Blogs » Working Abroad » No Joy at the Consulate



Armed with high hopes and a fist full of computer printouts, I caught the 8:30 train back downtown this morning. It took asking for help in the vicinity of where I expected to find the Papua New Guinea Consulate, but I still arrived in time to cool my heels a bit before presenting my paperwork at the window when the office opened at 9:30. Five minutes later I was back on the street with all my paperwork still in hand. It seems they did not like the "police report" I worked so hard to obtain yesterday. It didn't look "official enough" to them. So, back to the drawing board.

In spite of the high prices and big-city feel to Brisbane, there are a few things about the city I really like. For example, because I stay in a hotel just across from one of the train stations, I can use the transit system to get around everywhere. No taxi required. Once you get the hang of figuring out the schedules, keeping the transit card "topped up", and switching between rail, bus, and water taxi as needed, the rest is really a piece of cake.

Coming from a city (Houston) where people drive to work or the store, even if it's only a block or two away, getting used to walking everywhere [in PNG and Australia] has been a bit of a culture change for me. But it's a good one, and I like it. The streets here are designed to accommodate pedestrians and bikers, and everyone seems to walk everywhere. What a nice culture change.

The major differences between being here in Brisbane and back home in the "big city" of Port Moresby really fall into two big categories for me. Moresby, I stand out like a sore thumb, and everyone sees me. I am an older, taller, larger, white-skinned woman, always travelling alone, or with native men, and my presence cannot be ignored--ever. In Brisbane, much like back in Houston, I am totally anonymous. I look very much like everyone else on the street, and unless I open my mouth and speak, no one notices me at all.

Second...the culture in Moresby is that no matter where I go or what I do, people speak to me. They greet me on the street and wait for a greeting in return; they ask where I am from, where I am going, what I do, and where I live; they want to shake my hand, or touch my hand; and even the children want their friends to notice that I am talking to them. In Brisbane (again, very much like in Houston), people are polite and friendly enough when I ask for help or need to be waited on in the stores, but on the streets, they avoid eye contact, space themselves so as not to sit or stand too close, and have no interest at all in engaging in conversation with me. Although this is the culture I come from, having spent so much time in the Port Moresby culture makes the experience, of all things, "uncomfortable" for me.

I will be very pleased to return "home" to Port Moresby in two days. P.S. I don't know when I will return home to Port Lavaca for a visit. I love, and miss, my home there. I miss the freedom of, and the level of comfort I have there, getting out, going places, and doing things on my own or with friends. Although I enjoy what I am doing here on the other side of the world, my game plan does include a permanent return home, to the Victoria area. But...just not quite yet.