Hi All from PNG! We're having great difficulty accessing a computer at the moment and when we do it takes two days to get an internet connection, which is driving us NUTS! Consequently we won't be doing any more entries here until we get to our placement, which could be next week, next fortnight maybe - who knows?
In Country Training - It's a hard life but someone has to do it!
At last we have access to computer facilities - the last time we tried, it took an age to get in and we were poised to update the blog, when there was a power cut!! Expletives all round! We're far from fluent in Tok Pisin, but learning has been fun. We can say 'the car is broken down' - 'Long kar i baggerup!' - easy really! We've had lots of information about security and cultural issues and we attended a headteachers' meeting where we had to tell them all about ourselves. When I told them John and I were expecting our first grandchild soon, their somewhat austere faces broke into broad grins and they began to clap! We've visited schools - the teachers here would be eaten alive in British schools, but luckily the pupils are incredibly docile and used to rote learning and writing down everything (and I mean everything) from the blackboard. Consequently, their handwriting is fantastic, they rarely open their mouths in class, they have no text books and learn very little! Both teachers and pupils alike are delightful, but the teaching I saw was diabolical! The education system is in a bad way for many reasons:corrupt politicians, no resources, parents unable to pay school fees, poorly trained teachers who are demotivated due to constantly changing jobs, (they have no choice as to where they teach and they are moved frequently, often far from home) poor pay and sometimes they have to wait months to get paid and to add insult to injury, they are being asked to implement a reform curriculum into which they have had no input and which they feel is being imposed by Australia. Mmmm, a bit of work to do here methinks!
Last week-end, we spent in a rural village. We slept on the floor and had to use a stinking loo on the outskirts of the village. To get to it, falling coconuts had to be dodged, along with marauding pigs! One night I just had to 'go' having laid awake most of the night trying to convince myself I could hang on til daylight! Torch in hand I tackled the darkness, avoided coconuts and pigs, opened the loo door (handkerchief over mouth and nose) shone the torch onto the loo, to find it covered in cockroaches and a big, fat, ugly frog had taken up residence. He wasn't budging!The indignity of it! Washing was in a bucket behind a screen and is an essential activity several times a day because of the humidity. As soon as I removed my clothes and stepped into the bucket the mosquitos homed in - I won't tell you all the delicate parts that got bitten! The night before we left, the village boys went night fishing and returned with lobster and fish for a goodbye feast the next day.We all sat round this food, us and the men. We called the Mama of the village to join us and very reluctantly, she eventually came over with her plate of food and sat behind me. I moved my chair back beside her. On her plate was a chicken's claw and a couple of sweet potatoes!The dogs had a better deal than the women and children of the village!Women have a very raw deal - they work incredibly hard, not only on domestic chores but you can see women carrying a bilum (bag) on their back and a heavy load on their heads, whilst their men walk beside them carrying nothing!One of the girls in the village told us she gets home from school, makes the evening meal for the family (and there are loads of them, as this includes extended family) looks after the pikininis then does her homework by candlelight!There are no books, computers or TV of course.If the demands of the husband are not met by the overworked women, they get beaten up and sometimes hospitalised and rape is very prevalent.A survey showed that in the Western Highlands 100% of women had been raped (that's not where we are, we're in Simbu). The trouble is, it's an accepted practise and no-one bats an eyelid if a woman is beaten and I believe children too.
We fly to Port Moresby tomorrow and then to Kundiawa on Tuesday to find our house.I will only be the second white woman who has been to Kundiawa, so it's going to be an interesting experience.I'd best watch my 'P's and 'Q's as I expect I will be watched closely.We've been told to role model relationships and gender issues, so John will be hanging out washing and sweeping the veranda and definitely carrying the shopping!We'll be working with the staff and heads of 16 secondary schools and their feeder primaries.An interesting little snippet we just found out - the head of the school in which we will be based has just been suspended as has his deputy - that should be interesting!
Travelling about will be one of our major problems, as there are few roads and what there are are 'baggerup'! We have to fly to get to one school.While it's lovely here by the ocean, albeit too humid for our liking, we are looking forward to getting into our house and getting started with work.The first month or so will be a 'finding out' exercise and I suspect it will all be very slow.Never mind, 'slowly, slowly, catch a monkey' - there are none here by the way.The island is lush and green with the most beautiful foliage and colourful flowers.We have seen a shoal of dolphins swim past in the morning.We have a swimming pool and are being well fed, so we're making the most of it as we're not sure what will be available in Kundiawa, though we know there is an abundance of fruit and vegetables and strawberries all year round - hey ho! They have some of the most poisonous snakes,and spiders in the world and a creature in a shell which, if it bites you, you die and there's no antidote, luckily it lives in the sea.I won't be collecting shells this trip for sure and I'll leave the diving to John!
Will let you know what the house and the town of Kundiawa are like when we get there.Hope everyone is well - enjoy the cold, frosty weather. I 'd swap for that right now, as the sweat is pouring off me.I'm fed up of John telling me that the reason he's sweating is because it's a sign of a 'highly trained athlete' - dream on!!
Arrived in Kundiawa on 26th. A town nestling in amongst lush, green mountains. The approach by plane was spectacular if somewhat scary! The áirport' fence was lined with hundreds of curious Papua New Guineans wanting to see what we were like!
The house is a great disappointment. We were expecting great things, as our colleagues in Madang were in palacial accommodation. We arrived at the house yesterday - it has a great view over the valley but that's where it ends! There was no fly wire over the windows (to keep bugs out),some of the windows had no glass, the only furniture was a table, bed and plastic chair, no drawers, cupboards, shelves or anywhere to hang our clothes. There was no electricity, water or gas. We had a fridge which hadn't been connected and a camping type stove. All this I think I could have coped with, but when I went into the toilet I was nearly sick, it was so disgusting! We said there was no way we could spend the night there, so we went to a hotel. We went to meet the Minister of Education this morning, who was apologetic about the fact our accommodation wasn't ready and we met many education officials too. We're writing this at the house of our boss and will soon return to the house to see what has been done and whether it's fit for human habitation.
We went into the secondary school yesterday too and that's pretty dire also. We are wondering where we can start. The teachers are all friendly, but desperate for help. We can't get our head round work yet until we can sort out our accommodation.
Wish us luck - it's tough going at the moment. On a positive note, it's still hot here but not so humid and the evenings are cooler - thank goodness!
Still awaiting grandchild arrival!
Hope all is well in the civilised world. Will update again as soon as we can, but still having connection problems.
Loads of love from us both