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.
…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.
Today marks exactly two months since I landed in Port Moresby, so in honor of my lovely new home I thought I’d quickly answer the request from some of you for more photos of the town itself. All but one of these photos were taken this morning when I met a friend for breakfast at the yacht club (yes, I know) then had a lovely walk around the boat basin, watching sailboats come in and out, the scuba club getting ready to head out for some scuba around the harbor, and so on. As you’ll see, Port Moresby is situated in a lovely area with hills, outlying islands and coastline. Directly above are the two hills of the main part of town with the tall towers of the central business district (CBD: a common term in this part of the world) in between. Like most of the cities I’ve traveled through or worked in lately, POM is also a city of contrasts – lovely harbor and hillside houses for those who can afford them, and many less-expensive settlements which are more densely inhabited and with less access to services, etc. — e.g. below, if you look closely enough, you’ll see a lot of very low-rise shacks built out onto the water itself. If you’re facing outward toward the water from where I had breaky (that’s Australian for breakfast), the shot above was to the left and the one below was to the right. For reference, the office and home between which I shuttle day to day here are on the other side of that low spine of hills in the shot below. PNG has hundreds (usual estimates say over 800) of different tribal and ethno-linguistic groups; the settlements in these urban areas tend to be mostly inhabitants who’ve moved in from other areas, typically the highlands in the middle of the island, and don’t have any traditional family or clan ties, or rights to land, here.
It’s been an interesting week in Port Moresby politically – the drama of parliament, prime minister, high court, elections and so on has reached new heights this week; a quick search for PNG-related news this week will give you a better sense of it all than I could hope to here, but suffice it to say things are rarely dull here and this week did not disappoint on that score. Since we live in the Gordons area of town, just down the road from the House of Parliament, we’re close to where demonstrators sometimes end up when there are marches for good government, etc.; we’re also a long stone’s throw from where two different groups of police stood off one day recently though the situation did not, thankfully, escalate any further than that. In other work ways, it was a fairly stressful week but a productive one, and on the personal front I played some doubles (yay! thanks, Will!) and with a couple colleagues collaborated in creating a fine Thai curry for all of us here at base – as our finco commented it was the first time everyone in POM sat down to dinner together since he arrived in early April. And I actually got out for some socializing today as well…goodness, if I don’t watch out, I might begin to look like someone who has a wee bit of work-life balance! This is a new concept for me and not common among us long-term MSF field types, to be honest. Not quite sure it’s a thing I know how to do any more, but here’s hoping…
…I love this contrast: sleek boats & fancy apartment houses below; working tankers and ships, above.
…below, the containter port in the foreground, the towers of the CBD in the middle, and Ela Beach just off the frame to the right.
…below: literally what I see when I look out my window each morning. Our compound is shady and lovely – sometimes I miss the light, but I never miss the heat the sun brings with it. We’re in a hilly, green section of town about 10 or 15 minutes’ drive from downtown and the harbor.