Barry and Yvonne: Barry & Yvonne Dunne’s CommUNITY News no. 4

PNG and Bougainville flags
Hi Everyone,

This will probably be our last newsletter from here. Yes, in only 7 weeks we will be back in Brissie, for a short time anyway, before heading off for Troy and Ros’s wedding.

I am starting this on Monday, 30th July. Three weeks ago our phone lines here in Hahela were hit by lightning – so no phones, faxes or emails have been sent or received in that time!! Actually, that’s not quite true as Bishop, in desperation, asked one of the businesses that he deals with in Buka town if he could access his emails through their system. So on 25th July he was able to get some emails in and that included some for us. When the lines are going to be fixed is anybody’s guess.

The last month has been an interesting experience with the national elections taking place. Originally scheduled to occur over a two-week period, the first week almost the whole of PNG experienced wet and windy weather. This meant that some areas just could not be accessed. There are plenty of interesting stories surrounding the election – makes ours seem pretty boring and tame by comparison. We don’t get ads on the tv and radio saying you are not allowed to steal ballot boxes, bribe or threaten voters or polling officials, etc, etc. You may have heard warnings from the Australian Federal Government regarding possible violence during the elections. If there were a few isolated incidents, they certainly didn’t affect us here or any other expats I have heard of.

Barry is still trying to complete the HIV/AIDS centre… I am trying to fit in as much training as I possibly can.

Banana boats transfer people across Buka Passage
Time to complete projects is fast running out. Barry is still trying to complete the HIV/AIDS centre which is soooo close but still needs the big water tank. The project in Arawa is started but he is resigned to the fact that he won’t see it completed.

I am trying to fit in as much training as I possibly can in the next 6 weeks. It’s pretty challenging. I had arranged several training sessions here in Hahela, all fitting around this week when I was supposed to be in Arawa. However, 3pm Friday afternoon, and I was supposed to be leaving on Saturday morning, the whole trip was cancelled. So now I am trying to rearrange everything and it looks like I will be training right into the last week here.

We are getting really excited about going home and seeing all our family and friends again, but at the same time we are sad to be leaving here. So we are a bit up and down as you can imagine. When things go well we talk about coming back, but the next minute when something goes wrong, we say to hell with it and are ready to pack up and leave. Probably standard procedure for any volunteer I guess.

The day after my birthday was Fr. Saris’s birthday – same age as Barry. He insisted that Barry and I and Bishop had to go out for dinner. Going out for dinner here can be quite an experience also, but we got lucky. The beer was beautifully cold, which was a nice surprise, and they had T-BONE steaks on the menu. They were even cooked the way we ordered and were tender as well. We were all pretty excited, not only to actually have a steak, but a good one as well!! Our previous experience here a year ago was vastly different, believe me.

In many ways this has been the most difficult thing we have ever done.

A village hydro-electric system
A couple of months ago, Barry and I decided to go to Kuri Resort for a drink after work. Some funding had just come through for Barry’s project and we had a car at our disposal for a couple of days. Kuri Resort is right on Buka Passage and you can sit on the verandah and watch the passing banana boats taking people back and forth. The title resort will probably give you the wrong impression but that’s what it’s called. It once was and could be again, very lovely, but at this stage it’s extremely run down and you never know what you will be able to have. Once before we were able to get a glass of cold white wine and cold beer, so that’s what we had in mind this time. Forgot we are in the land of the unexpected didn’t we! No wine of any sort, hot or cold, available. Neither, after trying both cans and bottles, was even slightly chilled beer available. The locals don’t worry about it not being cold, but as Aussies it was just not on. So home we went and found a cold beer in our fridge, sat on our verandah and celebrated there.

The stories are many and varied, as our experiences here have been. In many ways this time has been the most difficult thing we have ever done. If you consider the words happy, frustrating exciting, challenging, boring, mystifying, ignorant, hopeless, inspiring, enlightening, peaceful, stressful, they all apply and more. You have all been a great support to us through your emails and messages. It would have been incredibly difficult without the support we never doubted we had.

So watch out! We will try not to burden you with too many stories and photos, but for those interested, we will have a good supply.

Looking forward to catching up with everyone soon and getting used to such things as stock on the shelves of the shops, the phone working, being able to go to the bank in under 3 hours, etc.

Best wishes to all.
Love
Barry and Yvonne

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As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills. - Pope Francis (Joy of the Gospel 202)