Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Depends on the ship

You may have gathered already from my previous posts that I live in a small coastal town although previously being a city dweller at heart. One thing I’ve learned is that certain food items I took for granted in the city are not so easy to find in this small place. These items are not your necessity items, it’s the other stuff like certain types of cheese, a decent chocolate bar, highlands grown vegetables (cauliflower, capsicums, etc) and sometimes that particular food item you crave. Such as fresh peas (pause to utter a long sigh).

Yesterday I tried to explain to someone where to find cake ingredients and without realizing gave her a detailed explanation of which ingredients to get where and that only one store in town sold soft icing sugar and ‘you had better stock up because once it runs out you won’t find it for a while’. I had to stop myself chuckling as I’m starting to sound like a local (bear in mind my definition of a local is someone who has spent more than 5 years continuously in one spot, place of origin not counted). When I first arrived here I had no idea how I was going to bake anything, where I was going to find Orchy or if I ever was going to eat another cherry ripe again. A year down the track, I’m happily baking, Orchy is easy to find and have found that a certain pharmacy regularly stocks up on Cadbury chocolates and my beloved Cherry Ripes. I’ve even located Jubes, yes those hard sugar coated jelly fruity sweets, oh immeasurable joy. I actually shrieked when I found Jubes on the supermarket sweet shelf much to the embarrassment of accompanying relatives who gave each other that ‘she’s a city kid’ look.

Even vegetables are easier to find these days. I found out that supplies of vegetables for certain supermarkets arrive once a month on a particular cargo ship. This has made vegetable shopping infinitely easier as all I have to do is check when the ship arrives, wait a day or two to allow for unloading and then buy in bulk at the supermarket. Brilliant isn’t it? At this point you should visualize the pleased at myself large grin on my face. Previously I had to resort to multivitamin supplements for my diet, it’s so much nicer to actually taste green leafy vegetables then take a pill.

I also found out there is a second hand shop here in town. For those of you either Papua New Guinean in origin or have a long acquaintance with our nation, you would realize by now that second hand shopping ‘em kaikai yah’ (an almost national pastime). For the rest of you, a second hand shop is somewhat like a thrift shop or one of those charity shops that sell donated old clothes and whatnot. After a lengthy conversation with the shop keeper (you’ll find I like indulging in random conversations of a curious nature with strangers), I found out that they also rely on a certain shipping line (not the same as the supermarket grocery supplies come from) to bring in their bales of second hand clothes so hence another devised plan to wait for the ship to come in.

Many people tell me I could always get stuff in Indonesia (across the border) but being wholly patriotic and believing in buying in Papua New Guinea, I shall stick to waiting for a ship to come in. Almost anything can be bought here; it just depends on the ship.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Independence Day and Patriotism

Yesterday the nation of Papua New Guinea celebrated 37 years of Independence. Small town existance means that if you waited till a few days before Independence Day to be looking for a flag/decorations or Independence Day t-shirts and assorted garb, you would be too late. The few stores that sold patriotic related memorabillia rapidly sold out. I spent the last two days before the weekend looking for a large flag to fly outside my house inbetween work however to no avail. I had to settle for a string of small flags to adorn the balcony. Happily though I had the bright spark notion to buy Independance related ballons on my last trip to the big smoke and when tied with streamers actually brightened the balcony even more.

Independence Day celebrations in many towns and cities includes a march by members of the armed forces, schools, organisations and the public to a gathering point (field/stadium/etc) followed by a flag raising ceremony, the national anthem and saying of the national pledge. The ceremonies usually start early so that the flag raising ceremony would begin around 8 to 9 am. Small town etiquette means that the starting time is highly negotiable especially if at 8am in the morning it is pouring heavy rain. A nice touch was the organisers driving around with a loud hailer in the rain to announce the march would start around 11am.

Before the march started, I decided to take a stroll around the town with relations (kitted out in Independence and nationalism related attire of course) and random people walking on the beach and the streets stopped to smile and wish me Happy Independence day. I think a small town allows for people to be relaxed enough to share their joy with strangers at such an occasion which may be lost in a much more populous area. One thing that is the same as most larger centres though is that when you walk into most shops, the employees are dressed either in national colours or traditional outfits for the day.

After a quick spin around town, we headed back to a section of the beach where school children lined up, all dressed in full uniforms with their banners all waiting for the march to start. I spent the time taking random photos of each school and the others who were there. Sometimes people ask why I take photos of events, whether it is for a memory and I say it is. I want to have some record of public events that later down the track someone else can look at and know what Papua New Guinea for the average person was like in 2012. I look back at old photos on file about past Independence day celebrations and the best ones that speak volumes about the occasion were taken from the average individuals camera. Granted the photographs taken by professionals are a great account of the events , but my favourite photos are still of random individuals smiling, waving the national flag. The joy in their eyes speaks volumes.
Marchers lined along the beach

Vanimo Primary School Banner

Holy Cross Primary School
Marchers lined along the beach

Armed forces leading the march
Dapu Primary School Banner
Don Bosco Secondary School

Flag raising ceremony

I ended the day sitting on a deck chair on a best friend's balcony full of good food and wine, listening to sounds of rapturous singing in the distance and the waves breaking, reminiscing about the past year for the nation, about new beginnings and being entirely happy. I also thought about how, eventhough the parental units were in another city, I was happy to be surrounded by friends who shared this pride I have for my nation. This year the Jewish new year (Rosh Hashanah) also fell on the night of Independence day, a double blessing in my books. So Happy Independence day Papua New Guinea and L'shanah tovah!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Free Will, The Adjustment Bureau and new beginnings.

I set out to write a blog not to preach but to talk about life as I see it. So, despite the title above being about free will, this is my view alone.

Free will... The ability to make a decision on your own and say yes, this is what I want to do. If you haven't watched the Adjustment Bureau, this would be the moment to do so. Forget for the moment the love story and explore what the concept of free will versus someone of a higher power controlling you is. Frankly I agree with the story line, free will did give us the dark ages and the world wars.

Free will gives us the choice to be good or choose an evil path. Sometimes the choice is blurred, other factors cloud the judgement so the right choice is not always clear. I discovered recently that there even exists a word for when every choice you make in a situation is going to be a bad one - Zugzwang.

Because you can't control the free will of others, bad things happen to you without you even having a say in it but also moments of happiness, bliss. Because you have free will, you also can (even without trying, just by ignoring other people's free will) make choices that hurt an entirely innoccent party (as a sort of knock on effect) and destroy what would have been a great friendship. These things I have learned the hard way.

But, faith in a higher being has given me hope for the future that one day, this burden of free will is going to be easier. That my choices in future won't affect other people in a bad way.

To those I have, I am sorry.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Come away with me

Come away with me down a winding sealed road, through a forest, past beaches and fringe reefs to a place that the time zone forgot. A small village where the sun rises an hour after the rest of the country and sets an hour after the rest of the country.

A place of thatched roofed houses nestled on a beach with a fringe reef, where children's laughter intermingles with the sound of motorbikes. Where mobile phones with internet access are common place in string bags filled with betelnut. Where sounds of tokpisin intermingle with the local dialect and Bahasa Indonesia. Where the only radio signals for FM are Indonesian and friday night rugby is watched using a reciever dish at the local community school. Where life and death brings out a community and differences are forgotten. Where a family argument is usually loud and boisterous with the whole community knowing about it, where apologies are also usually public affairs.

Come away with me to a place where we bury the dead with sad songs in a sandy cemetary with the sea breeze blowing and blue waves crash in the background. Where children sit on the surrounding gravestones, smiling despite the solemnity of the occasion as they listen to the priest conduct the burial. Where after the burial we meet all the new babies of the community whose mothers have brought them along for the outing.

Where special days are filled with music, singing, food and beverages from house to house. Where old dutch glass beads are valued currency alongside cash. Where family ties are strengthened through adversity and through happiness.
Come away with me to a clear flowing river rushing over coloured stones, where waterfalls flow and fish swim around your feet. Where hours merge while you sit beside the stream and when you stop to check the watch you note with sadness you have to go home and start dinner...

Come away home with me.....

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Elections PNG Style

Hopefully the title of this post doesn't make you cringe and go: oh no, another political commentary *rolling eyes*....Actually I'm writing this from the point of view of a first time voter.

I documented briefly on my facebook page in a series of updates but I thought I'd put my thoughts on one blog post to keep it as a virtual memory.

Firstly, you may think it's sad that I am a first time voter even though I have been eligible for a decade or so but you must remember that to be eligible, I must first be registered on the common roll and have lived in that place for a continous period of six months or more (in Papua New Guinea) apart from being a citizen. Sadly school and later work made it impossible to stay stationary in one spot long enough to qualify to vote until now.

But I finally did it. I enrolled on the common roll, very simply done with no pomp or flair. I joined the community march for free fair and safe elections and I actually listened to political speeches and promises. I lined up to vote, checked that my name was on the roll, had indelible ink painted on my left pinky and put my first, second and third choices for the regional and the open seat. I then placed my votes in the ballot boxes and went back to work.

How do I feel now? Well, from this election, one candidate won his seat back with an absolute majority on the first count because of one vote..can you imagine? Meaning my vote does count. I feel I had my say but ultimately the majority will decide who wins or not because the majority will benefit. This election also saw two women enter parliament, not on reserved seats but on their own merit, in a fair race against the men. As a woman, this gives me hope that Papua New Guinea, despite all the faults portrayed by the media has been able to put traditional roles behind them and hope for a better future, an equal future. This election also saw one 26 year old beat out the pro's to become the newly elected member in his place. It also sees the old souls stand the test of the preferential voting system to clock up more than a decade as the seating member. Their longevity speaks volumes of their leadership qualities.

But of all the thoughts that linger, there is but one: What is indelible ink? It looks suspiciously like henna ink...hmmmmm