21 July 2013


I arrived Wednesday afternoon and, as we all know, that was a complete waste of a day. Thursday Paul and I ventured out into the town of Port Moresby in order to take care of a few necessities: I needed to obtain a PNG driver’s license, to be added to my husband’s bank account, request a local ATM card and to buy some needed items at what Paul refers to as “the good grocery.”

Before we could leave the house, I had to go through three wardrobe changes. My first choice, an effortless purely cotton sundress that was strapless and to the knees was vetoed. “Can you please wear something else? You should see the way the women here dress.” I walked over to the closet and chose another sun dress, this time with thick straps and a length to the ground so that I was more covered.

“You don’t seem to be getting my point,” Paul said.

“What?” I piped back. “I thought the point was to be more conservative.”

“Wear a t-shirt and jeans, just until you get a look for yourself. These people have no money, they wear pants and t-shirts because it’s all they have.”

Fine. I wore rolled up skinny jeans and a thin cotton t-shirt but I did make a comment about how much money I spent at Target buying out their entire stock of sundresses and how unfair it would be if I couldn’t wear the only thing I thought I would actually be wearing here.

Paul and his colleague decided to share a rental car while they await permanent vehicles so we met Greg to get the key. Before I arrived, Paul had only driven a quarter of a mile on the wrong side of the road. Thursday, he would be all in and I would be riding shot gun to witness every move.

As we approached the car, I asked Paul if he was ready. “Yeah, I should be fine,” he replied. “Great, because you are already headed for the wrong door.” We both laughed as Paul changed his direction from the now passenger side to the driver’s side of the car.

Other than drifting to the inside lane, Paul did really well. He accompanied me to the bank, located at the airport. We held hands as we walked from the parking lot, down a hill and across the vacant airport traffic lanes and to the bank branch doors. We were met by two local security guards; one very awkwardly used a security wand on each of us.

We opened one door in a compact hallway blocked by another door on the far end. We had to wait for the outside door to close before the guard would unlock the interior door, allowing us to enter into the branch. Once inside we were able to speak directly with the three people working behind a single desk. In America, bank branches vary in size but most have a vast foyer, cubicle spaces for bank workers plus at least one open teller station with no less than two tellers present; another teller station is typically located on the back side of the bank for drive-thru banking. This room housed one teller behind glass and three to four people behind a single desk with multiple computers. In an hour, we had signed all the paperwork, confirmed my name would be added to the account and then headed on our way.

Because the bank took so long and I was so hungry, we decided to forego the driver’s license and head straight to lunch. The only time we went head on with another vehicle, we were turning into the Yacht Club and, after Paul attempted to make the correct left-hand turn, I insisted that he should be in the far right lane, which we quickly realized was the incorrect choice. We avoided a head-on collision and Paul was only slightly embarrassed.

We walked from the back of the parking lot, up 20 steps and into the Yacht Club, a popular expat club, to see what it was all about. Paul had eaten there on occasion and said the food was pretty good, so we inquired about a membership and received permission to stay for lunch. Again, this was an atypical situation in my view because no one really gave us a lot of information. A woman behind the desk indicated that the security officer would give us a tour. He pretty much walked us around, pointed out the eateries and the gym and then walked off. Based on our experience, we see no reason right now to join but we did enjoy our lunch on the patio that overlooked the boats. It was quite peaceful.

The grocery store was inside a small shopping center and it did look quite large and quite nice. The store was separated into three separate stores: one for home goods, one for grocery items and a third for pharmacy and personal care items, completely behind glass walls and door with additional security officers. The aisles were massive compared to Singapore standards and even large compared to American standards.

We grabbed some fresh produce and local meats in addition to some typical boxed goods like cereal. Paul advised that the meats were mostly local and of good quality, so we loaded up and headed home.

I tried my hardest to take a nap when we returned but Paul insisted that I stay awake and make dinner like I had planned so, against my will, after receiving yelling remarks and more than ample poking, I got up and began prepping dinner. After dinner I crashed.

Being out during the day did not make me uncomfortable but I did have a heightened sense of personal awareness. Before we left the house, I made sure to only take what I was required to have (passport and U.S. driver’s license). I confirmed that Paul had money so that I did not need any. I wore my Oakley sunglasses with rubber sides (ear socks, according to the website) in lieu of a pretty pair I own, knowing that the rubber would be more difficult to be torn off my head. Paul’s word of advice: only take with you what you can live without.

He gave more advice while we drove through town:
  • Don’t drive alone at night – even with tinted windows, people can see you through the windshield
  • If you get into a car accident and the car is moveable, keep driving until you are home and safe
  • If you get into a car accident and the car is immovable, lock the doors and call private security
  • I have already programmed the private security number into your phone
  • When driving, always give yourself enough room to get out of any situation
  • When driving around a roundabout, always use the inside lane because carjackers will approach from the outside lane

I told him these are the things that I don’t want to hear but I understand that it’s for my own good. In my first few days, I have seen that the local people in our compound are quite nice and go out of their way to smile and say hello. The local people in town seemed to mind their own business and not approach us. I am quite aware that anything left in the car can be taken and anything I have in my possession can be taken so I suppose that will just be my way of thinking moving forward.

We spent the next two days in the condo. “My theory,” Paul stated,” is that if we stay inside, nothing bad can happen. If we go outside the gate, bad things can happen.” Read this as: I might go crazy.

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