18 February 2014


Paul and I have been house hunting. Since June 2013 Paul and I have been living out of four suitcases - meaning everything we own in PNG can fit into four suitcases...O.K. maybe five since we have had to purchase some things for the apartment, mostly for the kitchen.

If you have been following along, we left Singapore the first week of April last year, two years after we first arrived. When we departed we were under the impression that we would be back in Singapore within a couple months (Paul's company previously told him that he could be based in Singapore), so we arranged to have everything either donated or packed (it all ended up being packed because the Salvation Army did not return my phone calls until our apartment had literally been vacated...completely), and placed into storage in a warehouse somewhere on the island. When we signed the paperwork, we told the representative that the items should be removed in two months, maybe three.

So 11 months later here we are in PNG still paying storage fees to a Singaporean warehouse. When we officially moved to PNG last what I will call summer, we were told that we would temporarily be moved to a hotel compound and that we would have other housing arrangements made by the company's housing department.

So eight months later here we are in our roughly 700-square-foot hotel compound unit where Paul first landed back in June.

Let's just say that he is tired of being in cramped quarters, tired of fighting for space on our red leather loveseat and tired of paying storage fees in a country where we no longer live for stuff that we obviously don't need anymore. And he's tired of waiting on the people in the housing department who obviously do not have this in the bag.

So here we are house hunting in Port Moresby.

I landed back in PNG the morning of February 2 and was told that our first apartment viewing would be the afternoon of the 4th. Two weeks later we are still hunting for prospective apartments. Why? Well, I could give you reasonable excuses regarding the lack of real estate websites in a third-world country, communication barriers between American accents and local PNG men guarding the security gates and a lack of a single expat relocation source or functional apartment search like Realtor.com or ApartmentGuide.com. Those are all viable excuses.

But let's be honest: it's because I am married to Paul. And Paul has to consider his options. And when I say his options, I mean all options. Whether looking for Jeep Wranglers, televisions or housing options, Paul has to examine every available option - all brands, all companies, all retailers - to make sure he is getting the best option for the best price.

Before we get into the individual listings and a few of the places we have visited (including actual possibilities and absolutely nots), I thought I would take a few photos on our drive through town.

We are weaning our way out of the wet season. When Paul arrived back here in January, it rained all day nearly every day. By the time I arrived in early February, we were back to sporatic rains once or twice a week.

All that rain has created a much greener environment than when we left in November, and the local government seems to have put a lot of effort into cleaning the streets so, all in all, Port Moresby does look a lot better than it did just a few months ago.

Although much of Port Moresby boasts paved roads, even the paved roads have craters and crevices in many places; some major roads, like the one outside our compound, are dirt roads that become dusty in the dry season and incredibly muddy throughout the wet season.

The island of New Guinea is located in the southern hemisphere, just north of Australia. While the western half of the island belongs to Indonesia, the eastern half is Papua New Guinea, along with a bunch of other islands floating in the Pacific. We live in the National Capital District of Port Moresby, located on the southern shore.

We live in a neighborhood called Boroko in an area called 7 Mile, and we can view the airport runway from our two windows, which are located on the northeast side of the apartment.

The A represents our compound; that large grey area is Jacksons International Airport. The peninsula to the west where "Cargo Terminal" and "Ela United Church" are highlighted holds the Central Business District.
The best thing about our current location is the proximity to the airport; the distance between our door and the airport terminal is about five minutes. The grocery store and most businesses we frequent are located in the middle section on Waigani Drive and closer to the CBD.

A few days each week for the last 2.5 weeks, we have been driving around, exploring random roads and doing our best to find available apartments. We do have plans to secure a GoPro to our SUV and posting a higher-speed video soon but, for now, we took some snapshots out the window. While I will crop some of the photos to remove dashboard and windshield stickers from view, none of the following photos have been retouched.

No, this is not the site of a plane crash. That beat up airplane in the background is an art installation marking Air Niugini's headquarters. Air Niugini is the national airline of PNG. The sticks by the road were trees last week. Someone came by and ran them over with a bulldozer...at least that's what it looks like.

The main road outside our compound

There used to be a large local market at the end of the main road but it seems to have mostly vacated.

This market used to have stands all the way up to the fence

A small shopping area across from the market space
We drove toward the CBD in order to see some compounds located on the hills overlooking the sea. Today we encountered a common traffic stop. Police men block off one lane, forcing traffic to merge into a second lane where they check everyone's vehicle registration, identified by a sticker on the passenger side of the windshield. In addition to the vehicle registration, a safety inspection sticker is also placed on the window; both stickers have expiration dates.

Though we were asked to pull over for further checks today, we did not encounter any issues. The driver's license passed as issued and we were waived on our way within 30 seconds. Smooth sailing. I should mention that we have not had any issues (to my knowledge) since our one and only incident.

The view on Waigani Drive

This is one of the many, many roundabouts in Port Moresby. .
There are few, if any, stop signs and only a few speed limit signs. Paul likes this idea. "People don't need signs. Everybody figures it out," he says. I should also mention that without any street signs, there are no rules, so anything goes most of the time - even some that do not make sense. 

Street sweepers were all over the place today. Paul thinks they like to keep all that dust out of the road. Sweepers have always been common, even when trash filled the roads and common areas. This guy was working the freeway on-ramp.

And this is our one and only freeway. It's not very long but it does have three lanes on each side for a few hundred meters.

Notice all the greenery and farmland.


See that? There's water ahead!

Now that's a better view!

I am quite aware that while we are searching for high-end apartments with special features like appliances and dishwashers and Paul is asking about employed housekeepers, many people in Port Moresby are living life quite differently. I actually once told our housekeeper that our luxuryish apartment (O.K. it's luxury for PNG) was just too small. Then I thought about how her family of four likely lives in a place half this size.
Here is a look at a few local homes:

Houses built upon stilts are popular in Port Moresby. The houses stilted on land are said to prevent critters from entering the premises. 
We sought complexes in the Waigani area, the CBD area and near Ella Beach, which is the area southeast of the CBD. I bet you can't wait to see what we found.

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