Investing in a quality water tank is a good choice

While PNG, as a whole, is often seen as a place abundant in clean water, access to it can be difficult at times. Difficulty in accessing good water sources place many people at risk of water, sanitation and hygiene related issues. The PNG Government’s WASH Policy 2015 – 2030 indicates that 89 per cent of people in urban areas and 33 percent in rural areas have access to safe water while 57 percent of urban dwellers and only 13 percent of the rural population have access to basic sanitation.

So we too, in rural areas have access issues. Take for example, my parents in Manus. My parents used to live in a place in the village where they had to walk a distance to collect fresh water. Liap village is on the north coast of Manus island. It is a coastal village with most houses lining up alongside the beach. Sometimes, getting access to fresh water can be a bit difficult on the coastline especially during dry season. There are rivers and creeks but one has to go up some way to the head of the water source to get clean and fresh water.

Taking ownership and investing in a process of acquiring and maintaining good water access often falls onto individuals or families rather than the government, especially in rural areas of PNG. For example, to assist my parents with their fresh water needs, a water storage item close to the house would suit them. In my first year of formal employment, I had set aside enough money to buy a tank. I can’t really recall the amount but it was my first significant investment back to my parents. It was, and is still, a 1000 litre Tuffa tank that I bought from Lae’s manufacturing company, KK Kingston.

I worked in Lae and bought the tank in Lae. After buying the tank, I needed to figure out how to transport it from Lae, Morobe Province, to Lorengau in Manus, a journey of around 500 kilometers over the Bismarck Sea. I finally placed the tank on a Lutheran Shipping vessel and shipped it to Lorengau, Manus. Once it arrived there, it was then loaded onto an outboard motor for an hour on the northern coast line to Andru Point, Liap village. Once it arrived there, my parents built a small cement base and then put the tank on top, connected a gutter on the roof and downpipes to the tank.

Water tanks are a part of the solution to acquiring and maintaining good water access. The tank made my parents’ lives easier. Today, over 15 years later, this tank is still with me. My parents moved to our new area in the village so we transported the tank to our new place. We ended up rebuilding our house and starting out again. As I fix the family house and reset the tank stand next to our house in the village, I think about why we make personal investments. I have made investments of time, money, energy and emotions into people, equipment, machinery and places over the years.

Some investments, like this tank, I actually see it as a quality investment because over time it has provided water to not only my parents but those who are our neighbors as well. Its durability too makes this a worthy investment for me. It was difficult and costly to buy the tank in Lae and bring it all the way to my village in Manus, but it has been worth it as the benefits have outweighed the costs over time.

Me and my tank!
The Tuffa tank under the house. I’m still deciding which corner of the house I should stand this tank.

So invest in a water tank for your family today and help reduce water, sanitation and hygiene issues in our communities.

A hospital from a distant memory

Goroka holds so much childhood memories for me.

One particular place that means so much to me is the Goroka Base Hospital. This is where I got my first malaria treatment, broke my arm while playing in the hospital premises, watched television for the first time which was a video of a preacher named ‘Jimmy Swaggart’ and many other memories too. My mother worked as a nurse at this hospital so some days I would spend hours just wondering through the whole hospital and its surrounding areas while she worked there. It was a quaint little hospital serving the township population. The hospital was built in 1969.

This used to the central car park area of the hospital and the entrance to the hospital.
I remember walking up these cement pathway as a child from the ground floor to the hospital wings one level up.
The older parts of the hospital still maintain the same shape as I had last seen them.

Now I come back after all these years and the hospital buildings have changed in part but at the same time, much still remained the same as well. In the 1980s, Goroka town was the prettiest town in the Pacific and its hospital was, in my opinion, the best in the country. The hospital served much of its around 280,000 people back then in the 80’s but now maybe close to an estimated 600,000 population. Much of the brick walls and cement floor in the older parts of the building still remain but now there are many inclusions and the buildings have a modern touch to it. I’m really impressed with the new buildings. The former Minister of Health, in 2019, Mr. Elias Kavapore put the cost of new buildings at K200 million.

Some newer parts of the hospital looking from the carpark to the outpatient area.
The outpatient area is upstairs
One of the new wings of the hospital. It looks impressive!
The carpark area

I didn’t have the opportunity to go inside and see the inside of the new buildings but I know they would be awesome. As the former health minister said in 2019, “As the new diagnostic centre, Goroka has seven fully-equipped operating theatres that are at international standard and second to none in the country”!!

So yes, that’s just a little visit back down memory lane. See you all soon!

Need new glasses? A welcome sight in Goroka

Like many Papua New Guineans, I too, suffer from poor eyesight, in particular, short-sightedness (myopia). This means that when I see objects or people that are far away from me, they are blurry. My eyes cant make them out from a distance. To correct this, one can purchase glasses after doing proper eye tests with a qualified optometrist. The consultation will cost you but the expensive items are the glass frames and lens.

Over the years, I have spent quite a lot of money to purchase specific frames and lens for my glasses. Different vendors will have their own price and catalogue of glasses. Earlier this year I enquired at a private eye care company/optometrist operating in an urban area. In their stock, they begin all their frame prices at K650 while the lens may go up to K800 particularly for my lens strength. There are many organizations, some privately owned companies or cross country charity organisations or even church based NGOs that provide eye care across the country. Each has their own price depending on factors such as quality of frames, strength of lens, cost of doing business, number of people in need, estimation of affordability, whether optical care is part of rehabilitation or not, negative perceptions among different groups of people, etc. But all of them, from my experience, will provide an eye test and give information on the necessary glasses and lens to offer. Some eye tests are basic while others require much greater attention.

When visiting Goroka, the capital of Eastern Highlands Province, I came across the Callan Optical Service. Their office is right alongside the Highlands Highway opposite the airport.

The notice next to the entrance of the building showing the services provided and the types of work they carry out at the facility.

Their service and quality of care is top notch! As soon as I entered their small office space, Mr. Kotis Awaso, the refractionist and optical technician greeted me.

Kotis Awaso is ever ready to help me choose my frames
The frames are on display.

Since I knew my lens strength measurement, he invited me in to the area where the frames were on display. At the Callan Optical Service, both the frames and lens together cost K200. I spent the next ten minutes trying on the frames that I liked. Once I chose one, I paid for it and they started cutting the lens. Within 30 minutes I received my new pair of glasses! It was indeed a welcome sight in Goroka!

My completely new glasses with the tinted lens cut within 30 minutes.

While some might still say that K200 is still a lot of money to fork out for a pair of glasses, I would say otherwise. For the quality of frames and lenses, and the work required to cut the lens for the frames in 30 minutes, this is something you dont get often almost anywhere in this country. If I were to pay these elsewhere in places like Lae, Port Moresby or even places where I have gone to do studies such as Brisbane and Perth in Australia (yes I have done tests and got lens/frames in these two cities), this is the best cost effective option for me. Even in places like Australia, you would definitely need health insurance cover to pay for prescription glasses as it can be quite expensive.

If you are ever in Goroka and want to have your eyes checked/tested or look for new glasses, then visit the Callan Optical Service right in the heart of Goroka town, just along the Highlands Highway road.  

Lopoki Inc. Supports Abus na Kumu

Well we finally got around to putting all the video clips together to create a video for Abus na Kumu. It’s a colloborative effort between both organisations, Lopoki Inc. and Abus na Kumu, to help each other grow.

Abus na Kumu is a small business owned and operated by Mr. Richard Mark, a Papua New Guinean from East New Britain but grew up in Goroka, Eastern Highlands province. Abus na Kumu describes its brand as helping Papua New Guineans experience home cooked meals with their slogan ‘Explore Taste, Explore Us, Service like Family’. They have multiple products on offer such as Catering Services; Oven, Grill and Smoker Fabrication; Merchandise, Cooking Shows and Kids Cooking Classes. They have a facebook page and you can check them out.

Richard, catching a fish at Nyapio island.

In September, Abus na Kumu travelled to Nyapio Island in Manus. During their stay, they showcased a Papua New Guinean favourite – the Aigir – and shared the delicious food with the islanders. Lopoki Inc. captured these moments and produced this short video to tell their story.

Enjoy!

Abus na Kumu visits Nyapio Island

Need to reduce work related stress? An unforgettable two days on Nyapio island can do the trick

Suppose you have been working for a number of years and your now routine life activities are beginning to eat at your happiness. Or maybe you just want a little bit of adventure or even something different for a few days. Do you feel you should take a few days off your normal routine and repeated activities? Then Nyapio Island Getaway Resort is surely the best therapy for you. Just a few days on this island oasis would have you feeling good all over. Since I regularly write about community initiatives in Manus for my blog lopoki.com, the Nyapio community invited me to visit their new village style Resort initative and, along with their guests, experience what the Resort had to offer. So on 16th September, I made the trip from Lorengau to their island. All I can say is that it is truly one of the best places you will ever set foot on in Manus Province, Papua New Guinea.

Nyapio Island Getaway Resort is located on the south coast of Manus Province. Nyapio and other surrounding smaller islands are most widely known as the Johnston islands and are a rural and remote group of islands in the Pobuma Local Level Government (LLG) area. It is roughly two hours by outboard motor from the provincial capital, Lorengau. You have to travel north over the sea from Lorengau town, go through the Loniu waterway passage, then under the famous Loniu bridge, hit the open seas past Lawes village and then set the course straight past N’dropwa island and after a few minutes further south, Nyapio island emerges from the edge of the sea. We took this route on the 16th of September from Lorengau around 4.30pm and arrived in the afternoon at roughly around 6pm.

Passing through the Loniu passage onto the south coast of Manus
Arriving at Nyapio after the two hour boat ride from Lorengau town
First time ever to touch down on Nyapio island aka Johnston Island.

We were welcomed by the sound of a lone wooden garamut as we neared the shoreline. When we landed, the community came to welcome us. We quickly sorted our baggage and moved them to the bungalow accommodation just a few meters from the seashore. We then took a bath with fresh water to rinse sea salt from our body and clothes. Then dinner came in hot and hearty. There were multiple varieties of fish, mashed cassava, sago infused with sea shell meat, greens, bananas and sweet potatoes. We topped it off with tea while the local clan leaders spoke and welcomed us as guests to the Resort.

Dinner is served!
Some of the yummy island delicacies! The sliver tray in front is sago immersed with meat from seashells! Just too good!

We then moved to the bungalow, sorted our clothes and things. There are two bungalows with one fully complete. The next one was under construction and had iron roofing. The completed bungalow is made from traditional house materials of wood, sago leaves and cane thatched blinds. The flooring has a mat and the windows have flywire screens. It is spacious around 3 meters by 3 meters and the interior roofing is high forming an apex in the middle of the house. One bungalow has two rooms and each room had two single beds, each with comfortable mattresses, clean sheets and pillows. The cool evening breeze lulled us into submission and by 9pm or 10pm we were already sound asleep.

Our bungalows. This bungalow has two rooms and each room as two beds.

 In the morning, we had breakfast, similar to what we had the night before, but this time we had baked buns, fried bananas and pawpaw slices too. The plan was that we would go fishing and then visit one of the islands nearby. With a boat skipper, two crew and us, the guests, we set off onto the open sea on a 40 horse powered engine. Since I lived in the hinterlands of Manus, this was an opportunity for me to fish. Alas, my inexperienced hands only landed one small fish but I was too proud nonetheless.

Richard with his catch!
Its a tiny fish but I’m over the moon!
Island hopping after the trawling session. This is Kalopa island
Majestic views from the top! Standing on the hill of Kalopa island and looking west back to Nyapio island. M’buke island is further back of Nyapio
Standing at the top of Kalopa and looking towards the east where Lou island stands proud in the distance.
The waters surrounding Kalopa are just amazing!
Skillful Master: As we near Nyapio, one of the islanders is fishing in the deep sea, straddling his legs aside the canoe to balance himself while pulling in the fish.

We then circled back and approached one of the island just next to Nyapio – Kalopa. The waters leading towards the island are just as clean as a whistle in the rays of the midday sunlight. We landed at the beach and then decided to climb the hard rocks to reach the summit roughly 20 meters above sea level. We sat down for a few minutes and looked back to the main island Nyapio. M’buke island was further to the west while at our back, in the distant sea, were the islands of Baluan and Lou. Many of the islands on the south coast of Manus are very far from mainland Manus in comparison to the islands on the north coast of Manus which are very close to the mainland Manus. So for the Johnston islanders, travelling to the mainland of Manus is too far so their main trading partners are the two islands on the east. When in need, they usually catch a bountiful of fish and exchange these for baskets of fruits and vegetables from the Lou and Baluan islanders. It must be also noted that Nypio island is one of the last islands of Manus where human population reside before you travel across provincial maritime borders on the high open seas to Madang or Wewak, if you happen to make that trip. After our climb, we came back down, washed in the cool waters of Kalopa, had lunch on the beach and took photos. We then went on the boat to the next island Keyoni where we picked up some ‘aleleu’ fresh off the tree. The ‘aleleu’, as a typical greens would be used together with our village raised chicken in our afternoon meal. We then left Keyoni, went past the back of Nyopio and arrived back to the front of the island where our accommodation was.  

A lovely parrot rests on my head
Two of the guests Mr. Richard Mark from Abus na Kumu and Mr. Richard Dellman from Advantage (PNG) share tips on the use of automatic SRL cameras

In the afternoon, one of the other guests Mr. Richard Mark, who is the founder of the business called Abus na Kumu, decided to run a practical workshop for the women involved in the Resort on how to prepare and cook the famous East New Britain province delicacy – the Aigir. He used local chickens and fish including vegetables and showed them every step of the process. It was the first time anyone had cooked Aigir on the small island and so the women were eager participants. He also prepared the two small fish we had caught using his signature sauce and lemon fish tray. The aroma of great food filled the kitchen area. In the evening, it was a really good meal! I practically swallowed the lemon slices together with the fish! After the day long adventure, we were so tried that we hit the sack early.

Richard prepares to heat the stones for the Aigir
The women of Nyapio chip in with the work
The team from Abus na Kumu show the finer points of preparing the Aigir while the women of Nyapio look on.
Putting all the ingredients, sweet potato, bananas, greens and chicken into the pot and putting the coconut milk in as well before covering it up.
Along with the Aigir dishes, Abus na Kumu also prepared a delicious fish receipe
A short video about what Abus na Kumu did on the island.

The next day after breakfast, we loaded up three outboard boats and headed to Al island, around 15 minutes from the main island. This time, many of the children of Nyapio came with us to go to Al island. Al island is truly a magnificent island. It is just a meter or so above the sea level and has the finest sand and clear crystal waters. The white soft sand cuts across the sea creating a sand bank that stretches almost a kilometer. It is just hard to describe its beauty and the natural calmness of this tiny strip of an island. One should visit it to understand its tranquility and majestic natural environment. There are no large trees and it seems to be in the middle of nowhere! While the others headed to see the other interesting spots on the trip such as the sea bubbles and dolphins further out to the sea, I stayed on the island to take it all in.

Absolutely beautiful sand and sea on Al
Too perfect!
The children of Nyapio place the PNG flag on the sand as we all take in the natural beauty of the island.
One could walk along the sand and be just lost in the moment!

We all arrived back at Nyapio in the afternoon and Richard Mark went to prepare roast pork for dinner. The Resort also had some of its members go diving so we would have some reef fish to eat in the evening dinner. The dinner also marked our last night on the island as we would be departing the next day. The local community was invited to share a meal with the guests. There was lots of food and during dinner, each of the guests were given an opportunity to address the men, women and children at the Resort dining area. We all talked about the wonderful place the Resort was and urged the community to support and grow the Resort into something that would assist them in the long run.

Richard Mark of Abus na Kumu preparing the pork for our last meal.
The women of Nyapio take stock of the pork and are shown how to marinate the meat
Some of the Nyapio men have gone fishing and have brought back fish to be prepared for our last meal.
My plate is just awesome! Roast pork, mashed cassava, cream rich boiled rice in coconut leaves and sago immersed with meat from sea shells.
The leaders of the community, men, women and children all gather to say ‘word of thanks’ and we respond then we all have our last meal together.
The villagers present Manus baskets to us.

After dinner, we all marched 10 minutes westwards to the edge of the Resort where there was sandbank. There, the Resort had set up and built a bonfire using logs collected on the sandbank plus coconut leaves, dried bamboo and small sticks. It was already past 7pm and we took out candy and soft drinks for the children. Then the community set the stack of wood and debris alight. Oh what a sight it was!!! The orange flames lit up the night sky and the crackling sound of dry bamboos popping filled the warm night. We all sat around the warmth of the fire and told stories with the locals until 10pm before we retired back to our rooms.

The Bonfire! Young kids all around as we all sat around the magnificent fire to tell stories late into the night.

The next morning, we took the two hour ride back to town along the route closer to the mainland of south coast Manus past Pere and M’bunai to Pamachau, Waratalai and Lawes before hitting the Loniu passage into Lorengau town where we ended our two-day trip to the newest community resort in Manus. I came here curious, with an open mind as a Manusian myself but was totally blown away about how the people of Nyapio have began this community resort project to build on their reputation as a resilient people. My next post will be about explaining the background of the Resort and what it stands to accomplish for the people of that island.

One thing to take away from this trip? One thing I believe that will make your trip more interesting would be for you, the guest, to think about something you would like to give back to the locals in terms of your passion, career or education. You can do an hour or 30-minute program or session to the local islanders in the afternoons or evenings. Abus na Kumu showed the way though its cooking sessions. You can do the same too. This is because it is a community based Resort so feel free to give back as much as you get from the experience from the island. It is a win-win situation and a greater cultural learning takes place between you and the locals of Nyapio.  

If you want to visit Nyapio and see its natural wonder, the friendly locals and experience the Mwanus way, see the website for the resort at https://nyapioislandgetawayresort.com/ and book your trip today!

A jackfruit or a breadfruit? Do you know its name?

For the life of me, I don’t know what the English name for this fruit is. Its’ shape and feel is similar to the Breadfruit and even maybe a Jackfruit. Someone out there can confirm its name with me.

No too many people talk about this fruit or even take photographs of it. Maybe because not too many people come across it or the those who do, don’t think too highly of it. I first heard of the fruit in high school but then over the years I have heard it in stories from people who lived or walked in the mountains and bushes especially those who lived in the Kurti area. So a few days ago, my mum brought one home. She found it by the bush track she was walking in. The fruit grows from a tree 10-15 meters up and can be found in the bushes rather than in clear spaces in the community.

So the name in the local Kurti language is call ‘Pakan’ (prounced as Pah-kan). It very much looks like a breadfruit but even though it is round, the skin is very hard. This means that when it falls from the tree it grows on and lands on the ground, its’ insides dont smash or become squashy. People often locate the fallen pakan on the ground underneath the tree. If one doesn’t see it immediately, the smell gives it away. It smells sweet like freshly cooked breadfruit over an open fire.  When you break it open with a knife, the flesh dry and stable has seeds imbedded in it like small pebbles. The taste is a cross between a baked kaukau (sweet potato) and a pineapple. Its easy on the mouth and goes down well because the smell is pleasant.   

You should try one when you visit Manus!

Fresh pineapples from the red earth

Ever since I came back home, its been lots of pineapple eating! My parents both began planting pineapples when they first moved here.

I just love how huge and juicy they are.

They grow so well on the red clay like earth here in the Manus mountains. They also like well lit and clear spaces. It doesn’t take too much effort to grow them but it is wise to space them 2 to 3 meters from each other so that when grass or weeds begin to grow you can always have clearance to cut in between the pineapple plants and remove weeds and grass.

When cut, the pineapples are so fresh. Some say the pineapples can help in lowering diabetes, heart disease and body weight as well. It even promotes skin complexion and healthy hair. Its so sweet, and tasty and my mother cuts it up and uses it in her cooking as well. It is versatile and great fruit and food as well.

Enjoy!

Domestic Violence in PNG

So many women are dying and have died of domestic violence in this country. Those who are posting on social media, please keep on posting and talking about it so that this issue becomes part of our everyday discussion. Too many times, it is ignored and kept out of public discussion.

I believe domestic violence is a systematic problem nationwide and therefore needs a systematic approach towards solving or reducing the problem and this needs to start at the top – political leaders. Political leaders as a group, wield great power including the political will to change something in their favour. If we have the political will to win, create and bankroll the South Pacific Games and the APEC meetings, then why cant we for something that matters to our loved ones? Our hauslain? This 100% male parliament is not even close to hearing the cries of women. We need more women political leaders who, as a group, can change the momentum on the fight against domestic violence. This cannot happen in one go but over a number of years.

Come on women, 2022 is the year for change. Stand up, be counted and vote women into parliament! Imagine if 50% of parliament were women! Maski long votim ol man bikos nogat senis kamap na ol meri dai yet. Imagine the countless women who are in rural areas of PNG who face life like what this young lady went through everyday. We need a systematic change where relevant government agencies are adequately funded, legal systems and protocols for perpetrators are fasttracked, safe houses become the norm, hotlines are toll free, training for law enforcement, etc.

This fight needs political will to kickstart it. We have signed petitions, international conventions, ran campaigns etc. Inap! Sanapim wanpla meri lo komuniti blo yu, votim em lo 2022 na em bai go na rausim ol tambaran lo displa haus yah! Na yupla ol meri, inap lo votim ol man!! Displa pasin we igat 20 candidate na wanpla meri, maski votim ol man! Even if you dont like her, just block vote na yumi salim displa meri go lo Waigani! We need more firebrand Josephine Abaijahs and straight-shooting Carol Kidus! Come on, let us vote for change in 2022!