Sunday, April 22, 2007

To New Places...

Well, we have been in Australia for only 3 weeks, and we find ourselves going on another journey - this time for a bit of a holiday. We want to keep writing and posting pictures about our travels and experiences but want to keep this blog exclusively about PNG. So. We have started a new blog of our adventures...continued. Please keep up to date with us and check it out at

There are also some future plans to post more of our photos and PNG experiences here in the future. When we have a bit more time. So for those of you interested in learning more about the amazing place that is Papua New Guinea (and Milne Bay in particular) - stay tuned!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Goodbye Alotau

So we’ve been a bit slow with posting about the last days in Alotau – after having left 2 ½ weeks ago – but here it is.

The last week was fairly blurred – parties, books, drama and the rest. Obviously it was a fairly emotional time. Regardless of any negative experiences, or readiness to go home and see family and friends, there is a lot to miss in Milne Bay.

We spent much time packing, and cleaning up, and repacking. We sent most of our stuff home the week before we left only to experience the true generosity of Milne Bayans and receive another bags worth of gifts that we had to find somewhere to put.

Our second last night we had dinner with the missionaries that lived across the road from us – lovely wheat free lasagne and theological and evolutionary discussion into the wee hours of the night. Our last night saw Maxine and Elaine cooking up some delicious farewell food, with Jeannie, Charlie, Joby and of course Kaure all joining in the eating and compulsory farewell drinks (Kaure was strictly on a juice and water mix).

There were a couple of particularly emotive moments. There was a final farewell luncheon at Jane’s work. Nice speeches were said, Jane and Cam were thanked for their contributions, the students sang a song, and certificates were handed out to the drama group. There were gifts from the staff – beautiful gifts such as clay pots (traditional cooking vessels used in PNG), t-shirts, billums etc. And an amazing collage put together by Maxine with help from some of the staff, featuring the drama group. It is such a special gift that will surely take pride of place when we actually have a place to live in where we can hang it.

Later that same afternoon the drama group presented some special pieces they’d been working on – both a traditional story and a song that they’d written. There were many tears, and Jane felt both sad and loved.

On our final day in Milne Bay there was much running around to do, as there always is before a major departure. In the afternoon we eventually left for the airport, and were accompanied by the drama group and assorted friends. Farewelling from the airport seems fairly important in PNG.

So Maxine drove a busload of us there, and we met up with others and hung around for an hour or so after checking in our luggage. It was all a little bit surreal. The plane came, we got on – trying to make the last minutes as happy and positive as possible. As the plane took off we all waved madly through the window at each other. What a great image to leave on – all of our friends waving and reminding us of all the good things, wonderful friends and amazing experiences we have shared this year.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Almost Like Being Santa…

So, yes, we are back. Back in Australia that is. And it is all a little bit strange to get used to. But more on that later – we still have a few more PNG stories to tell…

In the week before we left we were very busy. One of the things that Jane had been working on during the year was a book drive to collect books for the schools around Milne Bay. While this project had its ups and downs (apologies to those who collected books, but never sent them/had them collected – there were obstacles with everything from storage to transport to communications!), there were a few successful parts. A couple of bigger charities were able to send more than a tonne of books up from Australia to Milne Bay, and we sorted them and started to distribute them last week.

Books are so difficult to get in PNG, and many of the school libraries are pitifully bare and out-of-date. It was great to be able to get books to some of the local high schools,

primary schools and elementary schools,

as well as the local library.

We are sure they will be used well, just as they are appreciated. Hopefully book drives will continue into the future to get more books to more of the schools in Milne Bay.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A weekend of farewells...

As mentioned in the last post, this weekend we were preparing for, participating in, and cleaning up after our ‘go pinis’ parties (aka go finish, or farewell). We were lucky enough to have two – one at Jane’s work, and another at our place.

So Saturday saw us marketing, shopping and working. Also, Cam spent some three hours trying to find a pig for our own party the next day. We never imagined it to be such an involved process. 7pm rolled around and we went to Jane’s work where the first party was thrown in our honour. The kai kai (food) was delicious as always (thanks to Vero and the kitchen staff), and a good time was had by all.

The Wanigili Theatre Group (that Jane has been working with over the last 6 months) even put on a few performances – including improvisation and mime.

Then the dancing started. Cam begged out with the excuse of documenting the event, while Jane danced to every song until the music stopped. And woke up with very sore feet the next day.

Sunday morning we resisted the tempation of sleeping in as we had lots of preparation to do for our own party. We started cooking and baking, cleaning, and generally preparing everything. Aries came through with a pig for us (yay! A party just isn’t a party in PNG without a pig in some form), and James, Cam and the kids across the road had great fun in helping to stuff it, put it on the pole and roast it over the fire. We were a little bit concerned that James enjoyed the whole process a little bit too much, perhaps he has been taunted by pigs while working out in the village, look at that smile!

James also performed his standard "ruin a perfectly good go pinis photo with a silly face" routine: look carefully between us.

Serina was amazing, and we’re sure once we got distracted with the guests arriving it was her that kept the party running. Thanks Serina! Apart from the food that we cooked, most people brought a dish with them, so we had plenty of food.

But, it wouldn’t be a PNG party without an excess of food. Everyone stuffed themselves, and was happy.

The drama group performed some more pieces, and there was even a bit of audience participation, most notably from local ‘celebrity’ Habona.

We were given some beautiful gifts from our friends (as pictured) – including some traditional jewellery, and baskets. Also a presentation was made to Jane from her drama group – and a few tears may have been shed.

The tears dried up however when Maxine's son with a great sense of comic timing interrupted what was becoming a rather emotional speach with "Mummy, I need to poo poo”... Jane is still laughing about it

So thanks to everyone who made our last weekend in Alotau so memorable. Thanks to Serina and her family for sticking around to the end – including party clean up duty. We’ve had such an amazing time – it’s going to be tough on Thursday when we say our lasts goodbye and fly away, we don't think a poo joke is going to let us get away easily this time.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Into the last two weeks...

As our time remaining here becomes shorter, we are trying to fit more and more of those 'last things' and 'catch ups' in. Last weekend we went and visited Serina at her village, Porotona, for the last time (at least for a while). We took the new volunteer dutch physio Anita along with us to introduce her to a different aspect of PNG culture, and as usual we had a great time and Serina and her family looked after us very well. We had a bit of a lazy time compared to previous visits (no walking up mountains or anything like that), but we still managed to play in the river with the kids, and Cam went prawn crazy once more.

The next day we went for a spin to Taupota and took Serina and the kids (as many as could fit) with us.

We stopped on this beautiful stony beach and the kids went for a swim while we started a fire and Cam cooked a fairly 'traditional' village meal - bulli beef, noodles and whatever vegetable is around.

Mmmm Bulli...

Needless to say we made for an interesting attraction with the local kids. In the afternoon we made a sad farewell to Serina's family - now the hard goodbye bits are starting, there were too many tears to make taking photos a possibility.

Throughout the week we packed. Oh how we packed. It's amazing how much two people can accumulate over a year - and that's after we've given a significant amount of our stuff away! We tried to send it away yesterday, but as usual it didn't quite work out the way we planned, so we'll have another try again today.

We were also lucky enough to have dinner cooked for us this week as well. The two volunteer/elective student doctors from Oxford wanted to repay us for the dinners Cam had cooked for them, so they came over on their second last night in town and made a delicious meal! Thanks for that Wil & Sandy. Thanks also to Dr Greg who attended and who has looked after us very well this year also, it is difficult to even begin to describe how hardworking and dedicated the medicos are here.

Anyway. We are officially at the one week to go in Alotau mark. It's hard to believe how quickly the time has passed! This weekend will see our go finish parties, and all the last minute catch ups, pack ups and farewells. We are looking forward to going home, but it is certainly going to be hard to say Aihoni!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Another weekend in paradise...

Weekends in Alotau can vary. As we will be leaving the country soon, we are trying to fit in as much as possible into our spare time. Perhaps this last weekend wasn't the most 'average' or normal one, but we feel it's worth writing about.

On Friday night we went to the local pub for Evonne's 'go finish' party (or farewell, for those who haven't picked it up) and danced the night away. We met some new volunteers working at the hospital, and had some nice company and conversation.

On Saturday Cam and Jane went their separate ways. Cam went with Bryan to see the prime minister speak (as one does) at the 'breaking of the ground' for a new business venture. There was lots of dancing and cultural celebrations. There was also plenty of political rhetoric or what in pidgin is called "mauswara" literally words that flow from the mouth like water, in other words politicans promises or more succintly: "bullshit". As Jane had the camera there were no piccys to record the event.

Jane and Maxine went to visit Rose – one of the drama group members. She lives about 20 minutes walk out of town, and has a very cute pig that almost acts like a dog. They went to visit the pig, and learnt how to cook aigarr (sp?) – which involves heating up rocks in a fire and then putting them in banana leaves filled with coconut milk, chicken (not pig, he was too cute!) and veggies.

Jane also taught the girls how to knit – can't even escape from the knitting in a tropical country!

Everyone here seems to be having birthdays at the moment, so Saturday night saw us joining the small Filipino community in town for one of their numbers birthdays. This of course involved dancing and karaoke which kept Jane happy (even Cam had a sing!), and pig on a spit which fascinated all the boys.

Sunday morning saw us piling into a car to see Evonne off (see previous blog entry) – a sad occasion. And to cheer ourselves up we went to breakfast afterwards at one of the hotels in town. We can't believe it took us this long to discover Sunday morning breakfast there – cappuccinos and everything (look at the smile on Cam's face)!

Jane tired herself out playing with Kaure and slept for part of the day, while Cam went for a dive off the shore at the local dive shop. We'll spare you the photos this time

This weekend we have more in store – going to our friend Serina's village for the last time! Only 15 more days in Alotau, and 18 more days in PNG! It's just going so fast!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Farewell to Evonne...

... or Etox, or Pun, or the honarary desperate housewife.

Yesterday we saw off one of our housemates and fellow volunteer Evonne. Her stay was shorter than originally anticipated, but she certainly made an impact in the time she was here. And we are sure that Milne Bay will see her again in the not-too-distant future.

We just wanted to say thanks and good luck to Evonne of the many nicknames and talents…Jane will miss having a dancing friend – someone who will get up and boogy to a good song no matter the surroundings or time of day (or nomatter if there is no song even playing).

Cam will miss having a surrogate sister to fight over couch space with.

James will miss having a buddy to hang out with and eat ice cream with. (That's James looking great in the back)

We've just included a few piccies of our time with Evonne – these include her well-known 'rat face', her groovy and fun styles, her artsy side, and a farewell group shot.

Look forward to seeing you in the not-too-distant future Evonne!