And Other Lessons Learned in PNG
27.06.2013 - 30.06.2013 95 °F
I would move to Texas in a second. - Father Adrian (Polish Priest living in PNG)
An enormous pothole formed in the middle of a busy street. Deep enough that when it rained, the hole filled with water. Plenty of water. Enough water that children used this as a swimming pool. That is until a crocodile decided to commandeer and reside in the children's street pool.
That is a true story that appeared in the national PNG newspaper. So did other interesting stories.
Due to the fact that our flight from Cairns arrived into Port Moresby 55 minutes before our next flight, we weren't allowed on our final flight. That gave us the chance the next morning in the domestic departure lounge to talk with an Aussie traveling with her two kids to Wewak to see her husband. We filled her into the fact that we were here to visit Scuba Steve during his time as a volunteer in PNG.
From there, her descriptions of PNG went a little something like this. "It is so hot here in PNG . . . but you'll love it."
"Oh, there are so many types of diseases all over PNG, make sure you don't wear shorts or short sleeves without many layers of bug repellant, but even that won't keep the mosquitos away . . . but you'll love it . . . you're only here for a week and a half right?"
"Did I mention the people? Oh the people are just so lazy . . . I don't know why . . . I can't stand it here . . . but you'll love it. Promise."
That was our introduction to PNG from a jaded expat's point of view, one full of contradictions, emblematic of the country we happily found ourselves visiting.
Since November, Scuba Steve has served as a volunteer at the St. Fidelis Seminary in Madang, Papua New Guinea. It's a beautifully simple seminary on several lush acres of land surrounded trees hovering over the land below. Steve has resided, accompanied, and taught with a couple of Cupuchin brothers, a priest, and another volunteer. Days are spent in prayer, teaching, cutting acres upon acres of thick bladed grass on spongey soil, and sweating. The equatorial climate of coastal Madang is a combination of hot and humid, with some showers thrown in every day or so to provide a brief respite from perspiration. Not a single time in PNG did I ever take a lukewarm shower, always cold.
Northwest of Madang is the volcanic island of Kar Kar. On Kar Kar resides a Polish priest. He is the only priest on the entire island. He welcomed our company and invited us to stay with him for a couple of days. He even volunteered to drive us up the coast to catch a boat over to the black sand beaches.
Pepper's quote aptly sums up our harrowing 45 minute drive up the riddled road up the coast, "When you are in the good graces of the Lord, one apparently does not fear death as much as I do."
Pepper and I jumped in the back of Father Bogdan's dented blue truck that had already seen a few adventures and the moment his truck hit the main highway, Bogdan was on his own PNG autobahn. He hit the accelerator and didn't let up until profoundly deep potholes presented themselves and impeded his forward progress. At this point he would slam on the brakes and slalom into the opposite lane or off onto the shoulder of the road, throwing us sinners towards the truck cab, and within a second, he hit the gas and threw us back towards the truck's gate. That must be some unique type of penance.
The Face of Someone Afraid He is about to Meet his Maker
Minutes into our drive, the rain began to fall. At first, a light drizzle. Then, then the heavy stuff came. Looking into the cab at Father Bogdan was not comforting in the least for either one of us. He was in a full on conversation with Scuba Steve and unperturbed with the weather. With his left hand, he wiped away either rain or condensation off the windshield. He was hunkered down, squinting through his brief window of clarity. His right hand held the steering wheel and resembled the hands you would find at a DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince concert, it was waving back and forth all while dodging scattered potholes. He hit one directly that projected Pepper and I up into the air. At one point, Pepper and I were seriously considering abandoning the truck. Approaching a blind corner, not only did Father Bogdan enter the opposite lane, he balanced his truck on the outside of the opposite lane. That took us back to Pepper's original quote.
"Pig Lover Nabbed" was the title of the article that graced the top of the page. If I didn't know any better, I'd think I was in Arkansas or New Mexico. This matter-of-fact title was indicative of observed aspects of the PNG culture.
In my brief time in PNG, pigs are considered highly valuable. They serve as a form of currency in PNG. If you want to marry someone, there will be a required payment of swine. If you wrong another tribe, retribution is a live porker. That makes the content of the story a bit baffling. According to the story, a man was found "porking" a pig under someone else's house. I ask myself, "Should this be reported in the national newspaper?" Was it a slow day in the news? Imagine if this came out over the BBC. They had to know that this guy wouldn't be able to score another date in a long time by writing this article. "Didn't I see your mugshot in the paper last week with ol' Betsy? Sorry, I can't go out with you tonight. I have to stay home and chew some betel nut tonight."
Plus what happens to said defiled pig? How valuable is that pig now? Is it now worth half a pig, two mangy cats, or a pound of New Mexican green chilies? In no way would anyone accept this pig in some type of transaction in PNG. Just attempting to pass this pig could lead to an immediate tribal war.
PNG left much to the imagination.
To be continued.
P.S. What do you get when you have two New Mexicans and a Texan?