06 February 2014


I arrived in Port Moresby before the sun Sunday morning around 5. I hit the ground running and by the afternoon I was accompanying my husband to the grocery store so that we could have some real food – at least for a few days. I had a lot of snacks on my three-plane ride home but snacks, as fun as they are, sometimes aren’t enough.

A few days before my 31-hour journey I sent out a Facebook request saying, basically: send me your favorite airplane snack ideas. Friends recommending trail mix, protein bars, dried fruits, candy and various types of alcohol abounded. I took most recommendations to heart and then I went shopping.

My successful grocery stop was completed rather quickly. After spending time caring for an ailing grandmother, touching parts of her I had never actually seen before and watching her resemble a child more and more every day, I have decided to seriously live a healthier lifestyle. If I maintain this new lifestyle, I will be running marathons in my 90s in lieu of getting serious exercise walking down a hallway twice daily.

Along with daily exercise – cardio and strength training – I have decided to reduce processed foods and processed sugars. I now make a point to read labels and determine whether or not I can identify, let alone pronounce, the ingredients. Understanding that organic does not always mean healthier, I know that I am more likely to identify ingredients on organic labels and that organic products offer fewer artificial fillers. So I decided to shop for healthier all-natural options and, when I wanted something processed, I went organic.

I came out with a whole array of options: salty, sweet, fruity, nutty and totally processed chocolate peanut butter M&Ms. I said reduce, not eliminate.

They definitely filled me when I needed a little pick-me-up (the sweet potato chips were my favorite) but snacks do not equate to a meal. In Toronto, my first layover, I had a great breakfast of a smoked salmon bagel with a cappuccino. When I landed in Tokyo, my options were much more limited.

Because I had to check in at the ticket desk after going through customs and immigration and grabbing my previously checked luggage, I was actually locked outside of security for several hours. Landing on time, I had a six-hour layover but the check-in counter did not open until 2.5 hours prior to my departure. I found myself trapped between Japan and Japan’s version of the TSA. I settled for a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread and a coke that I hoped would settle my stomach.

I finished my journey on a red eye from Tokyo to Port Morseby and I chose to sleep through a late-night dinner. I thought that I would be served breakfast but I was not. Lucky for Paul. He picked me up at the airport and helped me carry my bags to the apartment. I showered and then I made him breakfast. Or, as he put it this morning, I made myself breakfast and offered to make enough for him. Either way he was glad to have me and my cooking home.

On the drive into town that afternoon, I noticed that PNG looked a bit different than when I left.

The countryside is much greener and more vibrant; the rainy season began after our November departure. Though mostly rainy and cloudy prior to my arrival Sunday, the weather has been calm the last few days with a mix of sun and clouds. While my family members are piled under nearly a foot of snow this evening, I just finished admiring my slight sun tan acquired poolside.

While the trees, grasses and scant flowers are in bloom below a cumulous-filled blue sky, the garbage typically observed everywhere has dissipated. No longer can I see paper, bottles, cans, food remnants and other rubbish decorating the sidewalks, streets and creeks – at least not in the populated areas and not to the extent that they were displayed for all to see before we left. The terrain looks very tropical and almost beautiful. Driving around the city I actually thought Port Moresby looked…nice....except for a few areas near the local markets. 

When I left PNG in November I had conversations with my mother about my intentions to not return to Moresby. We had daily power outages, traffic police corruption and hijackings on both sides of our street. By November, I had had enough.

Then, I went back to America and I started to realize how valuable the simple life really is. PNG looks different to me now. Instead of a dirty place with little to no opportunity for people to get out of their poverty and change their situation, I have a renewed mindset focused on those working hard to make PNG more presentable. My eyes have been opened to development opportunities that utilize local men and just how much businesses strive to use local talent in lieu of foreign workers.

Now, does this mean that I am living happily ever after in the third world? No. My power goes out daily, our air conditioners have broken a few times and constantly lack crucial cleaning, our internet has more issues than Norman Bates and, bonus, now our water goes out daily. Ask me how I feel about that. While we enter properties with weekly rental rates averaging 5,000 kina, my eyes are drawn to the cardboard and plastic tarp tents under trees and houses that are in shambles on the other side of the security wall.

I look outside my car windows and see people with tattered clothing, barefoot in the middle of the street; I see a woman holding a toddler’s arm while carrying an infant, dodging swift traffic on a dusty four-lane road in the heat of the day.

What I see now is how grateful I am to have the opportunities that I have had my entire life – the ones I so often take for granted. I see the perspective that I have gained by living in this environment. I see how living a simpler life can lead to a more fulfilling life. What I left behind is half a world away from where I now call home. The grass may be said to be greener somewhere else but PNG is looking a lot more green to me.

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