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.