Twenty point seven

Here’s a statistic – 20.7.

It’s a percentage, from the UN. It represents the probability of Papua New Guineans not surviving until the age of forty. For me, that’s just over eleven years off, and frankly if I was going to be told I had a one in five chance of not making it through the next eleven years I’d feel a bit bummed.

Two of these one-in-fivers have just ducked out to kaikai buai na stori liklik during lunch hour. One looks cross at having endured yet another morning of intensive introductory job training from a rambling white man. One has just shared a moment of satisfaction with me that a project budget is not going bananas on him. Another is chortling at something dumb on the internet. Another says luluai! in reaction to the demands of an insurance form. One walks past with a box of Big Rooster swaying in a bag hung from her slim brown wrist. Two are having a minor squabble over what instructions were given regarding a plane fare (Mi bin salim email lo yu! Nogat mi no kisim na yu bin tok nating!). Another is off to deliver some things to Ela Beach and the office of the Chairman in the fancy tower on top of the hill. One came to work with a stain on his shirt. Another was the butt of everyone’s jokes as unfortunately her hammock had collapsed under her the night before. One was woken up early in the morning when his infant son pinched him savagely on the bum. One has a job application they are trying to keep hidden from the boss, while another may be having regrets ever setting foot in this place.

Granted these are people with relatively higher incomes than their countryfolk, with typically cleaner and safer living conditions, and more robust diets. Still…

20.7 percent.

1 Response to “Twenty point seven”


  1. 1 sanguma man October 5, 2009 at 12:52 am

    What took you so long to get the next story up? I been waiting all week. Your descriptions are dead on…… so much so that I am looking forward to being back there in the next few weeks. Just as soon as the nationals in BN send my passport back. seems a work visa requires extra time on someones desk. In true Melanesian style, I’m waiting as fast as I can 🙂


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