Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Reflections from Papua New Guinea - Part 1

As many of you will be aware by now, I'm not in the Papua New Guinean bush teaching student minsters but back home in the UK largely feeling sorry for myself. I'll say more about that in my next post, but I wanted to share some brief and fairly simple reflections from my travels over the last week or so.

Firstly, Papua New Guinea (PNG) is so very far away from the UK! It looks far away on a map and on plane tickets when the relevant timings are set out before you, but it is quite another thing to spend  nearly 2 1/2 days travelling to the place one is headed to. Nothing quite prepared me for just how long it would take to get there and back, but I made it courtesy of Singapore Airlines!

Secondly, PNG is hot & humid. The temperature was around 30* celsius while I was there and its a heat that comes with a high degree of humidity too that makes it feel even hotter than it is. For someone who naturally prefers the cold, it was something of a shock to exit the plane at Port Moresby and be confronted with the sheer wall of heat that is the pacific climate.  

Thirdly, PNG is a land of contrast. Although my experience was confined to the capital Port Moresby, and a brief stay on New Britain Island, the gap between rich and poor is immediately evident. There are brand new 4x4 and SUV's driving the same streets that naked children live and scavenge on. The streets are dirty and sometimes unkempt, while pristine office blocks and high end hotels line them. This contrast is even more noticeable the further out from the capital one gets. The rural communities living in increasingly primitive conditions, yet each with cell phones - an essential point of connection to the rest of the world and essential services.

Fourthly, PNGers are lovely people! Although I must confess to being intimidated at first by the cultural differences, my experience of PNG people is overwhelmingly positive. In my brief time in PNG I met church officials and local church members and found them to be a delight. The small band of church members who looked after me for a few days in Port Moresby were a wonderful tribute to their church and nation as they ferried me left and right and looked after me with incredible generosity. Once again, the kindness and hospitality of the local people left a lasting impact on me.

Lastly, PNG is often referred to as the 'Land of the unexpected'. My last post was about the need to relax into God's purposes whatever they may be. I didn't anticipate being back to soon, or experiencing an earthquake - Im unsure as to what God's purpose in all of this is still - but the laid back culture of the pacific once again challenged my need to be in control at all times rather than go with the flow a little more. In the next post I'll share some more reflections about living in a vulnerable situation and the challenges faced by communities whose infrastructure is far less reliable than that in the west.

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