People problems: postcard from the unexpected
25 June 2012
M JOSEPH SHEPPARD
A POINT OF VIEW BLOG
I WORK PART TIME AS A VOLUNTEER for a charity which does development work in many countries, one of which is Papua New Guinea.
One of my colleagues whose role is in the development area is currently doing field work setting up a health facility, in conjunction with the local government in Bougainville.
He sent me some photos yesterday which brought back lots of memories of my time in PNG when I was in business.
PNG is promoted as the "Land of the Unexpected" which it most certainly is – although some surprises might not be of the kind a person might be looking for!
My niece and her husband did medical missionary work there and spent their entire time in a compound behind barbed wire.
PNG is incredibly rich in minerals, stunningly beautiful and has amazing wildlife. It is also under developed and has a number of social and political problems.
The people are astonishingly varied with the highlanders exhibiting cultural traits going back into the mists of time.
Their cultural ceremonies re well documented as presenting a phenomenal picture of human adornment with symbolism that would be meaningless to an outsider but tells a multi-faceted story of the wearers.
The highlands are not places one would wish to be wandering around alone, the colloquially named "raskols" could be a problem.
When I arrived, I hired a driver for the entire time who, as we got to know each other, advised on that aspect and many more of interest. "You are better off not going into the highlands as ‘an accident’ might happen to you" he suggested.
My experience with the taxi driver whom I engaged at the Port Moresby airport decided me in favor of getting a full time local.
On the way to my hotel he pulled over into a secluded spot and said menacingly, "You pay me now" and asked an outlandish price.
I decided it was best not to argue, especially as I could chalk it up to expenses anyway. When we got to the hotel he zoomed off as soon as my feet hit the ground.
My subsequently hired driver soon took me into his confidence "Boss, I have a big problem and would like your advice," he said one day.
It turned out that times were tough and "I have three wives and I have to get rid of one, if I describe them to you, could you let me know which one I should let go?"
I demurred, stating I was not familiar enough with the local customs. PNG is a fascinating country and we are honored to be able to make a contribution to its growth.
It has so much to offer and hopefully a balance can be struck.
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