PNG – 37 Years of Independence
On 16 September in 1975, the Independent State of Papua New Guinea came into existence. So this is a big holiday weekend here in PNG — Monday’s an office holiday, and after a full work week which began at our project Lae and ended with a management-team meeting back in Port Moresby, I found myself wanting to show you all just a few images of PNG as it proudly celebrates its 37years of nationhood. On Saturday I took an afternoon trip to the botanical gardens which are part of the compound of University of PNG; there was a big music and dance party as you can see from the images below. The botanic gardens are a great place to hang out, do a barbecue and picnic, and see not only some of the plants native to PNG but also some of the unusual birds and mammals, as you will see below. Hope you enjoy.
It’s in interesting personal note for me to recall that time – 1975, when I was still an avid teenage-nerd stamp collector who studied world maps obsessively. I clearly remember a newspaper notice that the flag of the UN’s newest member nation, PNG, had been added to the ranks of flags flown at the UN Headquarters on First Avenue in NYC, in whose suburbs we lived then. Since the UN was one of my favorite spots to visit at the time, I fondly remember tracking down the new flag the next time I was in town. And here we are 37 years later. Who woulda thunk it… 🙂
…The hat in the first photo has the regular PNG flag on it, as well as one of the provincial flags riding on top of the hat. The national flag, whose elements you see repeated in the t-shirts above and many other places, has two diagonal halves — black background and white stars halved with red background and yellow bird of paradise. The bird of paradise is the national bird of PNG. There are many varieties of bird of paradise, but they all have the lovely long tail. There are said to be birds of paradise at the botanic gardens, but we didn’t find them. We did, as you will see below, find some tree kangaroos — yes, just like kangaroos but they live mostly in trees. It’s true. We also found quite a few very large cassowaries. The cassowary looks like it’s been painted by someone with a box of fluorescent paint, but we believe that’s how they come naturally. We saw lots of children, but none that we saw were painting the faces of cassowaries. 🙂
…I can’t tell if this one here is another tree kangaroo on the ground, or some other variety of marsupial native to PNG. Sorry. As for the cassowaries — they were hard to photograph since they move around a lot, and position themselves where it’s hard to get a good angle shot at them to begin with. And I couldn’t get any good shots of the hornbills (another kind of bird) and the amazing ground pigeons with crowns of feathers. There’s some amazing wildlife here — now, if I could just see some of it in the wilds some time!
Above, a final image of the flag – nearly every vehicle in POM right now seems to have these hood flags. Below is a shot that i took in a hurry from the moving car (not a great place to stop to take a better shot) — the building on the right is the house of parliament, and to the left you see an enormous flag which flies over the government complex which also includes national archive, national museum, supreme court, etc. If you were to do a google search right now for a British tabloid that carried a deeply insensitive, extremist, and offensive article about PNG in response to the announced upcoming visit from a couple of British royals, you’ll see one of the extremes of how people from outside seem to view PNG. It strikes me that the outside world falls into two camps, if they know about or think about PNG at all — it’s either the scary horrifying place described in that dreadful article, or an adventure tourist’s paradise, with amazing diving & snorkeling, mountain trekking, an incredibly rich and vast array of traditional cultures in an island nation chock full of jungle, forest, native flora & fauna that are often unique to this chunk of the world. Naturally, the truth falls somewhere in between — PNG, like most of the world, is struggling to find its national path and identity in a world that’s torn between the desire for globalism and rising-tide-floats-all-boats optimism, and the kind of divisive, manipulative hate-creation symbolized by a certain film from my native land which shall go otherwise unmentioned. I will just say, though — we humans have grown so very globally dominant because we have big brains. So why, oh why, oh why is it that when hate-mongers so transparently try to manipulate and divide us, that so very many of us just go blithely along with it and allow more and more waves of disastrous events and mutual recriminations to happen? To quote another famous American, why can’t we all just get along??? Happy independence day, everyone!