Cassowaries, Crested Pigeons & Wallabies…Birds & Beasts of PNG
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.
Sunny Moresby Harbor, Hills & Islands
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. 🙂
Coastal Flows & Highland Fields … from the Air
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. 🙂
…btw, that’s sort of the entrance to the hospital as seen from a plane taking off (most of the hospital is to left of the frame).
More Masks…and Many Magnificent Orchids
There are orchids purple or yellow, big or small; shaped like a lady’s slipper or like a corkscrew of pasta; they hang or grow in the boles of trees more often than not. To kids growing up as I did, they are a thing of mystery from lands far away (though, in fact, there are native orchid species in North America, just not quite so showy and flashy as some their tropical cousins), and though I’ve never been tempted to grow them I do love looking at them. As I noted in my last post, the annual PNG Orchid Show was held a few weeks ago down the street from us at the House of Parliament. Enjoy this stroll through the garden – after all, can one ever have too much of such beauty in one’s life or on one’s computer screen? 🙂 Peace, out…
Click on an image in the gallery below to open a larger size, if you wish, which will also give you the name…and, to my chagrin, show you a few types and the fact that my fingers aren’t always confident about how to spell the adjective l a v e n d e r … but now I’ve got them posted and loaded, I am too lazy to unload them and change their names. Sorry. (Tip: to get back out of the gallery, ‘escape’ worked for me…)
…and yes, there has to be one that’s not an orchid, just to ssee if you’re paying attention. I think this guy lives in the garden at parliament full-time, while most of the orchids were short-term visitors. 🙂
Arts of PNG @ Parliament House
Two weekends ago, Parliament House here in Port Moresby played host to the 2013 Orchid Show — I want to say Orchid Spectacular but that may be how I felt about it, rather than its real name. As usual, I went wild, and sitting now in my camera are many photos of many more types of orchids than you, perhaps, imagined existed. The photo above is the only one with orchids for this post, because … well, a) I have to break them up so the entries are less imposing and b) I haven’t sorted all the orchid shots yet. So what you get here are a few more shots of Parliament House than I have been able to show you before. It’s virtually next door to where I’m living – where I sit as I type these words – but so far I’ve only shown you a few aerial shots of it (https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/beauty-big-and-small/, for example), or a far-away shot in last year’s independence-day entry, which also included the (so far) only views of the ever-popular funny-looking cassowary. (Here, if you’d like to see it again: https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/png-37-years-of-independence/ — and BTW: I have confirmed that the cassowary egg which formed part of a peace accord in the highland some months ago would have been for consumption, not for any other purpose.) Also for the record, I promise to do my very best, before my time here winds down, to get back to the national botanic gardens and try for more shots of cassowaries, birds of paradise, tree kangaroos, and other unique fauna you will not find elsewhere. For now: enjoy the arts of PNG as displayed at this proud national symbol on a festive weekend.
Cycles & Seasons
smw, slt has landed back in lovely Port Moresby, PNG after a 44-hour transit period from Lisbon – yep, whence we last posted as two of you visibly, correctly, deduced – and while we haven’t had time to sort all the photos from Lisbon which, trust us, will be gorgeous when we get around to posting them because…well, Lisbon is a gorgeous city…we have had a chance to color-correct two shots taken from the water during a dive trip back on Bootless Bay (which is virtually an extension of the runway of Port Moresby Jackson’s International Airport), and this has reminded me again of seasons. As if I needed to be reminded of such, since I was in Europe when the earth’s rotation on its tilted axis around the sun crossed that invisible line in the dimensions of space which mean that, here in the south, we’re into spring and back there in north, they’re (you’re) into autumn. In the tropics, as you likely know, these seasons tend to mean dry and wet more than hot and cold – though it does get delightfully less hot during Port Moresby’s winter i.e. June-September or so. And since I just flew in over it all again yesterday, and since I’ve had occasion over the 1.5 years I’ve posted from here to show you more than once a specific feature of the coastline of Port Moresby, I present you with brief and vivid example of the difference between late winter (late dry season) and early winter (end of wet season).
If you are viewing this in chrome (firefox has trouble with these layout templates, so tends to overlap photos and such), you should see a smaller, greener image of Pyramid Peak to the right or above this text. At the top of this post you see virtually the exact same photo, shot almost exactly three months later: small shot, June; large shot, September just before I flew out to Amsterdam. To everything — turn, turn turn — there is a season — turn, turn, turn… And, for me, the season has come to return actively to work, dig back into that stack of emails and planning for 2014 activities and all the work I love. Lisbon shots will appear in this space sometime soonish, I hope. But for now, those of you wondering where and how I am can imagine me in the late dry season with a big pile of work that I’m actually surprisingly eager to dig back into. I hope this finds you well whether you are beginning your spring or your autumn. Peace, out. (Oh, and btw if you’d like more dry-wet comparisons of where I am, hit either of the other posts where I showed stuff in and around Pyramid Peak, here: https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/coast-highlands-coral-sea-by-land-and-by-air/ and here https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/paul-takes-to-the-water-at-long-last/
Coast & Highlands — Odds & Ends
Here at smw, slt we’ve spent a few weeks away from home – first helping out at the base of our new project in Port Moresby, about which you can find links in our last post, and then visiting our longstanding project up in Tari. While at the new project I was able to ride along for a sensitization outing at 9-Mile market here in Port Moresby (pics above, and many shots below). While on the flight to Tari, I was able to get some better shots looking inland at Port Moresby & the coastline around us than I recall having a chance at before. I hope you’re not all getting bored with the aerial shots of Moresby and environs. As usual, not much story here, just pics of life and what I’ve been seeing. Btw, the umbrella above is modeled on the PNG flag.
Another note: since my personal computer died, I’ve been posting from a backup which has only firefox and not google chrome. I find that these posts read much better in chrome than firefox, so if you’re finding that photos overlap and you can’t see it all very well, I suggest that you consider another browser. Not that I want to shill for the g-word-company…but I do find chrome a bit better for viewing these than either firefox or explorer, for what it’s worth.
Another note: if you wish to see links to the coverage of our new project, go to this post: https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/spiderwebs-on-a-misty-hike-and-one-dead-computer/ and if you are curious, the hike from which those photos came took us essentially from the top left corner on this photo immediately above (assuming your browser shows what I hope), along the ridge of hills you see, to just about where you see the big road hit the port in the center-right. From this angle, you’d never really imagine it could feel so remote & wild from inside it, huh?
Above: intoxicants are us at 9 Mile market (the green nut-looking things are buai aka betel nut); and below the intoxicatingly lovely highland mountains of Hela Province on a road trip I took down Komo, a district centre at the end of the Highlands highway just next to the massive PNG LNG project which has enormously affected development and the economy in most parts of PNG that I know — POM because of corporate workers etc., Lae because of the harbor which is at literally the other end of the road from what you’ll see here, and of course the highlands and especially Hela itself because…well, that’s where the LNG is physically being extracted.
When you see the big trucks carrying ocean-going freight containers over the one-lane bridge across the river which you see directly below (that river shot was taken from the bridge while it was temporarily closed to clear some planks or reinforcement of some sort or other), or the truck that’s gone off the edge of the road and overturned itself, keep in mind that until about 30 years ago there was no road here. I’ve not researched when the highlands highway reached Komo, but I sense it was roughly 30 years ago. The LNG construction started…about 3.5 years ago.
Above: any time you get off the road for a nature call, you find amazing stuff — flowers or odd other growths that you’ve never imagined before. We heard a bird of paradise calling on this nature-stop, but only one of us (not me) saw the thing. I’ve heard them several times, but not seen one yet. Sheesh. Another colleague commented he’d seen then twice and killed one once for feathers for his head-gear…to which I pointed out it’s no big surprise they hide from humans now!
I had trouble getting a good focus on these tree flowers so I tried to make art out of it. Sorry. Below: the cooks seemed happy to welcome me back to Tari this time. 🙂
Spiderwebs on a Misty Hike…and One Dead Computer
Let me please begin by stating again that this is not a work blog, that this is my own personal photo-driven reflection of where I am, who I am now (how much or little fuzz there is on the top of my head or around my cheeks, etc.), so that my friends and family can keep track when I am away for long periods of time…as has been true most of the time quite a while.
Still and all, I am a person who works. A person for whom work occupies a tremendously large place in my life; a person who works for an organization whose accomplishments and principles make me proud. And a person who happens to be where he is, more often than not, because that’s where work has sent me. And let me just say, as I have a few times in recent months, that work has been filling my days quite full. My general rule is that if something about the work I’m engaged in has made the public media sphere, then I can share it on here.
So it’s known here in PNG that MSF’s first project responding to family & sexual violence in PNG, based in Lae, handed over back to the hospital within which it’s based. The handover ceremony was on 21st June, and I was nicely quoted in the media and received a few lovely gifts and very kind words of appreciation on behalf of our many hardworking colleagues. I also took a lot of pictures. The pictures showed wonderful cultural sights, dancers who danced along the road to the FSC (family support centre) where I handed over the key to the Deputy Secretary for Health…the dancers were made up and dressed beautifully, one presumes in the style of Morobe Province. The dancers sang “MSF” and various other things as they danced along the road. I have…had…wonderful pictures of these dancers! And of me posing with them!
…Until I needed to spend a few days in a new places here in POM, helping the project team for our new project settle into their new digs. You know, helping hand kind of thing. You can imagine, new place and new habits and your usual patterns fall apart and you do something F***ING idiotic like…put all your stuff from yoru overnight back in the bottom of the one wardrobe in your temporary bedroom and there’s no desk, but you want your wet tennis gear to dry overnight, so you hang it on the hangers in the … one wardrobe … where they drip … onto your computer … onto which you’ve transferred the photos from the Lae handover and, in a fit of organization deleted them from the SD card in the camera … and your computer fries, completely, battery eroded. I suspect the dripped sweat from the tennis gear was just the final straw after the humidity of PNG, but that’s one fine and expensive laptop down and dead, and one set of lovely photos sadly lost and no longer share-able. Sorry, folks.
I can, however, share with you a few more links to very public things we’ve been saying about our work, my colleagues and I. Links to quite a few of them are below, and do note that one of them has links to both TV and radio coverage.
And I can share these new photos I made on last week’s POM Bushwalker hike: further view of Port Moresby, taken from a hike entirely within the greater POM area, from close to where I live up and over the ridges to Burns Peak at the edge of downtown. It’s from the road that goes through the pass next to Burns Peak that many of the lovely views of the harbor that appeared here a few weeks ago were taken. The start of the hike was wonderfully atmospheric because of the heaviest low-lying fog I’ve experienced here. It really made for a wonderful mood, although it made the views a bit less clear and spectacular. It also blocked the sun for which we were happy hiking up all those steep hills!
…more of moresby :-/
I couldn’t help myself. Today was a sunny, lovely winter day, meaning that it’s only hot in the direct sun rather than unbearable. Immediately when I headed downtown for my usual Sunday-morning swim, I realized this was the day for taking photos, not yesterday. So, with apologies for the less-well-done shots yesterday, here are some other views of the same things, and a few new ones as well. I’ll spare you more captions, and more text. Comment or write if you want to know what anything is.
Peeks at the Streets of Port Moresby
…and a few shots from the air out of Lae. I say this often, but it’s been one helluva month, June 2013. I sorta figured it would be since we planned on the handover of the project in Lae back to the hospital it’s housed in – these transitions often mean some new work and unpredictability, but as alway, the added work hasn’t quite arrived in the ways or places one expected. Still, I did spend last weekend in Lae for an official handover ceremony which generated some lovely shots of the dancers at the ceremony, yours truly being official, and other such highlights. Once I get them all sorted, and figure out what I can reasonably post here, I’ll be sharing them with you.
But for now, to start sorting and clearing some pics off my camera, I’ve decided it’s time to show you all a bit of the street life of POM. I don’t walk around town much here – not really a great city to walk around, since quite aside from how hot it would be, I’d be uncomfortable walking around with a camera. Someone who just joined us after a stint over in South Sudan says a former colleague (now working there, she knows who she is and we’ll see if she reads this or not…) says an ex-mission-colleague had unpleasant things to say about my home town. So I decided it was time to show you all a bit of our town. It’s really not so bad – ok, no Paris, but really a place I’ve come to enjoy living in. Not ready for tourism – trust me on this – but really not a bad place to live if you’ve got some friends and a job that keeps you well occupied. Which mine does. So anyway, here you go, my mini-ode to POM. Ok, ok, I know my ode to LA and some of its neighborhoods was more convincing…but I’ve lived there longer. And, well, yeah, there are a lot more nice buildings and all. But still: enjoy.
We started with my favorite view of the harbor from the Poreporena Freeway (also shown immediately below, built in the late 1990s to funnel traffic more rapidly from the suburban-and-government sprawl side of town up and over the ridge of hills to the heart of the older part of town by the water) – looking down at the harbor and the edge of town by the yacht cub. Immeidately above is my favorite traffic-circle sculpture in town: POM has many of these and I need to try to find a way to get out and get photos of more of them. This one’s still fairly new: went up late last year, maybe, and we all enjoyed trying to figure out how they were planning to paint it, as the coast of primer (dark brown) went on, then it got painted white (and we all thought: graffiti, here we come), and then they did this absolutely lovely realistic painting. And so far they’ve really been maintaining it: any time it gets graffiti’d, it’s painted over quickly. Someone is really dedicated to keeping this shell as lovely as it is now. Civic pride rules.
…and a closeup of the shell sculpture. These were all taken from a moving car. Sorry they’re not better.
…and that it wasn’t a sunnier morning when I finally took my camera out and about. Now we’re just following my regular route from home, wave to the shell sculpture, past the SP (South Pacific) Brewery at the big traffic circle (home also to Sunny Bunny’s Kindergarten), onto the start of the Poreporena Freeway. You will be seeing pretty much all of its roughly 4km? length: it starts right by the brewery, runs the stretch below, into the hills you see ahead, turns a corner and then you get the harbor views you see below…and ends when it hits town. You will have noticed that the digicel mobile network advertises quite heavily.
And that’s it for POM. Then there’s the flower photo that I rather feel I should try to include in every shot. The range of tropical flowers that just occur naturally in PNG is a constant amazement even after 15 months. I mean, you walk past a tree and realize that the flower clinging to it is the kind of orchid you pay $5 per stem for back home, and you realize here you’re sort of taking all the color and beauty for granted. I have to be careful here, because I don’t want to go and encourage too many more people to ask me about taking a vacation here. My main reason to discourage vacationers is actually that the quality for investment is too low: flight expense to get here is INSANE, and once here, the quality of hotels is mediocre and the cost INSANE. So you pay a boatload for a pretty crap hotel. If and when the country ever starts choosing to put more investment and support into the tourism sector, this place can dominate tourism in the Pacific-island region. Compared to, say, Fiji or Samoa or French Polynesia, I think PNG has a LOT more to offer, all the same as those other places in terms of tropical oceans, beaches and reefs, but with the addition of a vast island with high mountains, rivers, and hundreds of cultures tracing their history back tens of thousands of year. But right now this is not at all a tourism-friendly economy and infrastructure, in my opinion. I hope it will be. Then, aside from the poor value you get for your expensive rooms and flights, there are various notable security challenges. I needn’t go on about those; anyone who follows PNG in the websphere is aware that there are issues with crime and violence.
In any case, the rest are several shots I took flying out of Lae on Tuesday. On my way in, last Thursday, we flew over a lake I’d never flown over before and had gorgeous views directly down over it, nestled in its rumpled green setting of hills and with bits of algae giving it a green shimmer at the edges. Didn’t have my camera in my pocket that time, so remembered to keep it with me on the way out. So here’s what you get. It might have been my last flight into Lae – since we won’t have an active project there any more, I won’t have much reason to get there again. So this was a rather sad farewell, but also exciting b/c I feel we’re having some success with the work here. There may soon be some public links on that score to which I can refer you again. Cheers.
Paul Takes to the Water…At Long Last :-/
My readers might be forgiven if they’ve forgotten, in the fifteen months since I first posted from POM, that we’re on an island here. I, on the other hand, probably should not forgive myself for that. There was one entry with boat-pics, from Bougainville last year…and, guess what, that was my sole outing on a boat in more than a year in PNG from March 2012 until…today. Sad but true. Blame it on whatever: my friends here have been hiking and tennis friends…the few waterborne friends I have spend their weekends fishing (I’d rather scrub floors…)…work…etc. etc. A truly pathetic show for someone who loves diving, nature, and has spent the past year living in short reach of some of the world’s great diving. But I’m also a bit of a lemming, and don’t tend to want go out with a dive group that’s not vouched for by someone I feel like I know a bit.
Having finally met a few friends who enjoy regular dives with one of the local groups early this year, I returned from my LA sojourn … nine weeks ago already?! … determined to get back on, and under, the water. To spur myself in that direction, I invested in diving gear the day before I left LA. So today, off I went, dive gear still embarrassingly carrying its tags but at least complete and apparently more or less appropriate. Sorry to say I didn’t burn even more on an underwater camera … but I suspect some such thing will be in my future. Look forward to more boat-side and possibly underwater pics in the future. For now I hope you enjoy the waterside views of aptly-named pyramid peak (from whose summit I took pics of Bootless Bay where this dive took place, which you can see if you’d like, in this post a few months ago: https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/coast-highlands-coral-sea-by-land-and-by-air/
I’m happy to report that, aside from a goggle mini-disaster which shortened the first dive and which my dive buddy above helped me sort out, my gear is working great and my six-year-dormant dive skills resurfaced reasonably well. Enjoy these views looking in towards the coast for a change, rather than out from it. The mix of cloud and sun led to some interesting effects on the water and the small islands in the bay. Peace, all. And happy pride, wherever applicable. :-).
Beauty, Big and Small
so smw, slt has been back in pom for precisely six weeks now, since the end of the vacation from which those lovely last photos of coastal fnq originated. thanks to all who liked and commented on that post – i seem to be picking up some readers who didn’t know me back when: i’m delighted that my pics and ramblings appeal to you. in this post – mostly photos from a wonderful hike just today, up a mountain to a swimmable many-tiered waterfall, past a mini-copper mine (we’re talking a watery mosquito-breeding hole in the side of a hill: don’t get excited), and back through grassy fields and hillsides. you’ll notice that rainy season has returned to pom, borne on the change of wind direction: which made possible the aerial photos of downtown and suburban-sprawly port moresby, including the majestic and rather dramatic house of parliament (a short walk, actually, from where i sit as i post this…), since the planes now land and take off in the opposite direction, northbound rather than southbound. honestly: i’ve never carried my camera aboard so many flights as i do in png, nor been as glad so often that i have it with me. i will write nothing more – you may have heard some distressing things in the news about png lately; those exist, as they do for the US and any other place where humans gather; but so do very many people, places and things of beauty. i’m choosing to focus on those, at the moment. enjoy.
…i was also in tari this week on a visit; the head decoration you see up above in the fourth photo is one of our colleagues there: many huli men routinely adorn their heads or their hats with leaves and other such accessories, which when you first arrive from the streets of LA or Paris seems unusual, but it really grows on you. the other shots above and below are from tari hospital and surroundings.
Here you really see how the coral reefs grow up closer to the water and how they differ from the sandy bottom or whatever else there is. At the top is a real island with sand around it; but below that there is only one area which barely was breaching the surface. This is off the coast of Gulf Province, west of POM, on the trip up to Tari earlier this week.
Below, depending on your browser and how it reads the layout: the airstrip at Tari; furhter below, you can see the old-town part of downtown at the top, and the sprawl of the suburban areas where I’m living and working, and where the House of Parliament is, all strewn around these lovely green hills. Well, now they’re green — a few weeks ago when I landed from Cairns they were getting mighty brown…
Coast, Highlands, Coral Sea…by Land and by Air
Those are not islands: that is coral just below the surface of the aptly-named Coral Sea, as I flew from POM to Cairns again yesterday – second time I’ve done that flight in this direction. God it’s a great view.
So if this text appears where I hope (this is never guaranteed, and can vary from browser to browser…so fingers crossed), then to the right & below is me at an office meeting; I put that there for the map! See the flag on the south coast, to the right side – that’s POM. The Coral sea is below it — all the stuff between Cairns — due south by southwest of POM, and where I sit watching the bright sun reflect on the ocean (that’d the Coral Sea ocean of course) as I write this — and all the pics in this entry were taken in and around POM, or in the air between Tari (left-most flag in the center of the island, of an appreciably different color) and POM in December, also from the air. Some of those shots are obviously rivers and river deltas of Gulf Province (to the left of POM, as you look at the map, and stretching inland a fair piece to abut Hela Provicne where Tari is located), but the one up above is, I think, the Highlands Highway as it stretches from Lae to Tari. (Lae is one of the flags on the map sorta due north of POM through a thick part of the island, and the HH starts there – not in POM. No roads to Highlands from POM, only planes.) Further up, you will note a photo of something I found truly stunning when I did the hike: a hillside of yellow grasses with short palms popping up out of the grasses, all sort of backlit by the sun which was just popping over the brim of the hill. It really was a stunning and unusual view.
Now, again if this appears as planned: above is a coastal shot in which, if you look closely, you can see the (few) towers of downtown POM in the distance – from the same hike as the gorgeous yellow-grass hillside – and to the left you see both docking bays at the Tari airstrip. That Air Niugini plane is the one from which those other airborne shorts were taken.
And yes, the drum-and-pipe band is part of the military barracks at Taurama, the start and finish point of our lovely coastal hike from which many of these shots come. After a hot hike in the blazing sun of tropical PNG, it was a classically where-am-I experience to sit and guzzle water while listening to militarily-precise drum-and-bagpipe music. Remember: the southern part of what’s now PNG was actually a direct British colony for a while, while the northern part became an Australian League-of-Nations mandate after it was taken away from Germany post-WWI.
This seems as good a place as any for me to put some general text. So here it is a new year- how did that happen? it feels like just last month I was baking croissants for Christmas breakfast with Mom and Steve! – and here’s Paul being a lazy so-and-so in a spacious apartment full of the mod cons in Cairns for a week of much needed sleep and disconnection before I return to start thinking about how to make 2013’s plans come to fruition as we’ve … well, as we’ve planned them, to the extent that’s ever possible in life let alone this particular line o’ work. I haven’t much of a general nature to say: these are a collection of photos taken either on the last bushwalk group hike that I joined in 2012, plus some aerial shots from the plane taken between Tari and POM in December, and between POM and Cairns (the entire flight path, all one hour of it, is over the Coral Sea aka Great Barrier Reef, more or less) just yesterday.
As always when I leave POM and come to Australia, I find myself going philosophical about human development, the development of nation states, cultural expectations of what makes for a good life or a good community. The driver who took me from airport to condo was a friendly and professional guy who would have been born just after WWII, and whose attitudes towards those of quite different skin pigments and cultural assumptions were likely more mainstream at that time than now, though I suspect I do live in a bubble and such attitudes are more common even among “my sort” than I know. Having lived as a pigmental minority in various parts of Africa and Asia, I realize it’s unavoidably universally human to single out those different from us for extra attention. I worry about the tacit assumption among those of my own pigmental type and general late-capitalist developmental background that our own ways of life, belief, eating, etc. are inherently superior. Seems to me we’ve made a fair hash of things on a number of fronts, while having real successes on others, so rigorous self-righteousness is hardly in order. On the other hand, I am reminded that when westerners first showed up in Japan we were found quite smelly (butter-smellers, I think?) and barbaric…heck, this dismissal of those who look, smell and act differently from us may e the most universal cultural trait defining humans. So I held my peace and took my driver’s attitudes as a lesson in humanity, rather than a depressing view of cultural realities in contemporary Australia.
For those on my email list, there’ll be another bit coming out shortly with random thoughts, hopefully not too terribly long. I’ve chosen to stay on for a second year in PNG. I find the place endlessly fascinating and confounding, and the work we’re doing well worth another year of my trying to get better at helping it happen. May we all be as tolerant as our hearts and heads can permit, and may the world – oy, please! – find a bit more peace and reason in 2013, especially in places close to my heart like DRC and the US Capitol building.
Two PNG Hikes — POM and Tari
smw, slt is in Berlin for a bit. This is about the annual-plan meetings and preparation for 2013. An aspect to my new role that, well…I think I can learn to like. I won’t go into much detail, but suffice to say that with so many projects and so many missions, so much need for good work in so many places in the world, when it comes to annual budget and planning time, one must really have one’s ducks lined up nicely if one hopes to conduct new activities, improve quality of management or outreach or communications, etc. – it’s pretty competitive and so many missions are trying to do a lot. I’m not used to being involved at this level – more used to defending an individual project rather than having a good bead on the kinds of things that HQ looks at for multiple projects or a mission as a whole. Not exactly an easy transition for me, but enough about that. After the meetings are all done, I’ll have a few days of vacation.
In the meantime, I am taking advantage of being here for some conerts, plays, etc. And of course I’m taking advantage of good, readily-available internet to post whatever photos I have up on the blog. Herewith shots from two hikes I took in the last month — most of the shots from a lovely hike around Tari up in the highlands (above, and all but the last three & the shot immediately below), and then four pics from a bushwalking group hike around POM. The POM ones stand out becuase it’s much drier – was the very end of the dry season; rains started up a few days later, about two or three weeks ago though my sense of time is a bit off these days. I’m trying to get a lot of sleep. Hope everyone is well. Ciao.
Love the contrast of this wooden hut above, and the pre-fab dwellings at the hospital compound below…
OK, one of my total favorite things is how kids everywhere feel they must do something, other than standing there and smiling, when some white guy takes their photo. It’s quite universal – I recall a photo I posted on the blog from Nigeria more than five years ago, remarkably similar to this in the style of the kids, posing as it were for their closeup. It’s great fun for all involved…
When we got to the first village on our hike, the kids came running. Seems we’re one of the more interesting parts of their weekend. 🙂 The hikes are definitely a highlight for those of us who get to go on them. Further below, you see how Tari is really situated in a basin ringed by hills, and all fairly high up in the highlands to begin with.
Below, that’s downtown Tari — which is basically an airstrip, the hospital, a few shops, and some government buildings. The people all still live in traditional compounds, divided by the kinds of steep walled walkways between and among different compounds that you’ve been seeing – and perhaps wondering about (example two shots above, with Katja). The guys on the fence, below, are bidding us farewell at what I assume is the edge of their family’s territory after walking with us, cutting us walking sticks from local bushes when the way got too steep and muddy (man, it’s slippery on those clay-y muddy hills after a bit of rain…), and generally keeping us company for much of the lovely walk.
For the final shots, we’re back to the end-of-dry-season hills around Port Moresby and that excellent hike I did a few weeks ago, last chance I had to get out hiking in POM for the time being. Now the rainy season is back in POM, so it’ll be mud hikes& mildewed clothes for the next several months.
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!