Monday, April 25, 2005

Dawn Service at the Bomana War Cemetery

Tramping up the road through the seminary we could hear the sound of distant voices from the War Cemetery, the low chorus of Abide with Me carrying through the darkness. Stumbling over stones and potholes we quickened our pace. Already late for the ceremony and not wanting to miss any more, I surged ahead of Pia and my neighbours as (I think) they realised behind me how much I wanted to be there, the surprised smiles of greeting in the morning outside our house (getting up early is not usually my forte!) changing into the realization that of course this service would be close to my heart, and maybe for once it was a case of them coming with me, not me accompanying them.

We entered the grounds as the Australian High Commissioner stepped up to the podium, unable to see him in the throng and dark, but aware of a stillness and respect from the crowd that has been missing since the recent Sir Michael furor - for this morning at least, tensions between the High Commission and the people of Papua New Guinea were forgotten.

As with last year, the laying of the wreaths and the speeches from the RSL were received with solemnity as the dawn slowly started breaking behind the cenotaph, and as the Last Post rang out from on top of the hill the faces of the gathered hundreds? thousand? became clearer – clear enough to see the woman next to me swallow back tears as we stood in silence, and to see the lump in the throat of the man on my right as the piper sounded.

Me, I was thinking of my Pop, who was here in Papua New Guinea during World War II and only told me months before he died, and it was with pride that I listened to our two countries’ anthems, knowing that I was connected to a man who was connected to this country, long before I ever thought of coming here.

I don’t know why I never thought to go to an ANZAC Day service back home, but there’s an undeniable need to connect with it over here, and to honour the men and women who came before me, and to claim this day as part of my heritage as an Australian – and a PNG resident - and a grandchild.

60th Anniversary of the Allied Victory in the Pacific

Many a mother in Australia,
When the busy day is done,
Sends a prayer to the Almighty
For the keeping of her son,
Asking that an Angel guide him
And bring him safely back
Now we see those prayers are answered
On the Owen Stanley track,
For they haven’t any halos,
Only holes slashed in the ears,
And with faces worked with tattoos,
With scratch pins in their hair,
Bringing back the wounded,
Just as steady as a hearse,
Using leaves to keep the rain off
And as gentle as a nurse.

Slow and careful in bad places,
On the awful mountain track,
And the look upon their faces,
Makes us think that Christ was black.
Not a move to hurt the carried,
As they treat him like a Saint,
It’s a picture worth recording,
That an Artist’s yet to paint.
Many a lad will see his Mother,
And the Husbands, Weans and Wives,
Just because the Fuzzy Wuzzy
Carried them to save their lives.

From mortar or machine gun fire,
Or a chance surprise attack,
To safety and the care of Doctors,
At the bottom of the track.
May the Mothers of Australia,
When they offer up a prayer,
Mention those impromptu Angels,
With the Fuzzy Wuzzy hair.

- Sapper H “Bert” Beros
NX 6925, 7th Div, RAE, AIF

Friday, April 22, 2005

5 Little Ducks

Went with my 10 Purple girls to Cheshire Home this morning - a residential care/school for people with physical disabilities. The girls decided early in the year they wanted togo and visit the kids, and I organised it through Lea (a fellow AVI). This is a picture of them singing/acting out "5 Little Ducks" for the kids. We actually had a bit of fun rehearsing in the last week of school, and i had to test my Kindy memory to come up with action songs we could sing. The winner on the day (with my class anyway!) was "gur-lump went the little green frog" - esp the la-di-da-di-da bits! Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The hard part of having visitors

The promised photo of mum and 10 Purple.

She'll be touching down in Australia right about now and I'm missing her like crazy already. I'll be writing lots more and posting piccies from our adventures in Madang (we just got back yesterday from 7 nights in the real PNG Paradise) but I'm going to try and backdate the entries so they're in the correct order, so bear with me... (also waiting on mum's travel notes to make sure I'm correct in all the details such as which seafood dish i ate which night, and which day we went snorkeling as apposed to just swimming in the sea of a tropical island Posted by Hello

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Last Day

Last full day in Madang… Trying not to think about that, Mum and I had planned to go to Jais Aben, a diving spot/hotel about 20 minutes down the road, that came highly recommended by everybody. We had planned to get Tommy the Taxi-man to drive us there and back again, but due to the heavy rain the past couple of nights the roads were too bad for the taxi, and he suggested we go to the dive centre, and get them to take us there by boat.

What a good suggestion! Going by boat was SO much more fun than by road – our “driver” was a lovely guy who acted as a tour guide, and we whipped along the water – totally different from our dinghy ride to Krankett!

When we got to Jais Aben, we hired snorkels and found the beach. After about 10 minutes Mum had the hang of the snorkel, and we set off to explore the underworld. It was so amazing – the fish were beautiful – so many colours and shapes and sizes. We found Nemo several times, as well as all the fish in the tank in our restaurant at the Resort, and so many others it was almost hard to belive. The water was a bit silty from all the heavy rain – I can only imagine how beautiful it would be normally. We loved it, and Mum had a ball. Another new experience to add to the list of adventures we managed together while she was here!

Our boat wasn’t coming back for another hour or so, so we lounged out on the pool chairs, and then wandered into the café for a coffee (guess who?!) and icecreams.

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Mum enjoying a rare treat after snorkeling at Jais Aben

Our trip back was even faster than the trip out. Lucky we’re both speed demons because we were just racing over the water, almost airborne at times and landing with huge thumps over the waves. We couldn’t stop grinning, silly smiles and the force of the wind squashing our faces into permanent squints!

We traveling back via some of the outer islands, and as promised we stopped at one right on the edge of the ocean, and I had a chance to swim again in the most beautiful clear turquoise water, while Mum explored the island’s edge. This was an uninhabited island (Pig Island) and the fringes as far as we could see were pure rainforest. It was amazing – like something out of “Where the Forest meets the Sea”. Mum was excited to find some beautiful cowrie shells to take home as keepsakes, and I just relished the water – still couldn’t get enough of it.

Pig Island, or Tab (the local name);Posted by Hello

Finally it was time to get back in the boat and cross the Bay for the last time, back to the Resort and a (almost) final round of gift-hunting in the Artifacts Shop and Tabari Haus.

The Last Supper was sad, but delicious – crab mornay and prawns – getting in one last fresh seafood meal, and enjoying the luxury of entrees as well as main courses. We retired to our room absolutely full to the brim, but not wanting the night to end. Luckily All Saints kept the emotions at bay! (Still can’t believe I’ve got Mum hooked on that show!)

Monday, April 18, 2005

A day to relax

Today we decided to go to the Madang Visitors Centre, upon Amanda’s recommendation, so we organised with Tommy’s Taxi (though the resort) to get dropped at the Visitors Centre (via a quick trip in town to get some supplies) and picked up later.

The Centre was similar to the museum we visited in Goroka – a lot of artifacts displayed with information boards, and history and stories. It was interesting to read some traditional stories, like about how the garamut drum first came to be used, and to see photos from early contact with German missionaries.

After wandering through the Centre for about 40 minutes, we decided to walk up the street to the Madang Lodge for a drink and a sticky-beak at this alternative hotel. It was lovely, with beautiful gardens, and I loved the canoes hanging from the verandahs of the restaurant, but mum and I privately concluded that our little room on the sea beat the pants off any other accommodation!

After checking out the gift shop and making some choices with Mum for Sam, Doug and Em, Tommy came and picked us up again, dropping Jeremy and I in town for a final checkout of the second-hand clothes shops (got a pair of Living Doll fisherman’s pants for 70 toea!!) and mum back at the resort – strangely, she didn’t want to come bargain-hunting!

Jeremy left for the flight back to Lae around midday, and Mum and I settled back to do some more serious relaxing by the pool…

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Iced coffee by the pool

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It's a hard life being a volunteer, but someone's gotta do it!

And some checking out of the resort artifacts store again, and another round of the Haus Tambaran which was full of craft and artifacts sold by local women. I preferred to buy stuff from here than the resort shop because we knew these women wouldn’t sell much, and it was probably their whole livelihood – so we managed to poke our necks into the Haus most days, coming out with a necklace or something or other each time!

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The Haus Tambaran - the village-type artefacts market at the Resort, which Mum and I visited most days.

A book each later that night (well, close to) we decided to stroll down to the Haus Win for dinner, picking our usual table on the outer corner. Hmmm… barramundi, crab, steak??? I settled for Madang Giri Giri again (seafood in a coconut curry, served in a coconut shell) while I think Mum chose rack of lamb tonight. Going to be very hard to go back to cooking and washing up!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Village Island

Well today was the day we had planned to take a banana boat out to Krankett Island (the island across the bay that we could see from our balcony) and go swimming. When we first arrived, Mum and I had been excited about the idea of the island cruises offered by the resort, but Jeremy had been to Krankett before and said it was much better just to catch one of the dinghies that we saw ferrying locals across the bay every 15 minutes or so – and at 50 toea per person instead of 85 kina a head, well we could see the reason in that! (BTW toea is equivalent to cents, kina to dollars – though at less than half the value of Aussie dollars.)

We had planned to pack some fruit for lunch and walk down and catch the boat around 11.30ish as we figured church would still be on then, and the boats wouldn’t be too full – but when we started to pack, we hit the only sour note of the whole trip – our beach towels and Jeremy’s board shorts which we’d left on the verandah to dry (stupidly) overnight were now missing. Strong winds over night, or light fingers from either a gardener or passing fisherman – who knew? It was silly to leave them out, and now they were gone.

A change of plans – borrowing towels from the resort and a quick trip into town to try and find some other shorts at one of the second hand shops – meant we forgot to pack food (other than a few lady finger bananas) and only just scraped it into a relatively un-crowded boat before everyone emerged from lotu (church) and hit the jetty again.

The trip over was fun – it was a smallish dinghy with an outboard motor, and very close to the water – and we made it to the island in about 10 minutes.

In the banana boat, on the way to Krankett. (Photo courtesy of JCD)
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Once arriving, we were going to walk to a picnic spot where we could swim and Jeremy had brought 2sets of snorkels and flippers too. The villages / hamlets on the island were just gorgeous – we couldn’t help exclaiming over them – beautifully maintained flower gardens, neat grass and edges, traditional bush houses… Mum loved it and it was definitely a highlight of the trip (as she announced pretty much about everything we did – but this was a real highlight!!).

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One of the beautiful traditional village houses

The walk was pleasant, and although everyone was friendly, we were a bit surprised no one attached themselves to us to lead the way.

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Travelling across the island. I'm sure this is the right track...

As it turns out, we probably could have done with some help as we managed to take a wrong turn somewhere along the way, and ended up interrupting some poor family’s lunch! The father was very nice, immediately recognised that we were trying to get to the Lodge and offered to send his kids to direct us to the correct place. This actually was a lot of fun, because we now had this band of ragamuffins tramping their way ahead of us, leading us another 20 minutes or so to a completely different point of the island! We were very hot and tired by the time we got to where we were meant to be, but the kids just grinned and started playing on the jetty and beach, taking the 3 bags of Twisties I’d bought in town (our only food, other than the piddly little bananas!) to share gladly, and posing for photos before we left them with our thanks.

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Our tour guides!

The picnic place itself was lovely, even if we were charged to enter, and found ourselves not to be the only visitors (a boatful of people were also there, with a smaller dinghy and jet ski, which while noisy looked like fun). I managed to convince mum pretty quickly that she should use the second-hand trousers I’d bought in town for K2.50 that morning and my spare T-shirt to join us in swimming (she hadn’t brought her swimmers) – she couldn’t look any funnier than J in his new-old okanui short shorts (sorry, had to be mentioned!!) – and we all hit the water.

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Our little picnic place - long trek, but worth it <

We spent a lazy couple of hours in the water and lying under the coconut trees before finally walking back through the villages to catch another boat home – this time accompanied by another band of kids traveling back from fishing. This really was a fantastic day – and the getting lost bit turned out to be a spot of luck really, as Amanda told us later that night, as visitors to the Lodge picnic spot aren’t usually meant to wander all around the villages, so we saw a lot more of the island than most people normally do.

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Spear fishing - and check the kid in the tree

Amanda is another AVI who lives in Madang and works at the Divine Word University. I’d met her briefly on her way through Moresby late last year, and we saw her at the Puk Puk races and arranged to have dinner at the resort tonight. It was good to catch up and hear how she was going, and we were also joined later by Nick, another ex-AVI who lived in Lae (where Jeremy is), and is now in Madang too. He was a lot of fun, and it was good to hang out and swap stories for a night (although I told them at the start to self-censor – no nasty PNG stories in Mum’s company!) (not like our first night as volunteers in Moresby, where I think the AVIs who took us out were in competition for who could scare us the most!) (the scary stories are not representative of life in general here, BTW – but you do hear a few hairy ones, and naturally they’re the ones people tell most!)

PS Oh yeah – soft server icecream for dessert!!! I got a lot of teasing about the size of the bowl that I served myself, and I was hard pressed at first to fit it in after a huge soup and barbecued reef fish dinner, but there was no way I was missing out on my favourite icecream!!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Puk Puk Races

We got home from the village with plenty of time to have a swim and a rest before heading out to the Country Club that night. It was the night of the annual Madang Puk Puk Races, and we knew Amanda (another AVI) as well as several VSOs (international volunteers) would be there.

Puk Puk means crocodile, and I was intrigued to see what exactly racing them would involve. Barbara and Sam had laughed when we said we would be going to it that night, and had tried to explain what it would involve, but we were mostly still a bit confused when we rocked up to the Country Club – the more so because we were picked up in a minibus by some Dutch VSOs Jeremy knew who were wearing rather unusual outfits – loud 70s style shirts, and ENORMOUS sunglasses, and looking very much like they were ready for a big night out on the town. Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera, but check out Jeremy’s blogsite for pictures and his take on the night – the link is in the sidebar, as PNG Life.

As a fundraising event, the entry fee was 10 Kina, with which we received 100 Madang Dollars and a form guide to the races. There were 9 scheduled races, each with 6 competing puk puks, sponsored and named by local companies. The names were fantastic, and mum especially got a kick out of reading them all in advance – her favourite was named “Disaster”, and jockeyed by “Sunk out of Sight” (sponsored by a local fishing company I think) – she kept the form guide, but I wish I could remember some of the other names.

The puk puks themselves were wooden, and attached to fishing lines. The jockeys lined up at one end, the puk puks at the end of the line at the other end – the race was to see which jockey could wind their puk puk over the finishing line first (using weird fishing-rod like contraptions with a handle and a spindle).

It was just such a funny night. We placed bets on the different puk puks with our Madang dollars (more could be purchased if we ran out), and although the odds were set fairly randomly, they ranged from 5 to 1 to 30 to 1. We tried different strategies for placing bets – based on how strong the jockey looked, who had won a race earlier, the names, and finally by the longest odds – but the only strategy which worked for me was in the final race when I encouraged mum to bet an equal amount on each puk puk, as that way we were bound to at least break even! I lost every Madang dollar I had, but Mum managed to pick several winners – including backing Jeremy in the race he entered as a jockey (he’d entered it based on its name which was something about a dragon [my tattoo buddy] but as it turned out he was booted off that puk puk and onto another one - lucky for mum as it turned out because the jockey who took over from him on the dragon puk puk managed to win her a couple of hundred Madang dollars!).

The Dutch guys, however, managed to back winner after winner, ending the night with about 33 000 Madang dollars (from an initial pooled 200!), meaning they definitely had the advantage when it came to the final activity of the night – a blind auction, where all the Madang dollars could be used to bid on a variety of wrapped boxes and parcels donated by the various sponsors. No one knew what they were bidding for – the only clues were if the auctioneer mentioned the name of the sponsor company – eg if it was a parcel from Brian Bell (a PNG Grace Bros) you could assume it would be household items, or if it was a canned food company, well it would probably be fish or something. Mum had ended up with about 12 000 Madang dollars (I think) and so we were being strategic about our bets – we decided to go for one of the softer looking parcels, hoping it would be a designed t-shirt or tablecloth or something. But after out-bidding several other contenders (and being allowed to win by our Dutch friends!) Mum ended up with an absolutely HIDEOUS huge yellow checked men’s shirt that looked like it came straight out of Kentucky! Oh well!

Unfortunately (?) we had to leave before the auction ended as our ride home (the manager from the Resort, who mum had batted her eyelashes at when we realised the guys who picked us up were walking home) wanted to leave after an hour or so of the auction, when it became clear there was still at least another hour’s play left. So we left our extra Madang dollars with a very happy national family, and headed on home to bed before we could win ourselves a slab of corned beef or curried duck (like our ebullient friends!)

Quite a night! I think they raised a lot of money, and it was so much fun for everyone – such a fantastic idea that I’m still wondering how exactly we could fashion the racing lines and get the puk puks to have our own races here at M’ville.

Off to Pia's Village

The big day!!! This is the day I'd been waiting for for months - and so had Pia. She arrived at our room at a civilised hour (Mum was now getting used to PNG time), ready to take us with Barbara, Sam and the kids (Lindsay, Velma, Naomi and Robert) in the ute to Aronis village to meet the rest of her family, and see where she grew up.

We all piled into the back of the ute, with mum in the front with Sam, and headed down the highway.  Posted by Hello

First stop was Barbara and Sam's place, at the cocoa and coconut plantation where Sam works. We got out to have a look around, and were blown away by how beautiful the location was. Their house looks straight over the water, with a little jetty and a beach and swimming area.  Posted by Hello

Sam was in the middle of building a bush house out of traditional materials as an extra area to their western-materials home.  Posted by Hello

Mum loved the puppy (of course), I went mad with my camera, and we all had some kulau to quench our thirst before clambering back into the truck.

On the way out, Sam stopped to bring us a cocoa seed pod, and we broke it open to see the seeds which he dries on site ready for processing.
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The trip from there to the village was about another 40 minutes or so, and once he turned off the highway I was very glad of the cushion I was sitting on! Barbara and Pia were giving lots of warnings about the bumpy track - but I still reckon the track at Tuberoserea (from my Easter weekend) was worse.

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(picture from JCD)

Once we got to the village, we were met by Pia's two other sisters, Roselyn and Brunhilda, and a whole bunch of children and tambu (various brothers in law/uncles etc) as well as aunties, who were all very excited to meet not only Pia's white meri housemate, but her mum (and a white man - or patere as they tried to call him - meaning priest)as well! The village was beautiful. Pia describes it as a hamlet-style village, with lots of little clusters of bush houses all grouped together. There was even a chook house, complete with roosters and hens and chicks wandering all over the place. The flowers and grass were so neat and tidy, with little flower gardens everywhere. The vegetable gardens - the real gardens, not your flower beds that you call gardens in Australia, as Sam disparagingly said! - aren't in the village itself - the people have to walk about half an hour to work in them, as with most PNG villages.

We sat for a while in a shade area that they had made for a bunch of American lay-missionaries a while ago (I think that was what they were telling us), and were introduced to everyone and to another big batch of kulaus. Robert started to become more cheeky and less shy as he was now the "big man" kid who knew these white people, and started showing off, playing at being a tiger with Jeremy,  Posted by Hello

while Mum became inseparable from Brunhilda's 4 month old baby Ezron. She was so bewitched that Sam joked they'd better send him to Moresby to get a passport coz it looked like he'd be going back to Sydney!

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All the family had made a big lunch for us, so Mum had her second lot of traditional food: kaukau (sweet potato), taro, banana, ibica and pumpkin tips all cooked in coconut milk, and rice and chicken and fish, as well as a big tapioca cake. Delicious, but extremely filling - all that starch!

They were such lovely, generous people. As well as that feast of a lunch, Pia's sisters brought us bilums that Brunhilda and Roselyn had made for us - one each for mum, Jeremy and myself. Mine was a gorgeous Madang-style one (pink and purple and yellow, with long threads hanging from it); Mum's was green, blue and yellow, Morobe nylon string style; and Jeremy's was brown wool with bits of rainbow colour all over it. Lovely presents, and even more meaningful because we knew the people who had made them.

The rest of the afternoon passed quickly, with our full tummies seeing us just lazing in the shade until we realised we'd better hit the road again if we were to beat the rain, and to get back in time for our night's activities. It had been a fantastic day - it was so good to meet Pia's extended family, and to see her home - we all really appreciated the chance to meet each other, and for mum especially to see real village life.

Friday, April 15, 2005

To market, to market (again)

Met up with Pia and her nieces for another trek to the markets and Madang town. We wandered around, stopping at the bank, the post office, the butchery (which isn't actually a butchers shop but a supermarket!), the chemist, Brian Bell, Barbara's work and finally the market. At this point, mum was getting just a little market-ed out (it can be quite an intimidating place if you're not used to it, and our little exchanges with our Highlands basket-seller didn't do much for her opinion of the market place!) and I was in need of some peace and quiet too, so we headed back for the resort for (another) much-needed swim and read.

Later that afternoon we went for a walk around the resort, and we were standing on this bridge admiring the barramundi in the pond when we got caught in a sudden shower and had to run back through the rain to our room. We were DRENCHED!!!

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Later on, we were having a well-deserved coffee and cake break at the Café when Jeremy (a fellow AVI, from my in-take) strolled up to the foyer, after having caught the PMV from Lae. We'd arranged ages ago to meet up in Madang for the Easter holidays, and it was fun to hang out for the next 3 days, and for mum to meet another volunteer mate.

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After we showed off the room and the pool, we got ready to go out for dinner that night with Pia and Barbara, and the rest of her family. We went to the Madang Club, and had a Chinese feast on the verandah overlooking the marina. It was a great night, and Sam (Barbara’s husband) proved to be a really lovely bloke who kept baiting me all night about what we had in store for us the next day, when they'd take us to their village.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Hitting Madang town

We saw more than just toast when we went to breakfast our first morning at the Resort. These men were carving totem poles, and we happy to let us watch for a while. They were amazingly intricate and elaborate carvings, and will probably replace many of the other poles around the resort that were starting to deteriorate in the weather. Posted by Hello

Then we hit the streets and walked to the markets and town for the first time. It was fantastic to be able to just walk freely along the street, wihtout worrying about safety or anything (not something I do often in Moresby). When we got to the marketplace, Mum was a bit hesitant, not liking markets much at the best of times - and I don't think you'd describe PNG markets as the cleanest or nicest! - but we survived. Went raun raun and checked out the baskets, bilums, meri blauses, necklaces, earrings etc, then went to the produce section. We stocked up on rice bags of kulau, peanuts bananas, lemons, pawpaw, sugarfruit etc - but then realised carrying them home could get a bit heavy... But those kulaus were definitely worth the weight - so big and so cheap!! Back home (Moresby)they cost 1 Kina each for tiny little coconuts that only give half a glass of liquid. These kulaus were about 30 toea each, and could fill 3 glasses of the delicious young coconut water. Definitely converted mum to them while we were there.

Went back to the Resort and jumped straight in the pool. We really need one of these at M’ville!!
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In the afternoon we headed up to the Resort's artifact shop. Mum got this gorgeous bilum, and I went back and got one with the same pattern but baby-size (ie can fit a baby in it, not baby as in tiny!)- for half the price! Think there was definitely something wrong there, but I'm not complaining! Posted by Hello