Wednesday, December 27, 2006

An Underwater Christmas

Well, what a Christmas! We went to a lovely little diving hideaway on the north coast of Papua New Guinea just about an hour outside of Alotau. It’s very beautiful and a pretty special place to visit. Their main market is international guests with a penchant for amazing diving. Luckily, they also have a local rate, which is how we could afford to go.

We only stayed for 3 days – Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. We arrived on the first day just in time for lunch and diving (a perfect combination for Jane and Cam). Our first two dives, at a location called Wahoo Point, were as amazing as promised, and although we missed the hammerhead sharks, we did get to see at least 11 mobila rays, 3 turtles and a multitude of pretty fishes. For those in the diving know, we are talking about 25 m visibility in warm tropical water. Mmmmm.

On Christmas Eve, after a delicious dinner (we’re talking 3 courses, including soup, and pineapple crumble for dessert) and the biggest glass of wine you’ve ever seen, there was a special treat. Some of the local village people came around and sang Christmas carols in local language (Tawala). There must have been around 50 singers, and they filled up the space not only with their voices, but also with talcum powder. Apparently it is traditional to puff talcum powder everywhere when carols are being sung – perhaps it is making reference to the ‘white Christmas’ sung about in so many songs. Or maybe it’s just to make sure people are smelling nice in the sweltering, tropical heat. But it was amusing to see everyone covered in powder, somewhat amusing to be covered in it yourself, and less amusing for the singers who are trying not to choke on it.

We don't need to expain the white spots in the photo any further do we?

So Christmas Day we woke up (still smelling of talcum power despite long showers the night before) and opened some presents from ‘Santa’ (thanks Santa). We also managed to call both our families to wish them a Merry Christmas, which was nice. For the mornings activities we planned to go on two more dives – to Deacon's reef, and Lauadi, two beautiful dive sites.

Deacon's is a beautiful reef overhung by limestone cliffs and trees, so deep water species (those that like less light) settle and grow right up in the shallows,

in the shadows of the trees...absolutely amazing.

Lauadi is one of the most famous areas the home of "Muck diving" in PNG, that's where Jane got this beautiful picture of a nudibranch (especially for Lyn and Stan),

and, of course Cam took more clownfish photos.

Unfortunately he's actually getting pretty good at it, and had started including Jane in some capacity. Sigh.

We also saw a Titain Trigger fish munching on a starfish, maybe because it was full of reproductive goodness... we discovered in the afternoon on a kayak/snorkeling adventure the starfish were all spawning. So those of you who helped out with Cam's honours can imagine just what this little guy was leaking and what we were swimming through...

We also discovered that Cam never really feels at home in or on the water without his fins.

Here he is at a Fish Aggregation Device – about 300m off shore. This sort of thing is built to help take fishing pressure off the reef by giving the small fish an illusion of shelter, they in turn bring the faster growing pelagic fish which is more sustainable than just fishing the reef.

The other highlight of Christmas day was fresh leg ham! Woohoo!!! Well, it is the little things, and ham is one of them in PNG. Which is surprising really, considering how much pig is bred and consumed here.

On our last day at the resort, we decided to take it easy and only go on one dive (Cam was being very restrained), off the front of the resort. It was just as lovely as the other dives, with more Mobila rays and big batfish and hump head wrasse.

Cam managed to get this shot after some serious effort...

Anyway, the point is we had a lovely Christmas and we both got lai..ed...

Please enjoy our fish (and other) pictures. Next stop at the holiday end of the year – New Years! Have a great one!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!!!

Just a quick one to wish you all a happy and safe holiday. We hope that Santa treats you well - this Santa and his Mrs Claus are off to have a well-earned break.

Hope you've all enjoyed finding out about our lives in PNG through this blog...Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Carols by Candlelight - PNG Style

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Only one week until Christmas, and I find myself surprised. Possibly because Alotau, PNG, is fairly removed from all the marketing and consumerism that is usually found in my beloved Sydney. Although I wonder where in the Christmas-celebrating part of the world the shops don’t become somewhat more crowded at this time. But there is the compulsory Santa on the back of the truck, throwing lollies to the kids on the street (sometimes quite literally – the only reason that there haven’t been any kids hit by cars yet is the fact that there aren’t that many around. That and the compensation/payback system).

But don’t get me wrong – I actually love Christmas, and was happy to demonstrate this by helping to organize and stage manage the first Carols by Candlelight to be held at my work.

This was no mean feat, as people here don’t really have the same concept of commitment that we (generally) hold in the Western world. But we only had one drop out, and even though we were still changing the order of the acts during the concert according to when the performers actually turned up, it was judged to be a success.

We overcame our lack of live music facilities and people who could read music by finding an a capella carol singing group. There was also traditional PNG music groups and soloists, dancers (of the contemporary and pacific variety), and the Christmas raffle.

The Wanigili Theatre group performed a PNG-style nativity scene, with the three wise men of Gili Gili, Weimar and Kiriwina. I’m very proud of the group – they’ve come such a long way in the last few months.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Carols by Candlelight if there wasn’t a special guest appearance by one very important Santa Claus. Luckily Cam demonstrated his love of Christmas by helping out in the Santa stakes. He did a great job, and while he narrowly escaped being mobbed by the children who were the recipients of Santa’s lollies (thrown on the grass, not the road), he didn’t escape the ladies so easily.

It must be hard being Santa.

Monday, December 11, 2006

We Have A PHONE!!!! may be only a small piece of news for all of you in the developed world, but we now have a phone. See our pretty

We are now joining the world of communication and more walking to Jane's work at all hours of the night, and hopefully a bit more loving from the rest of the world. We also have a much at once! But it means we are the most in touch with the world that we have been in ages. Wheee!!!!

Monday, December 04, 2006

World AIDS Day

Well. We're back. Sorry about the delay in blogging, but we’ve been busy settling back in and sorting ourselves out. You’ll be glad to know that it’s obscenely hot (unlike our 8 degree day in Sydney), and there are plenty of bananas, mangos and pineapples to satisfy any fruit cravings we may have (photos of fruit to be posted soon). We arrived back to discover that we now have a television and dvd player (Thanks Mike!), as well as a tv connection! So we can now keep up to date on the happenings in the world, and Funniest Home Videos and other similarly crap tv shows. Also the Ashes, which has had the male half of our household glued to the tv for the last few days. We are also half way to having a phone, in that there are lines mysteriously connected up to the outside of the house, but unfortunately none on the inside of the house yet, and no actual phone. But we are getting closer.

As has been mentioned before Alotau is a rather sleepy little town. But this was not so when we arrived back on Tuesday afternoon. I (Jane) discovered that not only was World AIDS Day on Friday 1st December (as usual), but there would be a march in town, and my group had been asked to perform for the day. So we spent Wednesday and Thursday getting our piece together.

World AIDS Day was great. While the march was only small, I think we caught everyone’s attention, and the first step is raising awareness. There were speeches and performances from various doctors, school groups and other groups such as Igat Hope, a HIV/AIDS support group started by HIV infected (and affected) persons. Some pretty inspirational stuff. The Wanigili Theatre group put on a great performance focusing on educating about the virus (e.g. It’s ok to use the same toilet as someone who is HIV positive, but people generally shouldn’t share needles when tattooing etc.). The crowd seemed to enjoy the piece, the group was happy and confident, and Maxine and I were so proud of them! Please enjoy the first piccies we’ve posted of my group on this blog (for more information about the Wanigili Theatre Group, see their blog

The day was incredibly hot, so we opted not to stay for the whole thing, but thankfully we heard later that the debate “That condoms should be abolished in PNG as it is a Christian country” was won by the negative team. Phew.