Yu Bihain: This
is "Goodbye" in Pidgin.
The last months had been a wild time but my visa was running
arrived in Lae at 10
a.m., many hours late, but did you expect anything else? I
dreaded the PMV ride to Madang and it was every bit as awful as I
feared. I was worn out from the ride and faced another full
of poor roads. Well, at least the scenery was nice and we
got two flat tires that day.
I checked into the guesthouse and
met Saimon, a high school principal. I was pretty miserable,
he made the day better. Funny how that works out. I
feeling that I was losing the plot as far as traveling went and had
really lost direction. Also, the “It doesn’t work” aspect of
country was starting to take its toll and was sometimes losing patience
tried diving in Madang and both days it was
lousy at best, little in the way of pretty corals and fish.
of the diving in the country was enjoyable; a big
disappointment. Upon returning from the last day of diving, I
a woman begging me in the streets. It was quite a surprise as
panhandling isn’t the norm. I was begged less in the last two
months than I was in a day (and everyday) in some countries and PNG is
poorer than the others. Jack, from Haus Poroman, said to me,
“People here don’t like to sit around with their hand out.” On a
one-to-one basis, that certainly is true.
Ralf from Wewak
mentioned that there are only 3000-5000 tourists a year in
Most of them go to resorts which they basically don’t leave.
leaves limited numbers of independent travelers and as such, you can go
places where few, if any, have gone. It also means that the
Papuans really don’t view tourists as exclusively an income source as
they do in some countries. There were a few people who tried
cheat me, but far less than most places. It’s kind of
think the best part of Madang was meeting Paul and Kira. He
hard of hearing and she was a teacher skilled in sign
They were working on programs which would help deaf people.
Something that, due to economic considerations, is sadly
It was nice to spend the evenings with them. I mentioned how
often noise make sleeping difficult for me. Paul said, “I
turn off my hearing aids.”
We sat in the park and watched the
flying foxes hanging upside down by the hundreds. As dusk
approached, they would gather up in large flocks and fly over the
park. Kira looked up and said, “I hope they don’t poop on
us.” Ten seconds later…they did. I know that flying
are fruit eaters because the big splot on my leg was filled with seeds.
wasn’t up to a PMV ride to Goroka, so caught a flight and Robert picked
me up. We spent the day together, often watching rugby. He is
from Australia, after all. In the evening, he relinquished
so that the downstairs neighbors could watch Xena: Warrior
Princess. The show was every bit as painful as I imagined but
they hooted and hollered the whole hour. I spent
day goofing off in Goroka while Robert was flying. I was
to fly to Port Moresby the following day, but didn’t feel like dealing
with that and spent another day with Robert. I tried to buy
more supplies for Mengino but once again, the credit card system was
We went out to eat in the evening and he discussed
security. He had a hefty metal door on his house and within a
days of moving in, someone tried to break it down while he was
inside. When called, the police didn’t want to come out and
help. He hired a security guard and his house was broken into
several times. The burglaries stopped when he fired his
company. Go figger. He mentioned that they had a
substantial parcel of pot sitting in their hangar that they had picked
up from the highlands. They notified the police, who were
for someone to claim it. It was from Maimafu.
On my final day in PNG, I once again tried to
buy supplies for Mengino and still, the credit card system was down and
I didn’t have enough cash. To the end, PNG
think they should adopt as their motto:
Papua-New Guinea: The
country that doesn’t work
don’t mean to be harsh, but it’s something that frustrates the Papuans
to no end also. I heard many people say something similar to,
wish the Australians were back. Things worked
roads, the schools, the electricity was better. We didn’t
control of our government then but we don’t have control of our
government now either.” When the subject came up, only one
I met said that he was glad they were gone. I pass no
either opinion, but that is what people said to me. However,
impressive how resourceful the Papuans are and they keep going on.
said goodbye to Robert and he flew off to the highlands. The
airport terminal was crowded and there was a problem with one of the
planes, so two planes that were supposed to be leaving that day were
down to only one. There was a crush of people to get in line
the remaining plane and there was no way I would be able to get
on. Well, in most places that would be the case but the Air
Niugini workers pushed their way through the crowd and escorted me to
the front of the line. I still have problems with this rock
treatment…but I guess not enough to refuse and learned not to fight it,
just go to the front of the line.
The plane flew over the
gorgeous highlands with its endless ridges that went to the
horizon. I was going to miss those ridges more than I could
know. After landing in Port Moresby, I took a bus downtown to
main post office to try to track down a package which had been in PNG
for weeks. On the way back, I saw a post office in Boroko (a
suburb) and stopped just in the off-chance it was there. The
package was there, no one knew how it got there, just that it was there
and that was good enough. PNG was PNG, to the very end.
was going through my diary and noticed that Air Niugini had given me 64
days on my ticket and my visa was only for 60 days. PNG is
strict about this and 500 kina fines result. When I
the immigration officer he was sleeping. He awoke as we
approached and smiled at me and said, “Hi! Did you enjoy your
stay here?” He was so busy asking me about where I had been
he just stamped the passport. Maybe that legendary PNG
“efficiency” isn’t all bad.
At the departure gate, I met
two missionaries who were also on their way to Cairns,
Real old school hard-line bible-thumpers. One of them
that witches should be killed. Our conversation went as
Me: By witches, do you mean Wiccans?
Me: Do you mean spiritually killed or physically killed?
Me: So you’re saying that all Wiccans should be killed?
Me: Is this God’s work and commandment?
Him: It’s our duty.
goal was to get him to repeat himself several times and make it
abundantly clear exactly what he was saying and he repeatedly stated
these actions to be proper)
Me: Funny you
should say that. We’re both on our way to Cairns and the
I’m meeting there is a Wiccan. We’ll be staying at the
Hotel and I have an idea. Why don’t we split a taxi and I’ll
bring you to the room and you can kill her. There might be
legal consequences but hey, they’ll be nothing to compared to the
eternal rewards that will result. I’ll bring you to our room
you can kill her. It’s your duty isn’t it?
With that, he
went “Harumph” and turned around and didn’t speak to me
can’t say I was bothered by the end of that conversation.
riddance. He is the perfect example of why many people,
included, despise many missionaries.
On the flight to Cairns,
the sunset was absolutely beautiful. The sky was afire with
orange and yellow, capped by a midnight blue. Above this was
deep black of the night sky with a single brilliant planet
shining. It was a good way to end my time in PNG.
If asked to summarize PNG, it can be done in a single word:
Well, maybe a single word and punctuation.
was one of the most incredible travel experiences I’ve had.
Actually make that one of the most incredible experiences,
period. There really weren’t a lot of expectations but it was
different than anything imagined. Before leaving, people
what I would be doing in PNG and I’d say hiking but the opportunities
went far beyond that and involved learning about peoples’ lives more
It’s hard to think back of the looking out
over the highlands and seeing those endless ridges and wanting to
be back there so much. The same goes for the warm ocean
waters. I miss the friendliness of the people and not knowing
what I’d be seeing next. As far as traveling goes, it was one
the best decisions I’ve made. There are so many
people, events, and places
that will always remain in my memory.