Wings of hope

PNG’s rural areas are the forgotten lands; where lack of government’s presence and the consequent high illiteracy, and high maternal and infant mortality is a tragedy.

In such places, where many only hear exaggerated stories of the outside world and then conjure up mental pictures to charm their imaginations, there’s only one way out to the world they dream of. This is the way of the metal birds.

They come in different shapes and sizes; they are the sounds of technology and the wings of hope that grace the skies of remote rural PNG. They are the birds of Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), Seventh Day Adventist Aviation (SDA), and Airlines PNG to name a few.

These birds are the wings of hope for the very ill; they are the transporters of coffee bags; they are the only connection through which a glimpse of the outside world is manifested.

For decades, through thick and thin they have served remote rural PNG faithfully. Many who have piloted these birds over rugged terrains and into deep valleys are brave men indeed. Some have lost their lives while others continue, not because there’s a fortune to be made but because their hearts are burdened by the tragedy they witness.

The poem below celebrates these wings of hope and the men who fly them over PNG’s rugged terrain.

….

 

Wings of hope

 

On their gentle wings,

Women and children fly.

And sickman eventually finds

Peace, healing and more.

 

O how they grace the skies,

And hope they bring to many

A forgotten soul who, under

Cloud cover and thick jungles

Speak of dreams of hope.

 

And gather in enthusiastic crowds,

With smiles the sun and the moon,

Can only hope for in their brightest.

 

 Then their dreams fly,

Into clouds to sing to others who

Can hear and let their hearts beat.

 

To a disharmony that pervades

Many a fine land on cruel ridges,

In deep valleys and on lonely islands,

Where the sun and the moon

Mock day and night.

 

O these birds, sounds of technology

That grace our skies thru thick and thin;

Aren’t they our wings of hope?

…..

Thousands have benefitted and thousands more will benefit. Let us all together thank them for the things they have done. Thank you Wings of Hope.

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Highest number of longlongs

“Port Moresby has the highest number of longlongs in the world!” my friend uttered suddenly in the back seat of the car.

It may not sound funny but for some reason it was to us that Monday afternoon, and in unison we all burst into loud laughter. We had a really good laugh.

Curious, the driver asked my friend to explain. And my friend said he thinks there are just too many people in Port Moresby who can’t live a day without doing something that goes against normal social order.

Things like spitting buai spittle anywhere one pleases, littering without care, shouting profanities in public, parking awkwardly, driving recklessly in Port Moresby’s narrow and crowded roads, and street fighting by students from different schools.

While he was talking, a passenger (who was in her work clothes) in a bus running alongside us threw out through the window a Coke PET container with betel nut spittle on to the road and my friend abruptly exclaimed; “gosh this is what I’m talking about!”

I pondered over my friend’s remark and thought in a way he was correct. Through either arrogance or ignorance many break simple rules at will and act in ways that make Port Moresby’s streets really filthy and unsafe.

The fact that people continue to do bad despite much public outrage and calls prompts me to think something is wrong with their minds. And my friend might be right after all if we loosely define a longlong as an apparently sane person who continuously does things against anticipated social order and or continuously does wrong without guilt.

Martyn Namorong suggested in his article ‘Attitude Problem’ that politicians have an attitude problem and needs to clean their backyards before pointing figures at the ignorant multitudes. Many of the politicians and high office holders are worst law breakers and are serial offenders. These are people who are supposed to know better, but don’t seem to so they fit the definition of longlongs too.

Port Moresby may not have the highest number of longlongs in the world but certainly it has the highest number of longlongs, educated and uneducated, in Papua New Guinea.

Drowning in corruption

 Headlines bombard our eyes, one after the other for our consumption and there seem to be no end to this. 

Senior public servants and politicians, their cohorts a step behind in dark shadows, continue to milk the country using any means possible.

 They plan in comfort and style and execute while dying mothers and their helpless children are crying out to be saved from treatable ailments. Even fathers who work hard to protect and feed their wife and children are found wanting.

 As useless as they are old and young alike have one thing in common; a cry that resonates from their wretched hearts and it continues day and night. In times of happiness and sadness their cry crashes on idle ears-ears that listen but can’t hear.

 Elders did it before and the wrinkles of their struggles scar their faces. But when their children begin, elders join and together fight to make this cry be heard.

 In this ocean of corruption, men, women and children struggle to stay afloat. Like the waves that try to escape the deep and vast ocean only to crash at the shores and return to the ocean, no matter how long we cry, there is no escaping from it.

 Below is a poetic version of what you’ve just read.

 

 I watched on the shore.

 I watched as they rushed, one after

the other to the shore as if to

escape from a prison deep and vast.

 

Breaking their anger and emptying

their frustrations in loud confusions.

 

Their frustrations of continuous

imprisonment in this vicious

cycle day and night.

 

Those who journeyed before, encouraged

by new wind journey again and again

on tired crests and troughs.

 

To together break their anger and

empty their frustrations.

 

What manner of respite would redeem

them from this stranglehold of the

ocean so deep and vast.

 

Not even the calmest of breeze

caressing the ocean’s surface nor a

beautiful clear blue sky is appeasing.

 

To escape from deep and vast ocean

will take forever which none have.

 

And they continue day and night to

break their anger and empty their

frustrations on the shores where

idle and hardened rocks watch.

 

When will this wickedness end? This question can be best answered by each and every one. When each one takes a committed step, we will witness a decline in corruption. So are you ready to take a committed step?

Ladava’s hidden treasure

During WW2, the Japanese first attacked the Allied Forces based in Milne Bay on the 25th of August 1942.

In preparation for the anticipated attack from the advancing Japanese army, the Allied Forces set up infrastructures in and around Alotau. These include airstrips, roads and slipways. Relics of these now litter the coastlines, jungles and waters of the bay on which Alotau is part.

In my time in Alotau, I travelled to a village called Ladava between 30-50 minutes drive west of the town. When I arrive at the village, students from the local Catholic Mission primary school were just emerging from old classrooms for lunch break.

I looked to the sea and noticed the beach, sea and the sky were eerily gloomy and dark. It was as if the low hanging rain clouds have conspired with the beach and the sea to hide something from me. Even the coastline on the other side of the bay was almost totally hidden.

But this did not dampen my enthusiasm to see what I came here for. I’ve heard about it and have decided to take this trip just to see it for myself.

A few minutes walk away from the school to a point along the coastline, and the shrubs, soil and the sea revealed their secret-a slipway; constructed by the Americans. This abandoned slipway, now at the mercy of the harassing waves and tree roots, is between fifty to eighty meters long.

What fascinated me about this wreck is, first it is the first WW2 slipway wreck I’ve seen and second the locals believe former US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s U-Boat made its last stop here for service and refuel before journeying on to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

Those familiar with the route the former US President and his men took may help by confirming or denying this claim. Besides, Milne Bay and especially Alotau was a major naval base during the war so it is quite possible u-boats might have made stop-overs.

Figure 1. Part of the slipway that extends into the sea is exposed at low tide.

Figure 2. Beyond the shrubs, it is covered by leaf litter and thin layer of loose soil.

Figure 3. Part of the slipway exposed under the cover of soil and shrubs.

Figure 4. This spot would have been the base where the shelter or shed under which u-boats are rested for service.

This wreck is the object of affection of a particular saltwater crocodile. This crocodile comes ashore frequently to hunt for dogs near the slipway when it could easily have hunted elsewhere. According to local belief, the crocodile is actually the spirit of a witch looking for her prized kill.

This slipway is part of the infrastructure that played an important role in the Battle of Milne Bay in which for the first time, Allied troops defeated the advancing Japanese land forces, resulting in a forced withdrawal and complete abandonment of their strategic objective.

This defeat prompted Field Marshal Sir William Slim, British Commander in Burma to encourage and motivate his troops with; “If the
Australians had done it, so could we.”

Many other fascinating and forgotten relics on the periphery of Alotau remain hidden. Time will reveal these treasures.

Alotau could easily become the tourist hub of the country with its attractive landscape and people, its real assurance of peace and tranquility and the fact it served as a strategic allied base that was used to defeat the advancing Japanese land forces.

Tourists, who plan to travel to Alotau in the near future, should consider visiting Ladava village before travelling to other exotic islands like the Trobriands.

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