Sunday, 13 October 2013

Half Way There: A Six Month Progress report

I’ve just done a six month report for VSO on the work I’ve done so far. I thought for this blog I’d do something similar but with slightly different headings.


Six months ago I left behind the snow in the UK and made my journey via Singapore to Papua New Guinea. It has been a life changing experience in so many ways. I have never seen a more beautiful country with such amazing heritage. I’ve flown in a tiny plane over the mountains and landed on an airstrip the size of a garden. I’ve seen the lush Highlands of Goroka, and the tropical paradise of Alotau. I’ve seen bats in Madang, Tree Kangaroos in Loloata and Orchids in my garden in Port Moresby. (
I’ve been to cultural shows and been privileged to dance with my friends from Koki. I’ve snorkelled at Lion Island and met a sea krait near Fisherman’s Island. I’ve also chewed too much Betal nut, got ‘spark’ and had to lie on a beach at Hula to recover.  I’ve learned to sing in Hiri Motu, to swear in Australian and to say I love you in Tok Pisin: “Mi laikim yu tumas”. I’ve been allowed to visit the Sanguma (sorcery) collection at the Museum, joined the French friendship society and drunk cocktails with the Prime Minister. I’ve learned to rally drive in a minibus on the Port Moresby roads, stood up in the back of a ‘ute’ and fallen in a swimming pool fully clothed. I’ve seen dead bodies, I’ve watched people attack one another with bush knives and I’ve seen parents cradle dying children in hospital.  I’ve shot a hole in a wall with my Bow and Arrow and really know how to use a stone axe. I feel cold when the temperature drops below 26 degrees and I’ve got sunburned in a very interesting pattern. I’ve eaten food cooked with hot stones, in a pit (muumuu) and I’ve learned that I don’t like sago.

Physical Status

I am a slightly different colour and there is now less of Lisa. One of my biggest fears when I left home was that I’d catch some interesting tropical disease and fall ill. Well I did.  I contracted Typhoid whilst working in Goroka. I won’t go into graphic details about the symptoms but I was glad to have my own bathroom! A good friend also contracted something equally as horrible and we found we were texting one another from the toilet comparing our symptoms. I was 72 kg when I left home and I’m now 64kg. I’m still very tired and have little appetite. At this point I am going to say something very aid worker, and a bit clichéd, but that’s because it is true. I was very lucky. Once I realised how sick I was, I went into a private Medical Centre and was immediately put onto a drip and given very powerful drugs through an IV. I was able to come home and keep taking my very expensive medication and was able to afford hand sanitiser and disinfectant for my house.  I have a bit of a credit card bill to pay but it was worth it.  Local people here are not as fortunate. They often avoid seeking medical help early because of the cost and the hospitals are grim. The sheets are dirty and torn, families are camped under beds because food is not provided for anyone who is sick. There are piles of rubbish in corners. One father explained that his teenage daughter, who also had typhoid, would not be safe in the hospital on her own so he needed to stay with her. As part of my job includes reading to sick children in the hospital I’ve seen enough to make me really value the NHS when I get home. I’ve seen some disturbing sights and had heartbreaking moments with parents whose children were dying, often from illnesses that we vaccinate against, or are able to treat in the UK.  I’m not here as a health worker so there is nothing I can do about the hospitals, I just try my best to help our librarians develop activities, games and book corners to make the time children do spend in hospital a bit more bearable.

Dress Sense

PNG has a lot of second hand clothes shops and clothes are very cheap. In particular black clothes (my favourite) are sold cheaply because they are not really wanted by the locals. I have been able to find new tops and shorts to accommodate my new shape for as little as 50 toya (about 16 pence). I’ve also been able to indulge in my fascination for wacky clothes because Australians donate the weirdest things to PNG. Finds include a lime green, pleated, satin ball gown and a union jack top with safety pins. I do find however that black clothes are a bit brutal in the heat so I have had to invest in more white and paler clothes. Most of the time I spend in my Buk bilong Pikinini uniform mainly because local people react really well to it and I am able to walk around more freely in the settlement areas because they know why I am there.  The biggest issue is underwear! It is impossible to buy good cotton underwear here and the evil twin tubs destroy anything lacy or delicate. Six months in I have a lot of very grey, slightly torn, knickers and bras. Goodness knows what they will look like in another six months. I have made myself quite popular by giving away all the clothes that I brought with me because they are all too big.


I’ve lived in five different places since I arrived and will shortly be moving to number six. I’ve also stayed in some lovely places as I’ve travelled around PNG.  Madang is beautiful. I stayed in the budget accommodation in the Madang Lodge for two weeks and would happily have spent all my time here in such simple accommodation. Each morning I drank coffee on the sea front and watched the giant bats fly over. Moving to Port Moresby was a culture shock. The first house there was like a prison, bare breeze block walls, no sun and metal bars on everything. I did get quite depressed living there, particularly as I didn’t know anyone and I felt very trapped. I’m also not a big fan of cockroaches and there were a lot of them. Since then I’ve been really lucky to have been able to dog sit and house sit in some much nicer places and I currently live in a nice apartment with a view over Ela Beach.  In Alotau I stayed with a friend in a lovely little place about 10 yards from the sea which was heaven, children jumping into the sea from the jetty, parties at the weekend and the opportunity to walk and swim in rivers. In Goroka I stayed with the best cook VSO has to offer and although I did put on a little weight I lost it all when I got ill. I’d love to see more of the villages, and perhaps live in one for a week teaching local children to read and getting to know PNG better.


So what have I actually done since I got here? My day to day role can involve anything from helping organise events, such as a visit from the Governor General, a Cultural Show or Book Week activities.  I’ve helped organise a Cocktail party, Raffle and a Teddy Bears Picnic. Met the Prime Minister and become friends with his lovely wife. I spend some time each week in the libraries, observing the sessions or reading with the children. I also deliver ‘show’ lessons where other librarians come and watch me teach so they can observe and reflect on ways to develop their own library sessions.  I have researched and developed a model for teaching literacy in BbP libraries. This combines international research on what works in literacy, with an understanding of the particular issues of language in PNG and takes a child focussed approach to creating sessions that focus on encouraging children to love books. It’s the best things I think I’ve done so far in my career. I’ve presented a paper on the model at the National Education Conference and will be presenting another one later this month.  I’ve also worked with my lovely colleagues to develop a training programme and I’m sharing some of my training skills with them, and learning new ways of training that work better in PNG. I feel that I have become a better trainer as a result of my work here.  It has also been a great experience in terms of developing my creativity and resourcefulness. I’ve had to learn to deliver training without flip charts, in a power cut with no chairs. It will be hard to return to the UK and start wearing shoes for training again. I’ve also discovered that I have a great talent for public speaking when the PA system has failed due to a power cut. The voice that can span the Thames can also do crowd control in PNG. I’ve designed a syllabus for a Family Literacy programme and I am currently piloting that, although I think it still needs a lot of work.

 I’ve been able to introduce some practical systems into the organisation, a more streamlined approach to book sorting, a monthly handbook to guide librarians, and regular monthly meetings to look at the progress of each library. It has been hard to leave behind my role as ‘boss’ and come into an organisation as a fairly unimportant volunteer, however that has given me the chance to build good relationships with the team I work with and get to understand more about PNG culture. I hope that by working with people to help solve problems we can put things in place that really work.

Thursday, 26 September 2013


It’s been a while since I blogged and this is in response to a question no one has actually asked me yet:

What sort of music are they into in Papua New Guinea ?

This has been inspired not just by the theft of my MP3 player but also by some of my recent experiences in meeting musicians and artists here. If the missing MP3 player is an indication of local taste then the population here enjoy their rock music including Metallica , Slayer and Rival Sons. As yet, however, I have not seen anyone seriously rocking out so I suspect that my music has been wiped and replaced with ‘Morobe Feelings’ or something equally interesting.  If you haven’t heard it here you go: 

PNG isn’t really on the ‘stadium band’ circuit but the local music here is fascinating, and as I’m beginning to discover the local musicians are also very talented. My long terms friends will know that I have a passion for drums (and occasionally drummers) and any band with more than one drummer gets my vote. So imagine my great excitement the first time I heard a Garamut or three of them at the same time. These musicians came from Manus Island and played with such intensity and passion I was quite caught up. I loved to see how the beat created such excitement in the children, and the accompanying dancing involved a lot of leg kicking, jumping and shouting. 

I found one clip of three drums – but you need to turn the volume up to 11 to get the real impact.

A little research told me that the Garamut is usually played at sacred ceremonies, communal celebrations and dances. It’s made from a hollowed out log and can come in lots of different sizes.  I’ve also been told that because of its resonance it can be used for long distance communication and standing close to one of the big ones you get that thump in your chest (a little like a Prodigy gig). It’s used instead of a church bell in some places. It is worth getting close to one because each Garamut has intricate designs on its handles and body to indicate the area of PNG that it comes from.  

The hand held drum here is called a Kundu and it is an hourglass shape and used during tribal dances by both men and women. I recently attended the Goroka Show which was three days of outstanding performances of singing, dancing and drumming. Getting together for these events is called a ‘sing sing’ but it’s much more than singing, it’s awesome performances, some of which would have Lamb of God wincing. I watched one group of young boys with kundu drums perform a dance that ended with two boys holding their arms in the air while another broke a cane across the outstretched arm.  I watched an equally unsettling performance of ‘Cane Swallowing where a group of young men poked canes down into their bellies to the sound of an eerie pan pipe.

I found this interesting if very colonial reference to Cane Swallowing from 1934

Each Sing Sing group had up to 20 drums and there were at least 100 groups in the field at the time so the combined rhythm of all the drums, plus the singing and the dancing meant that the ground was shaking and the whole air was filled with sound. I felt simultaneously uplifted and energised, a little intimidated and also rather impressed with the physique of some of the performers (perhaps more like a Metallica gig).  Its 20 years since I studied anthropology but I reckon that that’s what the war paint and noise is for; to assert one’s own identity, prove you are more powerful than your neighbours and show off to the opposite sex. I was impressed by the stamina and dedication of the performers who were there all day, some wearing hot and heavy costumes, including one group who were wearing fireproof headdresses which had a small fire burning inside.  One group of young people were making music with old plastic pipes which they hit with flip flops. The highlight for me however was being invited onto the VIP stage to meet the Governor not just because she is a powerful and inspiring woman, but also from a higher viewpoint I spotted a circle of dancers forming in the centre. So I left my bilum and joined in the PNG mosh pit. Holding hands in the heat with two strangers either side of me jumping up and down in total synchronicity was great fun and everyone was so accommodating of the mad white meri who wanted to join in.  The need to jump up and down and make noise clearly transcends cultures. 

Whilst in Goroka I also attended a rehearsal of children in the church orchestra where over 20 young people demonstrated great talent and a dedication to practice. I discovered that the church helps them to purchase their own instruments and I listened to some beautiful hymns being played. It was lovely that they had learned ‘When I’m 64’ to celebrate my friend’s birthday.   

Music is a huge part of PNG life. Buk bilong Pikinini has very talented pianists, guitar players and vocalists working in the libraries teaching children to love their musical heritage and using song lyrics to teach children to read.  The libraries recently held their own Cultural Event where each library dressed up and performed songs, dances and poems. I was honoured that the ladies of Koki dressed me up and painted my face and body so I could join in the dancing. There was a moment with all the children in their PNG flag t shirts, and national dress, singing ‘My Land is a Land of High Mountains’ that will stay with me till I am an old woman. 

So what sort of music are they into in Papua New Guinea? 

All of it 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

“Traditionally women have a low status in society”

When I first began researching Papua New Guinea whilst back in the UK I read a document that stated, “Traditionally women have a low status in society”. It was hard to conceive whilst back in the UK what that actually meant. Just a quick 'look away now' warning about this blog as I have had to make some mention of recent traumatic events.

The world, and PNG has been shocked in recent months by a series of internationally condemned attacks on women - including the burning alive of a young mother, the beheading of a former teacher and the gang rape of an American academic in Madang province.  Violence towards women affects every part of life and work here. My own life is no exception The longest walk I am able to do is the 10 minute walk to church on a Sunday morning. I do not go to markets alone and it is very rare that I leave the house after dark. Relatively speaking I am safe and to some extent responsible for my own safety but for local women life is much more difficult. Women are often seen as the possession of a man and I have witnessed men beating their wives in the street with no one helping the woman. Only yesterday in the news was the case of a man who had beaten his wife for four days but she couldn't afford for him to go to prison, because without him there would be no family income. 

When ‘Women Arise’ announced that there would be a National Haus Crai (or day of Mourning) for women then women from all over PNG, including foreigners like myself, pledged their support. I wanted to stand alongside the women of PNG because it is now my home and because violence against woman is an international issue. In the UK on average 100 women are murdered by their partners each year. It’s not just a PNG problem and PNG isn’t all bad. 
On the Sunday before the Haus Crai took place it was Mother’s day here in PNG.  It was clear from the celebrations that most people here really look up to their mothers, and their wives. I talked to taxi drivers who were excitedly planning to cook for their wives, and attended a Mother’s day party at the local church where the oldest women in the church (Bubu Meri) were celebrated and clearly loved. The children asked me if I was a mother and with a little emotion I said how my boy was all grown up now and in another country. I was immediately led to a chair and then waited on by the children and men of the church. I even had an ice cream and a beautiful chocolate cake was presented to the women. The churches are full of men who care about their wives and worry about their daughters and nieces and many of these same men were part of the performances and presentation at the Haus Crai. 

The Haus Crai took place on the 14th and 15th May at the national stadium and across the country as women and men kept watch overnight and prayed for a new dawn for PNG. Women demonstrated, gave speeches and joined together in song and prayer for the country of PNG. We attended the night vigil and I confess that when the list of names of women killed and raped in the last six months was read out I could not hold back the tears. We held hands and stood in silence alongside women for the Highlands, Islands and other provinces as well as those from across the world. We heard that at the same time vigils were being held in Fiji, Australia, the UK and America and we began to believe that change may just be possible. But I also thought of all the women that could not be there because it isn’t safe to travel after dark. Public transport is dangerous and stops running at 6pm and unlike me the local women don’t have access to the G4S convoy to go out after dark. 

The following day we attended the presentation of a petition to the Prime Minister and we were in the press section to hear his response. "I want to express our sympathy for all the victims of this despicable violence in our communities throughout the country." 

I know that I am only here for 12 months, and it is unlikely that by next April I will take an evening stroll through Port Moresby, but perhaps the Women Arise movement will one day make that happen. 

I shall leave the final words here to Esther Igo, who organised the Haus Crai:  

"We have been beaten. We have been beheaded. We have been beaten to a pulp, I stand here shaking, Prime Minister because this is historical for PNG women to come together and talk to you from our heart. From the bottom of our hearts, enough is enough."

In memory of Kepari Leniata

Monday, 13 May 2013

Barbed Wire Paradise

“Welcome to the Jungle Baby”

Google Port Moresby and you might see a few palm trees and some beaches, but you are more likely to get crime statistics and you tube videos on the security risks. Security is a big deal here and that has a huge impact on personal freedom, particularly for women.
I live in a compound. The house is painted breeze block and we have bars on our windows and doors. With the addition of the mesh to keep out insects, it can be a little claustrophobic. I refer to my housemates as inmates and I’ve bought a tin mug to rattle on the bars. We have a garden with a banana tree, mango tree and some very beautiful flowers. We also have a ten foot high gate and a fence right round the compound with razor wire covering all of it. It’s a common sight to see stunning orchids growing up to hide barbed wire and unsightly security fences.

So far I’ve not had any trouble, apart from a preacher man in one market shouting at me for wearing ‘men’s trousers’. Apparently that’s what has caused so much trouble in the world! Last week I was at Koki market getting some shopping. The supermarkets are so expensive so it really is the best way to shop. I can get fresh fish, cooking bananas and coconut for a few kina.

 Everyone was very friendly and the atmosphere was pleasant and laid back. It’s fascinating, however, to see how quickly it erupts here. Only an hour or so later the same place was the scene of violent disturbances, stalls set on fire and betal nut sellers being chased with sticks. In PNG you don’t know what on earth is going to happen next. This can be wonderful because the surprise might be your colleagues suddenly rushing you into the car park to see an eclipse, 100 bats coming in to roost or someone just handing you a foot long fish. Sometimes however it can be scary, so I lock my doors, drive with the windows up and generally remember that what might just be an argument in some places becomes a bit more serious when the arguing factions have bush knives.
It’s hard not to get paranoid. Security services are big business here. POM is full of white Toyotas proudly bearing their ‘Baby Glock on board’ stickers, or moving in convey with Semi Automatic rifles on display. 

Driving schools have banners that say ‘drive to survive’. Going anywhere is a mission. I’m not supposed to walk anywhere but taxis are unreliable, they don’t turn up and occasionally the drivers are ‘Spark’ (drunk). At night we have a security guard on the gate to check comings and goings but to be honest I don’t do a lot of going anywhere at night.
This Sunday morning I got a bit too stir crazy and went to find a church. Working on the principle that it was too early for drunks or Rascals - I took only my mobile phone, personal alarm and two kina for collection. It was hot, and the road is a dust track but it was a joy to be outside walking. Everyone I met said hello and were impressed with my hunt for a church “me lukim long Baptis Church bilong Jesus”. The neighbours were lovely and I ended up having a lovely afternoon tea with people from the church. It reminded me that the problems in POM are caused by a few people, who have very tough lives, with very little hope. I hope that my contribution to improving literacy for the street boys might just be one small part of the solution. I’m thankful that I am safe and just a bit bored on ‘Prison Sundays’. I do however spend a lot of time sitting on my balcony listening to Guns and Roses, reading the Count of Monte Cristo and planning my escape. 

Thursday, 2 May 2013

The Governor General’s Pineapple

“Imap me kissim wanpela, gutpela pineapple me givim long Governor General

Imagine a country where the roads out of the capital city don’t really connect with anywhere else in the country. It makes transporting people and food rather tricky. When I contacted my new team in Port Moresby and asked if I could bring anything with me when I travelled from Madang they requested a pineapple for the Governors General’s visit (affectionately referred to as GG here in PNG). The story of the procurement and transport of said fruit is a wonderful example of the challenges of daily life here. Firstly I am not supposed to go to the market unaccompanied so I had to find someone to come with me and no one was available, a lovely local offered to go on my behalf but she reported back from the market that due to the rain, the roads were difficult and there were no pineapples at the market fit for the important lady! Fortunately in my discussions with the staff at the Lodge it was discovered that there was a fine example of a pineapple in the fridge and as it was for the GG then it would be possible to sell this to me for 10 Kina.

So the following day I left beautiful Madang for the airport (one room, one runway, security was a trestle table) with a pineapple wrapped like a baby in my arms. Security wondered why my fruit wasn’t travelling in the hold with all the other produce “Pineapple bilong Governor General” obviously worked but the pineapple and I were not upgraded, mostly because on a Fokker there is nothing but cattle class. “If it’s not Boeing, I’m not going” won’t work here in PNG. All the passengers were transporting food and the valuable Betal nut to the city (Bwui). This is an immensely fertile country yet the transport systems limits the effectiveness of food transport. The shops in Port Moresby have food- imported from New Zealand and Australia.

On the plane I sat next to a gentleman from the Sepic area of PNG who spent the entire flight sharing the stories of his tribe with me in a mix of Tok Ples, Tok Pisin and some English. Be warned – if someone starts a conversation with 'before, before, before', it’s going to take up the whole flight! This is where I learned my favourite phrase so far, maus warer- translated it means mouth water (you talk a lot) from the lady sat the other side of me. My two companions treated the pineapple with a great deal of respect as did the customs officers on landing, in the scrum that is baggage handling. They have a brilliant system here. To leave the airport you have to present your luggage receipt with corresponding luggage – to prove you haven’t stolen anyone’s baggage! So the pineapple and I made it to Port Moresby and I was glad to be met by my Wantok – Luke (He does not speak my language – he is a Scouser!)

The following day was rehearsal for the GG visit and it was joyful to be straight into working with the children on my first day in the job. Working with one of the librarians we devised a little ‘phonics’ play. The children were so well behaved, lined up nicely for drinks and an apple and worked really hard at their performances.

The actual visit was a joy. We were there early setting up the stage with displays of plants and fruit, a red carpet and the children all in their national costume. I chatted to them about the fact that each costume was from a specific region and one family were so proud to be meeting the GG they had sent grandmother (Bubu Meri) on the plane with an awesome costume for the children. This would have been funded by a major collection from all the tribe back home to afford this. I made my first public announcement in Tok Pisin “Meri belong Prime Minister em come long , all sindaun”. Not quite right but the parents laughed and came to sit. I met the Prime Minister a week earlier, whilst in my swimming clothes and I now met his wife whilst making a fool of myself. I cannot imagine the Camerons being that approachable. As the VIPs began to arrive I made an interesting observation. On the VIP side of the red carpet everyone was white, apart from the Prime Minister’s wife. On the other side the librarians, families and children were all locals and I was the only white person, like yin and yang. I may return to this in later blogs – It’s too early for me to comment.

The GG was lovely with the children and was visibly moved by their performances and their reading. When she came to sit right in the middle of the group of children it made everyone’s day. A visit like this is a great boost for the charity but also special for the children and their families. I felt really honoured to stand along the carpet to say goodbye with the children and librarians, already feeling welcomed into the team. It was a great first week in the job, but I never found out if she liked the pineapple J

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The ‘Real’ Papua New Guinea

There are times in anyone’s life when the actions of others have a profound impact. Life in Papua New Guinea has already put this into sharp focus for me in seeing the contracts between those dedicate their lives to helping others and those whose actions cast a poor shadow on their communities. It’s only two weeks since I left home and yet already the country has changed how I see things. It is truly one of the most beautiful places on God’s earth and only this lunchtime I sat in the boat club watching eagles soaring over the bay. Over lunch we discussed recent very negative events and how unrepresentative they are of the ‘real PNG’ at the same time being aware of the high gates and security staff that keep our homes, workplaces and leisure venues separate from the ‘real PNG’.

This weekend we had a fantastic opportunity to see the natural beauty of this country. We flew from Madang in a six seat Cessna Mission Plane to Kanabea in the Gulf Province. The flight took just over an hour and gave us a fantastic view of the South Pacific, tree covered mountains and valleys. 

Dotted along the hillside were the round, bush material houses that house whole families, often in one room. As we approached Kanebea I have to confess to a moment of alarm when I saw the tiny grass strip that was our runway but landing there was one of the most exciting moments of my life so far (for exciting read totally terrifying).  

We were then met by a reception committee of small boys with bows and arrows and some very elderly people. The local greeting ‘Aour Wei’ seemed to cover all the important niceties and a lot of smiles were exchanged.  

The mission at Kanabea is run by two priests who walk for up to half a day in different directions to offer mass to local communities and two days walk to other communities and three Sisters, one of whom was 74, who ran a school, a kitchen and supported a hospital. One of the sisters regularly walks for a whole day to other schools to support a literacy programme. They have devoted their entire life to helping others, despite the challenges of a remote location. We heard stories of how cattle were brought in as calves on planes, sedated and bound up, and the co pilot given a shot gun just in case the animal came round mid flight. We also heard of more serous matters , airlifting a badly burned child to Australia and bringing in Mosquito nets.

We made the walk to market ourselves, with our heavy duty walking boots, hats and water bottles, accompanied by sprightly locals in bare feet who helped us over the waterfalls. It took us well over an hour to trek up the hill but the market at the top was well worth the climb, not just for the sugar cane, bwai, pineapples and bananas but also the welcome we received from the locals who greeted us like old friends.

 Its seems a cliché to say how happy these people were despite their lack of possessions but their willingness to welcome us was humbling. These are people who have a hospital that covers communities up to three days walk away and increasing numbers of people with TB. Now Malaria has reached this high up because night time temperatures have increased. They do not have a regular doctor, the hospital , which is woefully under resourced has two local nurses and doctors only when the Mission plans can fly in volunteers for a short time to perform operations. I thought back to the conversation I had the night before with the two grumpy mining executives who complained about how tough life was despite their excellent pay and I wondered how they would react to life in Kanabea.

The mission had power for three hours per night, so we had a wonderful evening of fellowship and all the jobs that required electricity were undertaken. Just before the lights went out at 9:30 we were getting ready for bed when my colleague screamed, out of her bathroom bag came a cockroach, then another, and each time she put in her hand to get her toothbrush, she screamed and another cockroach jumped out. We were frantically trying to shift all the cockroaches before the lights went out and we had to sleep with cockroaches in the darkness. I went to bed with all my clothes on and by fleece zipped us to keep cockroaches at bay.

We were rewarded for our slightly sleepless night by the most awesome sunrise I have ever witnessed. As we watched the sun come up over the mountains and the pale peach and gold sky turn into a fiery glow I thought back to the super trees in Singapore.

 Whilst there were impressive they are nothing compared to the daily light show of a sunrise like this. In recent days I have often thought of the vast wealth on display in Singapore, the towering Marina Sands hotel and the Gardens by the Bay and I wonder how come we can build these structures that are a poor imitations of the wonders of our natural world yet struggle so much to find any resources for a Mission hospital in the mountains. Personally my favourite part of Singapore was the Orchids in the Botanical Gardens (No – not the PNG Consul VISA office funnily enough).

Now I’m back in Madang, inside Madang Lodge with our wonderful, friendly hotel staff who would do anything for us, our local security guards that even drive us places to keep us safe, and our nightly view of the ocean whilst we are well fed by our local chef. I’ve been here a week and I have grown to love this place, the hustle and bustle of the market, the bright colours of the local food and the wonderful local language. I have been welcomed into a family home in Rempi and spent time counting with local children and yesterday jumped into the sea at Machine Gun point with the locals. I was sad to hear of the events in Hagen and Kar Kar but please don’t anyone think this representative of the people of Papua New Guinea. The real people here are friendly, genuine and only too happy to share their food, bwai and stories with you even those who haven’t got that much to share. In return I think its would be great if we could keep sharing with them.