It took a lot longer than expected, but I'm finally here. Below are four of my impressions of living in Port Moresby as an expat as I see it at the beginning of this journey. Some things may change in the next three years, some things may not. Life goes on wherever we are and we make the most of what we are given.
1. No Hurry.
The first thing I have learnt about this nation is that nothing ever happens in a hurry. I think living in the tropics makes people more relaxed. With the constant heat there is no need to exert yourself. There is no sense of urgency to complete a task. I remember observing my maid in Thailand. Before then I had never seen anyone sweep a floor with such carefree abandon as she did. Khun Nong made sweeping a floor look so relaxing. The Papua New Guineans make it look just as easy, they do not put in the effort that we do. Time here is viewed in a similar manner to the Indonesians. It's all about 'rubber' time, flexible, easily bent and of little concern. It's a bit like learning to 'hurry up and wait.' You tend to do a lot of waiting here. It took us a lot longer for work visas to be approved than we anticipated. In fact, to sum up the life style here, the Spanish have a saying 'manyana' meaning tomorrow or some unspecified time in the future. Here in PNG the meaning of manyana is similar, but does not convey the same sense of urgency. Even the cars are driven around the city at a snail pace as if there is no where in particular anyone has to go. Consequently traffic jams are amazing, cars manage to find their way into gaps that no westerner would attempt, but when driven at a crawl, it is no problem. This photo was taken back home in Canberra at the PNG High Commission on one of our visits to complete our visa applications.
I touched on this in my original post when we first visited PNG before signing the contract. The gap between the 'haves and have nots' is huge. Consequently crime is rife and staying safe requires vigilance. When driving through the traffic we have been told to always be aware of an escape route. Leave a gap where possible to allow to do a u-turn and drive away as fast as you can if a rascal comes racing towards the car. Keep the car doors locked at all times and always be aware of your surroundings. Never drive anywhere at night and certainly don't think about driving out of the city without a driver who is a PNG National. As for walking anywhere, that proves near impossible too. I have two choices, a) the treadmill in the gym in the apartment complex or b) the path around the inside of the gated community we are living in. As I am used to my walks around the valley I live in back home, I prefer to walk outside, therefore so far I have chosen option b. I have been told it is not wise to leave the gated community on my own at any time. I have lived in a guarded compound before, we did it for two years in Thailand. The only difference was that I felt safe to leave that one, catch a baht bus and head down to Beach Road in Pattaya to go shopping. That's not at all possible here. Life is going to be that much more restricted. However, I'm sure once I meet a few other expat wives, life will become more involved in the community. In the photo below you can see the car park to our apartment complex. There are two sets of security gates to drive through before you are in.
3. The People.
Even though there is an element that will choose to do harm for the chance to take a wallet, mobile phone or jewellery, the majority of people I have met have been nothing but friendly and courteous. Whether it's the guards at the gates, cleaners, gardeners or restaurant staff, they all say hello, and are keen to stop for a chat. We had a wonderful conversation with our waitress just last night at the Royal Papua New Guinea Yacht Club. Christine was a lovely quietly spoken young girl with pearls of wisdom beyond her age. When I commented that I probably shouldn't have had dessert as I couldn't really fit it in. Christine smiled and replied, 'dinner is for the stomach, dessert is for the heart.' I thought that was a beautiful comment. Although Pidgin English is their native language, they are all taught to speak English in school. It is with education that this nation will grow.
Would I recommend Port Moresby as a place to come visit? Probably not. It is pretty much a developing country on Australia's doorstep, desperately trying to elevate itself from poverty, but I fear that is still a long way off. We did have a day out of the city on Sunday. A driver took us into the mountains to the Virartas National Park. The drive through the mountains was stunning. The road meandered through thick lush green tropical forest. The majority of the vegetation resembled the rainforests of far north Queensland. Our driver informed us that the road was built by the ANZACs during the war. He said WW1 , but I'm sure he meant WW2. If we had continued for another 35 minutes along the road, we would have reached the beginning of the Kokoda Track. One day I would like to walk part of the track, but it will be with security, or an expat tour, not just a driver. On our return down the mountain we visited the ANZAC War Memorial which was quite an emotional experience. Graves of fallen soldiers from Australian and New Zealand Armed Forces were in lines too numerous to count. Many tombstones bared the name and age of young men too young to die, it broke my heart. Many still, were unnamed. Lost souls buried in another country for fighting for our freedom. There were PNG soldiers buried there too. We have much to thank them for. If you have loved ones buried here or who fought here and managed to survive the horror of Kokoda, then perhaps a journey here is worthwhile. Port Moresby is only a 3.5 hour flight from Brisbane and if you appreciate war history, then this is a place worth considering.
Have you ever lived in a gated community? How did you find life there?
Would you want to visit Papua New Guinea?
Do you have any questions you would like answered? I will do my best to find out.