Edit Blog Post
Published: June 17th 2013
Encounters with Wildlife
Papua New Guinea is a tropical, and thus very biodiverse, place. The number of insects, animals, flowers, and other plants is astounding. I have had quite a few interesting cases with some of the local fauna. The houses are not sealed up here as well as back in the US, and this provides opportunities for many insects and other "binatangs" (anything that crawls) to enter the house. Just yesterday I picked up my shoes and knocked them together only to find a 3 inch long centipede come scuttling out. He was terminated.
In the first house in which I lived, the cockroach death count totalled eight. Thankfully, I never saw any in my bedroom. However, in the house in which I live now, I do have a roommate. There is a gecko that I see every 3 or 4 days. I have tried multiple times to catch and release it outside, but he is very good at hiding. The bed frame in which he hides is bolteDd==d to the wall so I cannot move it to get at him. He has been around for at least 2 weeks, so I hope that means he has been feeding and therefore decreasing the insect population in my room. I captured and released one of his smaller kin earlier today.
As mentioned in previous posts, I have seen several cuscus, though I have not been able to buy or eat one yet. I can always catch an opossum at home and eat that. They're pretty much the same thing. Spiders are omnipresent here. Whether you're walking outside or inside, there is the ever-present reality of walking into a web. So far, only two have been in my room. And they are no longer in my room. If you know what I'm saying.
Sugar ants. There are these tiny little ants that are EVERYWHERE. If I leave food out in the kitchen for even 15 minutes, it will be swarmed by them. Everything must be sealed in plastic bags or containers. If I smash a cockroach or other bug, the ants will be on the scene soon to take care of removal. Thankfully, they're not in my room, as I don't keep food in there and I clean up after my insect battles.
Feral dogs roam freely. Spaying and neutering doesn't really exist here. Once the population of feral dogs on station becomes too high, hospital administration hires a man named Pok to come and kill the dogs. Not only does this provide Pok with income, but it also provides him with food. I've met Pok several times, and I hope to be invited the next time he has a dog roast.
Since I've been living mostly by myself, I've done my own cooking. This has been fantastic. Often, I will make a big pot of something like rice & beans, lentils, or potato soup and feed off of it for a few days. I rarely eat meat, except when someone invites me over for dinner, because it's cheaper that way. I am very satisfied with how much money I have been able to save by eating poor people food. I brought maybe $30-40 worth of food from home and spent about $100 at the grocery store my first day in PNG. Add in maybe $35 total spent at the local market and my total comes out to less than $200 for over six weeks. The information I got before coming to PNG told me to allow $360 PER MONTH for food. In that case, I would have spent close to $700. Western food is very expednsive here, even things like dry beans or lentils cost about $6 for less than one pound, whereas they're usually 80 cents to a dollar at home.
Thankfully produce like pineapple is incredibly cheap. A large pineapple is only $2 and thus I eat about a half a pineapple every day. I even attempted cooking a pineapple upside-down cake. This required tweaking the recipe slightly. The recipe called for "one can of pineapple". Too bad I don't know the conversion for "one can" when talking about fresh pineapple. Shortening like Crisco is also nonexistant here. The cake turned out well, albeit pretty gooey. I've also made fresh guacamole, as avacados abound here. The absence of tortilla chips lessens the enjoyment of good guac.
Late Tuesday morning, Dr. Scott Dooley came down to the outpatient waiting area to announce that the entire hospital was being shut down, effective immediately. There is a largescale hydro project on station that apparently was having some issues. The hydro project is a $5 million USD work that will supply reliable and adequate power for the current needs of the station, as well as providing for 25 years of growth. Hydro has about 130 native guys working on it. There are five different lines, or tribes, that comprise the workforce and it is essential to make sure each tribe is represented equally, otherwise, people get very angry. Ten new workers were to be hired, two men from each of the five lines. Apparently, one line demanded that all ten positions were to be given to only their men. There was some strong talk and some threats made, and a few workmen threw some punches. Pok, the dog hunter/eater, was one of the guys who got a bloody ear. The hospital administration's only trump card was to shut down the entire hospital. This forces the elders of the different tribes to work out the issues quickly, otherwise no one from their line can receive healthcare. The only patients being admitted are those who are life and death. If someone has a bushknife wound or a pregnant woman is about to give birth, they are out of luck. All patients already admitted to a ward will either stay or be discharged. Surgery is shut down too. All doctors make rounds on the wards in the morning and then go home and wait for the issue to be resolved.
On Wednesday the elders of the lines didn't even meet. Thursday there was some discussion among them, but the hospital remained closed. I was making rounds with Dr. Bill Friday morning and we were told to report to "The Circle" because the big meeting was going down outside. All of the doctors were out there, along with maybe 50 of the hydro project workmen, as well as almost all of the entire hospital staff. One line elder spoke and apologized to the hospital staff. The elder apologized to some of the doctors by name, and I even got an apology. Since I'm white and wear scrubs most native people think that I'm a doctor. He didn't know my name so he just called me "yungpela mangi" - young man. This elder was interrupted by a very angry hydo worker screaming something about fighting and cutting (using bushknives). It was the most intense things I've ever personally experienced. I wasn't allowed to take pictures of the proceedings, because people were too on edge and they didn't want me upsetting anyone. This angry man was listened to and somewhat pacified. The line elder then offered up 509 kina in order to pay the fine. Whenever the hospital is closed due to violence, those who caused the problem are required to pay a minimum 500 kina fine. This is one of the deterrents for causing problems.
The Hospital Administration Team met and discussed a bunch of different terms with some of the line elders and finally came to an agreement. The hospital reopened by 10:00. From what I understand, the entire mission station is built on a ridge that originally belonged to no tribe, but was the communal fighting grounds. I've heard stories from twenty years ago when all missionaries would be on lockdown in their houses until battles subsided. After the conflict was over, the missionaries would emerge from their houses and remove the arrows from their yard. It's a pretty primitive and brutal society, as far as disagreements go.
This being said, I feel in no real danger. Native people here very much respect white people, as almost all white people are missionaries that are here to help them. During the deliberations, I had a bunch of hydro workers come up and talk to me and I never felt even remotely threatened. It is understood that anyone who even feigns an attack on a white person will be severely beaten or even killed by their own line because to harm a white person would bring shame on the entire line. There have been missionaries in the market place who have had a camera or phone swiped by a pickpocket. When local people, vendors in the market, or security guards see this, they all pounce on the thief and pretty severely beat him for bringing shame on them by stealing from a white person.
The Hospital Administration is very particular about letting people post things about violent situations like this on Facebook, email, blogs, etc. because they don't want family back home to get freaked out. So let me say that I am completely safe and was never in any real danger. The tense situation is mostly over and the hospital is back in business. Dr. Bill told me that the hospital shuts down due to violence an average of twice a year, though usually it is resolved more quickly that it was this time. I am thankful that it wasn't shut down next week, because I will be in the operating theatre and that would be bad thing to miss out on.
Tot: 2.119s; Tpl: 0.028s; cc: 5; qc: 45; dbt: 0.0236s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb