10 March 2013


Last weekend Paul left me for the land down under to interview for a new pilot position with the Papua New Guinea government; the government has a Falcon that they use for business purposes. The government currently employs two pilots, one local man and one expat. Since they were unable to sell the aircraft as planned over the last year, they decided that they would keep the plane and hire two additional pilots. 

Paul and 15 other people who submitted applications were invited to Melbourne, Australia, to interview for one of the two available first officer positions. Due to financial commitments, time constraints, and I’m sure a handful of other reasons, only five or six people actually interviewed for the positions.

Paul endured a full day of questions from a panel of four company managers and some time in a simulator so that his flight skills could be evaluated. His experience was just that – an experience. He called home that evening with stories.

”As soon as I sat down, they asked if I was married,” he said. For those unfamiliar with these parts, questions related to marital status and baby-making plans are completely common. “Then they wanted to know about the kid situation, so I told them that negotiations were ongoing and they lost it.” He said they laughed so hard, which I felt was a good thing.

He said he did fine in his interview and he did fine in the simulator. One of the guys evaluating his sim test commented on how well he did and he simply couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “I just flew the plane – there was nothing complimented. I guess the standards in aviation are just so low that I can exceed expectations by just doing what I have been trained to do,” he said.

He went to bed feeling that he did “fine” and that he wasn’t feeling anything either way about the situation because it was in God’s hands. The next day when I awoke, Paul called to tell me the news that we were surprised to hear so soon.

”They offered me the job,” he said quickly.

”Really?” I replied. I was surprised because Paul is not certified to fly that aircraft and we had been warned that company officials were pretty adamant about having Falcon-certified pilots.

Paul continued to explain that he needed to check out of his hotel and head to the airport for his return flight but that he was offered the job, he would start training in the U.S. in April and that he had about 24 hours to provide the company with a yes or no response.

We talked a lot about the opportunity. The position will allow Paul to be certified to fly a larger aircraft and that type rating can only help him in the future. He would be flying domestically and continue his international flying, which would, again, only help him in the future. Though his schedule would not be as dormant as it is now, he would be on an open rotation with the other pilots so he would not likely be flying all the time. The money was decent, housing would be covered and we would be able to purchase a car through his company. The downside was that we would have to live in Papua New Guinea.

Three weeks ago, Paul and I were on a Skype call with one of the current pilots, asking a lot of questions. Now, I don’t know why this guy took this approach, but he decided to tell us everything negative about PNG. He explained that he wanted to set our expectations and give us the worst-case scenarios. Well, he did. It was enough to make me freaking nervous and I admittedly went off on a rant about how much I did not want to live in PNG.

”No, no no! I am not going. I won’t live in PNG! We have covered that Port Moresby is like Detroit or Youngstown and I do NOT want to live in Detroit or Youngstown. I completely understand that I am in a bubble here in Singapore but I live the safety of my bubble and I don’t want to fear for my life or my house or my money living in some place like Port Moresby. Gangs? I don’t want to deal with gangs. I am not O.K. with this!”

Paul actually muted the conversation to stop me and tell me that I was being rude. I later apologized via instant message and said I would do some research, and I did.

Throughout three weeks, I spent time on the Internet researching Papua New Guinea and its capital, Port Moresby. I found out that there are only three cities in PNG and we would be living in the largest. Yes, the crime rate was high. Yes, Port Moresby was rated as one of the five worst places in the world to live. But, yes, I did start seeing other sides to the equation.

Not only did I find factual websites, I went in search of blogs like my own to find out what life as a village person was really like. Surprisingly, I learned a lot of good things.

I learned that there are a ton of expats in Port Moresby and that Exxon Mobile has apparently purchased a ton of serviced apartments in one of the two locations selected for us so that all of their foreign workers have a place to stay. While there is not an American Women’s Association, I did find an international women’s organization.

I found blogs by single people, married people and people with kids. I found blogs by men and women. I learned that social calendars become just as booked a Singaporean expat social calendars, but likely more quickly. I found the expats’ favorite grocery store and where to buy the freshest live crabs and fresh fruits on the street. I learned that good quality clothing is hard to come by but that a local consignment shop is the third party in an all-city expat closet swap.

Mostly, I learned that though the crime rates are statistically high, a lot of that is due to poverty levels. Though there is a gang in town, not much is being done to stop them. Most of the crime seems to happen among the local people with very few expats (note: expats with whom I have come into contact or whose blogs I have read) have actually witnessed any crimes, let alone have been a part of them.

Several people talked about how nice the local people are and spoke very highly of their diligent work ethic. I was advised that many expats are brought into Port Moresby to help the locals build infrastructure, create jobs and do for themselves what other countries have been doing for years. Expats are seen as mentors in a lot of cases and as long as we keep that in mind and encourage others through our work, we should be just fine.

The accommodation information we have been provided is great. One person wrote that one of our options was five star compared to Aussie standards, not local standards, so that made us feel better.

I found a soon-to-be-friend who is in her late 20s; she has already agreed to meet me for coffee whenever Paul and I visit. I also spoke with some moms about health care experiences and family safety issues.

Paul stated that if the same job were offered in another country like Australia or America or somewhere in Europe, he would say yes in a heartbeat. But the thought of living in PNG gave him cause for concern.

Just like the last time, we left the decision up to God. We know that His plan is perfect and that He will make our path straight. We prayed for confirmation because Paul stated that was what he needed the day we needed to give an answer.

We arrived at the hotel where we were meeting Paul’s potential new boss and the moment we were greeted, I was reading the confirmation that Paul had just received.

Just like last time, we were given the answer through Bible Gateway’s verse of the day. Two years ago, when the world told us not to be crazy and move to Singapore, the verse of the day quoted Jeremiah’s “For I know the plans I have made for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This time God revealed Joshua 1:1-9, which talks about how God gives Joshua all of the land that he sees. “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous…” So we said yes.


Flatlander said...

can't be as bad as Saudi Arabia, right? :)

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