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.
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.
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.
Look closely at the photo a few up, and you’ll see a good half-dozen campaign posters on the side of that shack. A few more will show up in other shots, below. Yes – it’s election season in Papua New Guinea. Lots of drama , and lots of candidates – something like 3500 candidates for the 111 seats in parliament. There’s a system of preferential voting, where people voting for a first and a second choice – if no one wins an outright majority at the start, then there are repeated cycles where the candidate with fewest votes is dropped, and his (very, very few women are running) voters’ votes are redistributed to their second-choice candidates. A quick google search will lead you to any number of stories about the current elections, so I won’t go into lots of detail – just let you know that’s going on.
In the meantime, I’ve been getting out for tennis with some regularity, which is just wonderful for stress-management, fitness and work-life balance since the guys I’m playing with aren’t work-related. That, and watching Wimbledon on TV, are among the luxuries that come with being in the capital for the first time since 2007. Work’s going well, but that’s not the topic today either.
In fact, there is no topic today — just a collection of shots from some of the recent bushwwalks, especially one two weeks ago in the hills of East Boroko, which give you some different views of the town and its surroundings than I’ve been able to show you so far. As you see, it sure is beautiful – but as you also see, it’s mighty different from those northern European fields I put up last. Sometimes it really is all a bit much for my brain. And this week I’ve learned of the passing of one of my family’s oldest friends, someone who knew my father when they were kids, who was instrumental in bringing both my parents to the college town where I was born. Though I love this life and the work, the privileges of living in places so different from that town, where I can learn and grow so much…there are downsides, when we lose dear friends and I’m all the way across the world. Ah well – not much to be done. To Margaret Barrier, anthropologist and great spirit who will live in my memory.
As you’ve noticed, on this East Boroko hike we had some kids from the area who decided we were a lot of fun to follow around. I took full advantage, as I always do when I find myself surrounded by a bunch of kids who’ll be more than happy to strike a pose for the camera. Also, you’re seeing different views of the urban-suburban sprawl, and of the town part of Port Moresby than I’ve been able to show you before. Hope you’re enjoying, Catherine and others who’ve asked. 🙂
That’s the airport runway, at the top left corner of the shot above. As you see, it’s one of the few places around with sufficient level ground to land a jet! Below is the guy who guided us on this hike. During election season, the former police who are often our guides and guards on these hikes have all been taken up with election security, so we’re doing some unusual hikes.
…this hike took us through one of the settlement areas and then up into the hills; below we’re in the settlement with some friendly folks, and all the shots of election posters were taken, obviously, where folks live.