I am in love.
Totally, utterly smitten!
Forget everything you might have read, or seen on the Interwebs.
It is simply the most amazing, foreign, wonderful place in the entire world. Sure, we've got pot holes that would swallow a small family saloon, but pretty much everything else I'd heard is crap.
So far,I've walked around the markets (the ones I had photos of last time), driven around with my window down (a huge no-no according to Lonely Planet), stopped on a lonely stretch of road to buy fish from the scary-looking dudes who string their catch up between two palm trees (no photos, I was being well-behaved and respectful)
Highlight?, Myhaus mari came running thru the gate, with her arm out, and gave me the biggest hug and said "Missus Ella!!! OH! I am so happi!! Welcome HOME!"
Everything here is so BIG.. I mean, freaking HUGE!!!!! The mountains, the bird, the freaking prawns the size of lobsters... on steroids....
The giggles of the young women at the market, when I told them I would cry if there were no mud crabs.
Here's a little sample of my life over here. I am sitting in my very chi chi poo poo house, with my guards and my house staff, typing on the internet to a worldwide audience of educated people. But later this afternoon, I am going to meet with a 9th generation female witch doctor, whose going to read my future.
Day one here, I drove around in the car, with John and Jack .. the Company "fix it" man, who is an ex-PNG policeman, and HIGHLY respected up here. He is very gruff and tough, and not above ordering someone beaten badly for a perceived slight on me.
So I am packing some serious "cred" with these two guys in the car.
Lae has a population of about 50,000 Nationals, and I reckon, withing 24 hours of me arriving, the word was out that Missus Ray was in town and driving around (the cars are all recognised)..., people were waving out in the street and calling out "Hello Missus!! You good driving!!"
So, Jack and John take me to the Supermarket..... queues part, as Jack leads me thru. Armed guards follow us, to make a point of keeping me "safe"... and showing Mr Jack how fearsome they are...
And there is music in the Supermarket... piped in music.
And on comes a song......
That I like.......
So I start singing.....
In the supermarket aisle...
To "Buffalo Soldier"
And the armed guards do this:
And Jack does this:
And John does this:
and withing about 20 seconds I have Jack and John swaying like Hula Girls (complete with hand movements) while I croon Buffalo Soldier into a potato masher.
That is kinda how me and my posse bounce up here.
So, about 2 hours after the above incident, I get back home, and the guard opens the gate and starts laughing at me.
The word is out.
I am not Missus Ray any more, I am "Crazy White Ladi bilong Trukai" or something like that!
So here's another example.
Last time I was up here, was told I wasn't allowed to go to the Botanical Gardens, as it is full of "cowboys and raskols".. ie, escaped convicts and criminals, who would chop me up and sell me back piece by piece to my family.
So I mention to John that I want to put in a herb garden at the house, and he suggests that I go to the Botanical Gardens.
I am a bit worried, but I trust John, so off we go.
Far from what others have described, I find a beautiful, if not poorly maintained garden that could be of world standard with a bit of care.
This dude come out. His English is very good. VERY good. He's wearing a filthy torn shirt, ragged pants and barefoot. he looks like a classic bloody raskol. He takes me walking and shows me stunning... and I mean STUNNING plants. He picks me frangipanis for my hair. He shows me a hybrid ginger plant that he has bred.
Umm.. What?? This guy is a ragged. filthy gardener (at best).
He's the senior Botanist.
And he is giving me a private, free tour of HIS botanical garden.
And he's going to strike me a cutting of a vanilla vine, to grow at the house.
And he asked me why more tourists don't come to visit him.
And I didn't know the answer to that.
I am a firm believer in setting your own house in order. Thinking local and acting global and all of that.
I am going to make the Lae house a place of respectful employment for Nationals, based on mutual trust and respect, and ethical and equitable wages.
And be fucked, if I am going to drive around with my window up, just because the Lonely Planet Guide says I should.
And I am going to use the Interwebs to change the entire world's perception of Lae.
I swear it.