The biggest difficulty with Papua New Guinea for me is trying to understand the paradox: everyone is super friendly, and yet the level of violence is so high. Today (Sunday) we visited the house of my technical assistant.
Everyone we passed on the road said hello and shook hands or smiled. Our operating theatre sees between 20 and 60 patients a day, virtually all thetrauma cases are the result of violence. This morning I accompanied the nurse-supervisor to the ward. We were all woken at 8am (sadly, as Sunday is our chance to sleep late) because one of
the national nursing staff had radioed for assistance. I decided to go for the walk as I was awake. Before we reached the ward, a patient's guardian approached me and explained that he has been referred to us from a local clinic. I read the referral letter before radioing the project coordinator, he had been chopped by his mother over a land dispute.
There seems to be some basic rules of violence in PNG: All injuries seem to be sustained from bushknives. All disputes seem to be over land, women or pigs. Revenge is more violence than the proceeding act, so it's a fairly vicious cycle of violence following violence.
So, while I'm very glad to be in PNG, I'm also very glad to get to go home one day. Not that I actually have a home, but I get to go somewhere with less bushknives.