Archive for December, 2008

Malarial attrition.

At what point do we decide that the danger of malaria (with attendant risk of life-long relapse and small chance of cerebral explosion) is a lesser risk than the weekly dose of Larium (with attendant risk of ugly liver damage and a small chance of a psychological meltdown)? I suspect at some stage we’ll consider this question a bit more seriously. For now I think we’ll cling to the dubious reassurance our anti-malarials offer, seeing as nowadays even the wild hounds of Waigani seem to be rolling in the mud, eyes rolling as they lather their way through another malaria-wracked fit.

There has been rain, and with the rains come puddles that settle in forgotten pockets of scrub and are left to stagnate and fester, and from these seamy pools they come – the whining, needle-nosed miniature Messerschmidtts that squadron by squadron disperse to feed on the blood of us mammals. The blitz is upon us. We have perfected strange new kinds of contorted flailings as a result of our attempts to strike down these nimble airborne adversaries. Our medications may preserve us from the ravages of fever, but they do nothing for the sore lumps that now flourish on our ankles and backs. We scratch like mad dogs.

I am simultaneously impressed and concerned with the local nonchalance when it comes to malaria. A colleague, having been smitten by the fever, was happy to admit his sole medical recourse was a day or two in bed and a diet of fresh fruit. I wanted to grasp him by the shoulders and shake him roughly. ‘You’re still troppo!’ I wanted to say. ‘You need a serious dose of drugs. Maybe an overdose. Inundate your system with quinine, and drink gin and tonic with breakfast. Also, bring the gin to our house. It will be safer there.’

Of course I said no such thing and the colleague lives on.

A neighbour and his family are also dealing with a malaria relapse, and one of our security guards was the image of the living dead the other day. He was nodding off while maintaining an upright position in his chair – when I returned the gate was wide open and he was prostrate on a foam mattress at the back of the guardhouse. When I spoke to his wantoks they were not exactly concerned with his plight – or they were simply relaxed in the knowledge that the help they could offer was negligible. Standard medical fees and treatment for malaria is well beyond the means of most security personnel, as is gin and tonic.

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Goodbye already?!?

Well in a way we were all born to say goodbye – I don’t suppose there’s much else to say when people die besides “I love you mum” and “wwwaaaaauu uggghhh aaaaaahhhhahh uuuhuuhuuuhuuh”.

And then there’s the odd ebb and flow of people, close and not-so-close, who in the interregnum between that time you get spat out all bloody and mewling and to the time of your final departure constitute your social world, teach you most of what you know, share the odd beer and otherwise just piss you off.

Being ‘away’ makes this whole process an even odder one, as the cavalcade of people taking their leave seems to be a pretty common event. Already some people we know well (or well enough at least) have taken there leave of PNG and it’s safe to say our lives here will be different in their absence. So here’s to youse…

To Emma in Hagen – was it ten weeks? No, eight weeks once you discount the two you camped at ours in Moresby. Oh well, there’s nothing like a good ol’ fashioned attempted carjacking to make you critically reevaluate your position in life. Safety em nambawan, and whoever said you were lucky not to be gang-raped was a FUCKER. Cheers to you, sorry it didn’t work out, catchya eh.

To Susie also in Hagen – well, I wouldn’t have stayed either. It’s one thing to be full of piss and bravado, and another thing to live by yourself in a town being ripped to bits from the inside out by blood-mad political partisans a la Western Highlands. Screw. That. As with Emma, I’m sorry it didn’t work out, but like I said, safety em nambawan. Take it easy Monty!

To Brigid – The profession I have come to appreciate the most in PNG thus far is the ‘driver’, that poorly paid individual who uncomplainingly gets you from A to B and to Z if necessary, typically without complaint. So cheers, and sorry mipela olgeta taim sidaun long back seat a. But of course there was more than the limo service – there was gin! And STOUT!!!!! So thanks for being casual on the balcony and tolerating two utter dags. Sapos yu lukim mi long Australia yumi ken pilai ‘raskol raskol’ na no ken wari tru. You’re a champion, and I wish you were sticking around – but I daresay you’ve been through enough! Cheers.

To Dave – if you ever drag yourself out of the steaming jungles of FNQ again then feel free to drop by. You’ll probably be madder and bushier next time we meet, but I think that’s the natural evolution for North Queenslanders – they don’t die, they just become giant crazy hairballs with a XXXX Gold constantly wedged in there somewhere. I’ll enjoy shocking people with your stories, but not all of them – I’m afraid sometimes stories should remain in the past where they came from. Oh, and I won’t forget you owe us a beer or two eh. Tall tales do not satisfy one’s thirst after all.

Discriminate against bigotry!

While waiting with a friend on Saturday morning we got chatting in Tok Pisin, and I was told that Papua New Guinea was a land with “no discrimination”. All people, my friend said, respected each other and got along.

A few things sprang to mind. Status of women and gender equity, for example. Prevalent anti-Chinese and anti-Malaysian attitudes (which to be fair often arise from the rotten conditions locals are offered by companies from these places, and the gut-wrenching destruction these companies inflict on traditional society and the environment… not that any of that is limited to Asian companies per se, but I digress). I thought of being called a waitman. I thought of regional rivalry and the mistrust a lot of coastal people have for Highlanders. I thought of violence and quaint traditions such as ‘tribal warfare’.

I normally do not like to contest such statements seeing as keeping relations smooth is pretty important to us. I couldn’t resist this however. I replied with ‘Mi tingting ol manmeri blong PNG em gutpela manmeri tru. Tasol mi tingting sampela manmeri blong Highlands ating no laik sampela manmeri blong Goilala district a’ (I think the people of PNG are very good people. But I think some people from the Highlands perhaps don’t like some people from the Goilala district, eh’).

This was I thought an uncontroversial choice of examples, with the Goilala of Central province having just as savage a reputation as some Highlanders. Nonetheless I expected to be contested, but wasn’t. Instead my friend, who I must remind you had moments before assert that PNG was a country without discrimination, said: ‘Mi no laikim manmeri blong Goilala. Mi tingting em gat planti bigotry.’ (I don’t like people from Goilala. I think they are very bigoted).

I didn’t push it.