Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bewa and the sea...

So we managed to get away again last weekend and I think we’ve found a destination that we will return to again in the future. Many times if possible seeing as the sea life is beautiful and amazing.

We stayed at a guesthouse in Bewa (a little place near East Cape) which is run by our friends uncle. It’s a quaint little place, right on the beach.

It also seems to be right on a mosquito breeding ground, but as long as you stay covered up and dipped in repellant you’re fine. Either that, or you take bait with you as Stan and Cam seem to have done with Lyn and I.

So we arrived on Saturday afternoon, set up our beds (nothing like being tired and going to a bed that’s already made up), and got straight into the water.

Cam could describe it in more detail and scientific names than I could, but for those of us less marine biology inclined it was beautiful. There were plenty of tropical fishies, lots of different coral, and lots of colour for the eyes. My favourite was the little Anthia fish – purpley-orange in colour and very cute.

We got out when it was getting dark and we were getting hungry and the boys set about making the fire for dinner. It’s funny how much boys love to do that.

We feasted on Cam’s Thai Green Chicken Curry (in capitals coz it’s so good), and chatted around the fire for a bit before going to bed. While the new thermarests are surprisingly comfie, the walls of the guest house aren’t particularly soundproof, and the wet season rain was quite loud. So we had a dry night, but a noisy one.

The good thing about tropical sea water is that it’s so warm, and so snorkels can go for a couple of hours as they did on both days of our visit. Some of the local kids joined us on the Sunday, and we took a million photos (I got a bit snap happy) – I’m relying on Cam to post the best ones here. We’ll let the pictures do the talking.

The other thing worth mentioning about our trip, or any trip that involves driving to your destination, is the prevalence of dogs, chickens and pigs on the road. Because of the payback system here, if you were to hit something on the road it could cost quite a bit, so apart from the fact that you don’t want to kill anything, you also don’t want to spend all your money on a dead animal. Pigs are especially expensive and so a common warning from whoever is in the passenger seat (or anyone in the car) is “Watch out, Pig”, or just “PIG!” – it can sound rather amusing.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

On unwellness and associated boredom....

One thing I am happy about is that the first case of boredom I can well and truly report is when I was home sick for two days. No phone and no tv connection are all the more noticeable at times like this. Although there is a tv and dvd player, so I wasn’t at a total loss – I watched Shirley Temple movies and anything I could find around the house. My knitting needles mocked me as I had no wool with which to knit! Luckily we are at the beginning of our year so we have not exhausted our book supply yet, and the crossword book I bought is relatively new and unused. Cam tried his best to be nice and keep me somewhat entertained.

The problem with being sick here is that no matter what you have, it’s probably malaria. There are so many health books/sites etc that have great information on illnesses, but malaria seems to be one of those ones that can incorporate any symptom, and seems to be highly personal in what symptoms are displayed. So have I had malaria? Who knows, it’s hard to say. If I did it was only a mild dose. The blood test came back negative, and while I should have probably gone back for more blood tests the nurse thought it sounded quite like “that culprit, malaria” and so told me to take the drugs for it anyway. I’m not complaining either as they seem to be working. Also it is ridiculously easy to get medicine here (if they have it, which is not a problem with malaria treatments), so treatment is not a problem. Self-treatment is the word of the day in PNG, especially for those that live in remote places, or who have to travel to remote places. Should Cam or I have to travel I am extra glad that malaria treatments are easily available over the counter, as the only way you could get those medicines on some islands would be if you brought them yourself.

In other news I’m just as obsessed with the garden as ever. I’ve now got more containers to grow herbs in, and Stan put a border on our veggie-patch-to-be today. Now we just need more soil and we’ll plant the fruit and veggie seeds! Yay! Cam laughs at me with my gardening, but his latest fishing and whittling craze makes me think he would do just fine playing the harmonica on his front porch beside the river down South. Last night he started to whittle a fishing lure – very cute! I’m sure he’ll make me eat my words when he catches something with it.

p.s. Emma - notice how much bigger and better the banana bread looks that was cooked in the silicon bake ware! : )

Monday, May 15, 2006

Spot the crocs...

Yes, well PNG is known to have crocodiles, but this is not what I’m referring to. In fact anyone who’s had a conversation with Cam since Christmas will know what this is referring to. You’ll all be glad to know that he is just as obsessed with his beloved crocs here as he ever was. Indeed they go everywhere with him. You’ll be admiring the scenery (in water or on land), and suddenly some crocs will arrive, and then you’ll realize that they are attached to Cam in some fashion (doesn’t necessarily have to be footwear either, as Cam demonstrates in the photo below).

We’ve been trying to keep active here to take the edge off waiting at work for things to happen. On the weekend we went for a dive off the shore in front of my workplace. While it was only a short dive (in both senses of the word – only 15 mins and 9 metres), we still saw some interesting things, including a huge trevally which came to check out the strange bubbling underwater creatures in front of it. We will be going in search of more interesting and adventurous dives in the not-too-distant future!

On Saturday night we went on a Hash walk. Hash can be found in some parts of the world (I think the full name is Hash House Harrys), and it consists mostly of ex-pats who meet up, do some stuff (like going for a run in the bush), then drink. In our case the group meets once a week, somebody sets a trail in a new location that they know, everyone else follows the trail and tries not to get lost in the false trails set, and then everyone meets up at the end for ‘the circle’. The circle is reminiscent of drinking games circles at university, including the sculling song “Here’s to Jane, she’s true blue…”. Quite juvenile and everyone seems to love it. I think it’s pretty easy not to drink too much if you don’t draw attention to yourself. Our walk was a great introduction – it wasn’t too hard, but we still had to cross rivers and walk past little villages, so it was pretty interesting.

We also managed to get out of town on Sunday for some more snorkeling adventures. It seems to me that you could step off the coast anywhere in PNG and manage to see something good, pretty etc. Cam takes the opportunity to take lots of fish photos, and is getting quite a good collection (I think they’re rather good, even though he gets all perfectionist about them).

We also saw a canoe in the making which was interesting. People are so versatile in their talents here, although they would see them less as talents and more as necessary skills.

Otherwise we are trying to get out and about during the week. Cam’s new bike looks pretty, but not long after this photo was taken the pedal & whole crank arm fell off while Cam was riding it to work (he says I cursed him by taking the photo). Seeing as he had only ridden it 3 times he is considering taking it back. It may have been a cheap bike, but one hopes the bike wouldn’t fall apart after three short journeys.

Maybe we should canoe to work?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Humanity vs the Mosquitoes (and why I sometimes hate both)

The day to day tasks in PNG take as much getting used to as the obvious things (language, culture etc.). Going to the bank takes at least an hour, nothing special, just the run-of-the-mill transactions. Walking past someone in the street (unless it is busy or crowded) it is polite to smile and say hello or “Goode” – the general niceties of a small town. It’s strange how pressured one can feel to be nice, it is almost confronting.

The sounds are different – geckos are continually making their clicking/chirping sound (but you can never see them when they do it), birds twittering away, animals yelping (that one is certainly taking a lot of getting used to. Stray animals abound, and there’s not such a big emphasis on treating them nicely. Milne Bay doesn’t seem to be too bad, but dogs especially aren’t afforded the respect that they are in Australia or other countries). Kids are noisier here – it’s quite nice. Kids are allowed to be kids and run around and be loud without parents shushing them all the time, and nobody really cares because kids are just being kids.

Bush knives are everywhere. Someone walking along the side of the road with a big machete/bush knife is a common sight. Kids play with them all the time (which makes me nervous for their own safety), and they mostly seem quite competent with them. I guess they are taught to use them at a young age for around the house/garden chores. Cam wasn’t happy until he had bought his very own bush knife.

The smell of smoke continuously permeates the air. Papua New Guineans love to burn things. Most houses have a pit or black spot outside where they regularly burn their rubbish. This may be something they have done for a long time, however the nature of rubbish is changing and I can’t say I love it when I see plastics being burnt. Dirty feet are common as most people where no shoes, or thongs and when it’s not dusty, it’s raining and muddy. Still it’s nice to be somewhere that no matter how hard it’s raining it’s still warm and rather pleasant and refreshing to walk in.

Mosquitoes are not my favourite. While I never see them swarming, they turn up at random and sneaky times. So far not too many bites (random yukky skin thing may or may not have started with a mosquito bite), but am sleeping in a room with insect netting and a mosquito net, so hopefully we’ll be as safe from the little buggers as can be. Spiders occasionally like to hide under things, but they usually run away when they see you – not so tough after all.

People here are as strange and confusing here as anywhere else, just in different ways. Most people are quite pleasant, but when you walk somewhere they can look at you fairly fiercely until you smile and greet them; after that they are all smiles. While we haven’t encountered much of it yet, black magic and sorcery abounds. One of our housemates was asked to wash with special herbs his local girlfriend gave him – apparently he had been dealing with witches that didn’t like her family. We are also seeing all the politics that a small town will have. If you make an appointment with someone here don’t expect them to come when they say, and expect the event to either be much shorter, or twice as long as it is meant to be.

One of the most frustrating things I’ve encountered here is a brand new media centre that has been built and furnished for 3 years, but has not been used. The current radio station is next door, working on equipment that must have been second hand in the 80’s, and it’s only able to broadcast for a limited time each day so that they can prerecord other material in the one studio that they have to work in. In the media centre there are 2 studios and a recording room equipped with new and state of the art gadgetry – just makes me sad. Not sure about the politics behind that situation, but it just seems such a waste.

But this is all part of the experience. Photo description: the water scene is 50m from our house - where we go for swims and paddles on the canoe. The next photo is of the view from our house and some nice cloud formation - also shows how close the mountains are. Last photo at the bottom is of our house - Cam and I live downstairs!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

On Birthdays and Farewells…

Jane here. Well, as weekends go this one was jam packed. As many of you may know it was my birthday on Saturday and so celebrations were called for. Having not been in PNG for very long, we decided not to have a huge party to invite everyone we know, because, well, we don’t know that many people. But we had a nice bbq at EMB (my work).

People were very generous with their gifts and as a result I now have a woven bag, some traditional dresses (as attractive as they are – I like to say ‘matronly’), a cap and t-shirt, some wooden jewellery with carved jewellery box, a radio; and the pride and joy, a piano accordion. You might well be wondering what a piano accordion is doing in Alotau, PNG, and indeed we were wondering too. But I’ve learnt not to question the good things in life. This is only a learners accordion, and I hope the neighbors don’t get too cranky with me over the next 11 months.

I was lucky enough to have some special people to share the day with, and to be able to speak to people from home. The group photo is of some of our housemates – back row: Cam and I, Lyn and Stan, and front row: Serena and Tori. While Serena is not a volunteer, she often stays with us and is a workmate of Lyn’s. The other photo is of Maxine (my counterpart) and me. Stan baked a birthday cake for me and a farewell cake for Tori, which was pretty special and soo yummy – must get the recipe!

On a sadder note we said goodbye to Tori on the weekend as she has decided to go home and finish her Masters and perhaps become a volunteer again in the future. We drove to the airport early on Sunday morning and watched her get on the plane, then went back to the house for a feel better greasy bacon and eggs breakfast. Tori – the house seems empty without you!

We also said goodbye to another volunteer Bec on Monday morning as she has finished her stint here and is going back to Australia. On Sunday the boys bought and roasted a pig in traditional style as a final farewell for her. While I felt sorry for the pig, the gesture was a touching one. But I’m noticing that the number of females is dropping, the level of testosterone is almost a tangible thing!

So a pretty eventful and exhausting weekend. So much for the ‘quiet’ life in PNG!