Out & About in PNG
Before I came to Papua New Guinea I’d been hearing about it for years. I’m one of those weirdos who can stare at maps for hours, and I sometimes carry in my head a mental of image of where I would be, if I were represented by a dot on a map. The first time I ever actually knew someone who lived and worked here, she was a colleague based in Port Moresby as I am now, back when the current MSF mission was launched in 2007. I had this image that Port Moresby would be on the north coast of the island. But no. My dot on the map would appear on the southern side – pretty far to the southeastern side, though not at the very eastern end.That’s the town of Alotau. (Keep in mind, please, that the vagaries of colonialism and global power politics mean that the western half of this island is part of the nation of Indonesia.) So picture a big island – second largest in the world? third largest? check it out on Wikipedia – that’s pretty long east to west, and not quite as long north to south. The center of this big, rugged island is full of steep & dramatic mountains – these are generally called the Highlands. The coast has lots of mountains also, though there are parts I’ve not been to yet which have big coastal wetlands and valleys.
Unfortunately, in this post you’ll only see one photo taken in the Highlands – it’s the very last shot, of me standing in front the airstrip at Tari, in what is becoming Hela Province but used to be Southern Highlands Province.Most of these shots were taken around Port Moresby – like the one just above, taken just last week when I — finally!! — got out with the bushwalking group that does organized hikes round about greater Port Moresby. Some, like the one just below, were taken in Lae on the north coast – sorta where I originally imagined that Port Moresby might be, back before I sat down with a map and started trying to picture where I’d be living and working when I actually arrived here.
Our oldest project in PNG is in Lae — we work with the local hospital, running the Family Support Center which provides specialized care for survivors of family & sexual violence. For that reason, when we decided to hold our first-ever MSF field associative debate in PNG, we decided to hold it in Lae. People from our other projects, in Tari and on the island of Bougainville to the east of New Guinea, and also from the coordination teams in Port Moresby and Buka, all got together for some great discussions about our work here – focused on the topics of access and negotiation. You’ll see a few pictures of me leading discussions either at the main FAD in Lae, or at the mini-discussion we held here in Port Moresby on my second weekend here.
So yeah – I’ve been here nearly two months. I’m in a bigger city again so I can have a social life, and I’m slowly establishing some patterns. Mostly I’ve been working and I won’t bore you with that. Though I will encourage you to check out this link, which summarizes one of the main things we’ve focused on in our work here in PNG: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/publications/article.cfm?id=5390&cat=special-report
The highlands are as beautiful as I expected, though I have to admit I’ve become spoiled – first Manipur, then North Kivu, now PNG: I just keep going to places that are amazingly beautiful. I have not gotten out quite as much as I’d have liked – one weekend I joined several colleagues for a road trip northeast of town to Crystal Rapids, which you see just above. I’ve been able to play tennis once with a colleague and hope to do so more often; just as I hope to join the bushwalking group as often as possible.
But for now I think I’ll just leave you with some shots of where I’ve been and what I’m seeing out my window, so to speak. Thanks.