Finn Egan was on extended assignment as Student Learning Support Coordinator at Kabaleo Teacher's College in Papua New Guinea. He returned to New Zealand in June 2017.
Published on 8th February 2017
In the final instalment of this four part series, Kokopo-based volunteer Finn Egan shares more reasons why he loves being on assignment in Papua New Guinea...
As per my previous blog post, I’m surprised that Papua New Guinea is not a more popular destination for volunteers across the Pacific and I think a whole bunch of people are missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime. In this post, I’m going to address the issue of security in PNG.
I’ve devoted a whole post to this topic, because it seems to always come up whenever I discuss my assignment with anyone who hasn’t actually been to Papua New Guinea. In no particular order, here are the common questions that people ask me:
• Are you okay? (Considering I’ve extended for another 6 months, I think I’m coping alright).
• Isn’t it dangerous where you live? (Sure, if screechy 2 year old next-door neighbours ‘attacking’ you is considered danger).
• Are you allowed to go outside? (My jandal tan is proof that, yes, occasionally I venture out into the sunlight).
• How do you get to work? (Like many people, I used to catch the bus. Now I’ve upgraded to a scooter for convenience. However, I still use public transport from time to time).
I’m not going to sugar coat this: violence occurs in Papua New Guinea, just like it occurs everywhere else in the world.
I have seen it happen occasionally and I’m sure I will see it again. But here’s the thing: just because something happens doesn’t mean that a) it happens to you, and b) you are powerless to avoid it. Common sense should tell you that walking around by yourself at night isn’t a good idea in Kokopo, but I would give (and have given) the same advice to first year students in Wellington on a Saturday night.
I say it over and over again, but people genuinely look out for you here. Whether that’s the locals who come to check why you’ve been at the bus stop for a long time (he must be lost), or the expats who are happy to drive you home if it’s getting dark (he’s a ‘poor’ volunteer), there is always someone checking on you.
I’ve often felt guilty because I wonder if people would treat me the same if I wasn’t such an obvious outsider (Pakeha with blue eyes and a strange sense of humour). However, there is a certain comfort in being treated as ‘different’ in particular situations, which a lot of us hate to admit, but are secretly relieved about.
Remember in an earlier post, I said people stare at you? Well the good thing about that is that everyone knows when you’re being messed with, and will usually call those cheeky individuals out. I’ve had random ladies at the market come to my defence over pawpaw marketing (I was told it was red. It wasn’t and I still have trust issues). Although this is a light-hearted example, the same applies in other situations. People who use their common sense are not in any danger.
Anyway, that’s everything off my chest for now. If you’re still unsure about volunteering in Papua New Guinea, then ask VSA if you can get in contact with someone in country. Although we’re busy at work in the community, we’re happy to fill you in on anything you’d like to know about.
Kia ora tatau