Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Stephensons Have Left The Building

This picture captures the most emotional moment for both of us - saying goodbye to Cocky the Cockatoo!! You can laugh but this was our last chance to say goodbye to THE most contrary bird! To see him waving goodbye, plumping up his feathers, turning upside down and bouncing up and down to "who's a good boy then" and then finally to hear him say "Bye" well we were both a bit overcome and left with a bit of a heavy heart.

We didn't leave PNG with a heavy heart though as we had both come to realise that our approach to school improvement (ie to make a difference) would not be embraced by the company. We were able to leave early and travel in the Far East before returning to UK. The problem was that we could not sit back and do nothing when so much was wrong and so much needed doing.

I guess that means the blog "The Stephensons in PNG" is officially over! We have had a great adventure, hopefully done some good, made some good friends and enjoyed the experience. We hope you have enjoyed reading the blog.

Phil and Sandra

Friday, 29 July 2011

A Meeting With Mr Shit

For some time we have known about an almost legendary guy from PNG called Mr Shit. In the 1997 elections he stood as a candidate with a clever and most appropriate election slogan. His company at that time sold animal-based fertiliser and his political slogan was pig shit, chicken shit, cow shit but definitely no BULLSHIT! Sadly he wasn't elected and went broke in the process as the campaigns seem to involve giving away large sums of money.
He now sells Mr Shit t-shirts and hats at the local tourist market. We met him today and had a chat. What a lovely guy. We are sure he would have made a great politician but sadly this was not to be. He has a facebook group dedicated to him (vote for Mr Shit). He was unaware of this but amused nonetheless. He introduced us to his daughter and let us take a couple of pictures.
We will visit him again when the market is open next month. Anyone want a T Shirt?

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Popondetta - Another Day in Paradise

After our safe arrival at Popondetta Airport we realised that the hotel hadn’t sent the bus to pick us up Two concerned passengers offered to take us to the hotel but as we by then were told the bus was on its way we declined their kind offers. A number of other people showed concern that we hadn’t been picked up as the airport car park cleared of everyone. The last people to go were the police, who are, for some reason, now stationed at the airport for the arrival and departure of the planes. The place was so empty that we fully expected tumbleweed to start blowing by! Followers of the blog may recall that Popondetta is probably the most dangerous town in PNG so not the place to be stranded! However we survived and were transported to the hotel, well I say hotel!! It is misnamed the Comfort Inn. The people there are lovely but the rooms show may signs of decay and neglect ( we both slept fully clothed as an anti-bed bug precaution).
We were shown to a room that was already occupied then transferred to a free one. As we were about to set out chanting and shouting was heard beyond the metal and razor wire fence. We decided to sit tight for a bit in case another riot had started. Fortunately all was well.
We visited the school and then returned to the Comfort Inn for lunch. As the only eatery in the town it has cornered the market. Unfortunately the waitress always informs you what is not available on the menu. Today this meant no beef, no fish, no eggs which left a couple of items unscathed. We were worried about the lack of eggs at breakfast time but shouldn’t have worried as she announced “sorry no gas” so no cooked food was available!
In the evening we had resorted to a few cold ones in the outside bar area. Sandra got quite excited by the two or three wine lists she saw up on the walls of the bar(you may remember this is the place where the sink is used as a till).  We were told that there was no wine and informed that for a few weeks there hadn’t even been any beer in the town, so we gratefully received a few SP browns.  In between swatting mosquitos and flying bugs we were serenaded by some drunken chaps.  The song was quite beautiful in tone and harmonies.  When we agreed that we had enjoyed it(the drunken chaps actually asked us), they explained that it was a local song about a girl who is engaged to a man who betrays her and marries another. Not surprisingly, when we asked, ‘so what does she do?’ the answer came back, ‘she killed him!’  We also got talking to a lovely gentleman who turned out to be the president of the Kokoda Council. Dinner came and went with the same restrictions and a peaceful bug free night was enjoyed.

The Captain's Seat Belt

Travelling on Air Niugini there have been a large number of reasons given for delays but today was a first. We were all on-board our Dash 8 twin prop plane slightly ahead of take-off time. Then came the announcement that there was a minor engineering fault on the plane which was being rectified then we would be on our way. Not what we wanted to hear. The air steward put our minds at rest though by informing us the problem was the captain’s seat belt did not work.
When the crew disembarked it transpired that the captain was a very rotund fellow. The gentlemen in front of us spoke for us all by saying “well it looks like the captain needs to lose weight!” Sadly there was not enough time for this. A flurry of activity and much scratching of heads and a variety of vehicles appeared outside the plane. After a good 20 minutes a man turned up in a pickup truck proudly carrying a screwdriver! A further 10 minutes and another screwdriver later and we were on our way.
When the crew had disembarked for the seatbelt to be mended another issue came to mind.  There were three crew who had emerged from the cockpit.  Bearing in mind this was a Dash 8, the captain was of gargantuan proportion and the second was not exactly small, it brought very interesting thoughts to minds as to where the third person was sitting??!!

Monday, 18 July 2011

There and Back Again or Round the World in Twenty Six Days

Well we survived the circumnavigation of the globe! Round the world in 26 days.

     View from the hotel window Waikiki      With Tom and Lindsay in Toronto
Flying to Sydney, on to Honolulu, Toronto, London, Dubai, Brisbane then back to PNG. No wonder we are both so knackered and keep waking up at strange times our body clocks are all over the place still!! It was fantastic to catch up with everyone but did seem a bit hectic at times - we have come back to work for a rest - ha ha!

Highlights and Low Lights (you decide)
  • Phil managed to get his suitcase lost twice on 2 legs of the journey but did reacquaint himself with clean underwear (and suitcase) fairly speedily. This was the FIRST time he had ever had a bag misplaced in many years of travelling and it happened twice!
  • Although the real ale may have added a few inches to his waistline Phil has managed to imbibe sufficiently until the next opportunity.
  • Returning to PNG and our lovely house we realised that there were quite a lot of things we had missed. Our reunion with Cocky the cokatoo was quite moving.
  • Driving in other countries is just not so much fun. Phil is right back into the bumper cars approach to driving out here and found speed limits and everyone obeying the highway code a little tiresome in USA and UK.
  • The sheer number of inappropriate remarks Phil was able to make during the Gay Pride Festival in Toronto was impressive. (Personal favourite - after seeing another group of men in skimpy speedos "well it's all very well and good but you don't want it rammed down your throat really do you?")

Thursday, 23 June 2011

A Farewell to Cocky (He's a cockatoo btw)

The bags are packed, we're ready to go (sorry we can't remember the next bit) but we are leaving on a jet plane (least we hope it's a jet not propellers - you can never be sure with Air Niugini!). So we will be heading to Sydney, Hawaii, Toronto then Blighty!

Mugs in short supply so Phil enjoy a refreshing milk jug of Number 1 (Nambawan) tea in Kiunga Guest House

Had to say a sad farewell to Cocky the Cockatoo for the next 3 weeks but as usual he was playing hard to get even though we brought banana and paw paw for him. He just king of puffed himself up and turned himself upside down and looked at us. As we walked away he squawked something at us. He's a bit contrary - I think that's why Sandra likes him so much!

We are looking forward to meeting up with friends and family and sharing some stories and the occasional glass of wine and real ale!
We are looking forward to seeing the progress on our garden when we get back. We planted a few bit in the foreground of the picture but they may well die before we return. Who knows it could be transformed - well the pile of cement might go!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Phil Spots a Local Bargain in the Wine Department and Some Birds of Paradise

At just under a tenner for 2 litres of wine this offer seemed too good to be true. Locally made banana wine with no added preservatives should be very tasty a light fruity sweetness with just a hint of banana and vanilla pod. The first indicators however were more accurate.
It looked like a hospital sample and did indeed taste like ****.

It was no good perhaps an hour or two in the fridge will improve it. Did the bottle need shaking up? Did the journey from the supermarket disturb the delicate bouquet? Perhaps it needs to acquire a vintage? Perhaps the plastic bottle it came in had been tainted? Like Phil's early attempts at wine making it was declared undrinkable (for now)

Earlier in the week we travelled to Kiunga. We managed to spend a couple of hours in search of the Birds of Paradise and were treated to a fantastic display. Our photos don't do the birds justice or capture the sounds (or show the mosquitos and leeches!). A very special trip.

Back in Moresby we returned to our customary Saturday which consists of having a very lazy morning, a trip out for lunch followed by an even lazier afternoon usually involving a snooze. Today we tried an alternative restaurant rated number 1 in our guide book. Although there was plenty to eat it was very "unthai-like" which was disappointing as it was supposed to be a Thai restaurant. Never mind. A common feature of all lunch trials is the time taken to be served with food. It does mean you do acquire an appetite.

Only a week before we embark on travels outside of PNG. Phil and Sandra will have to adjust their driving techniques. A Dodge Charger awaits them in Hawaii. Do they have speed cameras in Hawaii?

After months of flying on small 30 seater propeller planes it will be strange to get on a BIG plane. We are really looking forward to visiting a real airport lounge!!