who get their matriculation via distance mode are the ones who were not clever enough to get it through selective high school means and they are going to be flooded with dummies if the intake doubles the number of students. There are so many philosophical issues to be considered not to mention the practicalities of getting teachers to teach the increased number of students if we can get distance university mode operating. My job so far as instructional designer is to prepare courses to help lecturers transform their lecture face to face notes into notes that independent learners can make sense of.


Asde mi go long ton long kissim telepon na bank na kaikai= Yesterday I went to town to get my telephone on, and go to the bank and get groceries. The ANZ bank has a security "airlock": You enter the door into the "airlock". When it is closed, another door opens to let you into the bank. On exiting you go through the similar system on the other side. Security seems to be the biggest industry here. There are security guards on the doors at the supermarkets as well as patrolling the aisles. Asde I had to get some cleaning materials and I bought anti-bacterial soap, another mop head, two loaves of the best bread in town, a dozen beers -very nice brew, and some potatoes and pumpkin. Oh and some mosquito coils. I took notice of the junk that they burn - it is so gross. Betel nuts come in a shell and these litter the streets even though they are biodegradable and the coconut husks and these along with the red spittle and plastic bags and cardboard seem to be the main ingredients of the rubbish piles. I commented to Roger, another friend, that perhaps rubblish had to be burned daily to prevent disease. Can you imagine a dozen or so piles of stinking rubbish being burned daily down Pitt Street Mall in Sydney? Or people spitting out their red spittled betel juice from the buses? I'll try to work out how to post a picture and put it up. As for bare feet - I take my sandals off at the door as I used to do in Newtown - I can imagine the germs. My sore leg has almost healed. It has a bit of a welt but it's closed over and the pus has cleared up - I looked up pus in the dictionary to check the number of ss and I see purulent = containing or producing pus. I didn't know that.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

burning rubbish

On first arriving I thought the burning rubbish every evening in Boroko was just a one off occurrence possibly owing to a breakdown of a rubbish truck. But it is regular. Every evening the street litter is burned and it smokes and smells. There are rubbish spots where people spit their rich scarlet spittle betel nut juice and this is burnt up along with plastic and cardboard and anything else. The moist betel spittle makes it smell the most disgusting odour. And then I remember the streets around Newtown-Enmore-Marrickville where people used to spit out yellow-green phlegm and the next breath they would tell you how civilised they were. I used to be a barefoot person but you'd never do that in Sydney or here for that matter. The Bourke of my youth was a barefoot town - except for the heat of the day which burnt the soles off my Dad's feet one day. Nowadays it's broken glass that is Bourke's problem.
As for work, I've had good discussions with Chris in Mathematics and Ken in Business Studies over the last couple days and John (my immediate supervisor) and I are to spend two days at Divine Word University Madang towards the end of February.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

sad things

I went to a Friend's asde avinun for coffee and what I am about to tell you might sound as though I am hung up on dogs, however we were told by AVI that there would be things on our assignments that we would see that would make us uncomfortable or angry or weep. I think I told you about the sorry state of dogs before, but this poor one asde, its ungelded testicles hanging limply from hip bones and its ribbed skeleton frustrated me. Frustrated? Is that all? Three months in the country and already I am inured? But as well as the ugliness I saw the beauty. My friend took out some dog biscuits and sat with it, cuddling its head as it refused to eat. Such might life be - its good to smell the roses but I do feel guilty that I cannot do more for the dogs whose diet in some of the less generous places seems to be fish and chicken scraps if they are lucky. Patch's coat is even shiny now and I saw a dog at Church last Sunday whose coat was even shinier. I got jealous about that and went home and brewed up a shiny coat concoction - mince, rice, pumpkin, taro. Isn't it funny that while the rest of the world is thinking about the Oscars and Iran and nuclear weapons and the Danes rudeness in ridiculing another people's religion that here I am in PNG pondering the plight of one dog and marvelling the coat of another. Smelling the roses.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Electrical storms and blackouts over the last couple days brought patch the dog back inside last night. I was sitting at home reading Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy section on Saint Augustine when I became aware of of what sounded like noise constant as if from a freeway not far away. I thought maybe it was light rain so I checked outside. I no gat. I came back inside and shortly the power went off. I could still hear the noise. My experiece of storms in Western NSW was of hearing the rain on the roof of the wheat silo to be followed about a minute or so later by the rain's having arrived at the school. For a good twenty minutes or so I heard the noise and then the rain reached my place. Arriving at work this morning I saw water still lying on the grass so mystery solved. It had obviously rained very heavily up here on campus for the twenty minutes before I got it fifteen minutes walk away.
Blackouts which I did not miss over the summer holiday season are now starting to creep back into the work system - a couple on Friday, again yesterday, one so far this morning. I'll post this while I am in luck.

Monday, February 06, 2006


I saw the con man asde (yesterday) on my way into church. He mumbled something about Confirmation and kept going. Maybe he was embarrassed that I had discovered he was not living next door to me afterall. What a complete opposite is Father Stanley our local minister. He is humble to the point of almost being shy. He celebrates Communion in his bare feet with vestments. People mostly come up to receive communion in their bare feet. It is interesting to observe that our feet colours are almost the same but our skin colours have different levels of pigmentation. We laugh and cry in the same language no matter our colour or race.
I wrote letters off to the editors of the Australian and Sydney Morning Herald asde but they elected not to print them. One reflected that just as in animal society the dog had a right to his bone, so too in uncivilised society the editor had a right to free speech even if it offended Muslims by his depiction of Mahamet. The meaning of civilised society is that it minds its manners, it shares the bone and takes care not to offend the other. The Danish editor might eat with a knife and fork but he is otherwise uncivilised for the way he used his right to free speech.
The other one was about the Australian Government which never knows anything. I said I think I imagined a scenario in which a repoter told the PM that his arse was on fire. The PM tersely rebuked the reporter for being vulgar. The reporter replied, well ask your advisor. The PM asks, "Is my arse on fire?" The advisor says, "I can neither conform nor deny lest you become inadvertently aware." The Fire brigade rushes in and extinguishes the blaze. The news bulletins report, "The PM is recovering in hospital following a bizarre incident. The PM's office said that the PM did not know his arse was on fire. A reporter said that he had told the PM but the PM stands by his recollection of events."

Saturday, February 04, 2006

weekends in lae

Without a vehicle one is restricted to walking or PMV (Bus) along with all the locals. Very few wait men use the PMV and Saturday (Sarere with rolled rrrs in Tok Pisin) is market day when many people go to the huge open air market to do their shopping and they make bus travel a squeezing affair. There are big crushes at the doors of the PMVs and some people climb in the windows to get a place on the bus. Sunday is much the same with people trying to get to church. I go to church - get to the bus stop at say 8.30 and mostly I can get a bus by about quarter (quara with rolled r) past nine for church which stats at 9.30 thus making me 10 minutes late when I get there about quara to 10. I'd love to get to the mouth of the Markham river but its almost like Phantom country down there: Yu no painim mouth bilong Markham River. Markham River painim yupela. Several games of cricket on the ovals today. Dined out at the Lae International Hotel beside the pool with tupela pren bilong mi, Allan na Atul. Mostly in Tok Pisin the f in english words is pronounced p. So fish =pis, Philip=Pilip; find = painim, fight = pait; finger = pinga;
Currently I am working on a paper which I hope might make the short list for the Distance Learning Conference in Port Moresby early April. The thesis I want to share is that the universal paradigm of intelligence which is "owned" by the west locks the world including PNG into linguistic and mathematical models which require instrumental agencies such as the school and university to service the models according to their criteria of demonstrative knowledge but other cultures may have another paradigm of intelligence which can only be known by means of the instrumentalities of another culture and that it is a form of racism to require an intelligent PNGn that he must qualify for University based on the intelligence paradigm of the western culture. Well see how we go as I try to develop my arguments and accumulate some evidence and alternative models. What it means is that tertiary education ought to be meeting the intelligence of students on what the students can offer society through tertiary study, not what the universities can offer society through tertiary education on University terms.

Friday, February 03, 2006

the dog patch

This dog Patch has been passed on from several tenants now. I hope I am looking after him on only a temporary basis because I do not want full time responsibility for a dog to tie me down. The state of dogs here is such a sorry one - fleas, bone skinny, scabby, pathetic. I don't mind Patch. He doesn't say much though. Just wanders into my flat, looks around, flops down in a corner or when it thunders he huddles over near me. At night he wanders up the stairs and flops down in the corner of my room. I bought some dog mince and bones the other day and cooked them up with rice and other vegetables - its cheaper to do it that way than buy a tin of dog food. But the raw meat stinks! Stinks, Stinks my fridge so I froze it - seems to have stopped the problem. This diet also seems to have stopped Patch from stinking too. When I returned from holidays during which Patch had been a street dog for two weeks, he was flea riddled and stank. I gave him several baths and flea powdered him and his coat is shining and they tell me that is a sign of good health. I wonder if I should enter him in the Lae show? I'm not sure what his talents are.
Another poor dog just before Christmas I heard yelping in pain. I looked out my window and he was trying to get up a small embankment. I went and investigated and he could only move his front legs - his hind legs seem paralysed or maybe dislocated. That sort of thing makes me very squeamish - I couldn't look or even bring myself to help him: not a very moral act. But I went around to ask security if they had guns to put him down but it seems to be the case here that nature takes its course. It's ugly to look at while this happens though. I don't know if there is a better way. We are trying to euthanise people in the West now. Lucky Patch. Until I too have to move on.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

why the title

Each time I have opened my blog I have meant to explain it. I began 2005 in western NSW Australia at Bourke on the Darling River, rainfall about 300ml perannum, shade summer temperatures regularly 45 degrees, river width about 60 metres and in late October I moved here to Lae, PNG, jungle climate, rainfall measured in metres per annum, high humidlity keeps temperature to about 33 degrees, river width of the Markham River about 2km. So outback to jungle seemed appropriate. Saw SBS Dateline program on Afghanistan last night and there was to have been my first assignment with AVI. I met Dr Nouria in Melbourne - a lovely lady who I am sure is typical of most Afghanis.
I bought my day security guard Peter a puncture repair kit for his bike asde (yesterday). This morning he left at my door a huge pineapple and bundles of beans. The people here are just so respectful of themselves and their dignity and they treat foreigners like myself in the same way. Well most of them do. The conman is another case but people like that are present almost in any society. I still remember the Scotsman who conned me out of twenty English pounds. I'd hate to have it as an epitaph - here lies a con man.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


I must be looking a soft touch because yesterday my house meri (cleaning lady) asked me for 100 kina to fix her roof which was leaking. I was more than taken aback - I was angry. She is on the best wage of all the house meri's that I am aware of - I inherited the rate - 40 kina a week for two mornings work - does the washing, ironing, cleaning dishes and sweeping. The security guard is on 80 kina a week for 7days a week 12 hours a day and he asks for nothing and even brings pawpaw and beans to me and doesn't ask for money. I would give to him because h e is so humble. He has the most delightful little girls and they all go to school - a lot of children do not go to school because they cannot afford the fees of 200kina per annum. But back to the house meri. Apparently I am supposed to help out but I told her I was a volunteer and I did not have spare 100 kinas. I think a lot of people associate any wait man (white man) with having money and do not distinguish between the do-gooders who live on the smell of an oily rag and the volunteers like myself who are on local wages and the contractors who are on ex-patriot rates. I always buy the bus fare for the people like the ones the other day who helped me at Eriku and I brought back books and pencils for the little ones of the security guard. But the house meri is already on a good thing. She does a very good job and she is paid for it. But there should be no reason why people need to ask for extra. PNG as a friend told me is a lump of gold floating on a barrel of oil in the middle of the fertile crescent -so to speak. You plant here and it grows. Tomatoes don't grow well in the humidity but everything else - potatoes, pineapple, pawpaws coconuts, peanuts, etc. Except for the grain crops - wheat, barley etc. Mismanagement by the responsible authorities of PNG should not be a reason for me to dip into my savings. They ought to take up their problems with the politicians. More of them need to take a moral stand. I see corruption myself but not being a national I cannot do anything about it. Call me a moral coward but I am making up for it in doing the good I am doing in my capacity as a volunteer. I'm not normally a utilitarian - greater good by being here than not being here and that sort of thing but in the short term I think that is the case until I work out another plan.