|By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, August 19, 2003 - 10:31 am: Edit Post|
We have finally settled into our new site as Peace Corps Volunteers in PNG
We have finally settled into our new site as Peace Corps Volunteers in PNG
January 9, 2001
Well we have finally settled into our new site. It certainly has been and interesting 2 months, so this is bit of a long letter. I plan to start writing my letters more regularly now.
We were in Madang for two weeks in early November, which was great. We hung out up with a bunch of CUSO (Canadian) volunteers, went snorkeling, I played squash, and watched the Presidential election saga (the Canadians had CNN).
One night we were invited to go for a run with the Hash House Harriers (H3). This group is an anachronism left over from the colonial days. Back in the days when there were lots of Aussies around, they were getting fat from lack of exercise, so they started a running club. However at the end of the run they always ended up at the ?hash house?. Thus they became know as the Hash House Harriers. This group is primarily made up of either, runners with a drinking problem, or drinkers with a running problem (mostly Australian men). First we all went for a run around town and then back to a central meeting spot for a BBQ and drinking session. First, the Captain put on his captains jacket and lorded over a club meeting. In the meeting anyone who had committed a trivial offense of any sort was punished by requiring them to chug a whole beer at once. And any one who had done good deed was rewarded giving them a beer to chug all at once! As a result just about everyone was punished or rewarded (at least it was a home brewed beer), including Lynna and myself for the honor of being guests. There is a special ritual that must be followed for these rewards and punishments. There is a special mug with which to chug the beer. The mug has a handle that is shaped in the likeness of a flying fox bat. There is a hole in the cup, which drains out of the anatomically much too large penis of the bat. Therefore while chugging the beer one has to be careful to keep a finger over the tip of the bat?s penis while chugging the beer. However before one can chug the beer the special beer chugging song must be sung first. To ensure that one has fully drained the mug one must tip the mug upside down over their head. It was good silly fun and a great way to drink beer. The ritual reminded me of my fraternity days, instead of a silly little ritual that was taken seriously, this silly ritual was used to make fun of themselves and also have some fun while doing it.
After two weeks in Madang we flew out to East New Britain Province to go to our new site near the provincial town called Kokopo. Peace Corps had arranged for us to stay at a beachside guesthouse for a week while our new house was fixed up. When the plane landed we found out that there had just been a major earthquake an hour before. Two hours after we landed while we were at the guesthouse a second major earthquake hit. Lynna and I stood in the doorway of the guesthouse. The quake was so strong that we had to hold on to the doorframe to keep our balance. The house next us had a solar water heater that fell off the roof and crashed not ten feet from us. There was some confusion as to how strong the quakes were. The numbers I have heard that both were measured at 8.0 and one aftershock at 7.2. So this was a pretty big geological event! The quake was caused by a sub-duction fault deep in the crust. It had nothing to do with the volcano nor did it affect the volcano.
Because of a tsunami warning (the earthquake was under the sea), Peace Corps had us move to another volunteer?s house, who lives away from the coast. We stayed there for a week. A small wave (5ft) did hit the wharf and flooded a few warehouses. Surprisingly the quakes did not cause massive damage. Most of the damage was to water tanks that either burst or fell off their blocks and to some roads that were covered by landslides.
Even now a month and a half after the big quakes we feel aftershocks everyday. Most are mild tremors, but every now and then a good jolt will startle us. Such as the one that happened while Lynna was on a ladder! These jolts can be more than 6.0 in strength.
And of course there is the volcano? the one that buried Rabaul, the former provincial capital. Rabaul was not the largest city in PNG, but it was most vibrant city in PNG. In 1994 two volcanoes erupted near Rabaul spewing mostly heavy ash. One of them buried most of the town under several feet of ash. The town was evacuated and over the next several months ash fall slowly buried the town. The capital was moved to another town, Kokopo, on the other side of the bay, which is safe from the volcanoes. Since the main eruption the volcano will periodically erupt and belch out ash. About six months ago it started up again and lasted for about 5 months. So when we arrived here two months ago, we were greeted by, a major earthquake, an erupting volcano, and a minor tsunami! In the past few weeks the volcano has calmed down considerably. While it looks awesome when it is erupting, it is nice when it is not because sometimes the wind blows the ashes across the bay where we live and there will be a fine layer of dust all over everything, our skin, clothes, inside the house, everywhere!
And what about our new house? Well when we first moved here it was not ready for us to move into yet. PHF had to put locks on the doors and a wooden lattice over the windows in order to meet PC's minimum-security requirements before we could move in. After we moved in they continued to work on the house. We told them that if we were going to live there for a year and half we would want it screened in, not only for privacy but also because of the flies and mosquitoes. So they screened in all the windows and verandas. They have yet to replace the sak-sak (sago palm leaf) roof, although they have started on sewing up the sak-sak leaves. For the time being, the roof is covered by a huge tarp.
Despite the work it needs, it is really a beautiful house. It is up on 2ft. high posts, with wooden floors, an peaked roof ceiling that goes up 25ft and is very open, two bedrooms, bathroom with shower, toilet, sink. It does have electricity, propane stove, and a refrigerator. The front of the house is like a big open porch where the living room and kitchen is. Four posts at the entrance of the house have traditional carvings on them. The house is surrounded by frangipani trees which are in continuous bloom giving off a very nice sweet smell. Once the roof is replaced it will be just beautiful.
What exactly are we doing? Good question, I am not exactly sure! Well Lynna is working with the Women's Desk and I am working with the Forestry Desk. The Women's Desk goes out to the various project sites and helps women set up sewing projects and baking projects, health awareness, basic bookkeeping, etc? Of the two women who work at the desk, one just had a baby, and the other is 9 months pregnant, so needless to say, not too much will be happening there for awhile. As for myself, I am working with the forestry desk areas Right now I doing a lot of reading trying to learn as much about eco-forestry in PNG as I can. Eventually we should be going on patrols to visit existing projects to make sure the project is going well, help solve problems, and teach them more about forest management. Unfortunately not much is happening in the office in general.
Our General Manager and Head Forester just resigned last week. So it looks like I will have to play a greater part in the forestry desk. As a volunteer my job is not to manage or make decisions but to train and advise. However, seeing as that my counter parts have little management and decision making skills it will be up to me to ?guide? them. How is it that myself as a volunteer with very little experience can step in and help people that have much more experience to make decisions and manage a program? I hate to say this but I think that Papua New Guineans still influenced by the colonial days when the ?white masta? made all the decisions and told the nationals what to do. This has handicapped the nationals in to thinking that they should defer to the white man and in the process of always deferring to the white man the nationals have not developed thier own management and problem solving skills. It doesn?t help that PHF was founded and run for five years by a white man with an autocratic leadership style. Hopefully I can undo some of the damage and teach these guys simple management and problem solving skills and they will be all set because they already have all technical skills they need really.
The office is located on the plantation of the founder of PHF. The plantation is located about 10km inland from Kokopo. Our house is next to the plantation owners house who. Right now he is ill and has moved to Australia.
The plantation grows copra (coconut) and cocoa, the cocoa trees are grown underneath the coconut trees. There are also several stands of balsa wood trees on the plantation.
Yes it is hot here, but at least the office is air-conditioned. The trees from the plantation provide a lot of shade so it is not too bad. At night it does cool off and we are able to sleep comfortably.
Alright I have written plenty for now. I will write again soon.
Coconuts, & Cocoa
Andy and Lynna
Return to the letters page.