Vlad Sokhin – In His Shadow

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A few months ago I had the privilege of meeting Vlad Sokhin, a documentary photographer here in Port Moresby. As a member of the PNG Photography Association, I was very happy to be part of the group that turned up to meet him and view some of his work. It was a very educational and also interesting to find out what documentary photography was about and of course meeting Vlad in person.

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Here dwarfed by Vlad, I couldn’t imagine that in 2013 I would be standing in the shadow of this iconic person. Winner of over 10 prestigious awards.

Vlad showed us some videos he had taken in Portugal, and a number of countries in Africa and elsewhere. I was fascinated at what his lens conveyed in pictures many ordinary lives of extraordinary people. I left before we got to Vlad’s photographs on specific themes here in Papua New Guinea.

I wish Vlad all the best in his future photography endeavours here and abroad.

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Vlad making a point in between his presentations.

Vlad is working on a project here locally in Port Moresby and environs so I wish him the best in that project.

Spasibo…

Habitat Destruction In Your Face

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This was the view from my office at the beginning of the week. Notice three fires in three different locations. This is happening like everyday. Just can’t escape it.

Sometimes the haze from the smoke settles over the Harbour and it is horrible.

I heard from people working in that area where the fires are that there are now snakes galore in those places!

The first thing that came to mind was…habitat destruction. Whilst I’m not fond of snakes, alive or dead, it does make one realise how fragile our Port Moresby and its environs have become.

Just today I was reading Oala Moi’s very eloquent article in the Masalai Blog about the growing disenfranchisement of the Motu-Koitabu and it really brought the point home…habitat destruction and through it dis-empowerment of people, animals and reptiles.

It’s not only the reptiles that are fleeing from their habitat and traditional lands….is it already becoming the survival of the fittest?

Food for thought for all who care about the environment and the increasingly fragile eco-systems.

Bali: On Ethical Tourism

Waiting for the meeting to start. We were all in a good mood it seems with lots of smiles around. It’s always an honor to sit behind the country’s name.

All day Saturday was spent at the conference. We met many professionals from government, the private sector and civil society.

H.E. Mr Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) delivering his address at the Conference.

From the presentations, it became clear to me that ethical development is a  key issue in tourism development.

Ms Tricia Barnett, Director, Tourism Concern, United Kingdom making her presentation. She had a powerful message on the plight of and disadvantages faced by workers in tourism establishments. The exploitation through tourism.

Many countries are now making a paradigm shift from a bigger profit margin to sustainable development which is inclusive and innovative.

We heard about how one hotel in East Java, Indonesia has very successfully banned smoking in their hotel rooms and still able to operate at capacity. The significance of this is that Indonesia is within the top 5 heaviest smoking nations in Asia and 2nd to the Philippines within the ASEAN region. However, despite this, the hotel in Surabaya became the flagship for ethical development in tourism in that area. There were cynics who said the hotel will not make it but it proved them absolutely wrong.

Some smoking trivia, the Jakarta Post reported on 31st May, 2012 that, ” Sixty-five million Indonesians spend Rp 100 trillion (US$10.4 billion) to buy 225 billion cigarettes every year, doctors say.

Even worse, the number of smokers in the nation has risen by 0.9 percent every year between 2000 and 2008, according to the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI).”

Some of the speakers at the Conference.

The conference concluded with the declaration of a Global Code of Ethics in tourism development for Asia and the Pacific region.

Details of this regional conference can be read on the the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) website. You can also download the ‘Spirit of Bali Statement’ which was the major outcome of the Asia Pacific regional meeting:  ‘UNWTO Seminar on Tourism Ethics for Asia and the Pacific: Responsible Tourism and its Socio-Economic Impact on Local Communities’.

The meeting was jointly hosted by the UNWTO and the Government of Indonesia.

The quality of speakers and the material presented at this meeting was very high. Services and the hospitality we experienced was absolutely A-1.

It appears that countries in Asia are moving towards sustainable tourism but they may be a lone voice in the wilderness of luxurious hotel development and the vagaries of tastes of the touring public. But am also encouraged by the show of support for sustainable and more inclusive tourism development at this meeting in Bali.

This is an indication that PNG’s tourism offer is one that should include the collaboration and cooperation of all service providers who will underpin the growth of the tourism industry in PNG. The service providers span a cross section of the society and the development sector which includes by and large, infrastructure, law and order, agriculture, health and education.

Participation of local communities depends very much on the time dedicated to making them aware of the cost of tourism and how it will impact on their lives and their livelihoods. What are their views on such things as water usage, land usage, the impact on their tribal and traditional practices and so on. We  need more anthropological data and support that will underpin ethical development.

The speakers with their gifts at the conclusion of the seminar.

The use of technology for ethical tourism development is inevitable and can drive awareness amongst/of tourists/the touring population as well as the tourism product owners.

A fortuitous opportunity this was to cultivate the necessary regional and international networks that have the potential to provide much needed technical and strategic advice and support for capacity building and so on and so forth.

An Evening Cruise On MV South Pacific

Yours truly with some of the invited VIPs on board the MV South Pacific, owned and operated by the Bank of South Pacific.

Recently, I was one of the invitees to join the top brass of the Bank of South Pacific on their boat the MV South Pacific for a dinner cruise around Fairfax Harbour, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

Fairfax Harbour is probably one of the best natural harbours in the country and in the Pacific Region. I shudder at the thought of more of the seaviews disappearing so fast so we miss out on the harbour views when driving into downtown Port Moresby nowadays. We used to be able to see the sea but slowly construction of many new buildings and the extensions of the port along the waterfront  is obstructing this view that we used to take for granted. It will be gone forever and it is beyond the control of so many ordinary people in Port Moresby who would want to get a glimpse of the harbour on their way downtown or back up towards the hinterland. 

Soon we’d have to go up Port Road or Paga Hill to be able to take in unobstructed views of our beloved Fairfax Harbour.

Getting out of the marina and into the harbour.

The evening started off with heavy rain. It was a little daunting also trying to find Finger B which was where our boat was moored. It took me 15 minutes to finally find it with the help of a couple of helful RPYC security guards. Of course me not been a member of the RPYC made it difficult too. Anyway, I finally found the place and was greeted by two friendly and helpful ladies.

I braved the drizzle walking down the length of the pier to get onboard but what a lovely reward at the end of the walk. Of course climbing up the stairs in rain was a bit of a challenge with the ever-present hazard of falling into the sea should I get a foot wrong going up. But I mustered all the strength and skill recalled from my early years growing up on Kwato Island and the many times we had to get on and off the mission boats come rain and shine got me up the ladder and on to dry deck.

Cheers! we’re off on an evening cruise around Fairfax Harbour.

I met others who were already there and was soon holding on to a cool glass of orange juice. As we sipped our drinks and slowly got to meet the others the rain subsided and it was calm and dry. This was something different – to be on a boat in the harbour sipping a cold drink and meeting new people on a rainy evening. Of all of them, I had met only three (3) people prior to the cruise. I was delighted to join our BSP friends and this small  gathering on board.  

Not long after the rain cleared, it was decided we should cast off.  So we were   going on our evening cruise after all. The rain had not dampened our spirits and expectations to cruise around the harbour this evening.

After a brief explanation on the boat itself and a fine one too, the Captain gave us a safety briefing and then we were off as we slowly edged our way out of the marina. A great sense of freedom, adventure and well-being came over me.

A lone figure at the helm – our able Captain Simeon at the helm of the MV South Pacific, owned and operated by the Bank of South Pacific (BSP).

The sea was calm but a little breeze to remind us we were on a boat and gliding gracefully over the water.

Just outside the RPYC there is a massive contruction site and this is the view from the harbour. Looks different, obviously.

I couldn’t believe the fact that I was seeing Port Moresby by night from the harbour, and rarer still the opportunity to do so this evening. It was just a very nice feeling to be out and about without having to look over my shoulder. I must say the city looked beautiful this evening.

Port Moresby’s waterfront. It would be really nice to have a seafood restaurant along the seafront. Now that would be something.

As the boat moved out into the harbour I was transported back to my childhood days albeit momentarily.  When on school holidays from Cameron High School we would board one of the mission boats – either the Osiri or Labini – one or the other for Samarai, Logea and Kwato.

Part of Port Moresby’s skyline. Could see the towering Grand Papua.

I used to feel rather cheeky arriving at night because no-one knew  which school children have come home to the island for the school holidays until the following morning or at Church.  

The container wharf with the large cranes. Massive. Don’t know whether they can expand anymore with all the shipping activity going on everyday.

The reflection of lights on the water held a certain facination for me. And now I couldn’t help feeling a sense of deja vu.  I decided to stand back and enjoy the views in the cool evening.

One of the delectable dishes served for dinner on board. Yumsko!

Looking back the way we came out of the Royal Papua Yacht Club marina and out in the open I focused my sights and my camera on the lights of Port Moresby.

Well, what do you know the city looked stunning with all the lights and the colourful patterns on the water from the many different coloured lights.

Dinner was served and soon we went downstairs to partake of the tasty morsels laid before us. One of the things I take for granted is that I am not seasick and the food was a welcome sight. After a few words of welcome and updates on BSP from the CEO we tucked in.

Dinner is served!

Later on I went aft to enjoy the sights of Port Moresby from the boat.

Port Moresby looked like a reclining lady in red, yellow and orange sequinns shimmering against a dark sky.

I went past a couple of big ships and then to Napa Napa and Motukea then infront of Tatana on our return to the marina. 

The last time I was on a boat in the harbour was in the ’80s and was a passenger or spectator on one somebody’s boat watching the regatta or some sailing competition. It’s all so hazy now. But anyway, this was the first time I am out in the Harbour at night.

No, I wasn’t trying to sing ‘My Heart Will Go On’ – in fact am facing the wrong way. City lights in the background.

I look out on the harbour from my office day in day out and to be in it myself in the same place that so many container vessels use during the day was an awesome thought.

The city looked like something out of Star Wars or Galactica.

My camera was clicking all the time we were cruising around but the constant movement did not help but I think I managed to get some. I did the best I could but happy that I can actually take photos.

One of the views from the bow of the boat. Fascinating.

Thank you so much Mr Clyne and your managers for giving us the privilege to go on a harbour cruise and to enjoy Port Moresby at night this way.  Thank you Captain Simeon for taking us out on the MV South Pacific and bringing us safely back home.

All too soon our cruise came to an end at about 9.00pm.

We were back at the marina and then it was goodbyes and I took my leave. Driving home, I thought about the cruise, about the MV South Pacific, about BSP and the food we enjoyed and most of all about seeing the lights of Port Moresby this way.

Captain Simeon and I at the end of the cruise. He’s my wantok from the Trobs – kagutoki Captain Simeon for a great cruise.

There ain’t no nicer way to enjoy the night air in Port Moresby than a wonderful cruise in Fairfax Harbour on an evening like this.

Approaching the marina – coming up to berth.

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.

The Haoapa – Gould Art Exhibition – Port Moresby, March 2012

Artwork from Ratoos (Gary) Haoapa – on of PNG’s handful of iconic artists with international acclaim.

I was invited to the opening of Australia Week which began on 5th March, 2012 at the Australian High Commission here in Port Moresby. 

Minister for Education, Hon. Theo Zurenuoc just cut the ribbon signalling the opening of Australia Week’s joint Haoapa – Gould art exbihition.

To kick start the Week the Minister for Education, Hon. Theo Zurenuoc did the honours by cutting the ribbon after a short speech which followed the opening remarks of the Australian High Commissioner, H.E. Mr Ian Kemish. 

Some of John Gould’s art work.

On display at the opening were two beautiful and stunning artworks from two artists – one Papua New Guinean, Ratoos Gary Haoapa and the other an Australian, John Gould.

Some more artwork from two very talented visual artists.

PNG Attitude also posted a short article on the art exhibition which you can read here.

More of the artwork on display.

Icouldn’t help thinking that these kind of occasions which support exhibitions – joint or otherwise – go along way in showcasing local and international talent and helps to energise and motivate our local artists to think about solo and joint exhibitions and garner awareness and support for their work.

I wished at least one of the exhibited pieces was hanging in my house – wishful thinking.

I was so happy I went along and thanks to the Australian High Commission for the kind invitation to attend the opening of 2012 Australia Week.

Once again I am blown away by the artistic expressions of visual artists and the wonderful and creative ways in which they view life and our modernising world.

Birthday Breakfast At Milano’s

A full cooked breakfast on my birthday. 2 poached eggs, sausages, hashbrowns, grilled mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, bacon and a sprig of fresh parsley to complete the delicious ensemble. One word from me - yumsko!

No, I did not eat everything on the plate incase you are wondering. I really didn’t plan to have a full cooked breakfast but the idea was there. It was a lovely sunny day, not hot or muggy so a cooked breakfast at Milano’s on Queen Street, Brisbane City seemed like a natural choice that morning. 

As you can see, I was going to have a King’s breakfast. I did wait a little while for the breakfast to arrive at my table but realised that there were more people here than perhaps on a weekday. When the plate was infront of me, it was, let’s say, a breakfast worth waiting for.

The 'silver ware' and the nice fresh clean surroundings...waiting for my green tea to arrive.

 The only bit of excitement or rather the interruption of my thoughts, was when a couple sitting next to me, obviously, very much fascinated with eachother, asked me to take their photo. I quickly obliged. I tried to capture their moment so I made sure I framed the photo properly and did not disappoint them.

After a few minutes of trying to figure out the best angle, voila! click went the camera, photo taken and handed back their camera. They were quite pleased with the result and complimented me for my photographic skills obviously they may have noticed my Nikon D90 parked next to me.  Well, that is neither here nor there. The important thing for me was that their special moment was well-captured and I got a compliment for a photo well-taken. It was not bad for someone who could not remember their own birthday even if it were staring them in the face.

Green tea finally arrived to a very warm welcome from my stomach...

I tried to think of all the birthdays I’ve celebrated, well, the ones that I can remember but not chronologically, are you kidding?

I couldn’t even remember how I celebrated my birthday last year. In fact come to think of it, I celebrated it in Alotau – a quiet affair but then a few days later I was singing with my ex-Salima members – it was a great bung as we sang some of our memorable numbers for the relatives and friends who gathered to celebrate another birthday in Alotau on 19th March, 2010.

After my King’s breakfast, I took my time walking around the Mall and shopping arcades and taking  in the sights and sounds of the city and thinking about the afternoon at JKL’s place at Bellbowrie.