So, I’ve arrived.
In Papua New Guinea.
If there was ever a time for me to write a blog, I guess it’s now.
Spent a night in Sydney and from there flew straight to Port Moresby which from here on in will be referred to as POM - what all the expats call it (not sure bout the locals). POM, by it’s longer, official name, will forever remind me of many happy times playing ‘Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego’ in primary school. The name ‘POM’ however, is new to me and conjures up images of convoys, compounds and carjackings. This image has been entrenched by the many warnings of just about everyone I know (and the many blogs of people I don’t know) and was reinforced by the nice man from Houston who works for an oil company and sat next to me on the plane. He kindly informed me that Qantas will not permit its female flight attendants to fly to POM, a policy that he adheres to with regards to his wife and daughter. My efforts to brush this off with ‘silly overprotective men’ took a slight battering when he proceeded to tell me that his teenage daughter was without her mother in Mumbai and having a great time. Hmmm.
Those who know me well know that I am not too fond of flying (thank you Anna and Renee L for holding my hand) and so I’m happy to chat to someone to prevent my mind from composing final texts of love to Geoff in the ‘unlikely event of an emergency’. This time, flying was the least of my worries; my biggest worry was POM and listening to further bad stories about it from the Nice Oil Man. What if my connecting flight was cancelled? What if I had to stay on my own in POM? Everything I’d read and heard had me to thinking that I’d rather be in Kabul.
I turned my attentions to the inflight magazine, unconvincingly called ‘Paradise’. In Air Nuigini’s inflight mag, the usual adverts for overpriced restaurants with supposedly local cuisine are replaced by ads for Bisleys’ Insect Repellent Workwear – for Aussies who Hate Mozzies. ‘Protect your workers from malaria and lyme disease’. Yes paradise indeed.
I gave the inflight meal a go, nothing like trying to digest airplane food to take your mind off other problems. Except this was so bad, it didn’t even make it to the digestion stage. I couldn’t eat it. Any of it. And before you think I’m expecting too much (yes, airline food is always bad), let me just say that what they served on Air Nuigini made the offerings on a China Eastern domestic flight look like the degustation menu at Vue de Monde. So nasty.
Then I arrived and did the visa queue thing. And while I was patiently queuing, four Australian expats behind me were having a conversation that went something like this…
“Did I tell you we had dinner with the attorney general?” (or was the governor?)
“No, how was that?”
“Great. Nice guy. Did you hear he got shot?”
“Yeah, they shot him in the shoulder but he’s fine now.”
Not helpful to earsdrop. Not helpful at all. And just when I was thinking that this is the first time in my life that I’ve landed but not actually wanted to land in an overseas location, I hear the most beautiful and melodious, deep singing voices. Some kind of ‘Welcome to PNG – not everyone here wants to steal your shit and shoot you’ kind of airport arranged performance. It worked a treat for me. It was very calming. I got through customs, checked in again, made the change to the domestic terminal (which involves, wait for it; walking OUTSIDE) and got through security and the only thing that happened was that as I was walking outside the airport to change terminals, a lot of people smiled at me. Sometimes in a welcoming way, sometimes in a you-look-funny kind of way, but not at all in a menacing way. My flight to Kokopo left on time (which is apparently a minor miracle in itself) and we flew to Kavieng in New Ireland Province and then onto Kokopo in East New Britain. During the stop over, we just waited on the tarmac and a few people got on, some with bare feet and their carry on luggage in woven baskets.
So, we landed in Kokopo, via a big swoop around Mt Tavurur which is seriously smoking and looks amazing. I promise that the next instalment will not be about inflight magazines or how I’m really a big cry baby. It might actually be about something related to life in PNG. I just had to be honest about my initial headspace (yes Andras, you also really helped with that J)