Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Mad Brits at Boroko Food World

I’m afraid Sandra has made her stamp on PNG with her desire to teach practical science. The initial problem was NO RESOURCES (and trust me we mean NO RESOURCES). Never mind a trip to Boroko Food World (aka our favourite supermarket in PNG) to buy vital resources:
·         Bicarb of soda – no problem
·         Yeast – no problem
·         Vinegar – no problem
·         Alka Seltzer – no problem but v expensive
·         Film Canister – problem no empty ones so had to buy a film as well
·         Balloon – problem – we had to ask the boss a lovely Chinese man who always brings us the special card machine every time we pay with a credit card. He could only find an inflated balloon from a display. Phil and Sandra saw this as a challenge. Wouldn’t you know it though after an hour of patient persuading the balloon broke!! Phil was, at this point, not pleased (you see Phil is still grumpy). Fortunately we got a balloon from a nearby school.
Our trainee teachers were treated to exploding film canisters, rising dough, expanding yeast plus Sally and Simon the snowmen and the sheer pleasure of being blood vessels.
With Sandra’s food allergies getting worse and worse, now not eating any wheat (not a biscuit, cake, slice of bread) and even now not drinking soy milk, special treats are few and far between.  Enter the very important role of the Crunchie!!  Crunchie is one of the few things that can be eaten and enjoyed, trouble is that it is only about once a week that we ever find one.
Phil decided that the time had come to ask the previously mentioned, very nice Chinese man about the supply of Crunchies.  On Friday evening we approached him.  He happened to be with another man, obviously an important man in the supply chain of Crunchies.  They assured us that new supplies were expected on Saturday and that they would save us some.  We didn’t really hold out much hope.  Imagine our delight, when on Saturday we approached said Chinese man and he immediately rang his colleague to find out where the precious Crunchies were.   To Sandra’s delight, the entire box of some 40 bars had been secreted in the tobacco section – JUST FOR US!!! We bought 10 bars(they only cost about £1.30 each here!), most of which(as we haven’t been greedy) are stored safely in the fridge.  Little things please little minds………..!

We finally moved into our new house at the weekend.  It is absolutely amazing! We are so very lucky, the guys who have built it have put such effort into it and have paid so much attention to really beautiful detail.  We are slowly beginning to make it feel like home by adding some personal touches, such as photos and pictures which we had brought from the UK(notice we don’t say home – PNG is our home now).
Interesting……………………just went to put some more dirty crockery in the dishwasher(yes, the new house has one) and have found that it is empty.  We think that means that the haus-meri has taken it out and washed it by hand?????

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Back from our travels

                                                                                     Kamarau School in Buka
We arrived back safely from Wewak (having escaped the flying foxes in Madang).  Had to get up at 4.00am to ensure we got a seat on the plane as once it’s full they tend to take off! Also check-in is so slow you need that time to get everyone checked in and the bags loaded by cart onto the plane (A Fokker 100 if anyone’s interested – the big plane was back as the lightning strike on Madang airstrip had been repaired). Fortunately we had the inappropriately named Paradise Lounge to relax in prior to departure.
 Sadly despite verbal and email confirmation as to where the car should be it wasn’t at the airport when we arrived (for the second time – cue tantrum from Phil!)
We got picked up eventually then went to the office for meetings and so on.
We flew out Friday morning to Buka which is part of the autonomous government of Bouganville. This was a lovely location and felt very safe. We visited the school and due to Sandra’s insistence that we took part in the afternoon cricket game got completely saturated due to the humid 38 degrees. Phil would like it known that despite his promising batting (2 runs scored) he was needlessly run out by Sandra (who scored 1 run) – she said it was a deliberate ploy as it was too hot but this is not accepted by Phil. Eventually cooled down in our hotel. The accommodation would probably be described as basic and modest (think backpacker hostel). Once again the people were lovely and we had a very interesting time and another very long list of things we could do to help the school.
On the journey back they used a very small aircraft and none of the cabin bags would fit in the cabin. Our bags were put in the cargo hold. Upon arrival at Rabual airport our plane to Port Moresby was ready to take off (unexpectedly on-time). Having been parted from our cabin bags with laptop and camera etc Phil was keen to get reacquainted before the Port Moresby plane took off. He expressed this view to several official looking people who went to try and recover the bags before the plane took off. Insistence levels grew somewhat and eventually the bags were found before they were slung onto the wrong plane. We were officially the last ones on the plane and our seats had been given up to someone else. There were 2 seats remaining one in business class and one next to a hugely fat man. Sandra didn’t fancy being squashed by the fat man so we negotiated that the fat man moved to business class (thereby getting a complimentary plastic cup of orange squash before take off) and Phil and Sandra sat together. The pilot apologised for the delay (on our behalf) and we took off. Once again we were treated to a snack meal of a carton of apple juice and a shortcake biscuit (scotch finger). Sandra no longer eats biscuits so Phil enjoyed two scotch fingers!
It is too hot for this!
This time we had planned a strategy to make sure the car was at the airport when we returned. We didn’t tell anyone – so the car would stay there. Having cleared the airport quickly and full of expectation we searched the car park. The car wasn’t there. Phil was speechless (apart from expletives). Sandra phoned to see what had happened to be told they had picked the car up on Friday. Unfortunately despite this efficiency they had failed to return it when we flew back. After 20 minutes we were picked up and driven to our car. It took a couple of beers at the Yacht Club for Phil to fully recover his composure. He is still plotting his revenge.
We are flying out again towards the end of the week. Phil and Sandra would welcome your suggestion as to how we can ensure our car is parked and available at the airport upon our return.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

How big is a flying fox anyway?

A lovely welcome at Madang

Having just read the guide book on Madang we were interested to see that there is a large population of flying foxes. We saw a whole load of them yesterday. More alarming is the statement "due to the flying foxes no planes can land or take off between 5 and 7 pm". We are currently in the airport lounge awaiting our flight which takes off at 6.00pm!!!!!!! Oh dear! Never mind it's not as if disasters have followed us around the world or anything!
En route to Wewak (flying foxes permitting)
Baggage reclaim Madang style

They're big you know!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Flying Air Niugini Style

The Story So Far
Phil and Sandra are travelling to visit two  schools  in Madang and Wewak.
Flight details given a week in advance.
On Tuesday flights confirmed
On Wednesday 3.20pm  informed we are only waitlisted for flights
On Wednesday 4.300pm informed we are confirmed again
Friday decide to check if accommodation is booked for us, told no as our flights are only waitlisted
(Phil – not renowned for his patience in these situations gives vent but to no avail)
Despite much pestering and posturing flights remain waitlisted until Saturday morning
Oh and it transpires there is now no accommodation in Wewak
Oh and there is a serious tsunami warning Friday night for Madang (fortunately they escaped damage)
By Saturday it appears all is miraculously confirmed.
Phil and Sandra set the alarm for 6.00am on Sunday. Get to the airport in good time only to be told the flight is cancelled. But there will be another flight at 11.30. We check in and leave the airport as we don’t fancy a 5 hour wait in the Paradise Lounge (don’t be fooled by the name- BA Lounge it isn’t). We are hoping it will be on time. The only good news is we appear to have business class seats 1a and 1b but of course it could mean we are flying the plane!! (and the 11.30 could also be cancelled)

Saturday, 5 March 2011

A Trip to Lae

In the week that Port Moresby was voted 3rd least liveable city in the world it seemed appropriate we went to Lae. A local resident of Lae described going to Port Moresby as a “breath of fresh air”. This gives you a flavour of Lae.
Our journey there involved a short flight from Port Moresby which was delayed by about an hour, then slowed down by numerous crew announcements before we took off! Following the safety announcement they were at pains to point out that it is illegal to remove any safety items from the plane. Upon arrival we transferred to a “Guard Dog Security” bus with metal caged windows and three guards, radios etc. It was pitch black but the roads, as we had heard, were full of potholes, parts of the trip seemed almost cross country!
Our hotel was quite nice and also had security guards on every door plus ones with dogs on the perimeter. There was a pet hornbill which Sandra loved but it was a bit ferocious and ungrateful when she fed it some pineapple! There were also some creatures called cuscus. They were a cross between wallabies and bears, with a dose of sloth (as they seemed to sleep all day).
We did have a swim in the hotel pool which was nice apart from branches of a nearby coconut tree crashing down in the wind. We had arranged for towels to be sent to the pool but after 20 minutes they still hadn’t arrived and we were a bit stuck. In the end after asking 4 separate people we walked back to the room soaking wet! On the way we passed 2 of the people we had asked and they gave us the towels. We hatched a cunning plan, we would hold on to the towels and use them next time. Unfortunately when we got back to the room they had taken the towels from the bathroom. Doh!
We visited the 2 schools which was very interesting and met some lovely people and hard working students.
Lae in daylight was also interesting but according to local knowledge is supposed to be one of the most dangerous places in PNG. Speeding accidents are out of the question as driving is limited to a max of 10mph as everyone negotiates a route through the potholes. Only 4x4s, vans and lorries in evidence. It is a supply port for the interior (highlands) and saw quite a lot of action in the second world war.
One of the supermarkets had burnt down recently and there had been widespread looting particularly of the beer section at the back. The supply of warm beer kept many people happy for some time!
A 40 minute flight meant 5 hours travel time with airport transfers and delays so we arrived tired and in Phil’s case very irritable in Port Moresby. Phil had a fairly major paddy when his car wasn’t at the airport as arranged or at the office car park as rearranged and promised. However it was Friday night and a glass of sparkling wine and a beer put things in perspective.