Thursday, April 21, 2016

Well, yesterday I was lucky enough to go to an HIV/AIDS awareness workshop in the Holiday Inn. As a part of the programme I work on we all have to have AIDS related activities on our work plans. As many of us, me included, are pretty ignorant about the subject, training is the order of the day.

We had a generally fun, if somewhat surreal time playing with Kondoms and wooden 'teaching aids'; realia is the offical jargon I believe. Although maybe not, the term means “items from everyday life used as teaching aids” - I'm not at all sure where these 'items' would fit into everyday life, even in the land of the unexpected as people here seem to be fond of calling the place.

We also learnt a few interesting facts. All AIDS and TB drugs in PNG are free (once officially diagnosed that is). Unfortunately they get stolen and then sold, even though it illegal to sell HIV drugs (of course the stealing is also frowned upon). According to the course leader it is illegal not to breast feed babies in PNG. Sounds strange, but I'm getting used to strange.

TB is still a major problem here, probably not helped by the delightful habit of kai kai buai (chewing betel nut) which you may recall leads the chewer to spit huge, bright red globs of sputum everywhere (I do mean huge, river like, and I do mean everywhere, there are even a few 'hot spots' in the office!)

Some local governments are having a crackdown on kai kai buai. One of the most ridiculous, though entertaining, recent events in the battle is the cutting down of trees that provide shade for the poor baui vendors (poor in every sense of the word). Just outside my office they cut down a very large, old and previously attractive tree. The operation was not well planned. It took out a long stretch of very new and expensive looking metal fencing. Much of the tree and the buggerup fence are still there several weeks later.

So, back to the Kondoms. Having been through a lengthy workshop on the correct use of the mouses' sleeping bag we are supposed to return to our places of work and 'spread the word'. I cannot help thinking that this plan has not been thought through quite fully. Apart from the fact that the room was full of deeply embarrassed, semi-traumatised folk, many of whom will probably never mention the work condom again, it is easy to imagine the streams of respectable government employees in this conservatively christian country beating a path to the HR director's door to complain of inappropriateness in the workplace .

Another rather bizarre feature was a short presentation given by a local man entirely in Tok Pisin. Needless to say at least half the room didn't understand much of it at all. In the great cause of political correctness we all paid close attention, applauded loudly and went away bemused. A bit like listening to a politician's after dinner speech only without the suppressed belches and table banging.

Ho hum; another day another Kina.    

Thursday, June 3, 2010

the law to the rescue

There once was a man, outside Pot Mosbi, who had a boat which he kept tied up in what he thought was a safe location. To further ensure its safety he paid a guard to watch it. One night the guard fell asleep, as guards are want to do on long, hot, boring nights (which is to say most nights). Some raskals happened by and stole the boat, taking it to a neighbouring island, apparently in order to get their hands on the outboard motor. The rightful owner of the boat, who was understandably vexed by this turn of events castigated the guard roundly and enthusiastically, and then reported the matter to the police.

In the course of the afore mentioned castigation the former owner of the boat used that four letter expletive much beloved of modest-talent Hollywood directors. The F-word as it is coyly referred to by those who think there maybe someone nearby who is less worldly and more easily offended than themselves.

The police attended promptly and arrested the owner for swearing at the guard. Although a modest ‘bail’ payment secured his release a court case is pending.

The theft remains an unsolved and possibly uninvestigated crime.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

On line banking update

One of the earlier entries went on at some length about the travails of setting up online banking. After 5 months I finally got access to one of my accounts. The other is still missing in action and I have been asked to fill out another application form. Not sure if it is the 3rd or 4th!

Housing Problems

By popular demand I am attempting to combat my natural laziness and resume updates to our blog… after a considerable break.

Housing Problems

Reported in the newspaper this week are problems that our trusty boys-in-blue are facing in Lae, the second city of PNG.

When the local health authority recently declared the housing that 100 Lae police officers and their families occupy as ‘unfit for habitation’ they gave them a deadline to vacate. As the deadline approaches the officers announced to the press that they had moved into home made tents but have left their families in the condemned houses. The paper offers no explanation as to why the families have been left behind.

The officers took Friday off from official duties to cut bamboo with which to construct their new tented accommodation. The officers now plan to move their families back to their traditional homes, stay on in the tents, but not to work on police business until the government addresses their housing concerns.

By strange coincidence the local health authorities here in Port Moresby recently condemned the office building that I work in. The air conditioning had not worked for some months and the carpets, long overdue a clean, had taken on the appearance of a school science project. We were instructed that the building was not fit for habitation. The imaginative solution (apart from cleaning the carpets) was to get all staff to work just halftime, either mornings or afternoons. This apparently assuaged the health authorities and allowed at least the semblance of work-as-normal to continue.

The carpets were cleaned the next weekend and the condemnation lifted. It took about a week to get in contact with all the staff and get them to come back to work fulltime. The air conditioning was also fixed. It lasted about a month and has now broken again. Oh well, at least the weather is cooling down a bit now that the trade winds are picking up.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

All in a days diving

I went diving on Saturday. The diving was great, but that is not what I am here to tell you about.

We meet at the (relatively) swanky Airways hotel at an ungodly quarter to seven on Saturday morning. At least I did, the other divers were all varying degrees of late and rolled up over the next half hour. Good job we got up early eh! Anyway eventually we were all ready for the off.

One of the divers had a motorbike, very unusual for Port Moresby where they are anything but a favoured form of transportation. Anyway he said he was going to meet us at the boat and duly set off, flying through the car park like he was being chased by a mad bull on Red Bull. Shortly after this we finally all piled into the minibus and off we set for Bootless Bay about 20 minutes away (usually).

Just outside the main town and on the road we were taking is the somewhat notorious settlement known as Six Mile. Plenty of places here are known by the number of miles they rest from the centre of town, hence there are residential areas at two mile and four mile, the airport is at 7 mile and a small town come settlement at 6 mile (there is a new Buk Bilong Pikinini library there two).

As we left the confines of 6 mile we found one reason that bikes are not a favoured means of getting about, our bikie friend was at the side of the road with a puncture. There was much talk of raskols putting things in the road to puncture tyres so that they could relieve drivers of their 'surplus' Kina. Happily no raskols appeared. The guy had taken the precaution of travelling as far as he could on the flat tyre just in case.

Protocol and common sense say that you don't leave someone alone at the roadside so we all hung about for 10 minutes until one of his wantoks turned up in a Ute and took away the newly inoperative bike. (For you Poms a Ute is a small pickup truck and bikies are bikers).

Off we set again, 5 minutes up the road was a police roadblock masquerading under the somewhat euphemistic name of a 'road safety check'. These are very common at present with Christmas just around the corner. Our driver had left his licence in the other van so a finger wagging and a K20 fine were in order (christmas is coming and those celebratory comestibles don't buy themselves you know). After a bit of form filling and of course a bit of paying up, we were on our way yet again.

Nothing stopped us this time and in 10 minutes were on the dive boat and underway.

Two or three minutes offshore everything suddenly when quite as the morning's third hiatus got into gear; the boat's engine spluttered to a disappointing and disquieting stop. We drifted in silence staring alternatively at each other and at our resent point of departure just a short drift away (maybe).

We were still within easy sight of the wharf and with the first dive site 30 minutes or so in front of us. As we drifted in the current 'in front' gradually became 'behind' and the crew thought it prudent to throw out the anchor. The boss went below to the engine room and after a few minutes of restrained clanking, emerged and restarted the engine. Someone had switched to the second fuel tank but left the shut-off valve on the new tank living up to its name, which is to say Shut! Progress under such circumstances was always going to be limited we were sagely and entirely believably advised.

So, three incidents under our belts and its not yet 9. Off we go … for a day of incident free diving at the outer reef (basically the northern extension of the Great Barrier Reef).

One the way home there was a loud splash as the owner and boss of the organisation fell overboard! More calamities? No. They were running a 'Rescue Divers' course that day and this man overboard drill was just a practice part of that course.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Competition

B-Mobile one of the mobile phone providers are running a competition with prizes that I doubt you'd be able to win where you live! If you get the answers then in the words of the radio advertisement you “win a live pig for Christmas, Win a live pig for New Years”.

This a great prize, pigs are very valuable and popular eating too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It’s that simple.

One of the banks in PNG recently ran a radio commercial for their new online banking service, which replaces their old online banking service (and requires an entirely new, slow application process in which you give them all the information about you that they already have because of the old service).

The advertisement focussed on how easy it is to set up an account – just six easy steps. That’s right ONLY six and they are all easy. I may not remember every detail of every step, but this is the gist:

1 – go online and download an application form,

2 – complete the form and take it into your local branch,

3 – sit with the customer service agent whilst they complete the registration online from the information in the form,

4 – wait two days for the processing (yeah right, my application has already been several weeks, but then again they did lose the first form so I had to start from scratch),

5 – receive your login details in the mail,

6 – call the customer services line to get your temporary password, then you can log on, change the passwod and finally use the service.

That’s it, just visit a website, fill a form, visit a bank, … wait … , receive a letter, call a phone number and visit a website.

It’s that simple!

Friday, December 11, 2009

No Sitting. We mean it!

There are a number of low retaining walls outside my office. They are the type designed to contain flower beds or some nice shrubs. In our case they hold back a few rusty old street lights (which some workers were 'felling' the other day) and some bare earth.

In Port Moresby there are always a lot of people hanging about, as a lot of them have nothing else to do and hanging about fills in the time. One former favourite spot for hanging about aimlessly was outside our office on these conveniently seat-height retaining walls. Of course there are notices saying don't hang about, or sell things or generally be here, but these are duly and completely ignored.

A few weeks back the security guards hit on a good way of improving compliance with the no loitering instructions. They got some old sump oil out of the generator (or someone's car) and poured it liberally all over the prospective seats. Problem solved. No one sits there any more and all it takes to maintain is an occasional dousing with old oil.

It looks so attractive too, don't you think?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

So then I ...

It all started yesterday. I went to the bank to by some foreign exchange for our Christmas holiday to Singapore and Malaysia. But the customer service agent informed me, in the commonly used PNG whisper (most people are modest and speak somewhere between very quietly and half a notch above silent) that they don’t sell those currencies. No problem  I thought (no really), I’ll just check up on the progress of my application for the new online banking service. The new service replaces a current service that we use, but requires a new form to be completed with all the same information that was provided for the old service. The agent whispered his apologies and sent an email off to the department responsible to find out the cause of the delay.

So then I went to Telikom PNG to pay for a year’s subscription to wireless internet, without which I am limited to 28kb dial-up in the office (remember that?). Sadly the pricing has not been finalised yet so I was unsuccessful, they are not selling it yet. The service was launched in June 09 for a monthly fee, but the monthly fee has never been charged. The other day, without any notice, it all stopped working because they have decided to put it on pre-paid or an annual no-limits account. Or so I was told by a friend who had spend half a day in Telikom’s office finding out. Well, the annual option is not available yet so now the only choice is pre-paid on a Kina by Kina basis!

So then I went back to the office and shortly after got a call to say that the online banking application had been lost and could I please go back to the branch and fill in another form (with the same details that they already have on my ‘old’ online service and my two current accounts).
So then I tried to do some work.. but that’s another story involving broken air-conditioning and an afternoon of driving back and forth across town. This is not a blog about work.
So the next day I went back to Telikom to buy the pre-paid card. Sorry the cash desk is closed but you can buy them across the road at the B-Mobile store.

So then I went to B-Mobile and they said. We don’t sell them, we only sell our own products (sounds reasonable, but why do Telikom think different?). You can buy Riat Pre-Paid at Stop and Shop (the nearby supermarket), off I set to Stop and Shop which had the A/C broken down and should have been called stop and sweat.

So then I asked for 50 Kina Rait pre-paid. The guy went out the back to find the cards and came back announcing that they didn’t have any, sorry. I was about to leave, well you would wouldn’t you, when another sales clerk offered two 20’s and a 10 – inconvenient, but acceptable. I’ll take it!

So then they spent 5 minutes locating the cards and ringing up the sale. Success, I had finally achieved something.

So then I went to the Bank, remember the Bank, duplicator of information? Whilst waiting to fill the form, which was to be done with the agent and in front of the computer into which he typed all the information  as I filled the form, I read the pre-paid card only to find out that they had given me B-Mobile instead of Rait (Telikom brand name). By this time I was already late for a meeting with a few worthies at the Department of Finance, but I had to go back to Stop and Sweat whilst the people that sold me the wrong cards were still there or I would never see my money again as I had no receipt.

So then I went to Stop and Sweat. They smiled in recognition at my approach and said You asked for Rait pre-paid, Sorry, we gave you the wrong thing.

So then I spent the next 10 minutes stopped and sweating whilst they located the correct place on the till roll, the manager and a couple of other unidentified staff to observe whilst my 50 Kina was refunded. The rest of the growing queue looked on in patient, long suffering silence; not new to any of them I’m sure. Eventually, once I had lost about half a kilo in body weight from the sweating (though the stopping was no extra effort I admit) my money was returned and I started again. This time I did end up with pre-paid, though for some reason only K40 in the form of two K20 cards.

So then I returned to the office and set about following the instruction on the pre-paid card. Call 1255 and follow the prompts. Ok here we go. 1255. It is blocked from our internal phones. I can’t call it from the mobile because it is a competitors service. The final option I can currently think of is the phone at home. Well, the phone at home you may recall, only worked for a week and two calls before failing. After nearly 2 months it was fixed; however it only lasted a couple of weeks before failing again at which point we gave up with it.
So then I went back to dial-up where for the moment I remain!

This, just for context,  accompanies another, parallel and in many ways similar chain of near-misses that together constitute my working life …

Friday, December 4, 2009

A few days at the end of the earth

We have just enjoyed a few days in Alotau which is the nearest thing to a large town that there is on the eastern tip of PNG. It is unreasonably attractive. More like a series of Pacific Island post card settings than a real place. As with everything in PNG, every picture does not tell the story.

We had a uneventful flight up in a little dash-8 turboprop with Airlines PNG the second airline of the country, most recently famous for crashing on the way back from Kokoda (not their fault). Domestic travel differs from international and the check-in was a inexplicably long process in a baking, uncooled room with what seemed like half the population of Port Moresby. Everyone was friendly and chatty and eventually we repaired to departure lounge with one printed boarding pass and one hand written one (computer error apparently).

On arriving in Alotau we found a tiny airport building in which to claim our bags straight from the baggage handler's cart. It was hot and humid as we bumped through the ubiquitous pot-holes into town accompanied by the driver's apologies and modest indifference from the other road users.

We checked into the Alotau international hotel a comfortable if rather characterless place down by the water. After lunch we ventured down the road to local travel agents to see what there was to see (it took about 7 minutes to walk around the commercial centre of the town so that was clearly not going to be a major part of the entertainment).

We had, it transpired arrived too late for the half day local tour the nice lady in the hermetically sealed and uncooled office informed us. They needed to advice (ask) the locals before dropping by with a load of tourists, even if the load was only two. Sunday we were informed there were to be no tours as there was going to be a cruise ship in the harbour and it would keep them all busy all day! Humm.

We booked a day trip down to the eastern most point of the island and returned to the hotel. It started to rain and kept it up all night. At breakfast the next day as we prepared ourselves for the day of travelling needed to do justice to the beautiful country the inevitable message came in. The rain had caused the road to become impassable. No tour! As there are a lot of rivers and only a very few bridges, most crossings being fords, this was not that surprising. At this point it appeared that our entire weekend away would be spent looking out of a window at rain – something we do a bit in Port Moresby anyway.

Later in the morning we managed to persuade the hotel to lend us a driver (and the hotel manager's personal car). He took us on a very detailed tour of the town for about 40 minutes. We passed and commented on every place of business, residence, school and public building. He even knew the names of the residents of many of the bigger houses, what they did and how long they had been in the town. (He as was no a guide, just the driver.)

Alotua is a beautiful place and in a considerable contrast to Moresby there was not a single bit of rubbish on the ground, no streaks of buai stain, nothing! Apparently the locals' natural habit of keeping the place clean is supported by a system of on-the-spot fines!

On returning to the hotel there was good news. We had secured a place on a local dive boat going out for a day in the islands on Sunday (despite the presence of 9,000 cruse passengers!)

We had an excellent sunday with Darrel from Explore PNG (highly recommended – contact him through the International Hotel) I even had a short dive and some excellent snorkelling over the coral which is only a few meters from the ridiculously attractive and unvisited beach. The island was about an hour and a half from the town in a fast boat, so this is a reasonably inaccessible place. We saw only one other boat the whole day with a handful of divers on board (apart from the few local fisherman that is). Oh yes, we were the only two people on the boat out of Alotau, though we did meet up with a few others that had spent the night on an island and returned with us at the end of the day at the beach to define days at the beach. Eat your heart out Sydney, Bondi seems like the centre of a Cairo by comparison. (Sandy yes, but hot and crowded too).

The evenings were a little slow in Alotau. Of the four places we knew of to eat two were closed when we tried to eat in them! At the weekend the hotel had a driver that took us about, but in the week the driver was not available and the taxis had all stopped with the departure of the sun. It was eat in the hotel most of the time.

Check out the pictures in Picasa (soon).