Monday, 29 October 2012

Hysterical excitement!

Vop's taking her first plane trip today. To Port Moresby. To meet up with two of our kids, to bring them up to Lae for a holiday.

I know there are plenty of first-world kids who've never flown. Our oldest didn't fly until she was 11, but the other kids seem to have absorbed the idea of flight and geography easier than Vop has. She has no idea about nationality and border issues. She's pissed that she can't fly all the way to Australia to get the kids.

The best I could come up with was "The Government need to give you papers to fly to another country, and we don't have yours yet"

She's still pissed.

So, thanks to the power of the Interwebz, we called up Google Earth and tried to explain the trip to her.

She no gat.

She thought she was going in Mommy's computer and wanted to know how that was going to happen.

I guess our first world kids were exposed, from birth, to the idea of planes and flight and travel.

Flight, to Vop, is something that Timmy Turner's Fairy Godparents do on that mind-numbingly asinine show I let her watch sometimes.

She also wanted to know if she'd see Jesus when she flew in the sky.

I do believe that I heard The Husbang mutter "Only if the pilot fucks up, darling", under his breath.

I don't know how or why our other kids grasped the idea of birds-eye views of maps, or seemed to understand the concept of airplane flight. I can't remember ever sitting down with them and having the type of conversations I've had this week with Vop

She truly didn't understand why she didn't need to pack her fairy wings to fly.

We've taken her out to the airport and she's seen planes come and land, and take off. She's seen passengers disembark. But she has no cultural reference of flight and plane travel. Unlike the other kids, whose Grandparents and other significant people in their lives spent a goodly part of their lives engaged in regular air travel, to Vop, traveling anywhere is a foreign concept.

So, while I sit at home and fret, The Husbang (Goat bless his staunch, calm, stiff-upper-lippiness) will be escorting an hysterically excited, tired, overwrought Vop on a 7 hour round trip to Moresby.

I'lllet y'all know how that works out.

Friday, 26 October 2012

"I hate Lae" days

They're pretty frequent up here. After a while, the dirt and dust and humidity and... well.. everything just start getting to you. The long-termers up here will tell you that the way to survive Lae is to get out often.

Well, I've been back 3 months now, and I haven't left Lae for that long. No Salamaua, no trips up the Ramu, nada.

So, my "I-hate-Lae-day" has been brewing for a while. The weather is getting hotter and steamier and sleep is becoming more difficult. It's the Morobe Show this weekend, and that means one thing.

More crime.

People flood to Lae from all over the Province and far beyond for The Show. And MANY of them come down for the rich pickings of lots of cars carrying 'rich' white people and their goods. Companies are transporting 'stuff' to the Showgrounds, and guards and police alike are caught up with security for the myriad of things going on.

Which means carjackings and kidnaps increase.

This is probably only one week out of two that I get nervous in Lae. The other time being Independence Day. I don't wear jewelry when I leave the house, I don't go to the main Market, I lock my doors (both car and house) and I keep my wits firmly about me.

But the one place I usually feel safe, even at this time of year, is my compound. 9 ft high steel fences topped with razor wire, 2 guard dogs and a guard will pretty much do that for you.

I KNOW it sounds like a prison, but it's not. It certainly doesn't feel like one. Beautiful tropical plants soften the fences, we have a huge yard, with a pool and a BBQ area, and we have the most spectacular view. It's a gilded cage for sure.

And a cage I occupy alone most days.

We have 3 units in the compound and I am the only wife and mother. After Vop and the Husbang  leave, along with the 2 single guys in units one and two, I'm here alone.

Which has never been a problem until this morning.

I get up, open the house for the day and hear the dulcet tones of a couple of 'two kina maris' (Tok for street prostitutes) screaming at each other.

In my driveway.

They're obviously drunk and trying to beat each other up. These women will fuck you up. They carry bush knives and home-made guns, and they pimps hide in the banana plantation across the road and with shoot at you or throw rocks if you try to disturb them.

 And my guard? He's hanging off the gate WATCHING THIS SHIT GO DOWN.

Now women ,as I have blogged about before, are 2nd class citizens in PNG. This doesn't just encompass local women, or poorer rural village women, I mean ALL women. If I ring up a service provider, say Telikom, I get respectful listening noises, but no action. I could ring them 35 times and be told "we're working on it/sending a tech out". But nothing, and I mean NOTHING will be done until my husband rings them and makes noise.

After all, I am 'just' a woman.

So, as I rub the sleep from my bleary eyes and stumble over supine dogs, I hear the commotion outside, and call for the guard. It's his job to 'rouse' this, to make it go away.

And. He. Ignores. Me.

I get a quick, dismissive glance over his shoulder. He confirms it's 'jut' me, and goes back to watching the fight. It wasn't until The Husbang came downstairs, with a nightstick and threatened to set the dog on him, that he tore his attention away from the fight.

I called him FOUR times, to be ignored every single one of them.

So, today, I am sitting here, locked in my gilded cage, waiting for the Police to show and move the hookers on, and for the Guard Agency to come by with a replacement guard. I have no alcohol, it's 90 fucking degrees out, with 90% humidity, the gen set is screaming in the background and I fucking hate Lae.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

International Day of the Girl Child.

I'd much rather be blogging about shenanigans. Or food. Or anything, really. But today is International Day of the Girl Child.

Part of me is deeply concerned that we need the UN to designate a day like this. Really? In 2012?

And then I read this. A 14 year old girl shot in the head for wanting access to education.

Or the pornographization of a rape victim's account, here in PNG.

And I know a woman here who is about to be involved in a case conference for the HUNDREDS of children in PNG who are both incontinent of faeces and urine due to repeated sexual abuse.

The theme of this first IDOTGC is "Forced Marriage", and the UN site is filled with informationa and horror stories of forced marriage in India, Pakistan and other Muslim countries.

Here are some stats on PNG.

The Government of Papua New Guinea does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Despite overall low awareness of trafficking among many government officials, the government acknowledged that human trafficking was a problem in the country and expressed its commitment to increasing law enforcement's capacity to address it. It did not, however, enact legislation to criminalize all forms of trafficking, investigate or prosecute suspected trafficking offenders under existing laws, or identify or assist any trafficking victims during the year.

 There is also anecdotal evidence that the production of "snuff" child porn movies are made in PNG. Clearly I'm not going to google for links to that.

So, while my daughters are safely a) at school showing off her new Dora the Explorer skirt and b) preparing to start their Doctorate of Jurisprudence, while the biggest threat they face is a) not getting enough of a nap before going to the Yoti tonight and b) how to juggle a further 5 years of Uni with an ever-increasing social life, they are clearly in the minority.

Much has been made lately of misogyny and sexism, from the outpouring on social media at the rape and murder of Jill Meagher to the inherent filth that spills from the mouth of that toad, Alan Jones and his crony Tony Abbott, aka The Mad Monk.

But if the worst my daughters have to endure is having their vaginas compared to a "briny creature". then they've got out of it quite well. The misogny my Australian-Citizened daughter will face over her life is no easier to cope with that what Vop may have, and (I am sure) WILL face as a female citizen of PNG. The fact that we've adopted her may "save" her from the violence she absolutely would have faces in her childhood, but it won't shield her from being deemed a second-class citizen simply because she is a women anywhere else in the world.

So while today highlights to disempowerment of young women all over the globe, whether it be #firstworld rape and murder of a young woman on her way home or #thirdworld forced marriage of nine year old girls, let's not get too tied into that hoary old chestnut of victim blaming. For every International Day of the Girl, let's have an online forum that, rather than teach women to be safe, teaches men NOT TO RAPE. For every "Take Back The Night"march, let's petition the government of PNG to enact ACTUAL change in the way rapists are charged and jailed.

Until the inherent power imbalance that faces women in crisis is addressed, and the role that MEN play in this power imbalance is given greater voice, then all the IDOTGC's in the world aren't worth squat.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

What goes around comes around.

ALL of my children will tell you I'm a bit of a Nazi. I have been described by various fruits-of-mine-loins as The Manners Nazi, The Grammar Nazi, The Food Nazi.. indeed the second youngest once described me as The Everything Nazi.

I am perfectly ok with all of that, but it's my reputation as The Food Nazi I want to focus on.

I eat some weird shit. Chicken's feet, duck tongue, jelly fish, my mother's chicken casserole. I have a global approach to food. I've eaten snake, bull's penis, deep fried pigs ears, just to name a few things I have willingly put in my mouth.

Which is not to say I serve this sort of stuff to my family. I don't, but I will order all the above when out to dinner.

And the rule in my house is that you don't have to like something, but you DO have to try it. Simply looking at something and declaring "I don't like that" is a surefire way to get me riled.  I have argued with my kids over everything from whole roast chickens to Cos lettuce.

And I always win.

So Vop is being treated the same. I cook dinner and she eats it. If she doesn't like what I have served, she will be offered an alternative, but ONLY after she's actually tasted it. It's been a gas to watch her tentatively approach everything from sausages to jelly cups and watch her eyes widen with pleasure as she realizes that just because something looks different to what she's used to, it doesn't mean it doesn't taste good.

She truly doesn't like cooked mushrooms, eggplant and a few other things, but by and large she'll try pretty much anything.

So, while The Husbang is up in Hagen, I invited a friend around to keep Vop and I company. Roslyn is a local woman, who knows Vop well, Indeed she's from the same village and was instrumental in helping us get Vop in the first place.

So Roz turns up the other day toting a plastic bag. In which, she declares, she has a present for Vop.  And she does. A lovely big plastic bag of boiled chicken heads.

Would you like a few moments to re-read that and compose yourself? You just urped, didn't you?

Roz has cooked these delights up at home, poured the entire disgusting mass into a plastic shopping bag and walked for at least half an hour in 90 degree heat to our door,

And Vop fell on these culinary horrors like she was starving.

These fuckers still had beaks, people! And freaky little boiled eyelids.

And Vop grabs one of these things and starts sucking on it like a popsicle.

Mein Goat, it was atrocious.

Not as atrocious as what happened next, however, Vop, with juicy boiled chicken brain goodness dribbling down her chin, grabs one of these Zombie Pops and offers it to me, muttering "Here, Mumma, you eat this one, it's good. Very tasty"

Can I get a resounding FUCK, NO? There is no way on Goat's Green Earth that I am putting a whole boiled chicken freaky all-day sucker in my gob. I swear, it's mouth was freaking OPEN, and that little zombie fucker was smiling at me.

Yes, I've eaten some weird shit. Feet and tongues. I WAS MARRIED TO MR. CHARISMA BY-PASS, PEOPLE, I'VE HAD FREAKY SHIT IN MY MOUTH BEFORE! But I have NEVER eaten the entire head of any other creature, especially not one that has been steeped in a soup├žon of salmonella with a side order of staph.

So, I realize that I'm backing away from this horror, with my hands outstretched and clearly a look of pure disgust on my face.

Which, by the way, was a perfectly reasonable response, I feel.

And Vop says to me, over the sound of her crunching through skull (breaking the number one Food Commandment of never talking with your mouth full) "You MUST try it, Mumma. You don't have to like it, but you have to try it"

Fuck me backwards with a spoon. Hoisted on mine own petard.

So, I pulled one out of my other kids book and declared that I wasn't hungry right NOW, but I'd LOVE to have one for my dinner later.

There's a goddamn plate of the  freaky boiled bastards in the 'fridge right now, people. I can hear then laughing at me, and waiting for me to go to sleep before they summon their Zombie energy and march on their sauteed neck stumps, up the stairs, to peck me to death in my sleep.