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A personal travel account
( Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea)
as seen on http://500paperplanes.blogspot.com
PaperPlanes is a Sydney-based blogger who has written about her trip to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. The trip was from the 18th of July to the 2nd of August, 2009. The main purpose of the travel was to visit her partner who was deployed to Port Moresby as an expat. In so doing, not only is it a reunion of two people in a long-distance relationship, but also an eye-opener and a travel account of sights, sounds, tastes and lessons that the land of the unexpected has in store. What you would read are selected entries from her blog (http://500paperplanes.blogspot.com) chronicling her experience in that fortnight and some insight that she has gotten from the trip.
I: Countdown: 03days
Wednesday, July 15, 2009 I'm so excited! 3 more days to go and I'm off. So far, everything is going as planned. I have semi-packed my luggage already. I think I might have put in way more than what I actually need, so I would have to repack it. Maybe later or tomorrow. Depends when I decide to get the last few things W wanted. I am excited to go for so many reasons. Let me enumerate them: 1. I'll see him again! This is already enough to get me excited and pack so early. I actually started packing a week ago. Hahaha! Talk about eager... 2. I'll get to visit a country I've never been to before and never thought of visiting. Before he got transferred there, it was one of the last places I would think of visiting. As with so many people, I have pretty bad preconceptions about the place, which I hope would get broken when I get there. I hear it's not as bad as everyone thinks, but I have to see it for myself. 3. This serves sort of like a trial or demo for couple life. I am so excited at having a go at this. This is ultimately exciting for me. Two weeks of faux marriage bliss! I'm so excited to cook, look after the house and other household issues, etc. I know what you're thinking... I'm weird. But for some odd reason, I really enjoy doing it. 4. Finally, a break from my oh-so boring life! I've been so bored here, doing the same things day in and day out. So is the life of the unemployed. Don't get me wrong, I've been trying to get a hold of a job. If only someone gave me a chance... *sigh*... Plus a change in climate isn't so bad, too. I'm starting to get sick of the cold (literally and figuratively). I miss wearing my flowing tops and dresses. Now, I get to do that again! Yay!
5. I'll get to have all the seafood I want! I've been hearing how W gets to eat lobster tail whenever he felt like it and buying seafood from the market. OMG... Seafood is the yum! Love straight from the blue. I love seafood and everyone who knows me knows this. 6. I'll meet new people. This would hopefully up my chances in scoring a job. Right now, it doesn't matter if it's here or there, I just want my moolah and the stability that comes with it. Meeting his colleagues and higher-ups would be very interesting, not only as network expansion, but also to broaden my horizons. I bet it will be fascinating to hear their stories. It's good to meet new friends, although most would turn out to be fleeting acquaintances, it's still an experience. 7. Live in a huge place with a maid again! Oh, and cable TV! Hehehe… Actually, I haven't missed this part of my old life, but it sure would be a difference from my new one now. It's nice to revisit things like this. And there are the things that are stuck in the back of my mind: 1. The airport. I have travelled by myself before, this is not a problem. The problem is the country. It's a bit dodgy and I would also have to get my visa when I land there. Not fully trusting the system of the Pacific Islands is a little bit of an obstacle. In less developed countries, airport officials are usually sneaky and dodge. I hope I won't have to encounter something like that there. 2. Mozzies. Malaria, dengue fever, itchy bumps... Things I do not want to get during my stay. All related to mosquitoes. I asked W about this and he said it's not as bad as he thought, he said he "only got an average of one bite a day." WTF?! I think that's a lot considering he's an Aeroguard freak. I'll be a buffet when I get there because I hate putting insect repellent on. Then you say, "Just put repellent on then!" UGH! But I hate that stuff! 3. Heat and climate adjustment. It's winter here and over there it's summer-ish. It only takes four hours to get there and I doubt that it's enough time for my body to stop warming itself. I'd be sweating like a pig! With the abrupt climate change, I would consider the high 20s sweltering heat! And let's pray that I don't get sick because of this. Hmmm... but I could always just turn the air-conditioning on. 4. Gated compound. While W is at work, I would stay at home. This means just watching TV, using the snail-paced internet, and maybe try and cook something. But what I love to do is walking. That city is not a place to just go out and have a bit of a stroll around. It is very dangerous to do that. So I would be stuck at home being a couch potato and might even start a new hobby of watching paint peel. And so, 3 more days... 3 more days and I'll be flying off... To heaven or hell? Hmmm... We shall see.
II: The Landing
Wednesday, July 22, 2009 It's Monday afternoon as I write this and W is at work. I am stuck at home, running out of ideas to keep me busy. The weather is quite cool, surprisingly. It feels like it’s about to become Fall. The TV is on and I have run out of interest in watching brainless reality shows that are on at midday. Thus, I've decided to write about my first couple of days here. Flying over to PNG, I was so excited. That flight was the longest 4hours I've ever experienced. It's the excitement and anticipation of seeing W again and the intimidation of a new country with ill repute, supposedly wrought with danger at every corner. Those, plus a morning coffee, got me all restless and full of energy despite having had only a couple of hours' sleep. First impression of the place is admittedly horrible. The plane stank like a public toilet, locals having a weird smell to them, the plane food was absolutely awful (which says a lot from someone who usually loves plane food) and tasted like burnt stove. The stewardesses, though, were locals and they were very nice. One of them had a tattoo right smack in the middle of her forehead. It’s in a language I don’t understand and I didn’t really want to look at it for very long as I don’t want to be told off for staring. As we neared the airport, I looked down from the plane and saw different shades of green and brown on low hills, with a smidgen of trees here and there, very undeveloped and rural. Buildings were concentrated in one area and they weren’t tall. And there were shack houses on stilts from the coast on to the sea. Imagine seeing this scene in a capital city. There were also smoke in different random patches everywhere. Apparently, I found out later, that these were locals burning things to make way for new crop or something. I found this very odd because traditionally this burning would be made in larger parcels of land. From what I observe here, the each of the patches they burn isn’t even enough for a little veggie garden and location of these little fires aren’t conducive for farming. They’re on steep hillsides, football fields, road sides, everywhere else that’s not actual farm field. To me, it looks like random burning of rubbish or forest debris. Maybe they just have a thing for burning stuff, I don’t know… On a side note, there was an old heritage building in the middle of town that got burnt to the ground just before I came here. I wonder if it was intentional or unintentional… I don’t want to speculate. Anyway, although these were my first impressions, I am determined to experience all these with an open mind and coming here without any expectations does help. W’s place is not bad. I quite like it. Except for the mid-morning smoke from the local burnings outside that comes in through the balcony fly screen, everything’s fine and dandy. It’s so funny that he made the bed because I was coming. Hehehe… He also had the paintings we bought together up on the walls, albeit crooked and one completely upside down. The climate here is quite humid. The photos of us that I prepared in frames were all wrinkly and moist. Now I understand the value of getting more expensive frames. The floor almost feels like it’s always wet and W mentions that his clothes feel weird when he leaves them out on the table for a while. Everything gets moist. It’s not like it’s really wet and humid here. I haven’t even sweated. The moistness is sort of like morning dew but less wet… if you can imagine what I mean.
I was taken around the city to have a look see. Lots of the food stuff here are so expensive. What shocked me most was the large tin of regular ready mix coffee costing around A$100! There were a lot of imported stuff from the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia. I got a couple of bags of chips from the Philippines just to be nostalgic. The shopping areas here are mainly dominated by just supermarkets and none of them have everything. You would have to go to a couple to get everything in your shopping list. Most of them are quite dark and dank. This has been a common theme to the first ones that we went to that when we got to one that was actually well-lit and air-conditioned, I just got a little bit happier inside. Plus, there are no cinemas here. There was one before and it was closed down because in the dark, people got robbed and raped. Now that’s the kind of “R&R” no one wants. But they’re trying to have a go at it again. There’s construction going on right now, building a mall with cinemas. They’re looking to finish it in a couple of years. Apparently, this one is going to be more exclusive. One of W’s colleagues was joking that patrons would get their own personal cage or something. Hehehe… People are generally very friendly, although the ones I have encountered are mostly expats and those that are well-accustomed to foreigners. I have noticed that W changed to becoming friendlier that usual. He’s always been super friendly, but this time he’s way more. Saying hello to every single person, all the guards, people that pass by and generally to whoever he sees or sees him, and it doesn’t matter if they know each other or not. I asked him about this because I am not used to it. This just makes me realise how snobbish I really am. Hehehe… He said that it’s just being polite and that a smile could fend off those who were thinking of doing something bad. This could be true since a smile and a hello do disarm. I haven’t taken photos at all yet since I don’t want to be carrying the camera around outside. It’s best not to attract attention. And what’s better to attract attention than snapping away at everything to announce that you’re fresh meat. The only one I have so far is a photo from the customs area of the airport from my phone. Before I came here, I was trying to find photos of the place so that I have some idea as to what to expect. It was so hard to find some and most of them are from the 70s or 80s. Now I understand the lack of photos from other people. I don’t want to lug around anything for fear of getting mugged. I’ve been to the yacht club and watched W play touch football in one of the international schools’ ovals. Also on my first night here, I attended a mini going-away BBQ party for one of his colleagues. They’re a bunch of interesting people. Some of them I really like. Others are okay. I have met people who are really blah. But they were all very nice. I just found that most of them do cross the personal space a little bit, talking so close and hovering. I’m not so used to that. But it’s all good. I’m going to meet the haus meri tomorrow. From what I’m hearing about her demands, I’m starting to get irritated by her. Asking for a raise, rice, meat and a mop. I was like… What the… Why is she asking for so many things?! I would work with what’s there and not ask so much. Besides, she hasn’t even worked for a month, and lets not get started on the quality of her work. *sigh* Oh well. The food here is actually quite good. The breakfast at the yacht club was ok. I’ve had better but what I had here was higher than what I expected. So it was ok. We had Chinese food last night at this Chinese Malaysian place. The frontage of the place looked a bit funny since it was surrounded my metals bars and there was a guard there
to open the locked gate every time a customer wants to get through. I guess it’s for security since a few doors down there was a bunch of young locals hanging around. The food was awesome though. I also had the leftovers for lunch today. I just love that bean curd dish so much! We’re planning to have their chilli crab sometime next week and I’m looking forward to that. I tried the only Japanese place in the city. The teppanyaki was really good. I was so unbelievably stuffed although I still couldn’t finish my meal. I haven’t been bitten much by insects. I got a couple from the field while watching touch football, but that was it. Those also subsided after around an hour. But W had lots of bites, and unusual ones at that. I doubt that those are mozzie bites. They might be from ants or some kind of weird insect. They look like they’re getting worse and he’s desperately putting all sorts of stuff on it and taking anti-histamines to make it better. Those little critters just love biting him. I lean on the same post as he did and have been there longer than he has, but he gets bitten and I don’t. To add to the discomfort, his hamstrings are so tight that his back and upper thighs are in so much pain that he couldn’t sleep properly, much less do other stuff. Apparently, they always act up after touch football and may last a couple of days before they subside. We might be going to the spa tonight for a massage. Everyone goes to this place so it should be good. But then again, it might be because it's the lesser evil.
III: Swimming with the Fishies
Saturday, July 25, 2009 Tuesday was another day of lounging about the house while W is at work and the haus meri went about with her housekeeping duties. I finally met her. She looks like Totoro with a white afro. Hehehe… I just let her do her job and I do my thing. She is a tad bit weird though. Today, she was sweeping the floor and then she was like: "A lot of hair on the floor. Your hair and W's hair. Very nice." All said with a bright smile on her face. I was like: "Uh... yeah." I hope she's not planning on keeping those "nice hair". At lunch, W picked me up and we had a burger at this pub-like joint at the Crowne Plaza. The burgers were ok, but the service was painfully slow. W was running a little bit late for work and it agitated him a bit. He kept looking at his watch. I’m like an emotional sponge and got agitated as well! There was a customer at the other table who decided to take matters in his own hands and went over to the cooking area to see what’s up and when he got his dish, he went over again to pour himself some sauce. He figured that if he did it himself, we would get things done much quicker, which was invariably true in this country. We had the much anticipated massage that night. It was pretty good. The place looks like a regular non-dodgy spa with all the services to boot. It was quite relaxing and they served cold ginger tea after. That was quite nice and citrusy but I couldn’t really drink the whole of it because the spiciness of the ginger comes out in my throat when I swallow. Afterwards, we went home to have dinner. W cooked garlic prawn pasta.
That was awesome, but I couldn’t finish it though because it was a lot. Like Australia, the shops here close quite early. We were going to buy some stuff from the supermarket below the spa but it was already closed at 7.30pm. So we had to borrow some chilli off W’s neighbours. I’ll call them the Chilli Neighbours for future reference. Wednesday. When I woke up, my shoulders were hurting. I felt like I was tenderised meat ready to be tossed in the barbecue. I felt that the intensity of the massage on my shoulders was a bit much during the session, but it did fade away afterwards. I didn’t expect it to become like this when I wake up. Anyway, I was at home and finally got an internet connection. I spent the whole morning checking emails, posting the previous entry, Facebooking, chatting and surfing. Surprisingly, the internet was quite sufficiently quick. Although it’s still slower than my standard internet speed, it was still fast for dial-up. I didn’t think W would be coming home for lunch so I decided to have an early one. But right at midday, just when I finished washing up the dishes I used, there was a knock on the door. W’s friend came to pick me up for lunch with a bunch of other people. I told him I had lunch already but still went over to meet up with the others. We went to the Japanese place where W and I had teppanyaki. So there were 5 of us there, W, me, the Chilli Neighbours and the friend who picked me up. That was a pretty good lunch, although I just had fried ice cream. I ordered strawberry sauce with it but got chocolate instead. I have now experienced first-hand a PNG service blunder. But that’s alright, chocolate isn’t bad. That night, the same gang plus another couple met up again for dinner. We went to a Filipino place. The food was ok, had better, but this definitely beats the Filipino food in Sydney. The one in Lidcombe was the worst that I’ve ever had! Anyway, I digress. Although the food in this place wasn’t bad, W still doesn’t rate it. Oh well… As expected. His food standards are so incredibly high. He should go become a judge on Masterchef. He liked the gambas though, which I don’t really consider Filo food. But then again, what really is Filo food? Everything’s Spanish or Chinese or whatever. Anyway, that night was pretty fun. Thursday. We went to Loloata yesterday for a day trip. We got up really early to go on a convoy with the Chilli Neighbours. We were going to right about the same place but they’re diving and we’re just snorkelling. The jetty wasn’t too far off from town and when we got there, we got on a boat for a 15minute ride to the island. We met a bunch of other Australians there out for the public holiday. The kids that went along were so cute, especially the youngest one who was just so happy about everything. We hired snorkelling gear and went on another boat to another island. It was a sad looking island with around 5 metres of pebbly beach and a lone tree 3 metres up from the coast. The water was pretty clear though and there were some fish worth looking at. Nothing spectacular but a great trip nonetheless. It was so funny, the older kid who was maybe around 3 years old started getting curious and rummaged around the esky and found empty cans of beer. When he saw them, he started slurping out the remaining drops out of every can. It was so funny. Kids these days start out so early. Hehehe… On the other hand, his little brother would just eat anything. He was playing in the sand and his hands were covered
completely with it. He wanted some of my Twisties so I was going to feed it to him since he can’t hold it without getting sand all over the chip. But no, he wants to hold the chip himself. He placed it in his mouth and dropped it in the sand and then put it back in his mouth. After seeing this, W and I let out a response in unison “Awww… yuck!” The little kid proceeded to eat more of it, enjoying the extra crunch. It was time to go back to the other island for lunch. The lunch was good. They had grilled tuna, salad, and other sides. Nice. Afterwards, we had a little bit of a chat. One of the guys we met there had the most interesting job and was talking about it and how it’s so hard to get into aid work nowadays since the NGOs now wanted more skill and experience. That was so true. I was looking through sites like World Vision and other NGOs and they required extensive work experience in relevant fields. Afterwards, W and I had a walk around the island. Turns out, W got sunburnt and his insect bites were acting up. So we proceeded to kill time by cooling him off with some ice. He forgot to put sun block on his front, but his back was burnt as well, which was quite odd because I put lots on it. I didn’t get burned and I didn’t really put much on. The sarong W bought me was so useful. I didn’t have to change in those bathrooms. I just had to wrap the sarong and off I go. The dye from the floral design ran though and now it has some pink streaks around the flowers. But it’s all good. It has served its purpose well. Getting back to town, we followed the coach where our new friends are in. And thanks to a warning from our Chilli Neighbours who departed the area earlier, we were prepared for a police roadblock up ahead. We stopped at the roadblock to encounter a very scary looking police man (I don’t even want to call him an officer, as he does not do the title any justice). He had one wonky eye, the other one had a weird growth at the side and his eyelids were hooded. His teeth were crooked and redstained from betel nut chewing. It made him look like he just killed a beast with his teeth and ate the raw bloody meat of his prey. His whole look just spelled dodgy violence. As he peered through the window, I just froze and I can’t help but stare at him as he made rounds around the car outside, like a predatory cat circling its prey to see if it’s still alive. I stopped myself from staring so much because I didn’t want him questioning me or whatever. He inspected W’s license and was looking at every single thing on the outside of the car, looking for anything that he can pass off as a violation. He couldn’t find anything. A failed attempt in extortion, no reason to get cigarettes and cash this time, so he just moves on to look for his next target. And off we go. When night fell, we decided to have dinner at the Chinese-Malaysian place again to have their crab. I can’t believe W didn’t notice that there was some sort of commotion just outside the restaurant that made the guard leave his post and have several nationals going towards that area to see what’s going on. Anyway, it didn’t seem to be a big deal as I didn’t hear any shouting, shots or throwing. Coincidentally, the Boss was there at the restaurant with his wife and someone else. His wife is so nice, offering to take me around next week when I get super bored being cooped up in the pad. I told W that I am actually quite keen on taking up the offer and he said he’ll email her next week. The crab we got was the only one left and it was so small, but despite this, it was very tasty. We had a couple other dishes and the night was capped off just like that.
The weekend should be good. I’ll try to remember as much as I could. Tonight, there should be drinks at the High Com. Tomorrow, we’ll have friends over for board games and pre-drinking, then kebabs and ABBA party at night. So ends this week’s adventures, tune in next week for a weekend recap.
IV: The Weekend
Tuesday, July 28, 2009 We were pretty much stuck at home the whole weekend except Friday night. W had a bout of real bad food poisoning so we basically just stayed home except for a couple of trips to the supermarket. So Friday night, we went to the High Com drinks and saw some old and new faces, mostly new for me. It was quite interesting. Drank a couple of glasses of Riesling and realised how little practice I’ve had with alcohol these days. Anyway, conversation was quite interesting. I won’t mention names or what I thought of them since I’ve heard that the local government have people to scour the internet for these things. I don’t want my opinions getting me or other people into trouble. What I can say though is that most of the people I met there were awesome, except for one that is obnoxiously arrogant. He reminded me of those people whose heads grew big because of the power their money gets them, (mis-)thinking people are nice to them because they’re cool. I think people like them are complete tools. I told my dad about this man and we both agreed that this happens when you get so much money and power before you learn anything about life. So yeah, the High Com had drinks and a sausage sizzle at their residences. It’s so funny when I met one of the wives there and asked her “So how do you like it here?” She brightened up and said thank you, then rattled on about how hard it is to get hair cuts and stuff like that. I got confused as to where the conversation was getting at. W and I looked at each other with similar facial expressions like having the question “What’s going on?” plastered on our faces. Then in a split second, I realised that she totally misheard what I said. She thought I said that I liked her hair. After realising that, that’s the only time I started looking at her hair and didn’t really think much of it. I decided to just let it go. I figured she must have been self-conscious about the haircut she got here and wasn’t really sure about it. So the misheard comment from me must have been a great relief for her. Afterwards, we went back to our apartments for dinner over at a friend’s. That was quite fun. And then we watched some AFL. A few jokes and conversation topics here and there, a couple more drinks and we finally wrapped the night up. W’s food poisoning kicked in that night. We first thought that it was the alcohol killing him. So we thought it was best to just sleep it off. Saturday, he was planning to go to work for a little while to get some stuff in order and then we can go shop for stuff we need for the board game night and ABBA party. But no matter how much he wanted, this plan is not going to push through. He was disappointed because he was looking forward to these things the whole week. He was even asking everyone if
they’re going to dress up and told everyone that he wanted to go to the second hand shop to get stuff to wear. We even drove up to Airways Hotel to get bread to serve up that afternoon, but ended up just having a bit of brunch instead and had a look around. He felt much better after stepping out and walking about. But even so, he decided to cancel all the plans and take the day to recover. We went to Spa Pua again. He had a massage because he was feeling aches and pains on his body. Since I just had a massage the week before, I didn’t want to go have it again so I opted for a manicure. The manicurist wasn’t very good. I think I can do a better job myself. She picked too much at my fingers, resulting to a couple of them bleeding. I wouldn’t go do a manicure there again if I don’t have to. But the inclusive hand massage was pretty good and relaxing. I almost fell asleep on the chair. After the massage, W said he felt better, but I can see from his face that it wasn’t over yet. Before going home, we went to the supermarket to get some groceries. We ended up just getting a can of soup and some juice because he started to get chills. When we got home, he was unwell again. This was pretty much how it was the whole day. So I cooked him soup, made makeshift hot water bottles and put a cool towel on his head when it got too warm. I was pretty much running around the place heating up water, helping him keep hydrated, checking his temperature, cooking, cleaning up, googling what to do, etc. That night, I was so tired that I fell asleep at 9pm, but still waking up every time he stood up. Sunday wasn’t any different, but he was getting better. I planned to cook congee for him. He asked if I cooked it before, I haven’t, I was just going to follow the recipe I found on the internet. We got more stuff from the supermarket this time, but keeping in mind that he can’t stay out too long. We got home and he ended up cooking the congee himself and I cooked him jelly. His congee tasted really good. It was so yummy. We spent the day watching the TVB stuff I brought over for him. That night we borrowed some stuff from his friend that we couldn’t find in the shops, like Gatorade and muscle pain relief ointment. Monday morning, I was out being showed around town. It was really interesting seeing the shops that are a bit hidden away. First, we went to the PNG jewellery shop, then to the Gallery. I like some of the merchandise at the Gallery. I wouldn’t mind going back to grab some stuff there, but nothing tickled my fancy in the jewellery department. We went to the Airways Hotel for a drink then off we went to the fish shop. The fish shop looked like a warehouse and all the seafood they had for sale were frozen weighed blocks in industrial-sized freezers. Apparently, this is because they were made to be export-ready. Being right next to the airport helps as well. Afterwards, we went to where W works and I had a mini tour of his office. He was quite reluctant to show me around but his boss’ wife just pushed us on. I found out that the reason for hesitation is because of a new regulation that they have regarding non-employees roaming around the office. After all this, we had lunch in a café at Brian Bell’s. So that’s what my weekend was made off. :) I’m now on my second half and last week of my stay here. I wish time would just stand still.
V: Card Captor Housewives and the 1/3 Mountain Hike
Friday, July 31, 2009 So, to recap the week that has passed, I will start with Monday night. W still wasn’t feeling too good so we went for a quick dinner over at Daikoku (yes, again… that’s 3 times already). Bumped into a friend then went home. It was quite an uneventful evening. Tuesday, I had lunch at the yacht club with W and some of his colleagues and afterwards, I met a bunch of housewives to play Canasta. That was the first time I’ve ever heard of that game and I haven’t even seen it played before. They were so eager to play and they were actually missing one player that they practically dragged me over to the table before my lunch even got to me. I started playing and W came over to give me my lunch. So I was playing cards, eating at the table, learning the rules and strategies, keeping up with the chatter and having a headache. I’m not even sure if the headache was caused by all that multitasking or it has merely exacerbated it. So that afternoon was an interesting one. Our team was winning big and I’m being stroked with praises for getting the game in no time. This didn’t really faze me since my mind was half trying to control the pain of my headache. I’m actually quite surprised at how quickly I grasped the rules of the game while having a pain similar to a mind explosion to deal with. After the game, the ladies had drinks and I was driven home by W’s boss’ wife. She is so nice. On the way back, I saw that the company I used to work at has an office here. This got me a little excited, thinking that this may be the opportunity that I’ve been looking for. So part of my plan now is to look into job opportunities there. W and I didn’t have dinner out that night because he didn’t have enough fuel in the car. So we had a simple night in with a movie on and some homemade dinner. By the time the movie started rolling, I got so unusually tired and got to bed really early. That was probably only around 8.30pm. I didn’t tell him of the headache earlier and the Panadols I had, but W still figured that I was sick that night because I was getting the chills. He took care of me, which was so sweet of him. Wednesday, W finally went to the doctor’s to get his food poisoning thing checked. He was given some antibiotics and was advised to stay away from some food. So that evening, we were just planning to get takeaway from a Chinese restaurant. But when we got there, we decided to just eat at the restaurant so we wouldn’t have to do dishes at home. The food was once again very nice. I’m always quite astounded with the quality of the edible fare here. Travelling with no expectations and an open mind always does the trick. When we got home, we watched documentaries on the History channel and had a quiet night in. Thursday, yesterday, W came around again at lunchtime to pick me up for a bit of Chinese roast at Ang’s. I’ve been wanting to see what it’s like there because it’s just about the only restaurant I’ve read about online before coming here and, sure enough, it didn’t disappoint. I didn’t expect much of the appearance of the place. It looks like an old school Chinese restaurant with a mix of white and yellow lights, Buddhist artwork, menus written on chalkboards and hanging roasted meat. It had a sort of Mamonluk (a very old Chinese restaurant in the Philippines popular with the oldies) feel to it, with the darkish lighting, wooden furnishes, metal-lined chairs and simple worn-out look to the floors and walls. The place was packed and the tables were close together. There was a mix of customers and it is quite evident that it is a very popular eatery. When we first walked in, I spotted a familiar face and then a bunch of familiar
faces. The ladies I played cards with were having their lunch there, too. We exchanged quick hellos, then W and I were seated at the other side of the restaurant. The place was so cramped with people, chairs and tables that we had to wind through the maze-like floor space left in order to get to our table. The food once again surpassed my expectations. I wanted to order the Bak Kut Teh but it’s only a Saturday special, but it’s alright. What I had was still very good. Plus, the fresh orange juice was something I needed to boost my fruit and vitamin intake. After lunch, W drove me back home and I decided to do something that I’ve been putting off from doing. I unpacked his box of clothes and arranged them in the cupboard and closet. I was ironing (yes, I finally learned how to do it, and where else but in PNG! Hahaha…) and folding clothes then rearranging them in categories for easy storage and accessibility. He got home earlier than usual from work because of some logistical thing that’s happening there, so I gave him a tour of what I’ve done so he can find everything once I leave. I even found the medicine bag he’s been looking for all week! It was right under a pile of clothes in his closet. I couldn’t believe he didn’t see it there. Anyway, that night, we had dinner with the Chilli Neighbours, his boss and his wife and another friend. We were at an Italian restaurant and I had a nice seafood dish, which was quite good even though it was a little bit overcooked. We had bottles of wine which were contributions from dinner participants. Just listening to the conversation was really interesting and funny. The Chilli Neighbours know a couple of our friends who are going to get married later in the year. W and I are planning to attend and have RSVP’d already. It looks like we’ll be having a mini reunion in Townsville on November. It’s so surprising that the other friend knew it’s going to be my birthday the next day (today). I didn’t tell anyone here. Then everyone started to hassle W, asking about his plans and whatever. It’s so funny. I’m such a Leo, I’m ashamed to admit it but I just love the attention. Hehehe… Anyway, I got invited to a 6am hike up a mountain which I forgot the name of (W says it’s Mt Burns but going with his history with names, it most probably isn’t Mt Burns) and said yes to it. The confidence of being able to conquer it might be from the fact that I was a bit buzzed from all the wine or maybe the fun I was having at dinner. When the night was over, we got home and the boys were at the Chilli Neighbours’ checking if the cricket has started. I decided to hit the sack because of the early start. Around 11 something, I was sleeping and had the lights off. I left the kitchen light on so when W comes home, he won’t be stumbling over shoes and boxes. Then right around midnight, I heard someone bounding in through the front door. I was awoken, now half asleep, everything was a blur. All I saw then was black figure creeping up to the bedroom, trying to tiptoe in and with arms stretched out in front. It’s like a big Frankenstein is trying to get at me. If that wasn’t scary enough, it started shouting with so much excitement and noise around 3 or 4 times. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!...” This rattled me. I realised the black figure was W! He is such a kid! He even picked up the clock to show me that it’s midnight. But all was forgiven and thought of as cute and adorable the second he leaned in to give me birthday kisses.
Today, Friday, is my birthday. I got up at 5.30am to get ready for the hike. W was still snoring and just uttered a couple of grunts while I was going from one room to another, opening various lights. I met up with the others at 6am. We drove over to meet a couple more guys at the foot of the hill. I was thinking I can do it since I saw an old guy with us with glasses, white hair, beard and moustache, sort of like Steven Spielberg. Then a friend told me the first leg isn’t very steep yet and it would serve as kind of like a warm up. Ok, I can handle that. After a while, I started to get tired. They were walking so quickly. From then on, I knew I was fucked. What did I get myself into? Far out… This is not a warm up, it’s hell! Then the next leg was up the mountain. It was so freakin’ steep! I couldn’t even get a foothold without grabbing some of the shrubbery. I was really struggling. A friend showed what path we were going on and pointing at the destination. The path we will take winds at a corner to follow the topography of the mountain ending way up at the top where a radio tower was. To give you a clearer description of the height, pointing up, his arm and body formed a 135 degree angle at the armpit. All I can think of was one word. Fuck. How am I supposed to do that?! I am very accustomed to walking, but that would be on flat ground. Walking on a mountainside at high altitudes without much sleep and having eaten nothing, a bit boozed up the night before, plus the humidity, these factors and having had no strenuous exercise for ages spelt my demise. A third of the way up, I was huffing and puffing like crazy. Everyone was way ahead of me, except for that friend. He was making sure I was ok. I tried my hardest to soldier on. I asked if I can tighten my shoelace, thinking this could be the much needed break I can get. After tightening it, I wasn’t any better. I decided to just quit and not push it. I was having a hard time breathing and felt like puking. That was how tired I got. I just sat at the side of the trail resting, and that friend was there to keep me company. He is such a nice bloke. He wanted to check where the others are so he ran up the mountain to see, then after around 5-10 minutes, he was running back down. Note: he ran. That, to me, is just amazing. I could hardly crawl up the damn thing, and here’s someone who’s running up and down it. He even did it twice! Finally, the others were heading down the mountain and we all went down together. Two of them, including the friend who stayed with me, even decided to jog home! That’s like another round of that mountain thing, plus a fair way of road to run on. There is no way I can keep up with these exercise buffs. No way. I got back home and W was still in bed so I decided to bother him. He wasn’t easily woken up, or maybe he was just pretending to still be sleeping. Anyway, I told him about the mountain trek gone wrong and he said that he warned me. I don’t remember him warning me at all. He said he knew it was going to be steep. If I’d known it was going to be that steep, I might not have gone! Anyway, same routine as always. I get his breakfast ready, the haus meri came and started cleaning up, W got ready for work and we watched a bit of morning news. When he was off at work, I finished reading a book that I’ve been reading here, Max Tucker’s “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell”. I was online to check emails and reply to birthday greetings. I was texting with a couple of people as well. Lunch, I met up with W and he was planning to take me to Rapalla, a posh restaurant at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. But this plan was foiled when we got there and found out that they open only for dinner. We instead got lunch at the café next to it which served pretty nice Western food. They had Mediterranean buffet lunch today and offered so much good stuff. They were all so good that I found it way too overwhelming so we opted for the a la cart menu. Afterwards, we dropped by the supermarket to get sugar and to the travel agency to pay for W’s flights.
I am now at home writing this entry and half watching a National Geographic show. I got my baking stuff ready for some muffin action in around an hour and I’ll get ready for a very nice dinner out tonight.
VI: The Weekend That Marked My 24th
Tuesday, August 4, 2009 First off, I found out that the mountain I tried climbing was Burns Peak. So W was almost right with the name. So on to the good stuff. I finished writing the last entry and posted it quickly. I saw that I was pressed for time and quickly moved on to the next bullet point on my to-do list. I baked my blueberry muffins without any snags. I arranged them nicely on a plate and left them on the bench to go get ready for the night’s events. Everything was going as planned and I was right on time. Just as I was done with my finishing touches, W came home from work. He tried my muffins and absolutely loved them. Before changing, he went to wash his hands. The following conversation ensued: W: “Hey babe, you smell nice. What did you put on?” M: “Aw thanks. I just put on the usual stuff.” W: “Oh actually, it’s me.” M: “What the hell?!” =.=”” What he smelt was the hand wash. I didn’t know if I should get annoyed or laugh at what just happened. The antibacterial lime hand wash smelt better than my D&G Light Blue?! I cannot believe it! So, we drove up to the airport area to the Airways Hotel to have a fancy candle lit dinner in Bacchus. I’ve heard so many good things about this place, so this time, as opposed to the rest of my trip, my expectations were on high gear. W took me to the shops there to pick out a present. All the other shops I’ve been to didn’t really have anything that I would like as a present. These shops weren’t different really. They only had a couple of shops there and I didn’t like anything. I might sound really picky, but you really can’t expect much in PNG, so I just decided to make it like an I.O.U. from W. He can get me something in September when he gets here. We went in the restaurant and got seated near the window. I ordered a tequila sunrise, which was ok, but was a little bit too strong. So I decided to drink it slowly and let the melted ice dilute it a little. Before we ordered our food, we were served crab meat salad, which was made of creamy real crab meat; the serving size was like a gumball, garnished with a circular sliver of cucumber. It was small, but was just the right amount. That opening to the night was beautiful. The waiters were very professional
and friendly. The atmosphere was very nice, with piano background music and dim yellow lights. The furnishes added a posh wooden feel to the place. It was a very romantic setting. Conversation then ensued with various topics and maybe the atmosphere was getting to me, and I felt quite emotional. I won’t go into detail as it’s quite complicated and to tell you the truth, I cannot recall how these events came about. Anyway, we both had starters and main meals, which were fabulous. My main meal, which was fish, was quite tough though. The sauce wasn’t so great and taste of everything else on the plate was amiss. It was that, plus, after the emotionally charged conversation before, didn’t help the appetite much. It was a fantastic night anyway. Then W stood up to pay the bill. I stayed at the table finishing my cocktail waiting for him. Then he came and was an utter gentleman! I was so not used to it because he’s normally not like this. He stretched out his hand for me to hold and first reaction he got from me was, “Err… what’s this?” Hahaha… W: “I’m being a proper gentleman. Don’t you like it?” M: “Oh, of course I do. I’m just not used to it.” Of course there was the exchange of googly eyes that is so meltingly lovey dovey. Then he let me walk in front of him still having is hand on my back and then gently pulled me in for a little kiss right in the middle of the restaurant. *swoon* I am floating now even as I recall it. As we were walking out, we were flanked by the restaurant staff with all smiles and bidding us farewell. Now, that’s how a red carpet walk feels like, sans the camera flashes. Hehehe… Thus ends the night out. It was filled with warmth, love and care. Fantastic. Saturday, 1st of August. This marks us as couple for officially 8 months. We don’t celebrate “month-saries” and he was so relieved when I told him it was unnecessary. I realised that we spent most of our 8 months apart. Initially we were together every single day and this only lasted for a month. We then transitioned to seeing each other only on weekends when he had to work in Canberra. Now, we have to adjust to seeing each other every after several weeks. Does this prove that absence makes the heart grow fonder? I hope not. Because if it did mean that, being together for long periods of time and seeing each other everyday might mean that the relationship wouldn’t last for very long. Before we officially started dating and the initial stage of the relationship, we saw each other every single day. It’s just so weird that we have to see each other less when we got together. We have tried being with each other 24/7 for a fortnight and it was great fun and a real happy kind of domestic bliss. So I am both hopeful and excited at the prospect of our future together. I cannot wait. Anyway, on Saturday morning, we went back to Ang’s for breakfast because W wanted congee. The place wasn’t as packed as before, maybe because it was too early for most people to eat out. As usual, the food was really good and the congee was cooked to perfection. We unintentionally eavesdropped on other tables and get excited over the language they speak. You wouldn’t understand if you haven’t experienced it. I get excited whenever I hear people speak in Hokkien and W gets excited whenever people speak Cantonese. It’s like finding someone like you in an unusual place; there is a kind of affinity. Being a Malaysian place, the owners and some of the customers speak both dialects. Afterwards, we went to a sausage sizzle in front of the Boroko Foodworld which was a fundraiser for the Cheshire Home. It was great fun and I met new people, as well as old faces. My job was mainly to slice open the buns and get them ready. That was easy. So while I was doing that, I was chatting with various people. But honestly, it
was way more fun when the young guys came over to help. They were so funny, funnier than the oldies. Although the oldies were interesting, I think it’s the age gap. After some time, W and I decided to go shop in the supermarket and then head home. We got home to drop off the groceries and I got started with the jelly we were going to have for dessert that night. W booked a foot reflexology session for us at Spa Pua and we headed off. It was relaxing, just sitting on a La-Z-Boy, reading a magazine while your legs and feet are kneaded. So that was good. Then afterwards, we headed down to the supermarket again to get stuff for our very late lunch and some snacks. At home, we each made our own instant noodles and I finished off the jelly dessert I started preparing earlier. Then we settled in for a really old school round of “The Game of Life”. I won’t be surprised if this was the first version (box says it’s from 1982) because there wasn’t much choice as to what you decide to do. It was quite fun anyway, maybe because I kept on getting paid and W kept on having to pay for penalties because of the boxes he landed on. In the end, I won. That is quite surprising because I always lost to him on this game in the newer versions. Maybe my values and priorities are just so old school that they fit the old version. Hahaha… I started packing my things and when W realised I was doing, he immediately had a sad face and asked if I needed any help. I told him no because I didn’t have much anyway. Afterwards, we started watching Finding Nemo and then W went and cooked us dinner. Chicken in sweet corn and rice. Yum. Simple but really good. Then we had the jelly I made for dessert. I was so stuffed that I felt that my stomach was going to burst. W never watched Finding Nemo before and he liked it. Randomly, I said: "I don't want to go yet..." To reply to this, he said many words that made me tear up. He said he’ll miss having me around, he’ll miss us cooking together, he’ll miss just being able to talk to me, going to places with me, etc. How can I not start crying when I hear these things and have him look at me with those sad eyes? I didn’t want to leave, clearly, he didn’t want me to leave, but I had to. After a while, he fell asleep on the couch. The next day, Sunday, was my last day. I woke up wishing this wasn’t over. I wanted time to move very slowly. I only had a few hours left with him and every time I think about it, I get teary eyed. W tries his best to console me and says the right words. My future, his future, our future is in Sydney, not in Port Moresby. But I just feel sad when I think about the fact that he’s not going to be around until 7-8 weeks later. I’m a cry baby, yes, I know that. But before all these, I haven’t cried for so long. W was planning to take me out for breakfast but I opted for a meal in instead. He cooked us a big one, complete with buttered toast, eggs, spam, corn and the muffins. Of course I did help out. We spent the morning reading the paper, cuddling at the balcony while watching the amazing view of the ocean. I really didn’t want this to end. But time was against me and I have to get ready. On our way to the airport, I kept on saying that I didn't want to leave yet. All he can say is "Awww... But we'll see each other soon." I said, "Well, not soon enough." We checked my bag in at the airport and had lunch at Airways. We had the same meal while looking over recipes in a magazine. It was really lovely. For last minute shopping, we bought placemats for his house from The Gallery. Then, it was time to
head for the airport. When we got there, I was stalling for time. I was filling out immigration and customs forms before going up to the departure area. But I can’t stall for very long. These forms do have an end and I have a plane to catch. We hugged goodbye and I didn’t want to let go. We gave each other lots of goodbye kisses, hoping each one was not the last by sealing it with another. But alas, we have to let go. I went on the escalator up and was deciding whether or not to look back. I know that if I did, I would cry. I eventually looked back and tears started falling. He was right there at the bottom waving goodbye. I waved back and turned away because I didn’t want to see him leave. This is how my PNG adventure ended. Bittersweet.
VII: PNG Photos
Monday, August 10, 2009 Since I arrived back home, a lot of people have been wondering what Port Moresby looks like. All I can give are descriptions and a couple of photos of the unit. I explained how I didn't want to be lugging electronics around and snapping away. I feel that it's like holding a shiny object amongst magpies. You're just luring them to snatch your precious shiny thing away and you might even get your eyes pecked out in the process. I know it's long overdue, but I'm posting a couple of photos I have from my measly 17-photo PNG collection just to sort of give a probable idea of what I saw. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Taken while in line to get my visa on arrival. In reality, I don't want to see faces poking out of the greenery. It's creepy, especially when you feel vulnerable in an unknown, unfamiliar place lacking in communication infrastructure and all you've heard about it are raskols and cannibals. Welcome to PNG.
View from the unit's huge balcony. On clear sunny days, the water is turquoise blue, making me want to go and have a dip. From here, you can see the houses on stilts in the water, SVS Foodworld, the field and markets where locals hang out, and random houses and small burning spots. As you might have read in my past travel logs about Moresby, I was quite satisfied about the trip and was reluctant to come back. First few days, I was scared and uneasy but having stayed for a couple more days, I got used to everything and was really enjoying it. PNG truly is the land of the unexpected. I didn't even expect it to have grown on me.
VIII: Post-Trip Wrap Up
Wednesday, August 12, 2009 I was reading through my old posts about my PNG trip and have come across my pretrip entry. After reading through it, I realised that after my fortnight's adventure to the land of the unexpected, there was a whole spectrum of encounters that gave answers to my expectations and apprehensions. Nonetheless, I have something to say about each point I wrote 3 days before I embarked on this journey. In saying this, I would like this entry to tie my first trip to PNG up into a nifty package, giving a proper ending to an awesome adventure. On the 7 things that got me excited, these are what I have uncovered: 1. Seeing W. This was the main reason for me to travel up there and I just couldn't get enough of him. This, of course, is expected. There's nothing new here. I particularly chose dates so I would be able to spend my birthday with him, which turned out to be really special. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't actually think of visiting PNG and he made my stay there more than worthwhile. 2. Visiting unfamiliar land. It was a real adventure experiencing this. It got me out of my comfort zone, close enough for me to feel safe and far enough to open my mind. And true to what W has been saying, it wasn't as bad as everyone thought. It just takes some getting used to. Of course, it's still advised not to discount the fact that bad
things do happen around and it is still important to keep alert while in Moresby. As long as you follow the laws, keep in mind the warnings given and beware of more dangerous places, you'll be fine. PNG is a developing country, and we all know the risks of visiting these places. 3. Trial of domestic life. I really enjoyed being a housewife for the fortnight I was in PNG. I learned how to iron clothes, make makeshift hot water bottles, cook impromptu chicken soup, make dessert, etc. I really loved it. I even did some cleaning up just because I felt like it and also, the obsessive-compulsive imp in me couldn't help it. The haus meri can do that but I just cannot stand leaving the place a mess waiting for her to straighten it up. I'd rather straighten it up myself. 4. Break from everyday life. This trip was an awesome break from my normal mundane life in Sydney. It was surely an eye-opener, widening my horizons to what's out there and breaking misconceptions. It's quite fascinating how a place so near could be so different. And true enough, the climate allowed me to wear my more summery clothes, but after a while, I started to miss my winter stuff. Maybe it's just that time of year. 5. Seafood. I had my fill of seafood in Moresby. I think I had it everyday. I only had lobster once though, which was a bit of a shame. I should have had it more often. But the thing was, all the while it's available, I just didn't feel like having it. Anyway, not only is the seafood the highlight, but also the beef was awesome. It was always so tender and flavourful, and there was an abundance of the Wagyu kind as well. The food I had there was generally very good, which surpassed my expectations, especially the Chinese food. The only bad part was W getting food poisoning. We're not 100% sure where he got it from as he ate just about the same things as everyone else did. Speculations point to the sausage at the High Com, curry chicken or siu paos from The Wok, or unfiltered water. At this point, we may never find out. 6. Meeting new people. I absolutely loved this part of the trip. They're a bunch of very nice folk and I won't mind catching up with them in the future. I'm glad that W is surrounded by such interesting, accepting, kind, easygoing and intelligent people. Of course, you can't avoid the ones (or one) with some attitude problems, but there's bound to be at least one like that everywhere wreaking minor social havoc. There were also a couple of boring ones, but who cares, many might have thought I'm boring as well! Hehehe... It was awesome meeting those top lads and lasses, I learned so many things just by listening to their stories. These encounters make life that little bit more interesting. 7. The apartment wasn't really THAT big. It's too spacious for only one person, but it's enough for two. I like the size of the kitchen, having enough room for us to cook together and not get in each other's way. The rooms were of a decent size, but not enough storage space I think. The balcony was huge, though, with a pretty good view of the ocean. Just ignore the scenery that's closer to you. Hehehe... Meeting the haus meri was a little awkward at first, but she's alright. She likes telling me things about herself and she looks like Totoro with a white afro. She does occasionally say weird things, but I don't look into that too much. It just makes some nice content for my writing. Although, she might be a little bit too fixated on me and W's hair... Hmmm... But usually I just get on with what I do and she goes about doing her job.
Cable TV was interesting for a while until you realise that there are only a handful of channels that you would actually watch and they tend to play reruns from the week. I made a little booboo though. I left the TV on E! while I was writing a blog entry and they were airing 'Girls of the Playboy Mansion' at the time. I was half-watching their dim-witted antics and occasional prancing about topless (don't worry, the boobs were blurred out) not realising that the haus meri's little boy was behind the wooden mesh wall peering in to watch it as well. When I realised this, I quickly and discretely changed the channel hoping that glimpse didn't pollute his mind. On the four things that I was apprehensive about: 1. Airport and general efficiency. I got through immigration fine and got my visa on arrival without any drama. So this was a very good start. PNGeans, though, have a problem with productivity. As expected with island culture, they treat everything “easy easy”, so everyone is relaxed and they're baffled why you would be in such a hurry and why everything should be on the dot. Normal workers there get used to the system they operate and when something wrong happens, like a price mistake, they get confused and don't know what to do. Then they spend ages trying to make it all better. Which is ok for me, at least they try. For more complex problems, you can see in their eyes that somewhere in there, something has short-circuited. W's friend even told us of his strategy to get away from local cops who pulled him over just to ask for cigarettes and money. As funny as it is, I will not expound on that. I believe you already got the point. 2. Mozzies and other things that bite or sting. I haven't really been bitten seriously. I only had a couple of bites here and there, nothing to shout about. Maybe it's because I've always been sprayed with Aeroguard all over by W whenever we're going to hang out outdoors. I would be getting myself ready and then suddenly I feel liquid sprayed all over me! I swear, sometimes, he treats me like a kid. It's alright though, it's good for me anyway. On the other hand, W gets bitten like crazy. First week I was there, he got bites that eventually turned into little blisters on his chest. And when he gets bitten by creepy crawlies, the effect seems like it's 10-fold with him because of his reactions. Anyway, we keep the place crumb-free and not have food lying around to prevent having ants and roaches marching in the apartment. We saw an enormous spider right outside our front door and both of us were trying to avoid it, walking ever so slowly and quietly so it won't get startled and jump on our faces. When we got to our door, W opened it really quickly and we rushed inside so fast that anyone who might have seen us would think we were being chased down by a raskol. Also, right above W's parking spot is a little bee or wasp hive. I always look at it when we go to his car because I don't a bee or wasp to suddenly appear and sting me. I've never been stung before and I don't plan on getting stung. Ever. 3. Climate adjustment. I adjusted pretty well to the climate and only felt hot when I exited the airport and that was due to having left on a winter morning, sitting on an air-conditioned plane and arriving at a well-ventilated airport. The first step outside was a jolting encounter with the natural elements melting away the frost that has gathered on my skin. Apparently, it's the coolest it's been the whole year and I was lucky. When I heard that, I went, “You mean it gets hotter than this?!” But really, temperature-wise, it wasn't bad. It was even 'cardigan-able'. But the humidity, that's another story. Everything felt moist. Newly washed, dried and ironed clothes still feel
damp. So you never really know when your laundry is “dry” and ready to be folded. The floors feel wet. There was even mould growing on some of W's stuff. Even if you showered, you feel that your skin gets sticky after a while. Even when I arrived back in Sydney, I opened my luggage and my clothes were damp, so I had to wash them again. 4. Fighting boredom. Most days, it was the cable TV that kept me busy, otherwise I would be reading my e-book, updating my blog, doing the usual things online (albeit for a short time because of internet restrictions), cooking, doing house chores, or being shown around. So I wasn’t really bored. W would also come around to pick me up for lunch so I get to go around in the middle of the day, not stuck at home like I thought I would be. The only thing was, I didn’t get to do much exercise and gained weight while I was there. This made me decide to try to climb that mountain from hell. Thank god I lost the excess when I got back. So, about being bored, I was alright, I was even more bored before I left for PNG. My Moresby trip was overall pretty awesome. I learned much more in this trip than on any trip I’ve been on before. It was an eye-opener, seeing for myself what it’s like over there, and it broadened my horizons meeting people from different backgrounds, sharing their knowledge, experience and opinions. It was great fun while it lasted, but now, I’m back to face the real world, bringing along stories, experiences and insight from my first ever Pacific Island experience. -END-