Sunday, August 24, 2008

Betel Nut

Okay, to discuss betel nut. Apparently Popondetta, which is where we were at, has some of the best betel nut there is around. Hopefully that would explain some of the fascination that people have with it. There are a few different ways that people can partake of the nuts: one way is to simply chew on the nut itself, the preferred method is to mix it with lime and mustard. The latter concoction turns the teeth red and makes a pleasant looking puddle when expectorated. It is pretty easy to pick out who does and does not chew the betel nut, you only have to look at the teeth. People who do it have almost bright red teeth (the ones that are left anyway). They take the nut, take a small bite of the mustard seed, dip it into lime, and then chew it up. Apparently when you mix it this way it becomes a bit of a stimulant. It is not dissimilar to tobacco I suppose, but it seems a bit odd, especially when you consider that somebody had to be the first to discover this mixture. It makes you wonder how many other things the intrepid inventor mixed it with first before deciding to mix it with lime and mustard, or maybe they just mixed lime and mustard and then began experimenting, I don’t know. I guess that it has been passed down for a long time, (I know that it was being done that way in the Philippines when Magellan made his infamous stop there), according to the PNG guys we worked with it could be in the four digit range of years. Everywhere you go there, you see nice, bright red ropes of betel nut expectorant, at first I thought that it was blood, but quickly realized my mistake when I saw some lady hawk a giant one on the sidewalk. There is some betel nut chewing that goes on here in Micronesia, but it does not take on the huge status that it does in PNG. I will have more to say on that topic when I discuss the scope of work we have at the hospital we are working on

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Still Getting Caught Up

Our time in Papua New Guinea (or niugini as they spell it sometimes), wasn’t particularly all that eventful. Our accommodations were not that spectacular, for those of you familiar with our usual luxurious lodging at Hampton Beach, you can get a feel for what we were staying in. Walls that seem to be made of some strange material somewhere between the thickness of cellophane and cardboard, with acoustical qualities that would make any theatre architect jealous; water pressure that could knock your skin off (if you are a leper)-(assuming it was actually working)-(sometimes you could get hot, sometimes cold, but never any combination in between). Work was long, we built two clinics and a two room school house in addition to installing two 6,000 gallon water tanks at the local hospital for emergency water distribution. To say the least we were busy. The weather wasn’t too bad, considering that it was winter on that side of the world, it was usually upper 80s to low 90s with varying degrees of humidity. The people were pretty good to us and we made some good friends with the PNG Defense Force men we worked with. The only subject that I feel that I need to expound on and digress upon is the betel nut. I will save that for a future date as it will encompass all of my mental faculties to describe the lengths and breadths that people there go to for a good betel nut chew.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

leaving the philippines

Going all the way back to June, we finished all of our projects in the PI and were sent off with some very nice parties and ceremonies (and a not nice supposedly 5k "fun run" that was not fun and was not 5k). We left the Philippines by C-130, one of the nice and unique things about a C-130 is that it has the ability to utilize a "reverse" by changing the angle of its propellers. This is necessary when you are attempting to take off from a small runway the size of the one that they had in Calbayog City. What many people don't think of (especially children from a small island in the PI apparently) is that once that plane backs all the way up to the edge of the runway, it's going to change direction. There were two small boys standing at the edge of the runway on a small grass knoll when our C-130 changed the propellers to get us moving forward, the boys had only felt a small wind from our movement and must have felt safe standing a hundred or so feet behind the plane. However, when we began to move forward, all of that changed and they were sent literally flying down the backside of the knoll (naturally to our great amusement), I was just glad that the ramp was down so that we had a nice view of it.
If anyone has ever had the pleasure of flying on a C-130, you know how "comfortable" the accomodations are for a five hour flight. The important thing is that we made it back to Okinawa in one piece and were able to catch up with the rest of our battalion that had just left Gulfport. We spent two pretty uneventful weeks at Camp Shields before departing for PNG. It was another C-130 trip down to Port Moresby, PNG where we spent the night in a pretty nice hotel while awaiting our C-12 trip down (actually it was kind of up, in the north/south sense of the words up and down, but it was below the equator so I don't know if the usual convention of referring to northly directions as "up" and southerly directions as "down" is still accepted) to Popondetta. I will leave off here and continue updates as I find the time. Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 15, 2008

getting caught up

Wow, I knew that I hadn't posted anything on here in a while, but when I saw that the last post was from June, and I just realized we are halfway through August, I couldn't believe it. For all two people who read this, I apologize for not attempting to get anything on the page. Papua New Guinea was extremely slow (dial-up) with only two computers and twenty people trying to use them in the few hours a day we weren't working. I am going to try to backdate everything and fill you in on the trials of working in Papua New Guinea (PNG). I will just say for now that we had some serious materials issues (three days in a row we had parts bumped from a plane in order to make room for chickens, this is not a joke, it really happened, we really had parts taken off of a plane to make room for live chickens, again, not a joke-really happened). The internet here is slightly better, the difference being that we have limited wireless availability, so we can have more than just one or two people on at the same time, plus hopefully we will be working slightly more sane hours. I will also update on our trip to the USNS Mercy, we stayed overnight before flying to Micronesia. Thanks for not giving up on me and I almost promise to keep typing.