Monday, April 24, 2006

Meet Spanky (a GFRS blog)

I went shopping for a spoon with Amele (a FPCD forester) in the infamous forest 'supermarket' today. Armed with an axe, Amele began to chop away at a rosewood trunk that appeared to be rotting away on the forest ground.

He gave me a chunk of the rosewood. "You see, it looks bad on the outside, but inside it is still very strong." He put it close to my nose and it smelt absolutely wonderful - a little like a rose, mixed with a rather earthy musk.

"Take this," Amele said. "It will be your spoon."

I have to admit I found the idea of transforming a chunk of wood into a practical spoon a little intimidating....

If there's anything lacking in my skillset, it would be carving; and unfortunately, creating anything that is even remotely useful is way beyond my usual capabilities.

As we returned to camp, it dawned on me that, the 'supermaket' is not only limited to a food section. It also includes a 'household goods' section.

Amele announced plans to make spoons, chopsticks, bowls, spatulas, and everything else that comes to mind from the wood we hoarded. I stood in awe of the wonderful resources the people here have at their fingertips.

He cut the piece of wood down to size for me; shaping it to look a little bit like a spoon (though a rather large one!).
Throughout the day I slowly scraped bits off the spoon. As I did, various comments were made by the other volunteers - along the lines of "That's the largest spoon I've ever seen in my life".

Some said it would make a nice novelty, but a novelty is the last thing I wanted it to be.

Later in the day, I demonstrated that my spoon was far from a novelty. It used it as a fan, fly swatter, fire retardent, ping pong bat, back scratcher, and most often, as a weapon for spanking the behinds of fellow volunteers. Therefore, upon its completion, I will name it 'Spanky'. And if it fails to become a spoon, all is not lost as I will at least have a very big bat that would come in very handy for the purpose of spanking the behinds of illegal loggers.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Me go round round long Moresby pinis!

After two grueling days of being stuck in the Geenpeace compound, I finally got to step out of Australian territory and into Papua New Guinea.

Those who knows the modus operandi of the vagabond wannabe would find my behaviour unbecoming. Yesterday, our plans were disrupted due to the absence of the driver who had to send a fellow staff to some remote region in the gulf, thus resulting in me being stuck in the GP compound all day long which led to me learning the local language.

Today on the other hand, me and Kyoko (fellow volunteer from Japan who is also my Pidgin language teacher) managed to finally visit the arts and craft market thanks to our driver James. Kyoko wanted to get herself some souvenirs before heading back to Tokyo this saturday; whereas I, I just wanted to step on Papuan New Guinean soil and see Port Moresby. I'm getting really sick of the harbour view from the GP office, though I won't dispute the beauty of this scenery.

What's the big deal? why bother with a driver? Have I no feet of my own to walk around? Well, I do, but the apparent crime rate of Port Moresby have singlehandedly disabled me. The staff here in the Port Moresby office insisted that we only go out with the driver James due to security reasons. Over the weekend, a guest of GP was robbed when he went sightseeing. He lost 5000 USD worth of money and equipment (he's a photojournalist and he had all his camera and gears with him) when 4 raskals (local lingo for gangsters) approached him with knifes and took everything... cash, cameras, flight tickets. One can only gasp in horror as to how such an experienced photojourno can be so careless despite the repeated warnings on local conditions.

Is the situation here in Port Moresby that bad. I would not hope so, but I sure think so. Port Moresby is rated one of the worst cities to live in, and was rated to be on par with cities like Baghdad and Kabul. No, there are no suicide bombers running around the streets, nor are there bombs that threaten to fall from the sky ramdomly... but having observed the town casually from the insides of GP's four wheel drive vehicle (Gasp...I remember how i absolutely despise those inside the confines of jeeps when I was in indo-china), I can understand why the situation can be so dangerous.

All around town, I saw loads and loads of people just loitering around, some sitting, some standing by the sidewalk doing nothing. It is said that the unemployement rate in Port Moresby is as high as 80 percent (and most of the remainder 20 percent works in security companies as guards). It is your typical cowboy town where people from all over Papua New Guinea flock in hopes of making bigpelah (a lot) money in the big city. Unfortunately, jobs are scarce and unlike back home from where everything is supplied by that big supermarket they call the jungle, they are trapped in a capitalist city where the resource owners demands money from them for access to the necessary resources. And like all third world countries, there are many resource owners whose lifestyles become the envy of the average person on the street. Therefore, having no jobs which ultimately means no money, yet still needing to survive in the city and be attracted to the lifestyle of the glitzy resource owners; leads to one desperate (yet, unfortunately common) solution... To rob from the glitzy resource owners.

Oh excuse me, who are the glitzy resource owners? Well, they're the expats of course, mostly from Australia, and a considerable amount from Malaysia (one would be surprise by the massive presence of Malaysian interest here in PNG, I'll elaborate in my future blog posts). And being foreigners, that also includes people like me and that makes me vulnerable and may add myself to the crime statistics of Port Moresby should I err im my judgement for a second. I hate this feeling of being overtly cautious about my surroundings. Everyday, I feel like I'm in prison trapped within the barbed wires of the Greenpeace office and my moments of pseudo freedom is defined by going out with a guard (though James is a really nice guy, I sometimes feel like he's my warden cause I have to walk with him all the time).

I really hate this situation, but very often I choose to believe that this is an exergerated reality defined by the economic interest of Australian expatriates here in Port Moresby, as explained by David, the Canadian lawyer who sat next to me on my flight from Singapore. It is known that all Australian government employees posted overseas receives a 'hardship severence allowance', and the amount of this allowance is on a sliding ladder where it becomes bigger when a city becomes more dangerous. Given the way this system works, it becomes exteremely advantageous for the Australians to keep reporting to Canberra that Port Moresby is really dangerous, and to overplay and exergerate actual or rumoured incidents of crime. That way, the severance allowance baloons to astronomical proportions.

Sounds very reasonable, I'd like to believe that Port Moresby is not as bad a place as it seems to be, but I reckon I'll just play it safe and follow the instructions of the staff here at Greenpeace. After all, I am in some way a sub-ordinate (though taking instructions from above is not really my forte) and I think (in a rather cynical manner) that it's all for my own good. Anyway, I'm only spending four days in Port Moresby, it's a short period of time compared to the four weeks of freedom I'll get while in Lake Murray. I was told over and over again, by both expats and locals... 'Port Moresby is not Papua New Guinea, do not be fooled by it. It is just a bad first impression. You will see Papua New Guinea when you get out of Port Moresby.' I sure do hope so.

At the craft market, Kyoko was set on buying a carved wooden mask. We set out looking at the hundreds of masks available for sale for more than an hour. We find a few beautiful looking ones that she really likes but unfortunately upon further inspection (as in when we took 10 steps back to view it), she reckoned they don't look as good from afar. I saw one that I really like, But I reckon I'll go buy it when I come back from Lake Murray (hopefully it's still there then); I'm just a little wary about how these masks are sought, So I'm gonna do my research first before I purchase it. I don't want to risk purchasing a sacred item that may contribute to the robbing of PNG's cultural heritage. We saw alot of masks, but unfortunately, Kyoko was spoilt for choice and eventually failed to make a decision as to which one to buy. Soon, James' radio sounds "GPBase to GPGuide... GPBase to GPGuide... please come in... we need you to return right now. Over (static buzz followed by 'beep')". With much disappointment, we were left with no choice but to return to the office.

I wished I had a lollipop then as Kyoko sulked all the way home. Despite that, I reckon we had a good day going out and doing stuff as opposed to doing nothing and hanging around at the office. But then again, maybe her not being able to get anything today at the art market today presents a silver lining, We'll probably go to the art market tomorrow again for a take 2. That means one less boring day.

Upon returning home, Tony (a local staff here at GP) asked me. "So, what have you done today". With much pomp and my chest up, I answered him in Pidgin... "Me go round round long Moresby pinis!", which means "I went around Moresby".

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Paradise! not quite there yet.

My body refuses to wake up!
And to make it worse, it also refuses to go to sleep, so I'm kinda stuck in this zombie like state. I'm probably typing at a rate of 3 words per minute given the fact that my fingers refuses to talk to my hands, and my hands is not on talking terms with my brains. Right now I'm just generating a whole bunch of random words which my eye is kind of trying to make sense of. Regardless, I will try my best to recollect all that has happened in the past 24 hours.

It dawned on me yesterday as I rode out to the airport on the train that the sky seemed extremely meloncholic. It was grey and the clouds threatened to break apart and drench the world below it. It occurs to me that somehow, everytime I have an emotional departure the sky turns that way. It stayed that way all the way until i reached KLIA. I had a lot of to kill while I was there (I arrived a bit too early, found out that I can actually check in at the KLCAT), and being a sunshine person, grey skies makes the passage of time torturous.

One might wonder why is this departure an emotional process? Shouldn't I be really excited about it. Well, lets just say that about ten years ago, a certain 16 year old schoolboy saw a photo of a bunch of greenpeace activist riding in an inflatable boat going after a whaling vessel in the ocean. He was awed with what he saw and vowed that one day he'll be part of this madcap group of people out to wreck havoc on corporate arseholes.

muahahah. So this is like a dream come true for me. Add to that, I also get to go to Papua New Guinea, a dream destination that I've never thought I'll ever go to on my own simply because it's such an expensive place (my flight ticket costs almost 1500 USD), yet it is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Many have regarded this place as "the last frontier", "the garden of eden", and "paradise". On par with the Amazon, this country is probably one of the least touched places on earth.

Double whammy for me, volunteering for Greenpeace and going to Papua New Guinea. It's exciting, but somehow it was one nerve wrecking 24 hours before I boarded my flight to Singapore.

The sky was still grey when i boarded flight MH 613 to Singapore... but just as the plane begins to taxi off, I begin to see the ground crew scurrying around the tarmac seeking shelter under the wings of nearby parked airplanes. The sky began to break, and the plane takes off into one of the most turbulent take offs I've ever experienced. Despite the turbulence I made my way safely to Singapore International Airport. And the real torture begins here... I have 3 hours in transit with nothing to do. If this was a scene from a film, it would be one of those scenes where it's a static long shot on an airport bench and it starts off with me sitting on the bench, then it dissolves to me sitting on the other side of the bench; dissolve, i'm pacing back and forth in front of the benches; dissolve, i'm lying down on the bench.

Dissolve, I'm seated on row 14 by the window... it's already 9 pm then, looking out the window I see nothing but darkness. As soon as the captain turned off the "fasten your seatbelt" sign, i just dozed off...

The next morning, as I entered the arrival hall, Simon (half awake, it's 6 am in the morning, and apparently there was partying at the office last night) was waiting for me holding up a sign that says 'Greenpeace'. It was raining really hard then and we quickly got into the car and gives me an introduction and quick tour of Port Moresby while he drives me to the office.

It's 12:20 pm now, and I'm parking my ass in front of the computer typing this entry and reading news from Malaysia. Amber (the administrator) told me that I'll only be flying off into the GFRS this saturday (I'll spend 4 weeks there, yahoo!), and from now till then, I'll just have to keep myself entertained. I reckon I'll read a coupla books and just ponder upon my ponderings... On the plus side, the office is on the side of a hill on the peninsula and it has an amazing view of the harbour and the ocean.

Monday, April 17, 2006

movement #02

Dear friends and friends of friends,

After much contemplating over the ponderings of my thoughts; I've finally decided to move from journaling with pen and paper to typing it out on a digital blog.

As a somewhat hopeless idiotechnophobe (considering the fact that i still visit the library to do my researches; that i still toil in a darkroom to print photos from film; that the word 'bittorrent' intimidates me; that I once thought that 'blackberry' was actually a berry; and the list goes all the way to china), I find myself asking why do I even bother to blog. Is the internet not cluttered enough that I should feel compelled to add to the existing myriad of digital debris... have i not the mercy to spare the web of my monstrosity?
(allow me a brief period to think about that)

And of course, like usual, whenever i ask myself questions, I find myself asking even more questions. Isn't hanging around with chi too and having to listen to him talk in real life painful enough? Being the sadistic bastard that I am, I reckon that I would find greater pleasure in seeing my friends (and the occasional stranger) tortured even more mercilessly through the mere act of reading my blog. It has been observed that listening to me talk may result in an erratic twitching of the left eye (a small group have also experienced the simultaneous twitching of both pinkies); therefore, be warned that reading my blog may bring upon similar side effects (if not worse). caveat emptor.

I can see some eyes twitching now. Why do I subject you to reading such an absurd piece of writing? Sorry, I should stop inflicting this pain upon you.

ps: happy easter's day.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Hello, this is my blog.
In my blog I write things.
Things I see...
Things I hear...
Things I feel...
And the things that goes bump in the night.
Sometimes I see things.
Sometimes I hear things.
Sometimes I feel things.
But every once in a while, I see nothing.
every once in a while, I hear nothing.
every once in a while, I feel nothing.
When that happens, I may resort to hyperbolical ramblings.
In layman terms, that would mean 'to talk cock'.
And if I do, please forgive me...
But then again, isn't that why people have blogs...
So that they can talk cock.

ps: in case if you're wondering why it doesn't rhyme, that was not a poem. It is whatever you want it to be.
pss: in the same manner, my blog may not be a blog at all... It is whatever you want it to be.