Arriving in a Melanesian nation

First impressions and experiences of Papua New Guinea:

  • Over 800 languages and peoples/communities – can not state enough the diversity of peoples . . . culture, physical appearance, even some fundamental values and outlooks.
  • Extremely friendly people with smiles and welcomes everywhere.
  • The general level of conversations is above what I typically expect when I travel in Africa.  I have great meetings and interactions in Africa, but the overall average is a bit below what I’m finding here in Papua New Guinea.
  • I went snorkeling in a giant volcanic caldera – and yes there was an active volcano smoking above me!  Corals, reefs, and fish – out of this world (definitely should have had waterproof sunscreen though.)
  • A colleague and I ‘crashed’ a birthday party for an 80 year old Aussie gentleman who is a pillar within the community.  Quite the shindig with a very, very diverse attendance, great food, and Polynesian dancing (as opposed to Melanesian which is the culture of Papua New Guinea.)  The hips moving even convinced the birthday gentleman out onto the dance floor with the hula dancers.
  • Land tenure is one of the most significant issues for expanded investment – particularly in any type of commercial production agriculture.
  • Very green, but also very, very rich volcanic soils.  While the ornamentals in the various gardens are very similar to the ones you see around Africa, the grass and lawns around are much more dense (where it is easily walked down and away in Africa); it is just one indicator of the richness of the soil compared to the depleted soils of Africa.  (Africa has the oldest soils on the planet – or so I’ve been told by soil scientists.)
  • Expensive.  And the PNG kina has appreciated 25% in the past year against the dollar.  Some of the internal inflation on services is driven by the new Exxon Mobile LNG project which has created significant demand for services and human resources.
  • Fabulous raised wooden homes typify the architecture
  • Interesting WWII history – Japanese subs digging caves to hide and cache supplies, artillery and other equipment ruins dotting the landscape and feature at the War and Culture Museum . . .
  • Walked into a commercial cocoa business for a meeting with the Ag Production Manager.  He had Joel Salatin’s “The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer” sitting on his desk – last place in the world I might have expected to see a Joel Salatin book!
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