Thursday, August 18, 2011

Not in Kansas anymore...

Yes, that is what it looks like. Everywhere.
Time zones are strange things. I arrived in Papua New Guinea on Sunday, August 14, 2011, but for my US readers it was sometime on the Saturday…which never really existed for me. I’m typing this in my dorm room listening to night crickets and the coming of evening rain; dark has fallen here (which happens quickly on the equator, perhaps 6:30), but for many of you, it is extremely early in the morning…

Regardless how it is explained (I vaguely remember something with an orange and flashlight), here we are, some sleeping and some wide awake, yet blessed us with technology that those odd constraints of time are obliterated with the click of a mouse. (Speaking of which, internet is an exciting luxury that we have, but as such, it is often finicky, slow, and inconsistent, so I appreciate your patience and understanding as I learn to navigate a new system.)

I am settling into life here at POC (the Pacific Orientation Course) in Madang, PNG. We are situated at the top of Nobnob mountain, overlooking Madang and the Pacific Ocean. There are about twenty-two students and another thirteen expat staff members (as well as quite a few children), hailing from as far as Finland, Brasil, Australia, Germany, US, Canada, Scotland, and Romania. The purpose of the course is to teach us the skills we need to interact comfortably in the Melanesian culture here in PNG, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands. This includes studying Tok Pisin (a widespread language of PNG), learning basic village living skills (such as dehydrating food, building a hous kuk, treating malaria etc.), acclimating physically (through conditioning training such as hikes and swims), and discovering Melanesian anthropology. The students are from a variety of organizations and will be proceeding to a variety of jobs after POC has finished; translators, like myself, are actually in the minority compared to the support staff positions.

What’s it like to be here? I hope to show you over the next weeks as best I can through stories, pictures and, if I get savvy enough, perhaps even a video. At the moment though, it simply feels rather surreal. The landscape is like nothing I’ve ever experienced—mountains upon mountains of tropical rainforest, flowers blooming everywhere, a guava tree growing right outside my door, birds with songs I’ve never heard before (and then familiar ones…like the mountain roosters that start crowing at 3 am and sound like a pack of coyotes). Roofs are thatched with palm leaves and solar panels provide electricity. I sleep under a mosquito net and take showers with a bucket (which is far more water than you think).
This is the view from the office veranda--crazy!

Am I really here? I wonder. Could I actually be dreaming?

But…I suppose that would depend on the timezone that I’m in. :)

Thanks for joining me on this adventure!