Halo from Papua New Guinea!
“Oh, I don’t want to go to America.” He paused. “There might be clan wars and stuff like that here, but that stays in the village. And that’s WAR. I’m not going to get shot going to school or the mall or anything. America’s too dangerous. I’d rather stay here.”
PNG marks country 12 of the trip (13 if you count New Caledonia, which it’s only a matter of time before the UN does) and the first that I was actually a bit nervous about. Especially as I got closer to PNG, hearing I was going was met with “why?” or often genuine concern. PNG has a reputation for being a dangerous place to visit. But a bad reputation is certainly no reason to skip a whole country, right? It was starting to sound like just being in PNG was a dare.
When I arrived, my nerves rose. I was told not to take public transport and that I needed to keep a close eye on my things. I actually felt for the first time like it would be good to pop into the US Embassy and see if they have any tips they’re issuing (and to make sure someone knew I was here). I stayed with a UN employee who carried a radio everywhere and wasn’t supposed to go out at night without a guard.
I was told that PNG isn’t really that bad, but I’m a woman by myself, so I really shouldn’t go out. Especially at night.
And yet, the locals say that they would be afraid to go to the US.
This comes of course in the wake of the news of the latest shooting. Making news of this shooting worse is that the only US channel that people consistently get here is Fox News. Being out of the country, trying to understand what is going on with only a little bit of internet, restricted to Fox News is…frustrating, to put it nicely. No matter how you feel about the subject, you have to admit that Fox News is a total train wreck. I guess we let them still call themselves “news” the same way we let McDonald’s still call it “chicken.”
I of course decided to ignore all the warnings, and explore town (still with my head on my shoulders of course). First thing I realized is that it’s windy AF. Second is that, as actually expected, people are nice and warm and friendly. At first as I walked around, I was mostly just met with stares. But as soon as I threw a smile and “hello” out there, everyone around lit up, smiled, waved and said hello back. You can even strike up a conversation about one of the amazing facial tattoos. More detail in the IG post about this beauty.
I still believe that in general, people are people, no matter where you are in the world. And that means that they want to meet and smile and laugh and share. It’s in our nature. Being in a “scary” place doesn’t change that.
I checked out the museum, the parliament house (which was actually much cooler than I expected) and the nature park – all of Port Moresby’s attractions – and was out of things to do. POM is the capital and hosts a lot of business travelers, but not much else.
You know what IS scary? All these massive birds they have here!!
Here’s where Couchsurfing came in! Not only did I have a place to stay (better than the $200 USD/night+ for the Holiday Inn), but I got to meet people living in POM and one surfer, who doesn’t host people anymore, worked out an experience that easily is in my top 10 – I got to fly up front with the pilot in a Cessna!
The danger in POM is real. But don’t let that scare you away from all the good people who are just waiting to meet you.