nichollsretirementproject

Archive for the month “May, 2015”

Suggestions, please!

I would ask my readers from Australia and New Zealand to disregard this entry.

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We saw signs like this all over the bit of Australia that we explored and never found out what they meant.  Now I’ve come across the same thing in PNG.

So what do you think is being advertised here?

You could use the Comment button to suggest your reply.

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Buy a handbag, Lady? Very cheap!

We’ve developed a very bad habit since living in Madang. Every Friday evening, a group of us go up to the local tourist hotel, where we sit on the balcony overlooking the ocean, as the sun goes down, and enjoy an indifferent pizza and a couple of glasses of ropey red wine that comes out of a box.  How’s that for decadence?

When I say ‘tourist hotel’ that is perhaps a bit of a stretch, because the majority of the people we see there are either NGO workers, helicopter pilots based at the local airport or government officials at endless conferences. Quite often our table is the only one occupied on a Friday night.

Last Friday was different. We turned up to find about twenty young people and a couple of adults having the effrontery to be sitting on our balcony! The nerve! We were outraged. How dare they?

After our meal, to satisfy my curiosity, I went over to the visitors’ table to say “Welcome to Madang” and to ask them where they were from. It turns out that they were a group of high school students from Virginia who were at the end of a two-week school trip to Papua New Guinea.

They had spent a week or so living as guests of a tribe somewhere in the Highlands of PNG where they had taken part in a ‘Sing-sing”, had their faces painted, eaten local food, stayed in grass huts and generally been absorbed into the local culture. Nobody was murdered, nobody was abducted or threatened, nobody was eaten by cannibals! They had had a great time and an experience that they will never forget.

I sought out the teacher who had organised the trip and congratulated him on having the inspired idea, and the courage, to bring his students to PNG, despite the dire warnings that you get once you start to research this country on the internet. I remember that before we came out here I consulted Wikipedia, only to be told that “cannibalism has mostly died out” in Papua New Guinea!  Not a promising start if you are starting to plan your ‘around the world’ trip.

It was nice to know that there were now at least twenty young Americans who would go home with a very positive story to tell about their PNG adventure.

Given the reputation that this country has, it is not easy to develop a tourist industry, even though there are things to see, landscapes, both on land and under the sea, to marvel at and more exotic cultures than you could shake a stick at.

Based at the local museum, there is a VSO volunteer who is helping to develop excursions for any tourist that do make it to Madang. You can, for example, visit Alexishafen and see some of the remains of military hardware from the Japanese invasion in 1941; you can visit a wonderful orchid garden just outside Madang; you can even go and see the grave of Man Friday, left over from the filming of ‘Robinson Crusoe’ with Pierce Brosnan, a film which, quite deservedly, did not win an Oscar, nor indeed any other award, and disappeared without trace into the dusty catacombs of cinematic history where it belongs.

One of the ‘attractions’ that the Museum is hoping to develop is A’Aliyah’s Crocodile Farm, which we went to see a few weeks ago. (See below).

I have to say that, as a tourist attraction, this place has a way to go, but at least it is a start, if you like the idea of hundreds of slimey crocodiles wallowing around in what crocodiles produce naturally. For me it came into the category of ‘Nice Try’, but not on the repeat list. If we have visitors to entertain, the orchid garden wins!

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The signage, for example, needs a bit of work done on it.

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Where you see one….                                                      … you are likely to see more.

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Lots more!

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Lunch time for crocodiles.

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The enclosure for those about to embark on a career as a pair of very fancy shoes.

  P1150541                                                                        Don’t have nightmares!P1150539

A strange day out.

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Just an empty concrete pit.

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Just a concrete pit full of water.  So far, so good!

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But look a bit more closely.

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A lot more closely!

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Here they come!

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Dozens of them!

Yes, we visited a crocodile farm!  Crocodiles being bred for their skins and their meat!  Well, I eat beef and wear leather, so what have I got to complain about?

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It still came as a bit of a shock to see all of these ugly animals all together in the same smelly environment.

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Big, strong and ready for market.

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If you think you can catch him.

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… and then there were some that were really not that well.

It’s an awful long way up….and down

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Coconut trees after their haircut.

P1160525   Before and after

A Lucky Escape!

Our house is up on stilts.  (see photo above.)  It is supposed to be safer in the event of an earthquake!   It also means that you get some air circulation under the house.

To get to our washing line, we have to go down the steps at the front of the house, walk underneath the whole building and come out at the back, where we have a rotary washing line.

(By the way, did you know that the rotary washing line was an Australian invention?  Known as a ‘Hills Hoist’ after the first person to mass produce them in 1945, it was actually invented by a man called Gilbert Toyne and it was patented in Adelaide in 1911.  A major contribution to human civilization, if you ask me!  Better than Mr Kalashnikov’s invention, anyway.)

Anyway…

A couple of weeks ago, it was my job to hang out the washing on our Aussie-patented Hills Hoist – I get all the best jobs – so I went down the steps at the front, walked under the house and put the washing out.  When I turned round to make my way back, I was confronted by four murderous-looking gangsters, armed with large bush-knives, just standing there at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for me!

I began to think that my long and winding career on this earth might have been coming towards its premature conclusion.  A handy Kalashnikov at that precise moment would have made me feel a lot better, but I was armed with nothing more dangerous that a half-empty bag of pegs and a cheap, Chinese, plastic laundry basket.

Fighting back the mounting panic in my throat, I greeted the four hardened assassins with a cheery “Good afternoon, gentlemen.”

“We are sorry to bother you, Doctor.” said the leader of this band of cut-throats. (I’ve given up telling people that I’m not a Doctor, i.e. not a PhD.  I think “doctor’ is the Tok Pisin word for ‘old bloke with grey hair.’)

“Our lecturer has told us that it’s OK to cut branches from one of the trees in front of your house.  Which one should we cut?”

It was the day before the University Open Day and the students from the various faculties were busy constructing stalls to be able to show off different aspects of their faculties’ work.  These stalls were made of frameworks of bamboo poles, dressed up with coconut palm fronds, and that’s what these polite and perfectly charming students were after.

Phew!

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How do you climb up a coconut tree?  With a scarf, of course!

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And how do you carry your bush-knife?   Like a pirate, of course.

And what was that written on the back of his shirt?  Ah, yes, of course!

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People from Coast of Papua New Guinea like to tease people from the Highlands about their inability to climb coconut trees, which just seemed to be second nature to these guys. I watched in awe.

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108 Clearly, no fear.

And this was what it was all about.  You obviously can’t have too many fronds!

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I don’t know what it is….

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…but I’m definitely not letting it in!

Nothing is ever straightforward.

Papua New Guinea is a fascinating country at a fascinating time of its own development.  I saw this page in the national newspaper last week and it seemed to speak volumes about the schizophrenic state of current society in this country.

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There are three main universities in Papua New Guinea, Divine Word University, (DWU),  where we are, the University of Papua New Guinea, (UPNG), in the Capital, Port Moresby and the University of Goroka, (UoG), which is in the Highlands.

Faithful followers of this blog may remember that Linda and I have been involved in the writing of a new curriculum for Primary teacher education.  That is because DWU was charged by the government with the responsibility for putting together a team to carry out this job last year.  The University of Goroka was instructed to do the same thing for Secondary teacher training institutions.

The article above is a report of a speech given by the Vice-Chancellor of UoG about his university’s efforts to stem the decline in standards of teaching in the country’s Secondary schools.  His is quoted in the article saying to a large group of trainee teachers that there was a public outcry from parents that their children were not getting the education they deserved.  He did not mince his words.  Commenting on the recent decision to increase Secondary teacher training to six years (!), he said:

“If you disagree with the restructuring of the academic programs at UoG, you have come to the wrong place.  I have an obligation and a responsibility to train teachers to change the nation.  The university will no longer produce underprepared, underbaked and undercooked teachers”

He then went on to add, “Look at the ill-discipline and the student problems now faced in schools:  It comes back to teacher training. I cannot b***s*** and tell lies any longer.”

So there is an article which, notwithstanding the colourful use of what might be described as ‘industrial language’, was nevertheless dealing with a universities efforts to improve the training of its students to enable them to better prepare the next generation.

On the same page there is a report of a bunch of men who were savagely attacked by a mob of villagers after being acused of practising sorcery, or ‘sanguma’, as it is known here.  The local police commander said that the men had not been charged but had agreed to stay behind bars in a police station, because they feared for their lives if they went back out into the community.

P1040853As someone said to me a while ago, it is as if Papua New Guinea has gone from the Stone Age to the Space Age in space of a few generations.  A bit overstated, perhaps, but it does help to put into perspective some of the social and security problems that this country has.

Nice One, Ireland!

On the BBC World TV today there was a report from Ireland about today’s historic referendum result.  A young woman was asked, “What does this result mean to you?”  Her answer was simply “It means that I am not less than anybody else!”

Says it all, really.

Learning Strine.

My knowledge of the Australian language took a big step forward yesterday.

I had heard politicians on the ABC TV channel talking about patients being concerned about whether their doctors would, or would not offer ‘bulk-billing’.

I asked an Australian friend what ‘bulk-billing’ was.  As part of his answer he told me about a politician in the Australian Parliament who had recently put a Dorothy Dixer on that very topic.  All of a sudden I started to despair about my ability to master this new language.  Now, in order to find out what ‘bulk-billing’ is, I have find out what a ‘Dorothy Dixer’ is.

A ‘Dorothy Dixer’, for those who don’t know, is a pre-arranged or planted question that a back-bencher would ask a Minister from his or her own party during a Parliamentary debate.  It is named after an American journalist, who wrote under the pseudonym of Dorothy Dix, and who was one of the very first newspaper ‘agony aunts’ in American.

By the time she died in 1951, Dorothy Dix was the highest paid and most widely read female journalist in America.  The only problem was that she was widely believed to have forged many of the letters that she claimed to have received from readers and which she then went on to answer through her column.  Clearly her readers didn’t have enough problems that would make interesting copy, so she started to make up some difficult and delicate situations for which she could then offer her phantom readers sage advice and welcome solutions.

In Australian rhyming slang, if you hit a ‘Dorothy”, you score six runs in cricket!

Oh yes, nearly forgot.  ‘Bulk-billing’ is a system whereby your GP will treat you for free and send the bill to the government.

You learn something new every day!

Meet the Alessandro Clinic.

Pictured below is our new clinic, opened last week by the Prime MInister, no less!

Linda and I often take an evening walk around the campus, just to try and convince ourselves that we are getting some exercise.  Our office is about 300 yards from our house, so a gentle evening stroll is sometimes a good idea.

As we wander around , we generally inspect the various building projects that are going on around the university, and over the past year we have seen the clinic rise from a piece of waste ground to its current completed state.

Ta-daa!

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The new clinic shortly after the cutting of the ribbon.  Pictured in the front, in the white shirt, is the ever-jovial Father Ciro, an Italian Priest, of whom more later.

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One of the two-bedded wards.  The clinic will, if necessary, be able to accommodate ten patients overnight.  It will be a hugely important amenity for the University.  last year, there was an outbreak of measles on the campus and there was nowhere that the patient could be isolated.  In the end, they had to evacuated part of a dormitory to try and contain the outbreak.

315  The nurse’s station.

Once the clinic is up and running, – there are still a few administrative things to sort out – a nurse will be on duty all night and the clinic has quarters so that the nurse who is on call can be comfortable and even get some sleep.

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The drugs cupboard.  (When I say ‘cupboard’, I mean ‘curtained-off area’.)

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A passing ex-pharmacist examines some of the more interesting drugs in the not-yet-locked cabinet.

317  The laundry room, – spick and span.

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As soon as the opening ceremony is over, a passing ex-pharmacist tries to shoo away a curious dog, while a small army of urchins strip the outside of the clinic of its balloons and head inside to see if there are any more in there.011

So why “The Alessandro Clinic”?  Well, this is where we go back to our Italian colleague, Father Ciro.

It turns out that Alessandro was a young man of 24 years of age, who was killed one day in a freak accident back in Italy.  He was parking his motorbike, when a truck went out of control, crossed the road and crushed him.

His parents were devastated at their senseless loss.   Some time later Father Ciro, who happened to be in Italy at the time,  went to see them to offer whatever comfort he could.

The parents apparently ran a successful antiques business and they had, for many years been setting aside money to support their son through his education and possibly to help to set him up in business.

One of their ways of dealing with their grief, and to try and salvage something positive from a dreadful situation, was to ask Father Ciro to find something worthwhile to do with the money that they had set aside.

Our new clinic, as well as a small school somewhere in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, were the result.

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