I was back in Port Moresby recently. If you read my last entry on the place, you’ll understand I had some trepidation about returning. Not much has changed.
Actually, that’s not quite true. The Pacific Games
are coming in some 70 days, so the whole city is getting a makeover with new roads and flyovers and stadiums and landscaping. There are some new athletic looking sculptures that are in place, weight lifters and swimmers and the like. They are expecting 4000 athletes and 10000 visitors for the games. One wonders where everyone is going to sleep since there are only a limited number of hotels, but they are doing their best to dress things up for the event.
The safety situation hasn’t really changed much. I was still discouraged from walking anywhere. Locals are still bickering with one another. I read in the paper that one clan lost a pig and accused another clan of stealing it. 1 week later, 10 people are dead from both clans. The killing was getting so bad, that the police chief went out and gave everyone a stern talking to. “If I have to come back here one more time, there’s going to be consequences.”
There are worries about the local police barracks. They are in a state of disrepair and there is not enough space for everyone. They’ve been poorly maintained and there has been vandalism as well. Everyone is waiting for money to come from somewhere.
You’d think the place was really poor, but there is tons of money here. PNG has one of the fastest growing economies in the Pacific. There is a ton of mineral, oil and lumber wealth. I met two guys who work for the PNG central bank. They were risk analysts and focused on investing PNG’s wealth overseas. They took great pride in the fact they were protecting their country’s new found wealth, by investing it carefully and making the money grown. But they send it all to places like Fiji or Australia or the US. They buy hotels or invest in other country’s infrastructure. It is such a puzzle why the local police is clamoring for funds, but the government owns one of the best hotels in Suva.
Despite the no walking warnings, I did endeavor to get out one morning. There was a monthly local craft market at the bottom of the hill that my hotel was on. I mentioned I might walk down, and coworkers were leery. They recounted stories of people jumping out of the bushes and mugging people. I could, though, truly throw a rock from my hotel room and hit it. I decided to risk it. I mentioned to the hotel doorman and he said I should be safe since it was morning and well lit. I think he let a guard know to keep an eye on my while I walked.
I only had a few dollars on me. No phone. No credit card. No camera, but I did find myself on edge with every person I passed. And there were a number of them. This is a walking country. People amble about. And when they don’t amble they sit in whatever shade they can find.
But, nearly every person I passed bid me a good morning with a smile or paid me no mind. No threat at all during my one minute out walking in public.
PNG is a country of 7 million people and over 800 distinct languages. There are two main languages, English and a creole called Tok Pisin which is a mix of Indo-European and other languages. It is a phonetic conglomeration.
I read book IS mi ritim buk.
I give money IS mi givim mani,
Child IS pikinini
Today IS tete
Tomorrow IS tumora
Perhaps my favorite phrase is the phrase for “I love you. “ It is “mi laikem yu tru.” I may start using this in my everyday life.
And finally, I’ll end with this letter to the editor I saw on my trip. I think it speaks for itself.