Bali: Gracefulness And Colour

Balinese dancers at the hotel entrance entertained us as we waited for our bus. I wasn’t sure whether it was specifically for our benefit or the usual Saturday night entertainment for hotel guests and visitors.

A burst of gracefulness and colour took me by surprise as two Balinese girls swayed onto the entrance of the Hotel Melia Bali, Nusa Dua. It was so refreshing.

This is my fourth post on the regional conference on ethical tourism that took me to Bali, the tourism mecca of Indonesia.

After the meeting we were bus-sed back to our hotel to get ready for the evening’s programme. Then back to the Hotel Melia Bali for the evening’s programme at the neighbouring Museum Pasifika also in Nusa Dua.

The elaborate headdresses or tiaras are beautiful as are the hand movements.

Whilst waiting for our bus at the entrance and hotel foyer, Balinese dancers gracefully swayed to Balinese gamelan music.

I was not able to get a good picture close up of this gamelan orchestra albeit a smaller one unlike the one at the cultural evening, ‘Desa Kala Patra’ on Friday evening.

The haunting sounds of the gamelan orchestra accompanied the graceful movements of the two Balinese dancers.

I wondered about the potential for these sorts of cultural performances at our hotels in Port Moresby in the evenings so guests can enjoy glimpses of our rich cultural heritage and diversity as well as the growing interest in more contemporary artistic endeavours in PNG especially among the younger generation.

Now that would be something. I think we may turn to more contemporary performances at hotels simply because of the logistics and fees perhaps. Anyway, it would a great way to showcase some of PNG’s rich talent.

The headdress or perhaps an elaborate golden tiara on the dancers head and the fan in her right hand must be the theme of the dance.

This was a cultural interlude and what a beautiful way to start our Saturday evening programme. Again I forgot to ask what kind of a dance this was.

There are many types of Balinese dance. What we saw was one type of dance. The costumes and headdresses or tiaras are quite ornate. With the colorful costumes  red seems quite prominent and am not sure if the colour red has some cultural or religious significance to the Balinese.

The expressive eye movements adds to the mystique of Balinese dance.

I enjoyed the performance although they were still dancing when we left for the Museum Pasifika.

I wondered whether we were going to witness another cultural performance or Balinese dance whilst in Bali as we were herded into two long lines in preparation for the short walk to the Museum Pasifika.

Bali: A Truly Memorable Cultural Evening

One of the stunning opening acts accoompanied by Balinese gamelan music. Hauntingly, beautiful to behold.

This is my third post on my brief visit to Bali for the Asia-Pacific regional meeting on Global Ethics in tourism.

This temple made an awesome and beautiful backdrop to the stunningly colorful performances that followed.

We managed to  make it to the cultural evening. Upon arrival at the festival we were whisked through to our seats before the event begun. Apparantly, this was no ordinary cultural evening. It was a culmination of several cultural events which you can read about in this article in the Jakarta Post.

This was the Opening of the 33rd Bali Art Festival with the theme ‘Desa, Kala, Patra’. We were so fortunate to be invited to this grand opening.

This was one of the posters I saw on the way in…

This was the explanation of the ‘Desa, Kala, Patra given by Mr Putu Wijaya, the Balinese playright of international renown at the inception of the Bali Art Festival a few years back:

“For the Balinese ‘Desa’ (space) is essential to indicate origins, links and directions. By tracing their space the Balinese discover their linkage to their homes, origins, ‘braya-pisaga-semeton’ (society, neighbors and family) and even with their guests. The space is also linked to ‘kala’ (time). Night and day, morning and afternoon, today and tomorrow can change, take form and make those links to time perfect. Finally ‘Patra’ (identity) also means situation and condition, instigating that space and time can be harmonized with what is taking place.”

“‘Desa-kala-patra’ is a value and at the same time, a universal approach. That it grows in the soul of the Balinese people, does not make it the sole property and right of the Balinese. Bali is only one of its choices, because this island is a meeting place for different races and ideologies from all over the world. ‘Desa-kala-patra’ comes to life not because it is discussed, taught, and made a doctrine, but because it is practiced. ‘Desa-kala-patra’ is like a formless soul that freely resides within the bodies of the Balinese without them being aware.”

After the President’s speech the concert began.

H.E. Mr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia giving the keynote address.

I am so glad we took the trouble to at least look culturallly appropriate, especially with the VIPs there and the President. This was a bonus and although I was not sitting too close to the stage I managed to take a few shots with my Nikon D90 which went with me wherever I went. I didn’t want to miss any great opportunities for taking nice shots.

The formal attire that evening. I was fascinated with the colors and styles down to the elaborate hair. Balinese fashion on display.

What fascinated me was the attire. The men in long-sleeved batik shirts and the women in exquisite fabrics that adorned their beautiful figures – these were figure-hugging and very elegant. They had beautiful hair adornments and the men wore Balinese ‘turbans’ on their heads.

Some of the VIPs that evening with the organizers of the event. Note the batik attire.

My limited Bahasa Indonesia captured some of the official speech by the President and others but not entirely – guess am out of practice. Nonetheless, the presence of the President at this festival was very important to everyone and especially the organizers. His presence no doubt gave the opening event  a very high profile and to the planned cultural and artistic events for that festival period.

One of the Balinese epics…awesome.

I was sitting too far away from the centre of action but managed to capture some of the beauty of the concert as it unfolded.

…the epic unfolded…

The setting was so apt. We found ourselves facing a temple which was appropriately decorated. A fitting backdrop to the performances that followed. 

Group after group took to the stage and entertained the audience. I was in 7th heaven! This is the life, I thought to myself.

Colour, sound and action!

We were given more small boxes which contained fruit and traditional sweets as well as bottles of water so we did not go hungry during the concert which took several hours.

I really felt looked after.

This was my only shot of the Balinese gamelan orchestra. I had to use the zoom and from where I sat not a bad shot although I’d have liked to take it from another angle.

The performances began with the unmistakable haunting sounds of the Balinese gamelan orchestra. These are instruments that resemble zylophones and there were the gongs.

Another performance graced the stage. Just love their costumes…so beautiful and delicate.

I was fascinated with the dancing and the epic story that was related through dance. The colourful costumes, the dances and the atmosphere was sobering.

I couldn’t help wondering how we could showcase some of our stage plays written by PNG playrights such as Kasaipwalova, Tawali, Kaniku, et al and how we should stage these in the villages and communities througout PNG.

The grand finale when the cast assembled on stage. What an evening, what an eye-opener. Part of the Bali experience. Without a doubt!

One thing for sure during this visit, we were very well taken care of.  Balinese hospitality knows no bounds. What a gracious people. What a privilege indeed.

On our way back to our hotel, the Grand Bali Nusa Dua, I reflected on the cultural extravanganza just witnessed and I realised that the opening of the festival showcased the profound spirituality of the Balinese.

Bali: Loved It!

The welcome sign above the gate entrance as we manoeuvred towards the main road beyond – I was in Bali at last!

This is Part I of a couple of articles I wanted to write on my weekend meeting in Bali, Indonesia almost a year ago. I was one of the participants at the regional meeting on tourism ethics.

The tourism slogan greeted us at the entrance as we drove through and into the thick of the Friday afternoon traffic enroute to the Grand Bali Hotel – Nusa Dua.

I attended the regional meeting on Global Ethics in Tourism June last year. The meeting was jointly hosted by the United Nations World Tourism Organization and the Indonesian Government on the alluring and beautiful island of Bali.

Papua New Guinea was the only Pacific Island represented at this regional meeting.

One of the most amazing sculptures I’ve seen in a long time. This is Bali, Indonesia. Rich in history. I wondered what this scupture depicts but did not have the time to ask – it was on our way to the hotel.

Upon arrival at the Ngurah Rai International Airport (sometimes known as the Denpasar International Airport) we were whisked through customs and immigration formalities and onto our bus. Denspasar is also the capital city of Bali.

It was a very hot day but being from Port Moresby we rose to the challenge. In the bus, the aircon kicked in soon after so we were saved from having to change our clothes yet again in less than 6 hours!

About 45 minutes later we arrived at the Hotel. It was another welcomed sight and again the formalities of checking in and getting our luggage delivered went swimmingly. This was paradise – smoothness in getting through these formalities was expected and it was delivered.

In Bali for that weekend’s meeting, the Grand Bali at Nusa Dua was our home. You can read about Nusa Dua here.

I was once again struck by the seeming chaos on the streets where more than one person is riding pillion on a motor bike – hundreds of them darting in and out of the traffic and in between buses and cars as we wove our way towards Nusa Dua beach.

I wondered how often there were accidents. My recollection was that very few but once in a while when an accident happens it is a very big thing and quite saddening as it is preventable!

One of the stone sculptures in the hotel lobby. Impressive. One is reminded that Balinese are Hindus.

My colleague and I were accommodated in the Grand Bali Nusa Dua and grand may be a bit of a misnomer but the rooms were so spacious I could have my whole family sleeping in this one room.

Spacious rooms, clean and comfortable with wooden floors – love wooden floors. This was my home for the weekend.

The rooms were cool with no views to speak of but I was very comfortable. The aircon was working and that was what I needed at the beginning and end of each day.

Another one of the stone sculptures. Impressive and awe-inspiring. I was under no misapprehension that the Balinese are a very spiritual and religious people.

I took quite a lot of photos upon arrival at the hotel and realised that I was in tourist mode. In fact one of the great things about this job is that you can be ‘on duty’ and be a tourist at the sametime. An enviable position to be in no doubt.

I also went for a foot massage which is my favourite thing whenever I am in Southeast Asia. It is a soothing sort of thing to do and it kind of introduces me gently to the rigours of meetings or shopping whichever I happen to be in that country for.

Entrance to the spa where I had my foot massage – reflexology is a great way to unwind and discover somethings about the way your internal organs are connected to pressure points in your feet! An amazing experience each time and this was not my first time to treat myself to such a luxurious start to my weekend in Bali.

I went to the spa before the evening’s programme. I was glad I did because that was the only time I was able to enjoy being pampered. Oooh lala.

Our meeting was scheduled for all of Saturday (which was the next day) and over the weekend so there were not many guests in our hotel. The meeting was held in another much bigger hotel and most of the other participants were accommodated there.

Beautiful stone sculptures in the hotel gardens. Did not have time to ask about this, wish I had. Am sure it tells a love story perhaps.

I was trigger-happy and my Nikon D90 was working overtime.

Believe it or not, this is the swimming pool. The colour reminded me of one of the rivers in West New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

The hotel grounds were so beautiful and tranquil. I was glad we stayed here. But then again there are so many hotels large and small spread across the Nusa Dua beachfront and no doubt other beaches in Kuta and Legian, as well as all over the island of Bali. This was a tourist mecca.

The rooms were on the left on this floor. Lovely wooden balustrade.

Wooden houses, floors and so on hold a special fascination for me but we were here to discuss the global code of ethics in tourism and I wondered whether the use of large amounts of wood in hotel construction was going to be sustainable in the long run. Food for thought.

The view from my balcony. Couldn’t see the sea from here but then again with all the beautiful things to see inside and outside the hotel, I was not at all disappointed.

I took quite a few photos around the hotel because I’ve never been in this hotel before and secondly, because I wanted to capture some of the spirit of the place.

I came across this stone carving on the facade of the garden wall on my way back from the spa. Don’t know what it signifies but it seems like a common design on their wooden masks which are used in their elaborate dances.

The stone sculptures are everywhere but again I did not have the time to ask.

Another stone sculpture. Am not sure if these depict their Hindu gods.

There was no time to ask and also there was a slight language barrier. I think the Conference organizers hired university or secondary school students to man the number of ‘help desks’ set up to fascilitate our hassle-free stay at the hotels where the participants were staying and most of these kids could not speak English or if they did it was spoken haltingly.

Another stone sculpture – the detail is incredible.

That wasn’t a problem on the whole but I could not ask many questions outside the usual stuff like asking for directions and when the bus will arrive and so on. I found these help desks very comforting – a lot of people engaged to ensure that we did not want of information. My attempts, haltingly at Bahasa Indonesia did help.

At the hotel lobby. Beautiful and intricate carved stand for the vase of beautiful fresh flowers which graced the lobby area.

One of the things I loved about the hotel was that it was open on all sides. Which meant there was a free flow of fresh air.

My colleague ‘man blo maunden’ in the lobby getting settled in and making sure the camera is primed and ready for action. We were also tourists there.

The breeze flowing through large windows and doorways, reminded me so much of the South Pacific Forum Secretariat in Suva.

Fresh orchids in the lobby – a welcoming sight and feeling, for sure.

We left the Grand Nusa Dua on Monday morning when hotel staff were back at the posts and the hustle and bustle of preparations for a number of meetings in various wings of the hotel.

The new week had begun and soon our meeting was a blur in the past and tranquility of the weekend.

Looking down from the hotel lobby.
Another view of the hotel from the south side of the pool.
A stone carving ‘holding’ looked as though it was propping up the ceiling on the front, north facing. The carving of the bowl left me wondering as to what the bowl was for. Didn’t get the chance to find out. Perhaps one day when I return as a fully-fledged tourist, I might remember to ask.

The weekend meeting in Bali was a wonderful way of ending the week – part of it was spent in Port Moresby.

During our short stay in Bali and as part of the social and cultural programme of the meeting we were treated to a number of cultural performances. It was one of those memorable times I’ve spent in any one place where it was short enough to take in as much as I could take in of the place thanks to my faithful Nikon D90 and the other was long enough to enjoy what the place had to offer. 

Terima kasih banyak…

An Afternoon Stroll On New Year’s Day

Seagulls on the beach…

I did something different on New Year’s Day – 1st January, 2012. I walked the length of the Esplanade in Cairns, Australia where my family resides.

My first walk of the year you might say. Quite exhilarating.

‘A penny for your thoughts…’ – in a reflective mood.

It was a lovely sunny afternoon and dusk was approaching fast when I took the long walk past the marina, lovely lush green trees and lawns, people fishing and jogging and others just enjoying the peace of the 1st day of 2012.

A drink in the cool of the afternoon.

I took photos along the way which I always do wherever I go because you never know what your camera can capture.  The light is the big thing with taking photos – anytime, anywhere. So this walk was no exception.

Part of the marina…

I took in the sights and sounds of the seafront as I strolled along the cemented walkway.  I guess my photos will remind me of those captive personal moments. It was a spur of the moment decision and I was glad I did make the decision to walk. Don’t do that in Port Moresby – a pity really but nevermind.

Looking out at the boats moored at the marina.

A walk is a great way to reflect and this being the first day of the new year, 2012, I thought about possible resolutions that I can adopt. I wanted to be as realistic about these resolutions and that is difficult to fathom sometimes because each day is different. Besides implementing the resolutions is something else. One has to be committed and really be honest about what is real and what is perceived in terms of setting the resolutions in the first place. Well, a reflective walk in my humble opinion is an excellent start.

Fishing on New Year’s Day – that’s a first for me. Didn’t see anyone haul in catch.

I thought of the year that has just passed, 2011, and realised how fortunate I am to be able to fly to Cairns and spend time with my family and also to get some much needed relaxation.

Wish I could do this at Ela Beach.

That’s not to say that my corner of Port Moresby isn’t up to the task of being a relaxing place but sometimes a change of scene – to get away physically and go to another place is just the tonic one needs to recharge one’s batteries. Also looking back I acknowledge how much life has changed or is it I that has changed much?  I think both but under different circumstances throughout the  year 2011. One thing I was sure of and that was the 2012 is going to be a really great year on many fronts – I could feel it in my spirit.

Reminded me of the Catalina planes that used to land on the sea near Samarai Island in the 1960s to pick up and drop off passengers. We called them ‘sea planes’.

We don’t realise that our lives, and we only have one, are so tied up in what we call work or our ‘day jobs’ that often times we forget that parts of us die a natural death everyday because we neglect those parts. We need to air them out every now and then starting with our minds.

I was fortunate to capture this. I was hoping I’d be able to take an interesting shot and sure enough here it is – the seagull on take off…

What are these parts of us? These parts are the more spiritual aspects of our lives or us such as company, laughter, pleasure from walking, views of places we think we know but we don’t and so on. It is only when we stop to take in the views, the features that we miss that familiar things take on a totally different meaning – it’s like we are seeing them for the first time.

The sea was not too choppy for these guys in this dinghy, I think.  Took my mind back to life in the islands of Milne Bay.

Take time to think about the people we live with, interact with, work with etc and what happens is that we suddenly see them in a different light – we suddenly find the parts of their lives we can connect with. This is that opportunity for realisation that no man/woman is an island. I promised myself to do this – to see each person I meet as a blessing and likewise.

Diehard fisherman in the setting sun over Cairns, Australia.

I began to think about my family and the things I need to do to connect with them this year. Of course, as you and I know, somethings are easier said than done.

But without falling into a cliched existence one must make the effort to make things happen such as finding the parts of our lives that have fallen through the cracks, fish them out and dust them and give them a brand new lease on life so that we can focus on the progressive and add value to our own and others’ lives.

The rays of the sunset behind the tall buildings creating a silhouette – some call these kind of rays ‘the fingers of God’.

On my way back to the poolside and the families who were gathered there to celebrate the first day of 2012, I stopped by a sweets and icecream shop and shamelessly indulged my sweet tooth with some creamy delectable morsels.

Irrestible meringue with vanilla icecream and cream…it disappeared so fast I actually contemplated a second one – devil!

There were others who stopped by this icecream oasis to indulge their sweet tooth too. 

It was so peaceful and private to just sit there and enjoy something without gawking eyes,  flies and dust.  

I had tea and thought about growing up on my beautiful island home in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. We used to have to clear the breakfast plates so fast on New Year’s day in the 1960s because we need to identify  places in and outside the house to hide in as it would be ‘dui’ time when it’s high tide and the men would run into all the houses looking for women and girls and carry them kicking and screaming down to the gelegele (beach) then throw them into the swimming pool. This is a natural sea water pool near the jetty.

This was absolutely delish, I practically inhaled it! It was that goooood…

We also used to have all the cake, scones, buns and fresh bread we wanted on New Year’s day as we would have been baking on New Year’s Eve ensuring that we had everything baked before midnight.

At midnight, 12 sharp, the noise levels would be defeaning as people beat saucepans, drums and anything that could make the loudest noise to herald in the new year.

We would run down to the beach to light the ‘osiri’ (dried coconut leaves). Against the dark skyline, the lit and flaming osiri on the beaches of neighbouring islands and the mainland was a sight to behold. Am not sure if the lighting of the osiri is still practiced on New Year’s Eve annually now.

Beautiful tree lined walk…

I had never had the misfortune (fortune) to be carried out kicking and screaming to be thrown into the pool. There were loads of laughter and fun when this happened and everyone always embellished their own experiences.

Looking back on those days, what a journey I’ve made – this is the 21st Century and I am in a foreign land and the place is very quiet. Almost forgotten ‘dui’ time.

Peaceful…

I find so  much pleasure in taking photos of the things I come across on my walks or trips to various place within and outside PNG. It helps me to remember the memorable moments in my life then later to sit and re-live the experiences when I feel like I need a pick me up. This is why I carry my camera everywhere I go even if I was just going somewhere close. I don’t want to miss a thing.

The ‘Lagoon’ in the heart of the city of Cairns, Australia. A haven for water lovers of all ages. The fish sculptures are amazing.

My pictures tell a story about one special moment or moments that make up that unique experience for me.

Children of all ages in the pool. They were there when I left and still there when I returned. Could have been a good place to initiate ‘dui’ time, not!

The children were still in the pool when I returned from my walk. I also ran into two people were looked really familiar – one of them was a school mate whom I have not seen since we left high school in Milne Bay – now that would be over 30 years! 

I felt so blessed and free.

Samarai Island: Once A District Nerve-Centre

The south side of Samarai Island. The sight of a lone man in his canoe – still the main mode of transport for many people in these islands.

It was a short trip to Samarai from Doini Island – less than 30 minutes. I had never seen the island from this side before.

The Kwato Mission boats, MV Osiri and MV Labini would berth here some Saturdays bringing shoppers from Kwato and the famous homemade Kwato bread and buns. These were a popular hit as the ladies always returned to Kwato with the large empty bread basins.

Simply known as Government wharf - where all the Government workboats used to berth.
Many happy memories of this wharf especially when the mission boats, MV Osiri and MV Labini would berth here for Kwato islanders to do their shopping at Samarai’s two main department stores – Steamships and Burns Philp and many other shops such as the hardware store.
 
The natural swimming pool at Samarai - you can jump into the pool from Government Wharf.
Samarai was the District headquarters for the Milne Bay District before the advent of provinces. It was a hub for many islanders and a government nerve-centre for Milne Bay District in the south eastern tip of Papua New Guinea.
 
The once iconic Anglican Church on the main drag to the town centre. Sadly, it is falling apart. Once gone, a part of our history and heritage will go with it.
To a little girl growing up on the neighbouring island of Kwato in the mid-60s, Samarai had everything from a post office to two hospitals, two prisons, two clubs (mind you the two of everything meant one for whites and one for natives) but one bank, one dedicated hardware store, one bakery that turns out beautiful Samarai bread (the ones that come close to this size of bread could be found at Brumby’s bakery in Vision City in Port Moresby), a fresh local vegetable market and so on.
 
Samarai was an exciting place to be. There were lots of colonial government officers mainly Australian and a number of mixed race families lived here too.
 
We used to visit the dentist on Samarai a couple of times a year – arrrrgh that was a visit no kid wants to make but such was life for 7-8 year olds in the early ’60s.
 
The Robinson Memorial, stands at what could have been a traffic intersection (mostly pedestrian traffic perhaps).
 
This memorial stands on one of the main drags leading to the many lovely colonial residences and the Samarai cricket ground. Many of these houses were built like the ones you can still see today in Cairns, Australia.
 
The message on this memorial is not politically correct now but it must have been in those days or how else would they have got the message etched on the thing in the first place. As a young girl I never paid attention to the message until much later.
 
I don’t know why this memorial still stands with its politically incorrect message. To my knowledge no-one had tried to remove it from this beautiful island. I dare to think now that perhaps its historical heritage value is considered more than by removing it.
 
In fact I think this is a classic example of a memorial that could be regarded as offensive, yet it tells a story of what times were like then. Particularly the colonial mentality that reigned supreme in those days.  How different would Milne Bay have been or for that matter PNG if this message were to have continued into the 21st Century. I dare not think about that. The value now would be in tourism mostly and something to see when at Samarai or in these islands.
 
What remains of the memorable Burns Philp department store. We used to buy Paul's icecream here. I even bought a book on Greek mythology in this store. Those were the days.
Samarai was self-sufficient. It had everything we needed in the islands and more. There was a bank – the Bank of New South Wales (now Westpac) which was situated in the heart of the town and a tea shop where meat pies and coca cola were the popular items on the menu. 
 
Samarai was the place to be on Saturdays for grocery shopping, native vegetables, smoked fish, cooked chestnuts in coconut, Logea aigaru (unique green leaves that are found in Milne Bay and absolutely delicious when cooked in coconut and as an accompaniment to smoked fish) and many other exciting bits and  pieces such as icecream, apples and meat pies not to mention Buntings biscuits (white) and navy bread biscuits. My faourite sweet biscuits in those days were called ‘MilkyWay’ and ‘Tea Cake’.
 
This island was a heavenly treasure trove for us ‘other’ neighbouring islanders who were fortunate to be on Samarai on Saturdays, ANZAC Day and Kaihea (cultural festival) events.
Memorial Hall at Samarai. We would congregate here after the ANZAC Day march around the island led by the PIR Band. Those were the days.
 On ANZAC Day (25th April) school children would gather to march around the island led by the Pacific Island Regiment Band. This was an exciting time for us. We’d come over from Kwato to join in the celebration. Everyone would congregate infront of the Memorial Hall for speeches etc. We’d also sing hymns and the one I especially remember is “O God Our Help In Ages Past”.

 

We came from Kwato Island to join in the commemoration. We would join the parade with the Pacific Islands Regiment (PIR) and march along the identified route which brought us back to the Memorial Hall. I didn’t quite understand why we had to do this but it felt good to be marching in our Brownie uniforms. I was fascinated with the bagpipes that the PIR carried and played as we marched to the tunes.
 
A plaque (photo on the right) honouring the fallen in Gallipoli reminds us that war is not a cool thing then and now.  I could not recall ever having seeing this plaque but that’s probably because we only went anywhere near the Memorial Hall only when invited or when there was a good reason to be anywhere near it such as the ANZAC Day commemorative events.
 
Remains of the main wharf where many a tourist cruise liner would berth such as the Bulolo or Malaita. I was really sad just standing there and looking at this. Oh, if I had a couple of million Kina to spare....
I dug into my memory bank and recalled that hundreds of copra bags full of copra waiting to be shipped would be piled high on one side of the main wharf. We’d look for the dried coconuts that fell out on the side – they made such a lovely snack!
 
Looking across to Kwato and Logea - silhouettes against the early evening sky.
Walking down to Government Wharf and our boat to take us back to Alotau, I felt a pang of homesickness. Well, even a grown-up feels that from time to time. We are all captives of the tranquility of these islands. Especially the peace it brings especially when the day is done and one is in a reflective mood which I admit was my state of mind as we strolled towards the boat.
 
We assembled at Government Wharf and boarded our boat. There was no-one I knew I could wave aioni (good bye) to. Kind of sad. We pulled away from the wharf and as we set the course for Alotau we passed the main wharf and what used to be the Steamships wharf and all I could see was critical infrastructure falling apart and no-one seems to be doing anything about it.
 
Views of the seafront where the Samarai CBD was once the hub of financial, economic, and social activities. 
 
The main wharf and old Steamies wharf - alongside eachother. What a tragedy? or can we still save this heritage site?
 This seafront was a hive of acivity in the ’60s and ’70s which made Samarai Island the place to be. Even during the early ’80s and ’90s. It was a meeting place for all sorts of people I reckon – and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Samarai was such an iconic place then.
 
Would we be able to rekindle that illustrious past maybe in another way and make it once again the hub every province needs. Each province needs more than one hub to get services to remote areas of the province.
 
Looking back at the once awesome nerve centre of Milne Bay, I struggled to hold back the tears.
 “Back to Samarai the island of my dreams….” courtesy of the Island Sounds resonates with all those who came to love this idyllic little island, once full of life.
 
In the distance, only a few posts remain of the walkway that led to the 'restroom' over the water.
So the visit to Samarai was a painful reminder that we seem to let our history and heritage fade before our very eyes. We seem to take what was really good and practical in the past so much for granted and which we can use and turn to our advantage in our current development plans and activities. We seem to go for new things rather than building on the ones we already have. Samarai is a very real case in point.
 
It is still worth a visit if you are in Alotau and need to stretch your legs or do some island-hopping over a weekend. Samarai is worthy of a stop.
 
I believe there is time for a major resucitation and facelift. Let’s get government services back to the smaller islands in the southeast of Milne Bay by making Samarai a critical stopover place. It is bound to grow from its hibernating roots if given even a dog’s chance, to revive itself with the help of those who loved the island and still do.  Perhaps the ‘Samarai Island diaspora’ is an excellent start. What sayeth ye?
 

“Oh Kwato Is A Green Place…”

Looking up from the Kwato wharf - on the left is the big badila (nut) tree and the raintrees. But what was most disturbing was the fast rising sea level on this foreshore.

As our dinghy pulled up along side the wharf at Kwato, I was struck with the beauty of this island where my siblings and lots of relatives grew up and lived. I went to school here. The big badila tree reminded me of waking up early in the mornings to collect the nuts that the flying foxes have dropped on the ground the evening before.

We used to sing “Oh Kwato is a green place, a home for the flowers…”

The walk across the cricket ground and up towards the main road brought back lots of memories. But hey, the big gisoa (mango) trees were gone. The place did not look right. I searched for a small landmark which my Grandfather left and what a great relief that brought tears to my eyes. It was still there.

The iconic Kwato Church. One of the two stone churches in PNG. Both are over 100 years old. How majestic the dubu looked.
 
This is the first time I am able to take a shot like this. My Nikon D90 did not fail me – more like the panoramic lens. This is a Papuan dubu design. We walked around it and then looked beyond – now one could take in a 360 degree view from this vantage point. The dubu is situated on a small plateau on Kwato. Isiiii kapole hinage…the day was sunny and bright and was the right time to visit Kwato. Met up with some relatives and wish I had time for more meetings but we were on a schedule so next time.
 
We walked up to Tupi and met up with Uncle S who incidently saw us earlier on during our climb up towards dubu. He was with a couple of the guys repairing parts of Aituha ( short distance from the back of the Church). His house has a priceless view of the Papuan mainland and surrounding islands.
 
He had a great collection of hibiscus and other beautiful flowers. Uncle S let us take as many shots as we wanted of the flowers and here’s one of them of the magnificient pink and white hibiscus at the front of the house.
 
Magnificient pink and white hibiscus - '"...a home for the flowers..." alright. Amatoi lailai Uncle S for receiving us so graciously and letting us take photos of your beautiful flowers.

We bid Uncle S goodbye and headed down the old Sipi Road towards the B & C building and the wharf. It was a wonderful two (2) hour tour of Kwato Island. Thank you much Jenny (Driftwood Resort) for letting me be the tour guide for this trip to Kwato.

Doini Island beckoned as we quickly had some cold drinks and headed towards the wharf.

I reflect on this week and what has happened or has not happened depending on one’s perspective. I think PNG went through a process that showed how mature Papua New Guineans have become in looking at political developments and how these events impact on our daily lives. Whilst the seriousness of the impasse and the legal judgements and constitutional dos and donts were debated in Facebook and other media and our freedom hung precariously in the balance, I was amazed at how well we handled ourselves as a nation. Not even Australia can say anything nasty about Papua New Guineans anymore. The smear campaigns their papers run and their politician’s perceptions of PNG as a failed state are blown right out of the water. Politically we are more mature than anyone I know. 

PNG leaders must sort themselves out and resolve their differences because we the silent majoity are taking our democracy very seriously and are putting them on notice with every hour that goes by.

I can’t help thinking that Peter O’Neill now is like the Grand Chief Sir Michael in the early 70s. History is replaying itself again it seems, as the young takes over the reins to take this country to another level. Its proud and risilient citizenry watches silently in hope and positive expectation as another era in our democracy is born before our very eyes.

PNG is a beautiful and amazing country. Let’s keep it that way.

‘The Crocodile Prize” Competition Finesses The Writing Talent of Papua New Guinea

The publication - 'The Crocodile Prize - Anthology 2011" - contains the literary expressions of 21 PNG writers

Behold! the conscience of PNG speaks from the shadows no more!

I was most privileged and honored to take part in the inaugural launch of ‘The Crocodile’ Prize Awards, which took place yesterday at the Australian High Commission. No-one would have known that on the grounds of the Australian High Commission, taking place behind closed doors was a birthing of the PNG writers’ collective resolve: to make writing as prominent as the eye can see, the nose can smell, the ear can hear and the mouth can spread the news, that PNG writers are not a dying breed. Far from it!

Keith Jackson (with glasses), Phil Fitzpatrick and our host HE Mr Kemish, the Australian High Commissioner to PNG

I found myself holding back my emotions as I gazed into the happy expectant faces of upcoming contemporary PNG writing pioneers and the assurance of the future of PNG literature. A group united in spirit to make their mark on PNG’s future and its destiny. I felt an overwhelming sense of oneness with this eclectic group of vibrant and perceptive writers whose country is the bedrock of the content of their literary expressions.

PNG writing has come of age, olgeta! The new generation has discovered its own ‘wave of motivation and inspiration’ to drive their literary talent into the public domain. Thanks in no small measure to Keith Jackson and Phil Fitzpatrick and the great support received through Keith’s ‘PNG Attitude’ blog that saw yesterday happen. It was a labour of love that was not in vain.

I could hear and feel in my spirit that for each of these writers their literary journey has truly begun. It was a long time coming. This is a journey that they most certainly will not travel alone. Wherever we are these are our voices too. We must lend them our strong support so that they can continue to give us, through their writing, the checks and balances we need to maintain, in how we relate to eachother as Papua New Guineans and how we should deal with the challenges that we advertently or inadvertently have brought upon ourselves and from which we are struggling to free ourselves.

I did not know many of them but when I started reading their works in the recently published ‘The Crocodile Prize – An Anthology 2011’ I realized that I do know them. I recognized the struggles, successes, uncertainly and so on that they are experiencing as they strive to understand where they have come from and where they should be going. Some of which I totally identify with.

Some of the writers. Russell Soaba in the foreground (with purple shirt) - he was one of the iconic pre-Independence PNG pioneer writers.

We are united through their interests and concerns from the political to social and communal issues to their spiritual belonging to PNG and their experiences while growing up in their villages, Port Moresby and other places in PNG as well as life in general.

The Anthology contains the literary expressions of, if you like, their reality.

These are the voices that need to be heard. As the winner of the Essay Award whose essay entitled ‘The Political Economy of Everything That’s Wrong in Developing PNG’ quite succinctly stated in his winning essay when he read to us an extract of his writing upon receiving his well-deserved award:

“…I don’t dream anymore, I am grounded in reality. I grapple with the facts as they are. Perhaps there are too many visionaries and dreamers such that no one is there to deal with the reality of life in Papua New Guinea. Even a vast majority of people who are trapped like me do not wish to deal with reality.”

How many of us public servants hear this ‘voice’, how many of us can understand this writer’s reality who are also grappling with the facts as they are but with a difference. To do something about it by raising our game to be more focused on public service and to make public service our reality so that we can move forward with mitigating or preventing this writer’s pain and many like him. They say that writers are society’s conscience. Has ours arrived or are they too late?

The day ended with the award ceremony kindly hosted by the Australian High Commissioner and his staff in the foyer area. The sight of the awards, a small crocodile figurine mounted on a rectangular wooden base and with a metal plaque, and with such meticulous detail was evidence enough that ‘The Crocodile Prize’ was here to stay. PNG’s literary renaissance would be a force to be reckoned with, without a doubt!

Thank you so much Keith Jackson, of PNG Attitude fame among his other illustrious achievements and of course avid writer and close PNG observer, Phil Fitzpatrick – both close friends of PNG with a passion for PNG writing and writers – for your  commitment spiritually, and financially that saw this inaugural literary competition come into being yesterday. To Keith and Phil, you must have felt like doting parents as your ‘child’ was born. Am sure that Patrick (Big Pat) Levo, Features Editor at the Post Courier felt the the same way too. Thank you gentlemen for your vision and for such an awesome result.

Lady Margaret Eri

One brief moving moment I experienced during the award proceedings is worth mentioning here. I wondered who else may have also caught the moment. When Lady Margaret Eri was asked, impromptu, to say a few words, she did so graciously and I found myself hanging on to every word she said. Lady Margaret  is the widow of one of the iconic sons of PNG. From her disposition, I can see that under that calm and collected exterior she would have been unmistakably the rock and the pillar of strength behind the late Sir Vincent. As she spoke in a quiet dignified and assured way, she mentioned that her beloved husband, the late Sir Vincent Eri passed away in 1993 and that this was the first time that such a significant gesture had been paid her husband. There were no dramatics just simply a statement of fact.

I was moved to tears. I don’t know why but one thing was for sure in my mind – we tend to forget our forebears and the endless possibilities they had opened up for us. We tend to take them for granted. It was truly an eye-opener what she said and a heart-rending reminder of what we need to do more often. Remember those who have blazed the many trails for us – that enabled and empowered us to pursue careers in almost every field of development, our passions, our preoccupations – great and small, our peaceful lifestyles, and above all a nation to be proud of as well as be part of which they had not allowed anyone to take away from us – our birthright Papua New Guinea.  Sir Vincent was one of the pioneers of our nation. Could remembering the trail blazers be another or new ‘wave of motivation and inspiration’ for contemporary PNG writing? Only time will tell.

With Mizraiim Lapa and Lapieh Landu - winner of the Dame Carol Kidu Award for Women's Literature.

The day closed with a small reception to celebrate the launch and the awardees. I was quite pleased that I had managed to get most of the writers to autograph my copy of ‘The Crocodile Prize – Anthology 2011” and took a few photos with them. What a wonderful fulfilling day.

With Keith Jackson - we were classmates at UPNG in the early 70s.

I went home feeling so uplifted. Of all the days during this week, yesterday had to be the highest point. It been the eve of celebrating PNG’s 36th national day, I realized what a fitting tribute the day was, (Thursday, 15th September, 2011) to a soon-to-become a better known group of artists – the PNG writers.

Hello, Papua New Guinea! The writers are coming!