Friday 30 September 2011

Health Care

(Photo by Jenny Griggs)

This  sign, and the underlying chair are possibly the cleanest things at Angau Hospital. Angau is the place that Betti the Wonder Mari went recently, with suspected malaria. 30+ hours of lying on a flithy mattress, with no food, water or toilet facilities, she had her BP taken. 

And was sent home. 

15 minutes later, I'd bought her Quinine at the local pamasi, jabbed her in the bott, and started her on a course of anti malarials. For the cost of K17.

And the Aust Government, in its infinte wisdom:

The Federal Opposition says a Government plan to extend the life of two tuberculosis (TB) clinics in the Torres Strait, off far north Queensland, is a "small stay of execution".
The TB clinics treating Papua New Guinea nationals were due to wind up yesterday as the Commonwealth shifts its funding of TB services from the Torres Strait to PNG.
The Federal Opposition's Indigenous health spokesman, Andrew Laming, says the Government's proposed three-month extension does not allow enough time to train clinicians in PNG to take over.
"Papua New Guinea's a very tough place to treat TB because of the remoteness and inaccessibility," he said.
"We need a 12-month handover minimum, it's not that expensive to continue these TB clinics and it's certainly a lot cheaper than getting infected TB patients turning up in Australia.
"We understand that Queensland Labor, together with Julia Gillard, are talking about two extra clinics that will go through until September but it's completely impossible to train clinicians in Papua New Guinea in that time.
"What's needed is an investment in Papua New Guinea that builds up services, but we must not stop the Torres Strait clinics - they are the clinics that stop tuberculosis island hopping from Papua New Guinea down and infecting Australian citizens."

and from SBS
The federal and Queensland governments are being accused of unnecessarily exposing mainland Australia to virulent new strains of tuberculosis, with the closure of specialist clinics in the Torres Strait.

Two clinics, on Boigu and Saibai islands, near Papua New Guinea, have been treating PNG citizens infected with TB.

However they are due to close at the end of the month, leaving island patients to seek treatment in Daru in Papua New Guinea's Western Provnce.

But head of the Australian Institute of Tropical Medicine, Professor Ian Wronski says PNG's health system isn't capable of treating the patients.

Professor Wronski told Stefan Armbruster, the closure of the clinics will leave far-north Queensland exposed to the disease.


Daru. Hmmm... Daru hospital is where my blogger friend Malum's wife went, three years ago, for (by Australian standards) fairly simple post-natal treatment. And died. Daru hospital. Where they can't control the current cholera outbreak. Here's a little bit more of what Malum has to say about Daru:

Daru, the once-thriving former capital of Western province, has sadly become a forgotten backwater despite all the riches from the Ok Tedi mine.
It is a dismal-looking town covered by bush, potholes and very basic services such as health are wanting, as exemplified by the town’s hospital.

Head over to his blog, to read more.

So, the Australian Government, in its wisdom, is closing down services that scientists say are keeping new and virulent forms of TB from entering Australia. And their justification is that PNG can host them "in house" (hmmm.. that means "off shore" for Australia. Sound familiar??)

Let's just remember that Papua New Guinea is consistently ranked in the top most-corrupt nations in the world, by Transparency International’s (TI) 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index (along with Somalia, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan and Myanmar).

Here's a joke old timers tell up here.

The Australian Government give 10 million dollars to PNG for new roads/hospitals/schools. "Great!" says the PNG Government, "Thank you very much! But we're not going to spend it straight away, we're going to think about the best way to disperse the funds and wait a year. we're going to get together in 12 months to talk about it"

So, in 12 months time, the powers that be, here in PNG get together to discuss how best to spend the 8 million dollars. And they can't come to an agreement, except to wait 6 months and have a think about it.

So 6 months later, they meet, and the 6 million dollars is a big responsibility. Maybe they need to get more feedback from "grasroots" before they allocate?

So in another 6 months, they meet, and the 4 million dollars, so wonderfully donated by Australia, and they can't come to a decision because the Head of the working committee on how to spend this money has had to fly home to his remote tokplace for a haus crai.

So a few months later, they FINALLY decide what to do with the 2 million dollars. They'll use it for its intended purpose of roads/schools/hospitals!

So 2 years after the money is donated, a whopping big $600,000 is donated to **insert random Province's name**.

But now, the local Provinical Governemt must use it wisely. And guess what? They need to think about the $400,000 very carefully.

They'll get back to us in 12 months.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Dumpling feast

you give up a lot to expat. Especially over here. Living behind razor wire, guards, gunfire at footy matches, leaving friends and family behind, not being able to drive around freely..... To make up for it, you have to look for the upside everywhere.

Now I hate sounding like Polly-fucking-Anna, but if you focus on all the things you've 'lost' to come up here, you'll never leave the compound, miss out on so much and eventually find yourself pouring vodka on your Cornflakes.

I completely don't get people, especially women up here, who stay locked away in their compounds for fear of 'something happening'. I know of two families alone, who've never been to Madang, or Salamaua, or Goroka or anywhere, for that matter, despite being here more than 12 months.

The reason? They're "too scared". Then I argue, why the hell did you move here? There are plenty of places that are 'safer', where you can make more money. You're in one of the last, great, unchartered places on Earth, with possibly the most diverse culture on the planet... and you'll go home in 3 years whining about how Lae's such a hole, and PNG is so dirty and hot, and you'll do it all from the privacy and 'safety' of your company compound.

People like that shit me senseless.

Lae is perfectly safe. As is most of PNG. My mantra is always, "If I wouldn't do X at home, I'm not going to do it here" The key to surviving expatting is to be courteous, culturally aware and vigilant.

Oh, and to carry a bush knife.


The other key is to put aside your Western/ Eastern prejudices and look for the good. And if the 'bad' shits you enough, get out and do something about it.

One of the MANY good things about PNG is the abundance of amazing food. (I'd argue that those who 'hate' Lae, or PNG, those who never leave their comfy compounds are also those who've never been to the market for fresh crab, or tried aibika or kau kau, and who's cupboards are stocked with Oreos and Kraft Mac "N Cheese blue boxes)

Anyway back to the amazing CHEAP food.

Lobster. I haz it.

5kgs of juicy lobster tails, for about $200AUD. Dude, I will take all the dust and diesel fumes and PMV bullshit drivers in the entire country, for lobster this good and this cheap.

And I'm going to turn them into this:

Yep. lobster and chive dumplings with a little touch of XO sauce.

And because I like to think I am a person of integrity and have a pretty strong sense of social justice, I'm off to the market soon to spend a whole K40 (about $20 AUD) on veggies- thus supporting local farmers- to make up a big batch of soup, and take it to the local hospital.

The local hospital where patients have no access to water, food or toilets while they wait up to 30 hours to be seen.

The hospital wherein yesterday, my friend Lian gave birth to her 3rd son, and was discharged within 2 hours.

And I know this because I ran into her in the supermarket, shopping for her and the children... THREE HOURS after giving birth.

Jeez... and I thought I was hardcore....

Thursday 22 September 2011

The Case of the Elusive Ectotherm


Somebody stole my bloody fish!!

(Disclimer: This pic ISN'T of the fish. This is a pic from Wiki Images. MY fish, I didn't take pics of, as it was earmarked to be cooked. wrapped in bananna leaves, with ginger, shallotts and garlic. Which I was unable to achieve. Due to its STOLEN status.)

so. I've moved haus. No more Petyon Place, No more illegal bus stations right outside my bedroom window, with PMV drivers shouting "Lae, Lae, Lae, Lae, Lae. Market, Market, Market, Market, 2 Mile. 2 Mile, 2 Mile" from 6am to 8pm. No more living in the only street in Lae City that provides ingress (and illegal egress)  from the shopping heart of town to the main thoroughfare. No more neighbours playing their music at 11  on the stereo, from 9.30pm to 3am on Tues Wed AND Thurs nights. No more BBQ's with freaky weirdos telling me about Lae's Swinger's Club (whilst furtively licking their lips). No more visits from 2 Kina maris.

No more gun shot victims moaning outside my back door, on their way up the ramp to the 24hr Medical Clinic, No more rock-fights between gangs of Highland and costal boys.  No more waiting 6 months to get the cracked toilet seat changed. No more dealing with the compound managers who refuse to believe that a swimming pool requires chlorine and maintanence to function, and must believe that swimming in custard-thick green slime that smells of effluent is the way we expats like to take our leisure.

Every time I drive past the old compound, I break into my own version of Rose Royce's "Love Don't Live Here Any More":

"Just a vacancy, 
I don't live there, anymore"
CanI have a resounding "HELL YES!!" With a follow-up "BOO-YAH!!"??

So. I've moved to down-the-hill, right at the back of the staduim. Where I swam in my fresh and lovely non-slimy pool and watched the Independence Day fireworks go off RIGHT ABOVE MY HAUS!!!

I have 3 storeys of polished floorboard happiness, 4 bedrooms, 5 staff, a spectacular view across to the Yacht Club and out over the Huon Gulf. I have my quietude broken only by the sound of the next-door-neighbour's kakaruk crowing to greet the gloaming, and the satisfied snurfle grunts of my dog, as she chases skinks in her own back yard. With grass.

I earned every last second of this life, and now I have a haus that I can be safe and happy and content in. It matches my safe, happy and content life. 

EXCEPT, as I was unpacking everything I've accumulated over the past 8 months, a vague feeling of unease washed over me. Now, that in itself is not unusual, given my penchant for conspiracy theories and thet fact I live in a malaria-rich environment, but it's taken my up to a week to identify the case. 

Last night, while nomming on BBQ seafood (mussels, prawns, calamari and fish goujons at the Yacht Club), I realised what was causing this underlying sense of "un profond sentiment de malaise"

When I unpacked my freezer, I hadn't seen my fish.
This fish wasn't just ANY fish. This was a 3kg schnapper, caught for me off the reef at Salamaua. This was a fish I was keeping to really show-case my fishy-cooking skills, and share at the housewarming I'm planning. 

This was a fish caught to SHARE. Destined to be handled with love and anointed with organic garlic, lemongass, ginger and shallotts. THIS was a fish I was even thinking about whole frying Asian-styles. (or wrapped in plaintain lif and served with roasted kau kau and fried bananna.. THis fish hadn't made up its mind yet.)

This was a fish with a destiny, people. This fish had POTENTIAL.

This fish is no longer in my care. This fish has been relocated.It could have been one of the movers, on of the plumbers, one of the electricians. ANY one of the 30 or so workman who've been swarming over the haus, helping me move and getting the solar/airconditioning/sliding doors/paint up to standard.

To whomever unburdened me of making decisions on behalf of the fish, I hope it was freezer burnt and you choke on a pinbone. I hope that as you crawl up the ramp of the 24hr clinic, clutching your throat, gasping for breath, the last thing your conscious mind registers is the smell of rotting vegetation from the pool at 4th Street and your ears are assaulted by a cover version "Back In Black" on  loop,

I'm  piscean, man. You do. not. fuck. with. my. fish.


Sunday 18 September 2011

Only in Lae.

As part of mission to de-mystify Lae and its environs to you, I bring you an email sent to all Lae Golf Club Members this week.

The email sent out to the Golf Club Members yesterday -










So, because this is Lae, there was no small amount of confusion. I mean, I drink at the bar at the Golf Club, it's a high bar, about mid chest height on me. So does that mean I have to source midget caddies? Why does this rule even exist? It is racist? size-ists? How is only having midget caddies going to help stop theft? Again with the size-ist stuff. Tall caddies steal JUST as much stuff as shorter ones. And honestly, where am I going to find a drooling, inside, midget caddy at THIS short notice, for this afternoon's 2BBB Stableford?

And I thought it was Caddy Shack?

Just as I was about to rally a union for height-challenged golf caddies, and march them through the streets of Lae, chanting "We Will Not Be Moved", my getting-my-Jimmy-Hoffa-on came to a grinding halt.

Within minutes of the first email, this follow-up one was recieved by members.

Pls see attached, the bar referred to is not the drinking bar, but a height bar fixed in the ground outside the caddy shack as a height restriction for caddies. The caddy masta carries a cane.

Damn, need to find another cause to rock on with my Hugo... errr... Caesar Chavez self.

Saturday 17 September 2011

What a trip to the store looks like

On Independence Day Weekend, here in Lae, Papua New Guinea.

Keep telling you all it's not for the faint-hearted!!

My, my!

Wow. What a ride. The past two years have been all sorts of dreadful. But the good news is than kharma really does come to those who wait (to mix a metaphor and a couple of different dogmas). I've taken a few months off blogging to concentrate on my little business and also work in the UK for a few months.

It's not only me and mine that have been put through the ringer. This poor little blog has copped its share of trauma as well.

So I give you advance warning.

If you don't like it, don't read it. If you think it's about you, I can pretty much guarantee you it's not. Maybe it's time to re-visit my blog "rules". Hmmmm?

I very nearly closed AGITK down, until I realised that no matter how many apologist posts/emails/phone calls I make, there are those who will always make it about them, regardless.

So, I'z back.

AGITK will be heading in a new direction. Previously, it's been all about the food, but now that I'm living back in Papua New Guinea, I find myself becoming more and more political. More and more involved in social justice issues up here.

So if you were, previously, just here for the food, you might want to have a good hard think about whether you REALLY want to be reading the blog of an opinionated, tattoo'd  leftist feminist foodie with hippie tendencies who like to swear (albeit with perfect diction).

At the end of the day, it's up to you.

Sunday 4 September 2011

Good Lord!!

Has it REALLY been that long since I posted?

stand by for a FULL report on food, fun and frivolity soon.

pee ess.. met a fellow blogger here in Lae, whodda thunk??

Check her out:

Educating Wendy