A day in Kokopo
24 December 2009 | Rabaul
Ella and Eric
Our trip to Kokopo yesterday was exciting, in the morning we caught a bus which was sitting on the back of a truck with wooden bars slanted to sit on. The buses are called "PMVs", standing for People Moving Vehicles. Some name come up with by a bureaucratic official that we think is quite funny. But it is a really good transport system given the amount of people they manage to transport around, so we liked it despite our sore bums. It was a fascinating experience just being able to be on this rackety PMV, squeezed between people, outside on this truck, for the one hour trip. This is many peoples daily commute and the trip offered us beautiful views and insight into the region.
Arriving in Kokopo -we are are the only white people in the whole town and they treat us differently, Eric jokes and says its affirmative action- as we go to line up to put our bags in the bag check to go into the supermarket, security tells us we do not have to do this, and are allowed to go in the supermarket with our bags. Positive discrimination to encourage white people to "shop" at supermarkets??? And then as we got to the ATM, there is a large line where it goes way out side the room where the ATMS are situated, about 10 people can fit in the room. As we approach through the line and reach the room, immediately a security guard stands outside the room so no one can get in after us- we are allowed a private session with the ATM so to speak, instead of having 8 people lined up behind us. It was an odd feeling, treated so obviously different to the other people- and given these "privileges" of trust. Its a weird racism towards white people form a Papua New Guinea community. Positive discrimination to encourage more tourists? I was afraid that it would make things worse- ie. make people resent us but perhaps it is just the reaction of a community trying to make up for the bad/dangerous reputation of their country.
Talking about bank security, at some point when we were waiting in the line two trucks pulled up and about ten guys with large shotguns, assault rifles and body armour jumped out, these guys looked mean, "private security" looking after the money transferred. Rather scary.
Anyhow Kokopo was buzzing full of people, it was a lovely shiny sunny day but everyone was carrying bright colored umbrellas - using them as parasols, that really made it feel bright. The fastest growing city in Papua New Guinea we are told- The shops were full- as you would expect anywhere a couple days before Christmas and with Christmas music and decorations everywhere it really feels like Christmas. We devised a plan to buy each other Christmas presents while we were in the same shops.
Also on the news the headline story we watched was about Christmas- the headline was that people were forgetting what the true message of Christmas was- from 3 different church pastors, who were saying there is too much focus on 'giving' and not on the celebration of Jesus Christ and the gifts of God.. something like that. It was bizarre- a reminder that PNG is a very Christian country. In New Zealand people are reminded the opposite! That it is about giving rather than receiving. Perhaps giving has an importance in Melanesian custom that I don't know about. When you give someone something here they are semi-indebted to you until they give something back- which for some yachts has began a 'giving war' with each party one-upping the other over and over. Still, a lot, even the majority of the women are wearing 'pacific gowns' similar to New Caledonia, they are apparently originated from the days that missionaries gave them to women to show that they had been baptised. It's hard to imagine they've forgotten the Christian part of Christmas..