Monday, 21 February 2011

Belated Update From POM (Port Moresby)

The new house under construction!! We have decided the best way to communicate at the moment is by typing a letter on the computer, saving it and then cut and pasting it into an email when we have connectivity. We have tried various methods including using the technicians at work but they are almost as unreliable as the telephone and internet structure they are working with. I am hoping to get a usb modem which will allow me to connect to the mobile network. Trouble is they have run out of them (which evidently is very PNG! – for instance they seem to have run out of sugar in the supermarkets so a bag of sugar could cost six pounds!).
We visited our new house under construction (supposed to be finished in 10 days but not holding our breath!). It really is quite amazing (will send a photo when able) 3 bedrooms, huge balcony, 1 study and a lovely kitchen plus 2 bathrooms – very big for just the 2 of us but we are not complaining. As I mentioned in my last email the cost of furniture and electrical goods here is amazing. On Saturday we bought a fridge freezer, sofa, table and chairs, 2 desks with chairs and an outside patio set and with discounts it still came to 10 thousand pounds!!!!!!!
It’s crazy!
We are being well looked after but there are inevitable frustration trying to get used to different ways of doing things as despite the mineral  wealth of the country the people seem as poor as those in Uganda or similar. The politicians are very rich and there is a rich middle class developing but still lots of poverty. The people are really lovely and very friendly which makes the street dangers even more difficult to understand but I think it is a combination of poverty, tribal conflict and thinking that all white people are rich (which in comparison they are of course). The other factor is they were (by all accounts) poorly treated by the Aussies when they were controlling PNG for 20 years or so up to 1965.
We are looking to join a couple of clubs (again hopefully the company will pay) as we will need a safe haven from the intensity of Port Moresby. We are very safe in our housing compound with guards on the gate etc. but travelling is potentially tricky so we have to make sure car doors are always locked and nothing of value is on display (makes photography tricky – have just taken pictures from the car at the moment). Outside of Port Moresby there are supposed to be some lovely (and safe) places, so as our knowledge increases we will find more flexibility.
Shopping is quite fun they have quite big and safe supermarkets and the odd shopping centre but very little to buy. When we travel back to UK we will bring empty suitcases I think! We look forward to getting to the outlying areas which will happen over the next 5 weeks as we visit all the schools.
The work is interesting and challenging as there are very old systems in place which seemed to have stopped working quite a few years ago but continue on regardless. They have a company Intranet but it doesn’t work quickly enough and half the staff can’t get access to the internet reliably! I think a few satellite dish companies could make a killing out here! There was a Principals’ conference last week which predictably was far from uplifting (the same happens in any country when you get a load of teachers and particularly headteachers!!). Our next step is to visit all the schools and see what we can really do. We will have to be patient though as there are loads of protocols and they are not really used to change here so slowly but surely.
We should both have a car but Sandra’s has been borrowed by various people and is being serviced (probably at the same time over here) but we only need the one at the moment. My Nissan Cefiro looks nice but with potholes and speedbumps I think the undercarriage is getting quite worn. Certainly I have scraped it several times. The funny thing is when we get to work the security guards are always keen to wash it so it has been washed at least 3 times in the last week. My carwashing days could be over as it is a bit hot for a wash and wax!
At the office there is a caged cockatoo, affectionately referred to as ‘Cocky’! He is very clever and puts his foot through the cage to wave and he says hello and bye.  He also dances by jigging up and down.  It is sad that he is in a cage but he couldn’t be released and so I make sure that I spend time with him as he is quite lonely.  Mind you, he does tend to screech when I walk away.  Phil is getting a bit jealous over the amount of time I spend talking to Cocky and gave me quite a look yesterday when I bought a bag of peanuts to take into Cocky on Monday!
We have a lady called a hausmerri  who comes to the house to wash and clean twice a week. Initially we were a bit uncomfortable with this but have found having clean and ironed clothes very nice. It will be lovely moving into the new house as the one we are in is fine but quite dated and so has a real ‘temporary’ feel.  I think that Julie, the hausmerri will love it too – I think there is a bit of a status thing going on with who you clean for and where they live.  Ours is the newest, biggest and best kitted-out!
The stuff from home which we had airfreighted out has been in the country for 4 weeks but still hasn’t cleared customs yet – again, ‘PNG time!’.  The goods for the new house are being delivered there next Saturday as it is very close to completion.  It may be that our stuff will arrive after that? We are really looking forward to it coming, for a couple of reasons.  We know that we have some nice cards and stationery packed and also the sound system (CDs and DVDs too) but other than that we have largely forgotten what we packed and so it will be quite exciting to open it all!! A bit like Christmas all over again.
Time is going very quickly, it seems.  The new house and moving there will occupy us in March as will the visits to all of the other schools outside of Port Moresby.  We have twelve days off , beginning on 1st April, which we will probably spend in another part of PNG, somewhere where we can get out and about a bit more than in POM(as Port Moresby is referred to). We will also then break up for the Easter long weekend.  There are some brilliant places for snorkeling and seeing birdlife around the islands so will plan where to go and let you know. That will see us pretty much through April. Then in June we have the unusual experience of having a day off for the Queen’s birthday! Then term ends on 24th June and we start travelling back to the UK via Thomas in Toronto (and a bit of relaxation in Hawaii!) – will be back in early July.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

After The Cyclone

The cyclone passed over at about midnight last night and certainly made a lot of noise, fortunately not much damage just broken branches fallen trees etc.
Many thanks for those who participated in our ready steady cyclone cook based on Phil's rather poor shopping attempt. Today Phil and Sandra went shopping. The above picture represents the sum total of our expedition today. Phil got very excited at one shop when he saw some frozen packets marked prawns and squid - until Sandra pointed out they were in the fishing bait section of the shop; so they left with the cup a soups, crisps and a can of baked beans. Although roads are fine and everything seems back to normal virtually every shop was closed. The feast treats above were found in two shops. We are now fed up with curlywurlys and would welcome some fresh fruit and veg but this doesn't appear to be possible.
No luck with alcohol of any description so if the bottle shop opens tomorrow we will hit it hard! There's only so much tea and sprite you can drink.

Finally flights and visas sorted so we fly to Brisbane on Monday and Port Moresby on Tuesday hurrah!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Phil Goes Cyclone Shopping

With a tropical cyclone fast approaching Cairns heading straight for our apartment we felt it advisable to stock up on vital provisions. Phil returned from the supermarket with
  1. 2 bottles of wine
  2. a big packet of doritos
  3. some hot chilli dip
  4. a very large bar of chocolate
The aussies were buying water, tinned food and bread for when the electricity gets cut off but that sounded a bit soft to us.
We do have 2 eggs, 4 cobs of sweetcorn, garlic, soymilk, 1 potato, a tablespoon of honey and 4 bananas. If anyone has a good recipe which would be worth attemting a la ready steady cook please email phil on  It would be particularly handy if no cooking was  required as power may be cut off quite soon.