Sun 18 Sep 2016 00:48
Nusa Island, just across the channel from Kavieng, is a haven. The town is there across the water, with the market, Chinese supermarkets, hardware store and pharmacy, should one need it, and Shannon at the Nusa Island Retreat will arrange for a boat to take you over and bring you back (so you don’t have to worry about leaving the dinghy) but mostly you don’t need it and can watch the comings and goings without being a part of it. Nusa’s close knit village community is welcoming and friendly, with folk eager to chat and get to know us, glad to exchange view points and experiences. One thing that struck us was how amazed they were to hear about the change of day length during the year in the UK, especially in Scotland. Here the sun gets up at 6, and goes down again at 6, regular as clockwork, all through the year, and it hadn’t occurred to them that it could be otherwise elsewhere. We joined the community at church, the service and hymns stretching our understanding of Pisin, but the warmth of the congregation towards us unmistakable. Before we left they prayed for our safe journey and commissioned us with bringing the power of God with us from PNG back to the UK, where, if periodic reading of the news gives me the right impression, we could do with some more of God’s blessing.
Steven in festival style and a New Ireland carved mask
After church some of the ladies came to talk with me and gave me gifts of beautiful shells in welcome. I was delighted of course and pretty soon the word got out amongst the kids that we would trade for shells. Soon little ones in canoes would come paddling out to the boat, asking for “shirt mama” (women’s clothes) or “shoes” (which we’d run out of) or simply “toy”. The villagers periodically ran craft stalls, for resort guests or when they were expecting visitors. They sold beautiful shell jewellery, made mostly from the local shell money, carvings and baskets. We bought a few but again we were overwhelmed by people’s generosity, giving us necklaces and carvings. Of course, if we had something we thought they would welcome we gave too, and traded generously for the shells, but we gave out of our plenty and they gave us the result of hours of their painstaking work.
Whilst we were there the hospital in Kavieng had a celebration, marking the opening of a new operating theatre. Now, before you get too impressed you should realise that the hospital here is the only one on New Ireland and that the vast majority of PNG have incredibly low patient to doctor ratios and very poor access to health care. The Australian organisation ADI help out by sending volunteer doctors to support and empower the existing health workers but with supplies of drugs and other essentials very haphazard there’s still a real lack of essential health care here. This new operating theatre is wonderful but needs to set against the background of all operations having been stopped for two weeks last month as there was no oxygen available. What about accident victims, what about emergency caesareans? However, it was certainly a cause for celebration and it was done in style, with singsing and traditional dancing, a splendid spread for lunch and much laughter and fun. Whilst we were joining in the celebrations we met some of the overseas volunteers working at the hospital and over the next week we shared a couple of lovely evenings with them (one of which saw 10 of us on board Lochmarin). It was good to get to see PNG through the eyes of immersed ex-pats and they found stories of our life traveling the oceans fascinating.
In Kavieng there were a lot of young men seemingly at a loose end, who, we understand, can cause a bit of bother. We met some lovely Australian guests at the resort (the evening buffet there is fabulous by the way), who’ve spent their lives working in troubled Indigenous Australian communities, but who came across some bother when cycling just outside of the town. They didn’t say exactly what happened but it was bad enough for them to feel they had to cut short their stay and pack up and fly back to Australia the next day. Happily everyone we encountered was friendly, helpful and welcoming.
Oh, I nearly forgot to tell you. We had another house guest. Not a Booby this time, but a rather more distinguished fellow. An Osprey decided that Lochmarin was a rather strange type of tree that had suddenly grown in the lagoon and that she made an excellent lookout to spot fish from. He would sit on the spreader most days, telling us off with little peeps when we came on his deck.