Blogs » Working Abroad » Back Home in Moresby

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After extending my stay in Brisbane for two extra days, I made one "last ditch" effort at satisfying the Papua New Guinea requirements for obtaining a work visa. I did it by going online to a website that allows you, for $3, to check anyone's Texas DPS Crime Records Service for entries. The site is not "official", of course, in many ways. It requires you to search by name and DOB only; no SSN or TDL required. Also, it's a check of Texas records only. If I was hiring someone for a job, the fact that nothing showed up in this database would absolutely NOT provide me any assurances. Still, it was worth a shot.

So, I ran a report on myself, printed out the results showing "NO MATCHING RECORDS" in large letters at the top of the page, and presented at the Papua New Guinea Consulate in Brisbane. "This is exactly what we were looking for," they said. Two hours later, I had my Work Visa in hand. Success!

The next morning I boarded my flight back "home" to Port Moresby and arrived early afternoon on a sweltering hot day in the city. It's so good to be back home!

Although I don't walk to work every day like I used to since I'm putting in such long hours, the 10 minute walk is an incredible cultural experience...every time. The first few people I pass are the betel nut vendors lined up along the sidewalk. Next I encounter a sea of people attempting, like me, to get to work. Only occasionally do I see another white person on my walk, and never is this person a woman walking alone. Because of this, most of the people along my path recognise me. Because it is a culturally accepted practice in PNG, most of the people I encounter actually speak to me. By the time I arrive at my destination, I have spoken to anywhere between 10 and 50 people, and have shaken hands or touched hands with (again, a cultural thing) a handful as well.

bilum bagsThe other thing that sets me apart from the whites here [other than the fact that I walk among the locals rather than avoiding interaction, and the fact that I am a woman alone in the city] is that I carry a Highlands bilum. A bilum is a colourful string bag made locally. The colours, designs, and materials used to make the bag identify the region that it comes from, and typically make a statement about the person who carries it. My bag comes from the Southern Highlands province, near the town of Tari, and flags me as having some kind of connection to the people that live there. Although my bilum was a gift from someone who is not a Highlander, my business dealings here are with that group of people so my identification with that group of people is right on target. More than half of the people that I encounter on my walk, especially those that don't speak English, mention or point to my bilum, and comment about it with broad, approving smiles. An amazing cultural experience, my walk to work, and one that I wish I could share with you as it is generally a wonderful start to my day.