I have been coming to work in Papua New Guinea since 1999, and even if I have seen incredible changes in Port Moresby and parts of the country… as soon as you get out of the main town, it still strikes me how beautiful and “raw” the place still is.
Nowhere else that I have been are “yesterday and tomorrow” so close.
Let me explain: I’m in an office working on operating procedures aimed to produce the results of information being live fed into databases directly from fishing vessels via on board connectivity or tethering devices where fisheries observers do all their data gathering via apps in tablets, which can then be followed up during unloading by port monitors that confirm in their own tablets the catch composition and volumes, initiating that way a complete catch traceability to the point of export. The companies are required to log in inventory movements, so all catch is included.
None of the EU countries I have ever worked in has anything like this.
I’m doing this work with my local colleagues whose parents may not had the chance to have an education and traditional believes (snubbedly called sorcery) still remain a huge element of daily life. For the observers and catch documentation crew I’m working with, the tablets and internet are a basic tool, for some of their parents, this is not even a concept.
One of the guys I work, has to do 6 to 8hs by open boat to get back to his village to visit their family, as there are no roads or airports in the region... no other person I know and work a equal level with me has a story like that.
I see a crew at the side of the road digging to put in fibre optic cables, while a group of highland ladies that may not have electricity or roads at home walk by… I see a local with feet that have never been on a shoe, walking among reddish beetle nut spit besides the latest 100000 dollars worth Toyota Landcruiser.
What other society made up of more than 780 cultures could come to the tenuous concept of nationhood (with independence in 1975) and face challenges like this?
None that I know, and I will never know… as there is no other place like PNG, simple as that.
People tell me: “I heard is really dangerous”… but so are Australia, China or the US, if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time… at least here you could find reasons behind based on the impact that such an accelerated rate of cultural transition has had in some sectors of society… which cannot be said about those other countries.
I go for a 7 km run around 6am, and yes there are potholes, rubbish and general lack of maintenance… same as in other "new countries" but then I cross with 30-40 random people, and everyone says hello and smiles… my running shoes may be worth a week of their wages… and I have never felt threatened.
Yes, independent tourism is difficult, because infrastructure is scarce, moving along can be expensive … but if you really want to see a place like no other on earth and that will stay in your brain forever. Aim here, is beyond unique.