Friday, April 21, 2006
Where do you go Shopping?
Where Do You Go Shopping?
Due to our location, getting supplies is no easy task. Usually I travel five fours by truck to a town called Kavieng once a month. It is the only true town on the island. This place is very small and supplies are limited, but for the most part we can get essentials. There are times when I travel by boat to the town of Kokopo, on the island of New Britain for supplies. The boat ride, at times, can be quite the adventure.
To make the trip to Kokopo, my day starts between 4:00am and 5:00am. I first drive to the west coast of the island, which takes one hour. The drive is less than 15 miles, but the road is horrible. I then have the task of finding a good boat heading to Kokopo that day.
The boats that make the trip to the other island are little dinghy boats with a 40 horse engine. I have learned over the last two and half years, which boat operators know what they are doing, and which ones do not. Every year, scores of people die taking these boats from our island to Kokopo or Lihir. Many times these deaths are the result of poor judgment by the boat operator.
When deciding on which boat to take, I also take into consideration how many people are in the boat. On one particular trip to Kokopo, I hired a boat operator named Herman, and his boat. He only had two or three other people going, so this was ideal. As we left, we were about 5 minutes down the coast when a truck from the shore started beeping at us. There were people who wanted to get on our boat. Herman turned the boat and went to pick them up. Before I knew it, the boat was packed. I mean PACKED.
There are no seats on these little dinghies. One simply sits on the floor of the boat. I had no cushion or pillow with me either. When all the people packed into the boat I was forced to the front of the boat sitting Indian style unable to move, because of all the people! So here I was sitting in a cramped position without any ability to change the way I am sitting. As we begin to head out to sea, the front of the boat is slamming every few seconds on the ocean. I am literal bouncing on my back side over and over. This continued for the duration of the boat ride, which was three hours! Remember now, I have no pillow or cushion with me. With all the people on board, I felt like I was a refugee leaving Cuba for Florida!
Half way through the trip, I thought it would b easier just to swim to the other island. I was trying everything I knew to avoid thinking about the pain I was in. I can not tell you how happy I was when we made to the other island. The first thing I bought when we arrived was a PILLOW for the trip back. My backside was sore for over a week. I could hardly sit down any where. Oh, and yes that was the last time I ever traveled on the boat with out a pillow or cushion.
On this day, the trip back would prove to contain one of the most frightening yet funny experiences I have ever had on one of these boat rides. When I make the return trip back to New Ireland I always hire the entire boat. This way I have enough room for my supplies, and I can leave when I want to leave. I had finished all my shopping in Kokopo and I was ready to go back with my pillow ready to go. Herman took off from shore and everything seemed to be going great. The ocean was much calmer then the morning run, but I was still very sore. An hour or so into the trip, Herman turns off the boat. I did not like that. I always imagine the operator unable to start it back up, and thus floating in the ocean while being cooked by the sun. If something like that happens there are no radios on these boats to call for help. There would be no help coming for days. Herman had turned off the boat so he could get some buai to chew. Buai is a nasty habit here in PNG. Buai has a small drug affect and it is very harmful to the body. Well, Herman got his buai and was ready to go now.
As he went to pull start the motor, his arm accidentally hit the key to the engine. The key went flying into the air and went right into the ocean. NO FLOATING device was on the key! I could not believe what I just witnessed. Right behind the key though, Herman went flying into the air diving after the key! This all happened in a matter of seconds. Now, here I am sitting in this boat, with the key and the operator under the water. Well, if you ever need a jump start to your prayer life, this is it!
I guess around 20 to 30 seconds went by and up pops Herman. He then lifts his hand to show me, he retrieved the key! I was thrilled, thankful, overjoyed, happy to see Herman, and ready to kill him at the same time. We made it back to New Ireland without further incident. I arrived home about 7:00pm. Again, just another day in Papua New Guinea!
Posted by Terry McGovern