My wandering field life passed the ten-year mark earlier this year. That’s ten years of finding my way into a new work environment and getting to know new colleagues once a year or so. In a more mundane way, it’s ten years worth of photo files to keep up-to-date and to try to remember to share on my blog. A cousin (thanks, Juliette!) noticed that the entries from my earliest days had lost their photos: mine was a rather early blog, and the ways of uploading photos have changed since then. (Many of those earliest posts appear frankly so embarrassingly shallow to me now that I’m tempted to simply wave my editorial wand and have done with them…but thus far my sense for historical accuracy is controlling that temptation…) If my continued research succeeds, many of those photos will be directly restored onto the blog as I find their originals in backup hard drives and other obscure locations: ah, new year’s resolutions before the old year has even wrapped up!
In the meantime, I’m uncovering little treasures that never made it up here, while fondly remembering where I’ve been and what I’ve done. I was recently saddened to learn that Nancy Schrom Dye, former president of Oberlin College, had passed this year. During my years of active alumni-association work I greatly appreciated her contributions to my alma mater – so I was proud to join some other colleagues in taking her for an end-of-year meal which, the digital date stamp tells me, occurred in Beijing on December 31, in 2005. Up above are also a few rediscovered December 2005 Beijing-area shots which somehow didn’t get posted at the time. (Posting photos was more challenging in those early days…)
Just below are some previously-unposted 2015 shots: early-morning moonset at my home here in Haiti; me with my brother and a colleague when I gave a talk at Carnegie Mellon University earlier this year; and some shots from the lovely Frick House & museum in Pittsburgh, from the same visit. And since this put me in the mood, I’ve wandered through the many countries & continents, family meals & trips & assignments on four continents that have filled the years between these two sets of photos so very fully. Assembling them’s been fun for me so I hope viewing them is fun for you too :-).
This time last year? In December 2014, I returned from Sierra Leone & later went with great friends to enjoy the Ai WeiWei exhibit on Alcatraz Island (more photos from that one in the original post….though that particular set of great friends – you know who you are! – are remarkably camera-resistant):
Where’d I spend 2013? Living in PNG, participating in meetings in Amsterdam & dive trips in Australia, then celebrating the holidays with Steve & Mom in New Zealand:
I began 2012 in the US (where I visited Washington, DC in cherry-blossom season), turned 50 in the company of Howard & Gene at Kakadu National Park in Australia, and finished the year in PNG:
2011 was mostly Mweso, a little Lamu, a little London and a year-end back home seeing Frank Lloyd Wright homes of Pennsylvania with family:
2010…wow, what a year. Just seeing all the continents and countries where I spent time (actually meaningful time, with friends and family and work) makes my head spin even now. The photos evoked so much for me that I just couldn’t narrow it down to three or four…so I’m giving you a lot from 2010, a mix of Manipur (start of year) and Mweso (end of year), with a sprinkling of Sweden, Berlin, Paris & California in between:
I entered 2009 in Tahiti, yes it’s true: during the year I took off from work to help Mom with her house, I dedicated two months to exploring Australia (and watching the Australian Open!) and New Zealand, flying in via Tahiti with a few nights in Papeete, just because I could. The year ended, of course, in Manipur and included a great trip to see excellent sites of Rajasthan with Howard & Gene:
2008 started in Nigeria, and ended in Tahiti…with a lot of good work in Nigeria, a short assignment for the earthquake in China, visits in Germany with my exchange family friends there….and a good deal of time in and around NYC (Mom, aunt Judy & I enjoyed a harbor trip past Ellis Island where our own immigrant ancestors entered the country, and also a trip to our favorite sculpture park up th Husdon)…with a side trip for some hiking in Sequoia and other California adventures:
2007…I began the year based in Colombo but spend the new year’s period with Mom & Steve at Angkor Wat, returned to Colombo to finish out an assignment, headed on for training in Paris where I also got celebrate Mom’s 71st birthday…back to the US to reorganize my life after my first two years in the field, and then off for a new assignment in Nigeria. At the time it felt big. Now it’s all fond memories:
…which will bring us back to year two of this current phase of life’s great adventure, the lovely year 2006. From Beijing & Yunnan in China, to Polonnaruwa & Sigiriya in Sri Lanka (where I was based at year’s end), with family time on Cumberland Island (Mom’s 70th birthday dinner!) and in Germany in between. With a special souvenir from Seoul, where I had the opportunity to work a bit with the young ladies pictured with their daffodils. In a small-world twist, I had dinner with one of those two young ladies just a few nights ago in Port au Prince, which she visits sometimes in her current work with the CDC. So much small world, so little time for it all. Happy end of 2015, and many good hopes for a 2016 of more peace and health to everyone, everywhere.
Like this butterfly which kept me company on my last afternoon in POM after I’d left the office & gone home to pack, I’ve spread my wings and flown away. (Ah, soooo many flights: pom->cairns->sydney->canberra where I pressed the pause button for three nights; then canberra->sydney->beijing->frankfurt->berlin where I pressed pause for one night then berlin -> amsterdam where I sit in the jetlagged early AM as I post this…) Farewells are not my strength, at least the social part of them: I tend to just get up and go, since for me belaboring the departure simply makes it more painful. I prefer, as it were, to pull the band-aid off in one painful pull rather than try to gently remove it – those staying on have the rest of their lives to get on with, and I…well, I had about a dozen flights awaiting me! And the rest of my own life, I guess. So yeah: the PNG chapter has come to a close, and as of last night when I wrapped up the debriefings I’m again a free agent in the world, unemployed and homeless but at least stranded for now on the shores of Europe where I’ll get to see lots o’ good friends and such in the coming two weeks. Yippee!
It’s become a habit for me to try to photograph, as I leave a project, as many of the faces of the colleagues I’ve been working with as possible. It helps me remember the generous, kind and hard-working people who will carry on the work after I’ve left. There’s a gallery here full of those shots, and otherwise mostly the farwell pizza-party & cake lunch that I threw for the office on my last day, last week on Friday. Otherwise this entry contains only the butterfly who visited me, and one shot of the coast near Cairns…at least I’m fairly sure that’s what it is. I suppose it might be the coast near Sydney airport but I don’t think so. This is also, after all, a farewell to that entire region including Australia which I flew into and out of, or visited long or short, many times while there. The next entry should show some views of Canberra during that three-day intermezzo. Ciao, thanks, peace.
Something I’ve always loved about this life with MSF is how it lets me see so many towns and villages in so many parts of the world – so many ways that humanity organizes itself into social units and carries out daily life. Here in PNG there is such tremendous range cultural and social diversity that I’ve really cherished all the opportunities I’ve had to get out and see villages, meet local people and find out how they access health care, how they live, see the kids playing or running by the road, see the market ladies selling their coconuts or buai (betel nut) or onions, and so on.
This is the final entry that I will post from PNG. There are still some shots from a recent trip to Honiara in the Solomon Islands, which I might post next weekend when I expect to be in Canberra; or the next entry might have to wait until I’m back in Europe debriefing and then seeing friends and family there. It’s lovely that this last entry can show another style of roads and villages from those that you’ll see from my past visits to Tari, the peeks at the streets of Port Moresby I’ve offered you in recent years, or even the views of roads and rivers in Bougainville from late 2012. Just a month ago or so I had the chance to get out with our teams in Maprik, a town and district centre in East Sepik province – these shots are from outreach activities (health education) at the main market in Maprik town, plus a trip we did to a lovely little town (which you see, across the valley, in the shot directly above and whose streets and houses you see also in the shot below) called Brugam. I won’t say a lot more – the photos have names which tell what they are, and there’s a small gallery below in which a colleague documented me buying a nice big coconut to enjoy the coconut juice…which we’re told is nature’s perfect electrolyte drink, and certainly is a fine thirst-quencher after a day on the road. Consider this my sign-off from my dear temporary home since March 2012, good ol’ Port Moresby…
…many of the rivers reminded me of streams that I’d play in with my brothers as a kid in Southern Ohio (especially the one at the very top, first in the entry), while others reminded me of streams I drove past in New Zealand with one of those brothers and my Mom, just a few months ago. Notice also how differently the houses and family compounds are set up compared to Tari — here, open yards and houses on stilts for cool and flood-protection; there, big earthen walls to create privacy and…well, I’ve never been inside a Huli home, but I’m guessing they’re on the ground since it’s plenty cool overnight up there in the highlands…
A few weeks ago, I got back to East Sepik again for the first time since July of 2012. It was great to see the towns and have a sense of continuity; also great to see it through eyes that have now been around PNG a bit longer and come to understand the extent to which the arts of the Sepik region are represented all around the country. At Ambua Lodge near Tari, the dining room is full of magnificent woodwork carved by folks from Sepik. This set of photos is all from the settlements on both sides of the river at Pagwi, which so far as I can see is the first place along the course of the river, in its run from the mountains at the Indonesian-PNG border to the Bismarck Sea, where a sealed road gets to the river’s bank. The detail of roof decoration above is from a lodge I photographed at that time as well; but then I’d not seen the gorgeous close-up mask that I shared with you all back when the orchid show was happening down the road from us at the house of Parliament….which was built in the style of a House Tamburan, a men’s house for traditional ceremonies in the Sepik region, from what I understand.
It’s good I went for the orchid show and took those shots of the lovely facade of parliament house when I did, because not long after, the speaker of parliament had the lovely row of traditional masks just above the lintel taken down and (at least partly) destroyed, for religious reasons – something about idolatry, I think. This caused a bit of a kerfuffle in the local media. I remain somewhat shocked that in such a multi-cultural country, such a senior leader can get away with simply destroying something of that sort which, as I see it, represents both part of the wondrous heterogeneous cultural patrimony of this rich nation, and beautifully skilled artistic craft. This blog, it would appear, is one of the few places where one can easily see images of the original, intact facade of the lovely house of parliament. That entry, and another example of a lovely traditional larger mask like the one above can be found in these entries:
and here, though I think some of these masks have origins from other regions as well:
If you’d like to see the rainy vs dry season comparisons, go check out a few of the river shots from the entry below:
if you scan through that entry you’ll see a few shots of the same stretch of shore above and below; there’s one where many people are unloading from a boat that’s down below where I was shooting from: that spot is where the boat is in shot just below. I figure the river is a good several metres higher in these shots than last time I was here.
On the other side from Pagwi is a crocodile farm, with riverine crocodiles. Compared to the massive saltwater crocs I saw in Northern Territory two years ago, these guys look cute and cuddly. Still, I’d rather not step on one or even share the same patch of water with them! And as the wonderfully decorated skull below shows, even these freshwater guys can grow to substantial size if not captured by croc hunters like those pictured above and then sold for either meat or leather.
I increasingly take in, on a personal, intimate and frankly emotional level, that these magnificent and challenging two years of working and living in this vast and varied land which is fabled in the annals of anthropology, botany, zoology, history, linguistics, diving, and so many other areas…well, these two years are truly winding down. In three weeks I should be on an airplane somewhere over Australia, having left PNG for the last time. Today, I’ve just flown back into PNG, for the last time, from a trip to Honiara. Honiara is situated on Guadalcanal, a name which echoes for many students of 20th century world history.
I feel a mixture of sadness, pride, and weariness along with both anticipatory and actual nostalgia. (After all, having been here two years and having flown into and out of the POM airport dozens of times, it’s easy to get lost in memories of this trip to that place, or that conversation with this person, almost any time I find myself at either the domestic or the international terminal.) It’s certainly been two years full of purpose and hard work, and I admit to being ready for a bit of a rest.
Look in these pages, over the coming months, for scenes of me at rest in my beloved coastal California home(s), and various other spots around North America. Before I get there I’ll visit some friends in Europe, so we might reflect some early spring landscapes from a few parts of that far-away land… But for now, as I realize the load of unsorted photos grows ever larger, I’ve decided to get a few more up for those of you who find shots of coastlines and cities from the air as fascinating as I do. I deeply hope that I’m not alone in staring avidly out the window much of the time I find myself on any airplane flying through blue skies, even after all these years and flights. Hope you enjoy: they all have names which say what they are; and these are all from the recent trip from POM up to, and back down from, Wewak on the northwestern coast of the country.
…below (if this lays out right) is clearly one of the larger cities in the Highlands, and if I’d been around that part of the country other than just Tari and environs, I might know which one, but I suspect it’s either Mt Hagen, or Goroka. My guess is Goroka, given the route the airplane seemed to be taking, but what do I know?
So the plan was I’d go back to the nature park, on a sunny and clearer day, with a bit more time than my last visit, and I’d try to complete my detailed study of the three types of cassowary on display there, and capture some better shots of the elusive birds of paradise as well as all the other fascinating fauna of PNG who reside there – such as tree kangaroos which on the last visit were looking rather depressed and hiding off in a hard-to-photograph corner of their enclosure. (Interested viewers can, though, see a bit of tree kangarooness here if you’d like: https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/png-37-years-of-independence/
However, that sunny weekend day has not happened, and though I hope I’ll have a chance in the few weekends that remain to me here in Port Moresby, I thought it best to put the rest of the shots up for now in case such an opportunity does not reappear. So herewith my attempt to get a few good shots, on a rather gloomy day (it started pouring down rain as we exited the park, and the clouds had been building up, which is why some of the shots are really rather grainy and gloomy…sorry), of the ever-moving and highly unusual cassowary and a few of the other unique birds and beasts of PNG. Enjoy.
From the top, you’ve seen what I think is a northern cassowary (there are the northern, the southern, and the dwarf), what I think is a victoria crowned pigeon, and some kind of wallaby. I did, once, see wallabies hopping through the bush on one of the bushwalks – otherwise I mostly see this stuff at the nature park here in POM.
Back in November, just after that wonderful ambitious conference we were part of, one of my friends had his farewell boat party. We motored out to an island just outside the harbor and swam, sunned, snorkeled and (in my case) got burned pretty solidly despite regular applications of high-factor sunscreen. As I wait for a sunny day to take me to the nature park so I can try to get some clearer pictures of those birds of paradise and cassowaries, I thought maybe I’d share a little view of where I am – though at the moment, it’s raining a great deal so the sky isn’t as blue as you see. Still, it’s warmer than my friends in North America are facing now – fear not, spring will arrive at some point. 🙂
This post, I admit, is a shameless attempt to raise my monthly views above a certain ne’er before reached threshold. Not a major threshold by the standards of serious bloggers of the world, but a significant milestone in the humdrum blogging life of yours truly. And since I know many of my regular viewers have found the birds of Papua New Guinea – especially the noble and let’s face it remarkably odd-looking Cassowary – to be fascinating viewing, I figured these few appetizers of a future, longer posting, might draw enough eyes and enough views to raise me to a new level…which I shall then spend the rest of 2014 hopelessly attempting to not far tooooooo far below. Enjoy! 🙂This next one, I am fairly sure, is some version of the bird of paradise — of which there are many versions. I plan to go back to this nature park one afternoon in the few weeks that remain to me here, and try to get the whole darn bird, but birds of paradise are like the cats of the bird world: they go their own way, unlike that grabby green lorikeet (?) that began the entry, who eyed my fingers in a way that suggested they could be nibbled like a baby carrot. I moved on rapidly, after taking that shot and another which shall grace these pages once I get the rest of the shots sorted and color corrected. For now, over and out – ciao and thanks!
smw, slt is now in New Zealand, but we decided before we start popping new shots of NZ (check back in: they’ll be up as soon as I can start posting them…), we should post the shots from our last sojourn up in the Highlands at Tari. With my end of assignment approaching closer and closer, I am trying to take note, to track, to record some of the people and places I see. Herewith just some shots from a few days out and about in the highlands again – daily life on the roads of Hela, as it were. Enjoy. More later, from lovely NZ where I’ve joined my mother and brother for a while.
…above, some lovely local produce for sale; below, another in my occasional series of shots chronicling the decorative headgear of Huli men – regular readers will recall some other similar shots, new readers can scan under categories at the bottom other entries from Tari and Hela.
Flying from Port Moresby Jackson’s International Airport (the airstrip you see above) to Tari Airstrip in Hela Province (formerly part of Southern Highlands Province), in most seasons one takes off toward the water (into the wind; during dry season when the wind has turned to an offshore flow, one flies inland and that’s when I get to take aerial shots of the House of Parliament). This puts one over Bootless Bay, from whose surface I took the shots in this post: https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/cycles-seasons/ …just in case you’re curious enough about the geography and topography of the region to want to picture it all and how it fits together a bit better.
Thence, one turns right – sometimes offering excellent views of downtown POM if you’re seated on the right-hand side of the plane, though of late they’ve tended to cut directly over it which provides poor angles for good aerial shots (how rude, huh?…) – and heads along the coast of Central and Gulf Provinces until one cuts sharply inland to fly up into the Highlands and Tari Airstrip. Though Western Province — with the mighty Fly River — or East Sepik Province (with the mighty Sepik, previously showcased for you here: https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/along-the-sepik-river/) contain the estuaries of PNG’s mightiest and best-loved rivers, still I find the coastal estuaries of Central & Gulf fascinating to view from above. I find myself thinking about sedimentation, rising sea levels, the fertile highlands and all that soil slowly washing out to sea, and all the little fishies which I so loved viewing (you know the link…Neutrally Buoyant is what I called it…) being buried in waterborne mud.
So anyway, in this post I take you on that journey as I myself went a few weeks ago – pretty much in order, from POM to the highlands. In the shots below, look for the little bumpy nubs in the landscape. Though Hela is the only Highlands region I’ve visited, I gather it is not unlike other highlands regions in that it’s both rural-agricultural by nature, and quite densely populated. As you’ll see, there are few roads but it’s in by no means wilderness. It’s highly worked landscape which has been shaped and tended by humans for 50,000 years or more. (Cultivation of taro many thousand years ago made PNG one of those places in the world where humans independently shifted from fully hunter-gatherer to at least partially agrarian.) Sweet potato, which came here via sea routes from South America several hundred years ago, is the primary crop — and I’ve tried to catch a few shots where you can readily see the nubs and bumps of a sweet-potato crop being cultivated. They are the dietary staple for most residents of the Highlands, so far as I can tell, and if you look closely in some of the shots below you will realize how omnipresent they are. Keep in mind these are nearly all Huli familial compounds, tucked away behind the lovely, well-maintained earthen ditches and walls which characterize the Huli landscape…and which, I’m told, are not so common in other Highlands regions. (If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, look at many of my past Tari posts, such as: https://somuchworldsolittletime.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/huli-walled-compounds-on-highlands-hwy.jpg
I figure that’s enough text, and enough of a mix of topography, ethnography and photography for one weekend. We’ve just finished a major conference here, and I’m entering the last phase of my assignment here – which brings on feelings of anticipatory nostalgia since my experiences and interactions with colleagues and communities have been so very rich here. If anyone’s curious, I’ll provide two links to coverage of the conference, the first audio (yours truly) and the other textual (the Guardian):
Enjoy the photos and any of the other links you choose to view. Peace, out. 🙂