Archive for May, 2011

May 31, 2011

lukim yu bihain

by Priya Chandra

Whistle blows and the voice comes over the main PA system: “Underway.”

And so we say goodbye to Papua New Guinea and head for Darwin where we get to have leave and I get to stock up on decent food and multivitamins!

What will I remember of PNG?

Mountains – definitely mountains. They ringed Lae and were just stunning no matter the time of day or the weather.

The ‘flip flop’ band who played with thongs and pvc pipes at the opening ceremony – just amazing.

The smiles of the PNG locals and their cries for just one more photo with us.

Their generosity – seriously, the guys who worked on the medical, dental, veterinary and engineering projects got some wonderful gifts and at today’s closing ceremony there were even more gifts presented, including this wooden sculpture that must have weighed at least 50 kgs.

20110531ran8100087_056

And finally, the dancing and the colour – this little girl was the best dancer of this troupe and they were all pretty talented.

20110531ran8100087_048

How about you – what memories do you hold of a country / place you’ve visited recently?

Oh and if you’re wondering, the title means “See you later” in PNG pidgin english.

May 25, 2011

Remembering in Lae

by Priya Chandra

Last Friday I had the opportunity to go to the Lae War Cemetery with our Air Force members.

They were there to honour two Australian VC recipients (see the ADF Pacific Partnership Facebook page for more details) and as the Public Affairs team, Helen and I got to go along.

It was an amazing experience. The cemetery is really calm, a wonderful green oasis in the city perfectly designed for reflection and thought.

Dsc00599
225889_212162772149033_122185034480141_674320_517019_n

Out of the 2,800 souls buried in the cemetery there are 400 unknown Indian Army soldiers who came to Lae as Japanese Prisoners of War. It was so sad to look at those headstones and try to visualise what it must have been like for these men – fighting and dying for a country on the other side of the world. Yes, Australians did the same thing but most of the Australians who fought in WWII were of Anglo-Saxon extraction – they had a much stronger connection to the ‘Old Country’ than the Indian Army members did.

I took great pride in telling some stories of the Indian Army to some of the Americans with us – their grasp of military history outside America’s involvement is sketchy at the best of times, let alone learning about ‘less important allies.’

20110520ran8100087_192

We then had an interesting discussion about the meaning of the word Anglo-Indian. In my opinon it means someone who has both Anglo-Saxon and Indian blood in them but they were using it in the context of a Caucasian living in India.

What do you think? How do you use the word?

May 24, 2011

So this is Lae…

by Priya Chandra

We’ve been in Lae, PNG now for 5 days and it is nowhere near as bad as we’d been led to believe. Bit of an overkill really, but better safe than sorry I suppose.

The countryside itself is absolutely stunning with mountains everywhere, covered in green and stretching right down to the water’s edge. In the morning they’re cut in two by the mist and when the sun lights them up, it is just spectacular. And the people themselves have all been very friendly and extremely curious about us – not one Rascal in sight so far.

242568_10150609031490153_120670700152_18921531_7637148_o

The opening ceremony was an absolute delight – music, dancing, colour. We even got offered a traditional feast for lunch! Completely different to Vanuatu, and much more similar to what we experienced in Tonga.

The video here is of a spear dance – a traditional welcoming ceremony. It is just a snippet of what we saw when we got here – the original went for about 10 – 15 mins I think!

PNG_spear_ceremony.m4v
Watch on Posterous

The biggest problem so far has been transport and security. Because of the perceived threat level here, we can only go ashore at certain times via the ship’s boats – no liberty boats here! – and must all travel in convoys as set groups. So, the photographers (and me) go to a site and must remain there all day which can be painful if you’ve gotten all the shots/stories you need and you want to go back to the ship and process them.

We’ve also had problems with the ship’s boats. On one memorable night, 100 odd people were shuttled from the wharf to the ship (out at anchor) by 2 RHIBs (like a small dinghy) that could carry a total of 30 people. The round trip was 1 hour until 1 RHIB lost an engine, increasing the round trip to 90 mins or so!

I got back to the ship at 2030 – after waiting for 3 1/2 hours on the wharf. The last group got back about 2200 apparently. I dread to think what the warmed over leftovers of dinner might have tasted like. I personally had peanut butter and jam toast for dinner that night!

Still it is all an amazing experience one way or another and I’ve been very lucky – I’ve had the opportunity to visit quite a number of the Lae highlights over the past few days but more on that in another post.

May 14, 2011

Bonjour and Au revoir

by Priya Chandra

Well, we’re about to set sail from Noumea for Lae in Papua New Guinea.

I really enjoyed the time here in Noumea, even though naturally it was quite pricey when compared to Tonga and Vanuatu – though ultimately it wasn’t as expensive as I’d thought.

It is very pretty too with its green hills and lovely water views. Helen and I went running/walking (I did the latter!) along a very popular boardwalk early one morning and it was just beautiful.

John_noumea

It is definitely very French – of the four foreign countries I’ve visited since leaving Australia at the start of April, I had the hardest time being understood here. 

At one point I was at the hairdressers with a friend and communication was so poor, the hairdresser kept calling for the shopkeeper next door to come by and translate!

Good times.

The food was exceptional of course and the ability to get off the ship without having to wait for a liberty boat (we were alongside for the first time this trip and could just walk up and down the gangway) was heaven.

Now it is a 4 or 5 day trip to Lae and then another mission stop. Although I’m looking forward to visiting a new country I am apprehensive about PNG in general. Don’t think I’ll be taking much liberty there to be honest!

May 9, 2011

Dressing up with somewhere to go

by Priya Chandra

This is a bit out of order but hey this is my blog and I can ramble about anything whenever I want right?

Anyway my sister asked for a picture of me from ANZAC Day and so I thought I’d post this one here:

210344_1898858705551_1064147750_3951618_8124714_o

The woman with me in the photo is the photographer who is on the Pacific Partnership trip with me. She is an extremely talented photographer and I’m extremely lucky to have her with me.

We have a great time working together and I’m proud to call her my friend.

Here’s a sample of her work and there’s heaps more over on the ADF Pacific Partnership Facebook page:

229656_1919030409831_1064147750_3983331_7306719_n

She almost manages to make the torture machine (the LCU) look interesting and exciting!