A Beachside Orchestra

🎶 Music

By Hazel Kutkue

Who has ever heard of a an orchestra with an accompanying music school in the country? Much less one situated at a beachside village? Fr. Miguel de la Calle tells us about this music school that has gone beyond the guitar and drums and other more common instruments in the country.

The Queen of Paradise Orchestra is an orchestra of classical music and music school that was inspired by the model of El Sistema Choirs and Orchestras from Venezuela in South America. It was established in Baro Village, idyllically situated beside the sea, in West Sepik in August 2018.

The school was the brainchild of the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word working in Vanimo, that included the Priests of the Incarnate Word and the Servants of the Lord Sisters who had the help of Master Jesús Briceño, who works for El Sistema.

The Baro village is also the home of the Holy Trinity Parish. Fifty children from the five villages that the Parish serves participated in the earliest meetings. The orchestra has since expanded and children from Vanimo Town have now joined. There are 90 students to date.

“We are teaching the children and the leaders to read music and to write music,” says Fr. Miguel.

The music school and its accompanying orchestra is a social and cultural activity that systematically applies the collective and individual instruction and practice of music through the choir and the orchestra.

” The overall goal is to use music as a means of knowing and loving God, and a concrete means of evangelizing then beautiful cultures of PNG.”

“For some children, getting to the meetings involves a great deal of sacrifice, as some have to travel over 30 kilometres to reach the school.”

Parents, community leaders, and friends wanting to see their children achieve their music goals have been a great help in solving transportation challenges.

In October of 2018, the group was able to make definite arrangements for assistance and direction of El Sistema, founded by Master Antonio Abreu. The music program now became more official.

During a forty seven day period (October – December 2018), the arrival of Master Jesús Briceño, from Caracas, Venezuela, who pertains to El Sistema saw the beginnings of violin classes and the first official presentation of the Queen of Paradise Orchestra. More programs were introduced including: Musical Language Courses, Recorder Classes, Children’s Choir, and Violin Classes.

When Master Jesús had to leave in February 2019, Sister Cielos of the SSVM carried on the work conducting classes and courses until October of the same year.

Master Jesús Briceño returned in October of 2019 under a contract which will have him in the country teaching music until May 2022.

New programs were introduced including programs after the arrival of Master Jesús: Viola Classes, Cello Classes, and Double Bass Classes. In December 2019, the first strings Orchestra of the Country officially debuted.

It is a collective effort as Master Jesús teaches all the instruments and directs the orchestra and choir while Sr. Cielos teaches all of the children the flute along with music theory. The local orchestra leaders from each village help to plan and carry out the logistics for the group from their village as well as assist at practices.

Why music and not painting? It seemed to the religious family that music was the most accessible tool that they saw fit to aiding in the development not only of the individual child but for the country also.

“Music has a special quality that goes beyond words or languages and speaks directly to the soul, which is why is it such a useful tool not only for discipline and team work but also for the overall spiritual growth of individuals.”

“Throughout our years of mission in Papua New Guinea, we saw the important role that music has in the local cultures, and knowing that music is a powerful tool, we decided to develop this natural skill that lies within most children,” says Fr. Miguel.

The group classes are held every Saturday. The children learning stringed instruments have practice at least one other day of the week,sometimes they work individually and other times in small groups. In addition, students are expected to practice daily to refine their skills.

“This year with more than 90 students and the covid restrictions we divided the students in smalls groups. Master Jesús Brisenio, Sr. Cielos SSVM, Mama Loreta, and Felicitas two of the Leaders,  divide their time and do rotations in the Saturday morning meetings in helping each group with their diferent practices.”

Children usually let the teachers know about the type of instruments they liked but with careful observations the teachers know which instrument is suited for each child and further helps him or her develop it. Amonsgt one of the best in a stringed instrument is Christina Pasika.

“Christina is our double bass player, and certainly she may be the only double bass player in PNG! And she plays it very well!”

The orchestra currently has the following stringed instruments, including the violin, viola, cello and double bass. The first instruments were donated by a catholic priest and his parishioners in Surabaya, Indonesia.

“They bought them there and shipped them to Vanimo. Now we are getting new ones. Some more of each, and in smaller sizes from Singapore, with the help a of Italian benefactors.” The group currently has one double bass, two cellos, twenty violins, and two violas.

Apparently the children have caught on pretty quickly for a very new concept.

“They are very fast music learners!”

So far the Queen of Paradise Orchestra has performed only within West Sepik Province.

“We have had Christmas concerts every year at the local villages, but last year, in 2020, we had 3 performances out of our territory.”

The first performance outside of the villages was a private performance for members of the Parliament that were gathered in Vanimo. Two other concerts were also held in Vanimo Town: a private concert held at Vanimo Beach Hotel, and the second one, which was also the largest concert ever had in December 2020.

” The Christmas concert, had over 700 people attend at the Medallion Hotel in Vanimo Town.”

Both of the concerts were private events and attendees were there through purchased tickets only. The show was also live streamed.

“The audience at both events were completely blown away. They did not expect to hear such a wonderful variety of music from a group of village children. Truly the performances were beyond anyone’s expectation, as the children gave impressive performances that included solos, duets, trios, the flute choir, the stringed orchestra and the choir and orchestra together.”

Despite practicing outdoors and having a long awaited classroom being built, the children’s spirits have not been dampened with performances continuing in this year.

The Orchestra has a YouTube Channel and other social media pages where the school continues to showcase the good it is doing for the children through music. They also have a GoFundMe Page where donations can be made -( link https://gofund.me/3e34a597 )

The government despite a promise to help in the construction of the classroom has still to help the religous family in completing the building. The children still make music and learn music sitting outdoors or in their partially completed classroom.

How can the Commercial Small Crafts Business be Made Better?


By Hazel Kutkue

I live in Finschafen, Morobe, where the only way to reach Lae is by watercraft.

The Lutheran Shipping Services have their ships which have a set schedule and pass through Finachafen at least once or twice a week. The LHS ship MV Ialibu does runs to Maneba Wharf here. The only downside is the time it takes to travel here. The new shipping schedule has shown that the older MV Momase is now doing runs to Finschafen. It is a whole lot faster to travel by banana boat and this is the only reason I travel by boat.

I have traveled to and from Lae on irregular visits and everytime I do, I get on random banana boats at the boat stop in Gagidu and at Voco Point in Lae. It is quite the struggle to choose which boat to get on when young men will forcefully grab your bags, and shout at you to get on boats that they recommend because it belongs to someone they know, or because they get to make a couple of bucks for getting a passenger. It bothers on harassment and no matter how you try to argue otherwise, you will be a passenger on a boat you did not choose.

My last trip to Lae was last week Thursday. I needed to visit my bank because my bank did not have a branch in Finschafen.

Just past Butaweng on the Mape River, there is a boat operator who I get in touch with for travel arrangements. I have never traveled with him before and I decided to call him for pick up. We call him Manus.

Manus told me that he would pick me up at seven am at Butaweng River. At first I figured he would be a bit late, but for the other persons he had picked up before, he always arrived on time. I was surprised, but pleasantly so.

Thursday morning met me with heavy rains and a downcast sky. I knew Manus always came on time so I hurriedly got ready and was at the boat stop at seven.

Manus did not show for the first twenty minutes after seven, so I called him and enquired if he was still going to make a Lae trip. Turned out he was. Due to the rain, he was a bit delayed. I was soaked thoroughly by that time so I had to run back to the house and change into dry clothes. I had lost my umbrella a while back.

At seven thirty, Manus arrived at the mouth of Butaweng and glided up to pick me. I hopped on and hoped for the rain to stop as we made our way to the boat stop at Gagidu. Manus always maintained that he had to leave before 9am. I figured it was just talk as most boat crews wanted at least 5 or six people to be on board before they start out. At that time, we were only two passengers. The rain let up for a bit and then started coming down again.

Manus walked over to me and informed me that we would be leaving the boat stop at between eight thirty or nine. True to his word, at eight thirty he called out to me and I walked over and hopped on. He told me the rain would not be letting up so we needed to leave early.

After being on our way for 15 minutes, the rain came down in bucket loads and we could not look more than 3 meters away. It was very grey and dreary. However, the sea was kinder than I thought it would.

Needless to say, I arrived in Lae safely and went about my business.

I was delayed by the bank and had to spend the weekend in Lae. I planned to return on Monday. I called Manus to check if he was in Lae and sure enough he was. His schedule was ruined because of some miscommunication with the SDA church wanting to use his services.

As usual, Manus planned to leave before 10am. The weather was cloudy and there was a strong wind blowing in. The boat was almost full by the time my luggage was loaded. A man approached me and asked me for my name to put on the bag. This was the first time asked me. I looked at him puzzled and he told me he wanted my name so he could tag my bags incase they got lost. I gave him my name, and he did just what he promised, except instead of writing Hazel, Butaweng, he wrote A.J Butaweng. I didn’t mind though. I was quite impressed by the tags.

Once I was seated in the boat, the same man who tagged my bag started doling out life jackets to all the passengers. Even a six year old on board got to put on a small one.

Eventually when we were about to leave, Manus addressed the passengers in a way very similar to flight attendants. He gave a small talk about not smoking or drinking on board and his weekly schedule. After which, owing to his Christian nature, he said a prayer.

The tale of my latest trip to the city was a round about way of bringing a point across of how sea transport could be revolutionized for even the smallest boat operator.

What if the National Maritime Safety Authority does more than only registering every small craft through the Small Craft Act? In Morobe, the Small Craft registration office was established in 2016 and was mainly used to insure and register small crafts due to the ongoing issue of pirate attacks. Newspaper showed the first registration to have been done in 2020, but I may have to verify this. However, this office could do so much more than simply registering and insuring boats.

Apart from every single passenger boat that goes to and from two single ports can being accounted for, each province’s Small Craft Team should also be responsible for scheduling the trips of all the watercraft so no one business owner misses out on passengers. For instant, schedules should be made for each week as well as for each day. Boats should leave the ports of departure at set time periods. Passengers would not have to worry about when they should be at the Wharf because they know the departure times of the boats. Boats could start leaving ports from as early as six am with intervals in between.

This body should also introduce ticketing systems where all boats scheduled for the day can have customers purchasing tickets for the boat that leaves at a particular time of the day. I mean that is not too much to ask, right? Anything done for larger vessels can be replicated for commercial small craft.

Despite load restrictions in place a, no official from the Small Craft team actually inspects passengers boats that travel to and from boat stops. To be more effective, it would be a good thing if officers are assigned to do safety checks, including checking the number of passengers so that no one boat gets too much passengers or is overloaded and a minimum number of crew members. Passenger numbers would also be more easily regulated because of the ticketing system in place where people purchase tickets for a particular boat that leaves at a certain time. This also is a safety net as all passengers would be accounted for in case of disasters or mishaps at sea.

Safety wise, all boats, should carry basic safety gear and offcourse give precautionary mandatory talks before every trip. Life vests, flare-guns and maybe even radios etc. There is a total of eleven items listed in Schedule 4 of the Small Craft Act 2011 that should be on any small craft but most times operators have only one or two of them. On my recent trips to and from Lae, I have only once been given a life jacket. On all other trips, I did not see any on board the boats except a long pole carried in place of the specified oars in the act.

My sister on a recent trip to Lae was on a boat that met several mishaps. Running out of fuel twice, they were forced to drift until passing boats came to their rescue. They were adrift without so much as a life jacket. Now frequent travellers might not see this as a big deal, but finding out about this from my sister made me realize the potential this event had of turning nasty. Such risky events could have a safety net, with the safety apparatus on board that should be a requirement for all boat owners.

If each maritime province’s small craft team actually did their job in a more strict manner like the airline industry, a whole lot of good would be achieved.  Instead of people struggling to choose which boat they should be traveling on at a particular time and getting hareased in the process, the entire hustle can be avoided. There will be no scuffle amongst business owners who offcourse will be able to participate much more equally in a well regulated setting. Passengers can purchase tickets and depart at the right time, and be accounted for in case of disasters at sea. Passengers can also have their safety guaranteed with basic safety devices in case of any mishaps.

To improve further, proper docks should be constructed instead of passengers and skippers using the old age way of wading into the water to get on board. Simple things for better traveling experiences is possible but in this day and age, these are deemed impossible, comparable to building a rocket in Port Moresby.

Systems like this should be in place even for land transport, modified accordingly to suit the area the transport services are in.

While on this same visit to Lae, Friday saw me struggling to get on a bus. The previous night there had been a murder of a bus crew member and as a result, all the bus operators staged a protest. Most PMVs in Lae are owned and operated by people hailing originally from the Highlands of Papua New Guinea and the crew that was killed was also from the highlands. We were looking at something that could blow out into a fully fledged regional or tribal warfare.

I resorted to hailing a taxi on Friday for places I needed to go to but was quite far away. In doing that, I got in a taxi driven by this large, friendly man most probably hailing from the New Guinea Islands. In giving his opinion about the bus operators’ protest, he casually mentioned something I could only vigorously nod at in agreement because I never figured someone would think like that.

He said that a set number of buses should be operated by a set number of people that represent all regions. He gave an example of saying that maybe twenty buses should be run by Highlander operators, twenty by the Morobe people themselves and so forth for the other regions, saying this would prevent events like this. The general public with no private vehicle and inability to afford cabs took to walking everywhere will not have to do so

Maybe one day a better regulated public transportation system would be in place. Maybe then passengers would not be harassed and be able to choose who or what they want to travel with or on.

Sweet Finschafen

Raunraun PNG

By Hazel Kutkue

I have always considered doing rural medicine since Dr. David Mills gave a talk to us at the University of Papua New Guinea’s Taurama Campus in 2016. Sitting in the old lecture theater that smelt of time and old medicine, I seriously pondered on the idea. I was twenty-one.

Fast forward to residency, I looked to Obstetrics and Gynecology and Emergency Medicine – weighing out the possibilities of going down either one of those pathways.

However, a good friend of mine sold me the idea of a Etep Rural hospital in Tewae-Siassi District of Morobe. Since rural medicine always lurked at the back of my mind, I decided to give it a try.

I loved the idea of living in the outback, and being a doctor amongst miles and miles of wild, wild geography and. I liked the idea of being a doctor where there is no doctor. I also needed a getaway.

When I was almost done with my residency at the Angau Memorial Hospital, I visited the Lutheran Health Services Office in Lae on an off day. The Human Resource Officer got my details and told me to get in touch with him when I acquired my license to practice medicine.

After acquiring my license, I got two job offers – an Emergency Medicine Registrar position at Nonga Base Hospital and a Rural Medicine Position at one of the two Lutheran Hospitals in Morobe. I changed my mind on Etep Rural Hospital and asked the HR officer if I could just go to Braun Hospital in Finschafen. Etep Rural Hospital seemed too far from everything.

Ariel view of Etep Rural Hospital in Nearby Tewae-Siassi District.

Today I live in Finschafen, and I love it. I love the laid back pace of the outback and the absence of the hustle in larger centers. I love the fact that I am surrounded by forest and that my backyard ends on the banks of a waterfall. I love the quiet, the solitude and the work – a leisurely eight to five, and on calls.

But what is Finschafen really like? I cannot answer this question given the fact that it is now 2nd of April, 2021 and I am approaching just my fifth month out here.

I question myself and everything else about why tourism is not big for a place like this. It is breathtakingly beautiful and very rich in history. If you choose to ignore the normal daytime weather, it is perfect.

Finschafen holds so much history that is not commonly known by a lot of people today. It was the German New Guinea Company’s first attempt at colonizing New Guinea – but the original settlement is non – existent today. The main settlement was and still is Gagidu station, lying 3km from the Buki wharf and 30km from the Maneba wharf. Toward the end of the 2nd world war, the station served as a staging post for the United States troops, seeing large numbers of GIs passing through. At the end of the war, aircraft and other equipment deemed useless were bulldozed into a large hole in Dregerhafen, which lies 4km south of Gagidu station. More details can be found on http://www.lonelyplanet.com/papuanewguinea.

Dregerhafen occupies a peninsula, officially called Cape Cretin, which juts out into the Vitiaz Strait. The harbor is formed by a number of islands which have barrier reefs in between. Dregerhafen Secondary School used to be called Dregerhafen Education Centre in the pre-independence days and the late Sir Michael Somare was educated there. A more detailed account of the school can be found on this blogging site betourism.blogspot.com where a former teacher describes his days in Finschafen.

Gagidu station is three hours on a banana boat from Lae’s Voco Point. The entire coastline will take your breath away on the ride. You should see how the sea in Bukawa in nearby Nawaeb District is green, moody and still in certain places and how the forest encroaches upon the water. Parts of the coastline in is made up of black and white pebbled beaches. Villages are far apart, and passing by, fisherman or villagers at the shore would wave, excited at the site of travelers.

Moody Waters in Bukawa

At the final stop, you disembark on a small beach, boats lined up on the waterfront. From the boat stop, it is a three minute car ride to the station. The road even though unpaved, is smooth, smooth, white karanas. At the station, there is a small market, three large shops, a police station, a primary school, a courthouse, a local jailhouse, and a works department the PNG Water office and the PNG Power Office. The secondary school lies slightly away from the town centre. Government workers live in old, colonial style housing that line the seafront.

I live in Butaweng, a small community ten minutes by car on smooth, karanas roads. Forest frames the two-lane road, almost swallowing it. There are local canteens at Butaweng and a local market but nothing more. It is a hospital community. The canteens are quite pricey. The local market sells greens, fruits and nuts on Mondays through to Saturdays.

The Butaweng community life revolves around the Butaweng River and the Mape River. Butaweng River is a cascading affair of serial falls. My house is next to the final wara kalap as the singer O-shen often describes it in social media posts. O-Shen’s locally famous song ‘Meri Lewa’ video clip was filmed here. Butaweng cascades into large blue-green pools which sparkle in the tropical sunshine. The sound of Butaweng at night is like rain, a perfect sleep soundtrack.

The last of the cascading affairs before Butaweng River meets Mape River

Mape River differs from Butaweng, it is wide, deep, green and moody and silent with only the slightest hint of the current underneath which flows out to the sea.It is tropical hot out here, and thunderstorms often surprise us in the middle of the day. What better way to cool off than in Butaweng, with a kulau for the thirst later on.

The first missionary who provided medical care in Finschafen was a male nurse Johann Stoessel who worked amongst the people from 1911 to 1922.

The Butaweng Hospital, as if was formerly named was opened in 1958 by the then Territories Minister of Australia.

It was initially a chest hospital from 1958 to 1974. All of its existing 6 wards in the past housed only chest patients including those with Tuberculosis. From 1974 to 1997, it served as a general hospital. Since 1997, it has assumed the name Braun Memorial Rural Hospital in honor of Dr. Braun the first doctor at Butaweng.

Dr. Braun served in Finschafen and Madang and totaled 42 years in the country before retiring in 1972. His colorful career in PNG even saw him being captured by the Japanese as a POW with his wife a nurse and mistreated for weeks in 1943.

For a more detailed history, click here http://braunmemorialhospitaltest.blogspot.com/p/detailed-history.html?m=1

Today BMRH it is a general rural hospital, with 6 wards catering for TB, Internal Medicine, Surgery, Paediatric, and Obstetric and Gynaecology Units.

Other services also provided includes doctors consultation clinics, child and maternal clinics, STI and HIV clinic, TB clinic, dental services and eye clinics. A physiotherapist also conducts services. There are currently three doctors stationed here, two national and one international doctor. There is one HEO and nursing and support staff. Ultrasound, X-rays, and laboratory services are also available.

Over the Christmas and New Year periods, people came in throngs to swim in Butaweng. Annoyingly, despite a sign that says: NOKEN TROMOI PIPIA LONG WARA, people still do. Recently, our team of visiting resident doctors did a clean up, removing food and soap wrappers, used disposable diapers and empty plastic bags. For now it is clean – and I am at peace.

The main swimming area at Butaweng

You drive past Butaweng and the roads branches further on to the hinterlands of Finschafen and onwards to Sialum in Tewae-Siassi. The road also eventually crosses the Mape Bridge and then ends at the Maneba wharf where all good things come from, including cake mix.

Life is difficult for people out here. There are very little economic activities. Some blame the roads and how the district is totally cut off from Lae, and only accessible by boat. The price of fuel for the outboard motor is quite high and there are very low returns if cash crops were to be actively farmed.

Everything has a laid back pace out here. It is after all the ‘bush’. Every now and then there is a big thing, like the Braun CHW Training College Graduation in early March, where a singsing group travelled all the way from Pindiu to perform.

As I have said, I wondered and I am still wondering why people have not thought of tourism. Is it because of petty crimes? Phone snatchings? Harassment? We will never know. We have had our fair share of bad days, but all communities have their fair share of hooligans and petty criminals. All I know is this place can be great again.

For nationals who like to travel, as a good geologist friend of mine did over the Christmas period last year, here are some helpful hints:
* here are guest houses in Gagidu, two to be exact
* You can hitch a ride on the trucks that travel the karanas roads.
* You can spin yarns with the locals and ask them to tell stories of life out here,
* You can chew some kavivi, but turns out Buai has come back to Finschafen. 😁
* You can go swimming in one of Butaweng Rivers’s crystal clear pools,
* You can borrow villagers canoes and go paddling in villages surrounding Butaweng, as I’ve learnt from visiting resident doctors
* You can take a million instagrammable photos
* And most importantly, you get to grab a break from city life.

Trust me it goes a long way in pumping money into a small outback town that is almost dying with so many economic setbacks. Then you can go back to your life and tell stories of what an amazing place Finschafen is and how it really is sweet.

If you are ever coming, hop on a boat at Voco Point, it is just three hours and a hundred bucks.

Meanwhile, I am expecting a group of soon to be university graduates next week. Apparently they heard of Finschafen and want to see it. Since they have still to land jobs, I told them not to worry about meals, but maybe they need to bring a bit of extra cash to buy those Finschafen Bilums or cow hide cowboy hats from Sialum to take back as souvenirs.

What is China Like? As Told by Ms Betty Wakia


By Hazel Kutkue

We recently got to talk to Papua New Guinean writer and educator about her experiences of living in China. It was one mix of super interesting facts. Thirty three year old Betty Gabriel Wakia from Papua New Guinea’s Hela Province was born in Ramu Town in Madang Province but grew up between her village and Port Moresby city. After a short stint of being a fourth grader in her village in Hela, she had to return to Port Moresby for school due to tribal fighting.

But we wanted to know her about her China experience: how did she go to China in the first place? It is a roundabout tale! Apparently, Betty had applied a total of six times for the Chinese Government Scholarship all throughout high school and her college years. She had studied for one year at Sonoma Adventist College in Rabaul to get a diploma in primary teaching, but as is a common plight, high tution fees saw her withdrawing from studies the following year. Betty however managed to get a diploma in Vocational Education Training at the PNG Education Institute in 2010. Now, that’s where we came to how she landed in China! While working at Airways Hotel in Port Moresby, and on the seventh attempt at applying for the Chinese Government Scholarship, Betty made it!

“I went to China in August, 2011. It was my seventh application and I was in the process of giving up.”

“We all met in Beijing and dispatched to various universities in different cities. Some travelled by air and others by train.”

“I was asked to study the Chinese language for a year at East China Normal University in Wuhan, Hubei Province.”

Yes you read that right, Wuhan, now famed for being the city of origin of Covid-19. Wuhan is a commercial centre divided by the Yangtze and Han rivers. After her one year stint in Wuhan, Betty moved to Tianjin to study her major. Tianjin lies on the shore of the Bohai Sea in Nort-Eastern China and it is a major port city and among nine of China’s mainland cities.

A University Library

“I was studying at the Tianjin University of Technology and Education. I was studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Education – basically I was studying the Chinese education system.”

Curious how a Chinese university was like, we enquired and Betty shared a lot of interesting information.

“Chinese university campuses are much larger than our universities and colleges in the country. For instance, Jilin Agricultural University lies on a 15 000 000 square meters area!”

Zhejiang Normal University sports stadium

International Student dorm room at Beijing National University of Foreign Studies

Betty describes a lot of Chinese architecture as influenced by their culture. However, she says modern university facilities boast a more westernized approach to the design and architectural styles.

She further describes the labs, dining halls and sports facilites as being on a level far removed from the ones university students experience in the country.

Outside the Main Classroom Building

Outside the school library

The university mess at mealtime.

Student behaviors are also markedly different from Papua New Guinean student behavior. Apparently, Chinese students are very respectful.

“Students show respect to teachers or the elderly by bowing their heads. Students are quieter, and very respectful. When they hand in a paper, they always use both hands, as if making a gift presentation. They often use terminology such as ‘our dear teacher’.

2011 was a year where not many students were studying in China, however they had a warm reception.

“Three PNG students met us in Wuhan at the train station. We were lucky.”

Betty estimates over five hundred srudents currently studying in China today through various scholarships.

Burning Question: are the Chinese friendly? Betty describes them as not friendly but respectful. Students in China are very disciplined! Betty puts this down to their millitary training.

Betty with a Chinese classmate

“Military training was introduced in 1955. It became compulsory for all high school and university students to do training in 2001. ”

Military training is believed to encourage a more disciplined community, goodwill and to improve the country’s level of defense.Betty did not have it smooth language wise. She learnt enough to get by though.

“I was surprised that classes began the next day and communication was a big problem.”

It was Betty’s first time in a country where English was not the first or second language. She however loved the fact that a common language united China and gave them a common purpose

“I travelled to fourteen of China’s thirty four provinces and I discovered that if you cannot speak the dialect, you can write it down!”

To write in Chinese, Betty had to study Shufa, a form of Chinese Calligraphy so she could write good Chinese characters.

Winter was Betty’s favourite season because she got to do a lot of travelling.

“Ticket prices drop in winter time and not a lot of people travel.”

In winter holidays

Another burning question: What does snow look like in real life? 😅.

Matters of the tummy are another thing Betty loved about China.

“One of the best things about living in China is the food !”

She described food for the Chinese was almost anything that swim, walk or grows. Chinese dishes are famous for colour, aroma, taste, meaning and appearance. Food is cheap, tasty, diverse and easily available at your doorstep even.

Somebody ordered Chinese? Yes we think!

Betty’s favourite dishes included Dumplings or jiaozi, Chaomin, and Peking roasted ducks amongst others. Some dishes are more of an acquired taste, and Betty did not particularly take a liking to, including Ma Po Tofu which was too spicy and quite hot.

Dumplings (Jiaozi)

Ma Pa Tofu

Chinese food aside, Betty still missed a good old mumu and coconut creamed vegetables. Nobody ever outgrows these!

Summer and winter vacations were times Betty jumped at the opportunity to travel. The must sees that she’s seen include the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace.

Visiting the Great Wall of China

Travelling by train is the easiest way to get around and she travelled to fourteen provinces by train only! However, travelling by train has its downfalls as on one occasion, she had to stand for 16 hours from Tianjin to Zhejiang Province.

So what has China thought Betty?

1. DO MORE, LESS TALK, wisdom all Papua New Guineas need.


Will Betty be returning to China given the chance? Not suprisingly, she is keen to return.

“I’m planning to go back to pursue a doctrate degree.”

We wish Betty only the best of everything she aspires to do. If you are planning to travel to China, maybe this might be helpful.


A Cultural Setback


By Hazel Kutkue

One of the last frontiers, unconquered. Even the attitudes and the “bad” cultures are unconquered.

We have out here, a culture of time-wasting, bad, almost disrespectful attitudes among the whole population. The exception are the uncorrupted mind of babies and toddlers, free from the influences that will later shape them into also corrupted adults.

People tend to think corruption is clustered somewhere among the grounds of Waigani, where politicians are based. People embody corruption as a pot bellied, double-chinned man or men in dark suits sitting in swivel chairs on a green carpet. But, they never realize the real roots of corruption. It’s all in the culture.

Ours is a culture that encourages us to be lazy. Our people think handouts are the way to go. Free money for doing nothing, burnt in a day, on binge drinking and binge shopping. Story telling, hours on end, not minding the minutes and the seconds. No! There’s tomorrow, people say. There’s time!

In our culture, we are content with the way things are! We don’t worry about a broken louvre, a dirty front porch, a dirty front yard and the old chair we can repaint! Everything is okay! We are content with the way things are! Ours is a culture that is satisfied with the lowest quality of anything!

Ours is the culture that says girls are second best! Women can say this or that only after the men speak. Women do not do things as perfectly as men. Men can do these things and women cannot!

How pathetic a culture! How sad! A culture so negative, so destructive, and yet we feed it! Yet we fatten it! Yet we embrace it!

What is to blame? Our ancestors? Maybe not, their times were so much different! Ours is a changing world! Our culture should be evolving for the better, yet we are stuck! Stuck in a rut, digging holes to get out, but infact digging graves!

What if after reading this, you decide to not be content with the way things are? What if you decide to wake at 6am each day and clean out the muck of yesterday? What of you decide to never waste a minute?

Will our culture then be a less corrupt one? Will it?◻️


The Eyes of Men

Observations about a Society that is Toxic for Girls and Women

By Hazel Kutkue ◻️ 6th April, 2019

I always walk past men, almost wherever I go. They sit on large rocks that somehow end up on the roadside. They lean against power poles, rusted in the winds of time. Whenever I walk past men, I have to be decent. If I am ‘not decent’, I will be the subject of stares directed at my ‘indecency’. I want to be like some womenfolk who wear volumous meri-blouses, that render them shapeless, accompanied by laplaps. This outfit is the type that presumably makes you a respectable, humble, woman. But try as I might, I cannot. I cannot wear clothes that make me feel like I am swathed in a bed sheet, tangled up inside and outside.

Sometimes I want to be like the other womenfolk. They throw all caution to the wind. They dress like covergirl models I see on magazine covers. They are the brave ones. They wear short shorts and bare their breasts, atleast partway. They spice up their attire with lipstick and a bunch of other make up. I want to dress like that sometimes. However, I am not brave enough. I am afraid of men, and maybe women too. I am afraid of society. I am afraid of being groped. I am afraid of stares. I am afraid of catcalls. I am afraid of rape.

I stick to the ‘us-inbetween-outfits’. The outfits are ones where I can walk past men feeling at least comfortable. Sometimes I walk unnoticed, and those are the best times. Sometimes I am given unwanted attention. Sometimes the men are rude, even explicit in their language. How horrid!

I belong to the ‘in-betweens’. The ‘in-betweens’ wear ripped jeans, T-shirts, jeans or skinny jeans and shorts. We walk past men, cringing in our heads, not wanting attention. Sometimes walking past men will leave our confidence broken in humanity. What is humanity?
Maybe I belong to the stronger ‘in-betweens’. Sometimes I glare at men who throw their ungraceful, stupid comments from their twisted oral cavity. Sometimes they get a middle finger that flips them to Saturn. Sometimes arguements break out. Sometimes however, I shut up and take the stares and bad words home.

Everywhere I go, I walk past men: teenagers, young adults, the middle-aged and more. Everywhere I go, there is a man placed there by some unseen power to judge women, to look down on and to ridicule. Everywhere there are men put in place to comment on how womenhood should be improved, as if it is not already perfect.

Maybe someday, the eyes of men will not be so judgy and condescending◻️


Dominica Are on her book Prized Possessions: A collection of Poetry


By Hazel Kutkue

Photographs provided by Dominica Are

Poetry makes for beautiful literature. Sipikriva Girl, despite not entirely embracing poetry in its entirety in writing had the opportunity to speak to 34 year old writer, poet and fulltime accountant Dominica Are who recently had her poetry collection published. Hailing from the highlands of PNG, Dominica works full time with PNG Coffee Exports Ltd in Goroka as an accountant.

Dominica’s book Prized Possessions

Growing up, she spent almost all of her formative years in Mt. Hagen, attending schools there and then moving to Madang to attend Divine Word University.

Dominica as a young child in Mt. Hagen

Dominica has been writing for almost 20 years, with her prose being mostly poetry and short stories. As in a lot of art, powerful emotions often are the triggers of works of great beauty. With her parents separation in 1998, she took to scribbing in her notebook about all the hurt, pain, hopes and wishes she was having.

“I find solace in spilling out my thoughts and emotions. It has been quite a long journey but I haven’t given up on documenting what I go through.”

Dominica religiously makes daily journal entries and that was what formed the basis of her book. Apparently her book was in the pipeline for a quite a while.

Dominica at her writing desk busy at her second ‘job’

“I keep a collection of all that I’ve written over the years. I have been keeping notebooks and newspaper cuttings of published work. When I got my first laptop at University, I started keeping e-copies.”

Initially Dominica wasn’t very keen on publishing. However her collection was a growing one.

“I was only writing for myself.”

“When I started seeing my entries published in the annual Crocodile Prize anthologies ( including My Walk to Equality), I experienced a different outlook in approaching my writing.”

Dominica decided to give publishing a shot after encouragement from people close to her.

“In 2019, I decided that I must do it! I started pulling out my work from here and there. Seeing that all my writings were all about my personal experiences I decided to have my first publication about it all.”

Putting a collection of her poems together for publication was not easy for Dominica who struggled to fight off the negative feelings of exposing her own very personal experiences.

“The thought of dying with these beautiful stories within saddened me. I care about my stories. I care about my writing. ”

She found courage enough to tell her story through poetry in the end however.

In early 2020 , Dominica contacted the late Francis Nii who helped edited and publish Prized Possessions – A collection of Poetry.

Dominica likes freestyle poetry best and believes it to be her strength.

She has also dabbed in the more technical styles poetry including ballad, sonnet, ode, rondeau, kyrielle, haiku, limerick and tanka.”

Prized Possessions is one hundred and sixteen pages long and contains ninety poems in total.

“I want my readers to be inspired to write their own story. No matter how ugly it may seem, your children need to hear your story. You might not be around long enough to relay these stories to them. Your writings can give them an important insight into your life.”

Dominica believes that our experiences, written down and read by others might even be a helping hand for a reader who is downtrodden and lost.

Prized Possessions was published by Francis Nii Publications through CreateSpace. Francis Nii also played a part in editing the book. Working with Francis, Dominica described Francis as open and a straight shooter.

“I truly appreciate his honest critique on my work. There were few pieces whose meaning were quite ambiguous so he asked me to look at them again. I read over and over again and found that it was true so I had to rewrite it again.”

Francis emphasized that writers have to think of the average Papua new Guinean reader when trying to publish. At the time of publishing, Mr.Nii was sick, but pressed on in lending a hand to making Prized Possessions a reality.

Dominica with the late Francis Nii’s tribute book ‘Man Bilong Buk’

Dominica faced some hurdles in getting hardcopies of her book. Amazon had stopped shipping to PNG so it was difficult to get hardcopies. Dominica had to buy copies of her book and have them shipped to person in Australia etc who can then ship the books to PNG.

Dominica believes government support should be the way to go. “Support should be given through the initiation of writing competitions, reviving and building libraries, and supporting local authors in the purchasing and distribution of their books. The environment must be so ideal that local authors and publishers can produce well and profitably too.”

Dominica has a few words of wisdom for other writers as a parting remark. “You don’t have to be an expert or have a background in creative writing in order to write. You have to make it happen. Be persistent and you’ll get better eventually. The most important thing is to read. Reading and writing goes hand in hand. The more you read, the better your writing will be. ”

Sipikriva Girl wishes Dominica only the best in her endeavours, writing or otherwise


Living in The Slums


An Experience that Deserved a Tale to be told from it – Comparing Lae and Port Moresby

By Hazel Kutkue
After ending my career as a resident doctor at Angau Memorial Provincial Hospital, Lae, it was time to pack up my bags and move temporarily to the big city.

In Lae, I had lived in accomodation provided by the hospital for resident doctors. I had initially lived in a bedsitter inside the hospital, and then I moved to Eriku in flats rented by the Hospital. I shared a spacious 3 bedroom flat with two housemates, who were residents dentists. I grew up with my mother in urban suburbs of Wewak and Mt. Hagen and knew of no other life.

Offcourse I’ve had several years of “growing” in the village, but village life is a far cry from living in slums in Papua New Guinea’s capital city.

Before I left Lae for Port Moresby, I had joined several Facebook groups that advertised rental rooms in Port Moresby. I scoped out the rooms and made enquiries while still in Lae. I wanted to be able to arrive in Port Moresby and move into a fairly good rental room with good sanitary facilities.
Most “good” rooms costed between K500 and K250 per forthnight. I knew that I’d be able to afford rooms for K300 or less per forthnight. Most rooms looked okay in the photographs. I got into contact with two people, one as a backup and one to actually check out the property.
The day I left for Port Moresby, I had informed the contact that I would be travelling that day and he needed to be at the aiport to take me to “his” rental property.
I had booked the first Air Niugini flight for that day so I had to get up super early to travel to Nadzab Airport. Being excited, the 45 minute flight went by in a blur. I had the largest luggage on that flight, a massive black bag with wheels with an orange sticker with the wards “HEAVY! BEND KNEES” or something stuck to it’s side. After collecting my luggage I wheeled it out of the terminal to the waiting area.

After the rainy, lush green of Lae, I did not like the dry, brown face of Port Moresby at all. Not a single bit. I called the man who informed me that he was in Morata and he would be coming over. The property was at 9 Mile. This confused me a bit but then I put it down to him visiting people at Morata.

Waiting around at the waiting area, I looked around at the people, some in dirty clothes, others well dressed. On the concrete floor, a run-away baby crawled on all fours with snot running down it’s nose and shoving random pebbles in it’s mouth. Much to my annoyance, the mother who was perched on a bench telling stories with her wantoks would glance at the baby and hurl a sharp retort at it and then carry on with her tales. I looked at the small groups of people and wondered about their lives in the city.

Soon enough, the guy called to say he was at the airport. I wheeled my bag outside to the parking lot where the guy stood up to ask if I was who I was. Getting into a cab, we headed for 9 Mile. In the advertisement, the house looked good on the outside and the rooms look good. It said that tenants share common ammenities including the shower, toilet, kitchen and lounge room. The walls were painted a nice shade of blue and the cupboards had neon colours painted on the doors. I liked what I saw. The rent was K300 per forthnight. The electricity and water bills were covered for in the rent.

Driving towards 9 Mile, I was a bit worried about the location as I have never lived elsewhere than my dorm room at UPNG when I was in school and my aunt’s place at Gordons 5. It was a whole new experience.

When we arrived at 9 Mile, the man directed the cab driver to turn down an unpaved, dusty and uneven road with people standing by the road almost the entire lenght of the road. There were houses built in different styles and materials the 100 or so meters of the road. Some houses were more aesthetically pleasing than others. A couple of Highlands men were drinking beer at the side of the road and talking in loud voices. I became worried.
Stray dogs with scabs and no hair roamed around digging piles of rubbish to search for food. I became more worried as we drove past roadside vendors sitting under scrap corrugated iron shelters selling fried meat and sweet potatoes.

At last the cab rolled up to a metal gate and honked. Several dogs who looked only slightly better fed than the ones in the street scampered to the gate and crawled under it outside and barked at us. It created an annoying fiasco.

We made it inside unscathed and to my surprise the man who brought us there was not the owner of the property. The owners were an imposing highlands couple-the man was very large and the woman looked like the madhatter (except female).
We were shown the rooms and I liked it. The only problem was there was no ceiling fan. I was used to having the fan on full blast day and night. I decided to just go with it, after all it was only for two weeks only anyway.
After showing us the rooms the owners went down a long list of “rules” which I verbally said I were fine with.

Then slap-bang, they mentioned that tenants are either short term or long term. Short term for them is 6 months and long term is a year. I was taken aback. I was also taken aback that the “bond-fee” was K500. After explaining that I was going to be in the city for max a month, the owners said it was OK for me to just pay rent instead of the bond fee and stay without signing a tenancy agreement form.

Unpacking in the room, I couldn’t help but sweat. Despite big windows, the sun shone directly in and baked the room like an oven. The curtain on the window was an ungodly brown that was too short and too narrow. The locker style cupboards were cute but had broken latches. I could make do I thought. Exploring outside, I discovered that the toilet and the shower were squeezed in a 2m by 1.5 m space that doesn’t allow any possible humane movement at the end of the hall. I was taken aback. The kitchen was spacious and a fridge held the food of the occupants. There was a common double electric cooktop for use. The living room had wooden lounge chairs and a Television set. Everything was covered in dust. The only ceiling fans were in the lounge and the dining area. It was not very convenient to sit in the room.

Soon I discovered that the other end of the house was occupied by the owners and their children. The kitchen space was however for the tenants use only. The lounge area always felt out of bounds to me because the children of the owners have their stuff there and they hang out in the lounge and do homework or watch cartoons. Now, not that it’s bad, but sharing the same space with tenants for anything is not recommended at all. It is the most restrictive thing owners can ever do.

For two weeks I walked that unpaved, dusty street with people just sitting beside the road talking. Men drank at small road side shops and shout in their languages in loud voices. Kids ran around, playing or crying. People often stare, but sometimes not-given we were new faces in the area. All houses seemed to have running water and electricity, which is a good thing.

At the main road, buai vendors sit in the heat and dust, sweating into kambang bottles and shelling buai to give as piksas to customers. I hated that place. I hated the sun, the heat, the dust, the landlord’s dogs and everything else.

While I planned to stay for only two weeks, the process of acquiring my licence dragged on longer than planned. On the Friday of my second week in Port Moresby, I acquired my licence. That left me to process my applications to hospitals I was interested in working.

Of the three hospitals that I put in applications, I got accepted at two. One was an urban Hospital in the New Guinea Islands and the other a rural hospital on mainland PNG. I decided to go for the latter. Due to administrative matters I had to stay in Port Moresby for another two weeks. This turned out to be very horrendous for me.

The rental room was never a comfortable hideaway. It was an oven day and night. There was no rain. The place was dry. The Landlord’s dogs hated me despite my love for all dogkind.I compared everything to Lae. The price of food, the meteorological issue and everything else. I wanted out.

Lemons costed me K1 a piece when I got them for 20t in Lae. Aibika costed me K1 for flimsy leaves when a huge bundle was 70t in Lae. Almost dead carrots costed me 50t or K1 a piece and Capsicums K2 a piece. I dreamt of Lae in the night, unsurprisingly. Busfares for long or short distances was K1 as compared to 50t and 70t in Lae. Chicken was however cheap and that surprised me too (lol).

I spent the second two weeks making the most of my stay in Port Moresby. I went to Ela Beach, I went to Taurama Beach, I went second hand-shopping and I rode the bus to almost all the suburbs in the city and strolled around. I ate street food and drank gallons of water and soda.

Soon the two weeks ended and the Landlord with the imposing eyebrows knocked on my door to ask if I was staying on or leaving. He had an interested tenant who wanted to rent two rooms long term and there was only one room free for him and his family. He needed the one I was staying in. It was time for me to go.

I again looked up rooms online and saw a room for K150 a forthnight at East Boroko. I decided to check it out. Again it was in the slums. However there was running water and electricity paid by the Landlord. The room was smaller than the previous one and was not furnished. I had a veranda all to myself and trees shading the front. It was very cool and I didn’t need to switch on my portable fan at all even during the hottest hours of the day.

The landlord was a kindly middle aged Apo, who was very soft spoken with a very lovely teenaged daughter. I liked him right away. His daughter was the model hostess.

Water was sourced from a long hose and got filled into large blue plastic drums. There was water for kitchen needs and showering and a seperate black plastic drum to flush the septic outdoor toilet. I knew I was staying for less than 2 weeks and I didn’t mind.I liked the outdoor shower where you can shower with sunlight and not feel cold outright. I was a bit scared of the toilet however, it was a flush toilet which functioned well but I was scared of the frogs that tend to perch around on the floor at midnight when my bladder became outstretched. The kitchen sink had a proper drainage and everything with the only catch in it being outdoors and you have to fetch water from plastic containers to wash your stuff.I enjoyed my stay at East Boroko more than at 9 Mile. I got to stay home and chill all day without the excessive heat of 9 Mile. The landlord and landlady and their children lived in their own house and left us to ourselves. It was ideal.

I watch the most glorious sunsets in the afternoons from my plastic chair perch and looked at the pinpoint lights of Boroko in the night. I loved the view.

Now, despite the perfect location of the room, the journey getting there is a hustle. Climb up a paved road and then take a turn up an unpaved one with people who originate mainly from Hela Province shouting, cursing, drinking beer at the roadside shops and gambling with decks of cards. That was almost unbearable.

Another turn in the road climbing upwards and in a depression beside the road, a PVC pipe spews out water. Throngs of women and children gather with their buckets and plastic cointainers, laundry and plates and much more. Little kids climb up the road, hauling large containers of water, breathing heavily and struggling to balance their loads. Women had large buckets of water in each hand and plastic bottles of water in large bilums climbing uphill, straining with the effort.It was painful to watch.

The 1 and a half week I spent in East Boroko, I marveled at the ability of humans to adapt and survive. I now understood a little bit more about life.

In the middle of my second week at East Boroko, all administrative issues with my hospital of choice were fixed. The landlord arranged for my pickup to the airport at 4am. I had to get an early flight because it was the cheapest and I was already running over my budget.

I thanked my landlord and left for the airport. Leaving the big city was the biggest relief of my life and living in it was the biggest challenge of all.I will return one day, and I only hope it will be a better experience.