Land, Pigs and Women

Where in the world is Secret Asian Man?  I’m sure you’ve been asking and checking in wondering about the latest events.

Well, right now I’m in the bar of the Crowne Plaza in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea and I’ve been here for about 4 days now.  

What’s it like here?  Well that’s kind of hard to say.  The Crowne Plaza is nice.  They have nice and comfortable rooms.  There’s a gym and a pool and a pretty nice breakfast buffet.  The dinner buffet is ambitious, but mostly fails to impress.  The free happy hour in the evening is well attended by most all the guests.  There is a good selection of deep fried, yet cold shrimp and under-cooked chicken tenders.  The small cans of Pringles are nearly all broken to bits, but the cheese and crackers are first rate.  The beer and wine are free.

What’s that? You mean what’s the country like?  I honestly haven’t a clue.  Port Moresby is a high crime area and thus we visitors are confined to the embassy or to our hotel unless we can go out as a group. Most shops and other entertainment venues are off limits after 4 pm. We close at 4:30 pm. 

Carjackings, robberies and assaults are pretty commonplace.  Mostly there are crimes of opportunity and foreigners are an opportunity.  You have it. I want it. An Aussie was hacked up with a machete a few months back even after he gave up his wallet.  He lived.  

If you’re a woman, you can add rape or sexual assault to the list. 100 percent of rural women have experienced domestic violence.  In the city that number drops to a no more palatable 67 percent. Sexual assault of some sort runs at 50 percent.  

Violence in general is rampant.  The society here is strongly clan based.  The clan is the primary societal fixture.  If one makes money, it all goes to the family. If you need something it all comes from the family. In the country, arrows and spears fly if someone steals a chicken from your clan.  The main goal of the clan is to get more land, more women and more pigs.  It is remarkable to hear such stories in 2014.

Here’s an interesting story I heard about.  

It’s about a girl who looks after her younger sister and maybe her younger cousin, who likes a boy in another tribe.  She also likes a teacher in yet another clan.  She decided she liked the teacher more and so invited him to her house to spend some time.  

Wanna know what makes clan conflict worse?  Cellphones and text messages. Spurning at the speed of light.  

The first boy hears about the visit and he and his friends go to the girl’s house and murder the teacher friend and ransack her house.  The teacher friend’s clan hears about this and become irate.  They go and lay waste…. to the girls village because they think she’s been playing games with everyone.  The girl dies, the other girls she cares for are chased from the village and then kidnapped by the clan of the first boyfriend.  That clan then offers those girls back to the teacher’s clan along with some money and 7 pigs as a peace offering.  

Land, pigs and women.  I’m telling you.

At least in the Highland areas.  A long time ago there were coastal people (papuan) and highland people (New Guineans)  They’ve never gotten along. The coastal people were colonised by the British and the highland people were colonised by the Germans. When later, the Australians took over they united the two peoples and formed Papua New Guinea, but the people didn’t really want to be united.  “Those Highland people are too violent!”  

Even in today’s paper there is worry about these people merging.  Outside the capital city there are only 200 miles of paved road in the entire country. None of the major cities are linked by road or rail.  Air or sea are the only way to get around. There are plans to link the two major cities by a highway, but the people don’t want the ease of access, because of these long standing conflicts.

You wanna know why I don’t leave the hotel. Well, we’re not allowed, but even the dogs are mean.  I heard tell of a dog who bit the testicles of a small boy.  The dog was punished by putting it on a leash.   
It is hard to find locals who are interested working or focused on a job. Again, the family rules, so if there is some need, the family comes first.  There isn’t much incentive to keep a job, since all your money goes to the family anyway.  From what I’m told there is limited ambition. Some local government offices are unofficially staffed only Tuesday through Thursday as no one comes to work on Monday and Friday.  There is a sign on the Police station door that says “Drunk Police Officers Will Not Be Given a Ride Home”

The police are an interesting issue.  There is a police force of 22 for a population of 220,000.  There are 4 police cars which are in various states of repair.  As the sign above indicates, you’re lucky if you get a sober officer when you call, if they come at all.  They’re often reluctant to get involved. Sometimes, too, I’m told, they’re complicit in a crime, shaking down victims further in order to get goods returned.

On a positive note, I was asked to give the local employees a talk about anger management.  I’ve wrestled with this for a month.  No amount of talk about breathing and counting to ten was going to touch land, pigs and women.  But, I offered a talk about communication and diffusing arguments and our own self regulation when we get angry.  And, about 9 people showed up and listened and took notes and asked for handouts. At the end we talked for 20 minutes about the best way to handle themselves and their families.

Maybe a small difference was made.

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