So, stuff about Lae, Papua New Guinea.

There was unrest here about two weeks ago and a State of Emergency was declared. We left and went to Kokopo. Actually we were doing this anyway, so it was pretty good timing. Kids missed a week of school, except the school was closed the whole time so they’d have missed it whatever happened. People got killed – many of them by the police – and the whole place was in lockdown for about five days. Still rumours going around that it will flare up again. It wasn’t actually very serious for us at all, it mostly happened in the settlements arond the town, but we are all still looking forward to going back home in December for a break. Xmas is a notorious time for breakins and carjackings anyway.

I’m sitting in the freezing cold offfice at the security firm waiting to get a panic button installed into my car so if anything happens I can get it GPS tracked and set off the panic alarm.

Our hausmari managed to fight off her evil brother only have her former husband reappear and start hassling her for similar reasons. Years ago, he ran out on her for another woman, but then when she starts earning money he shows up again and starts laying claim to her becuase they were never propery divorced. I think he has gone now as well, she got a restraining order. Her life is fricken unbelievable.

One other thing – when people here get sick they think it is sorcery. First they go to the western doctor and if that doesn’t work straight away they assume someone has cast a spell on them. One guy I was talking to got someone called the ‘Doctor of Doctors’ to reverse the spell on his wife so that her symptoms (abdominal pain, fecal blood, vomiting) woud be transferred onto the person who had cast a spell on her. I’ve heard similar stories from others: “oh we thought it was sorcery but turns out it is just cerebral malaria.” Phew.

Our malaria meds were miscalculated and we have about a week here with no protection before we go back to get more. Time to break out the Aerogard.

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5 Responses to So

  1. janet5 says:

    Um, holy shit. Again. What was the unrest actually about?
    Like, as usual I don’t have anything constructive to add, except to say thanks for posting this.
    What do your kids think of Papua New Guinea?

  2. Steve says:

    What was the unrest actually about?

    Short answer – the Highlanders settle in coastal areas and squat on vacant land. They get into street crime because they are poor and dispossessed. Many of the coastal people hate them. Cycles of payback start up and are impossible to stop.

    My son likes PNG but he kinda likes everything.

    My daughter sort of hates PNG. She keeps saying she wants to go back to Australia.

  3. janet5 says:

    Thanks. Yeah, sorry – I realized after I commented that those were both impossibly complicated questions that were asking for essay-length answers. And I guess I could, you know, actually read something about PNG, too.

  4. k- says:

    Don’t you have a chauffeur? Or do you drive yourself? Where does one put a panic button in a car — by the driver, the passenger seat? How do you feel having a panic button: more James Bond, Graham Greene, VS Naipaul, or Robert Kaplan?

    What malaria medicine do you take? I’m a big fan of lariam, which is the default drug in the US but is rarely prescribed in Europe. After awhile it gives me incredibly vivid dreams. But when it starts to make me paranoid, that sucks.

    I love societies that actively believe in sorcery and witchcraft. I encounter that a lot when I am in Africa, and find it extremely interesting to investigate the ways in which people understand the material and spiritual words to be interconnected. It also helps me realize how seemingly irrational Americans and other Westerners can be about their own assumptions and beliefs around religion and medicine.

  5. Steve says:

    No chauffeur. AusAid rules are that you can drive yourself so long as you have a radio and do some defensive driving training. Other companies – like the big natural gas company that is setting up here – won’t let workers and spouses drive at all, which would be a real drag. Driving around is one of the main freedoms I have.

    My panic button representational figure is probably more like Norman Gunston. I love having one because if we do get carjacked we stand a good chance of getting the car back again.

    I am on Malarone. I cannot take Larium because of my history of brain malfunction. See Aaron’s latest thread for some details on that.

    And yeah I admit I find the sorcery thing fascinating. I know it is actually a real negative thing in the lives of people here and leads to payback killing and all sorts of stuff but I do find it amazing. It’s not like, watching some book or movie discussing the archaic beliefs of primitive tribesmen or whatever. This is the belief of people at the supermarket, or on the bus to the airport. It is actually quite modern, or at least, sits alongside the modern.

    Janet – no dramas. Short answers just seemed best. The history of PNG that led to this situation would be an epic, you are right.

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