“Where is that?” is invariably the reaction I get when I mention my destination. Bono hasn’t made it his wish to eradicate its poverty. Matt Damon hasn’t run its sahara. Clinton has not embarked on building it’s healthcare system after finishing a presidency term that failed to save its people from genocide. I have not once heard it mentioned on CBC, CNN, or BBC. No surprise about CNN.
I went to Papua New Guinea (PNG) about ten years ago, as a medical student, on a whim almost. I never thought I would end up there again. My memories, oneiric by now…the wild orchids; the boy chained into a ball by his burn scars; the threat of violence; the morning veil of fog; the children battling mumps, TB and meningitis; the hike from Mount Wilhelm to Madang cut short by rhabdomyolysis; the paucity of old men and women; the jagged rocks on the road ready to catapult you, together with twenty men sitting in the back of a pick-up truck, over the cliffs of PNG mountains.
It is an intriguing place…an island north of Australia, sharing a border with Indonesia. A border that is a straight line, whimsical like many other borders are. It houses 860 tribes and their corresponding languages, an incredible occurrence considering it is such a small island. The culprit is the terrain, mountainous and harsh, isolating the tribes from each other and the outside world until very recently.
With all its raw beauty, it is a place where poverty, poor healthcare, and violence victimize children and women. Sadly it’s a recurring theme. MSF has carried out a situation analysis in PNG, and considers the violence pandemic. A team, my team, a team I have not met yet, will be heading there to start a program to rein in the situation. I am not sure how we will go about that; I’ll let you know as we figure it out.
I decided early on that I would keep a blog. Every couple of years I find myself face to face with a palm reader or a psychic. I am not sure if I am a believer. I find it a source of entertainment…like going to the cinema and watching a preview movie of your life. On one occasion, I find myself sitting opposite a palm reader, the smoke of her cigarette creating a silver screen that quickly fades with her hacking cough. She grabs my hands, “I see a writer’s fork. One day you will just start writing. No matter what you do.” Power of suggestion or not, I am inflicted by a desire to write. Now you might think, that armed with a “writer’s fork”, you are in for a treat. But she never did say I would write well. She just said I would write. Maybe I would have been better off with a writer’s spoon.
I write this blog to force myself to contemplate what I am about to experience. Most importantly I want to create a venue where my family and friends can stay close to me. Too often personal experiences get lost in translation, distorted into a nondescript haze by time and space. I am told that this experience will change me. If I am to change, I want my “confederate” to experience the metamorphosis with me. If along the way I create awareness about the issues that inflict our world, if I propagate what MSF stands for, and if you log on back to this blog, I will be grateful.