Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Land of the Unexpected- PNG Blog 2012

From the 15th to the 30 of September I was in Papua new Guinea for the Transparency International PNGs Youth Democracy Camp
To be honest my first impression of PNG was a very positive one. I was instantly charmed by the air hostesses on-board my flight from Nadi through to Solomons then on to Port Moresby on Air Niugini.  Their friendliness, beauty and magnetism instantly won me over.
Unfortunately though, all that came to a screeching halt when we stopped over in the Solomon Islands to pick up some new passengers. Among the 30 or so of them, were a group of intoxicated men who insisted on being impolite and offensive to the rest of the passengers all the way through to Port Moresby.
In an act of validation of my ever optimistic temperament, I reminded myself that first impressions were always the best, and I wasn’t about to allow my opinion on PNG be altered by a few irresponsible inebriated men.
And so begun my mind warping experience of the Land of the Unexpected
Because I had gotten into Papua New Guinea a few days before the start of the Youth Democracy Camp, I had a few days to kill in the nation’s capital Port Moresby, before I flew over to the Eastern Highlands of Goroka.
On Sunday, I got to attend the Reverend Sione Kami Memorial Church to celebrate 37 years of PNGs independence. It was superb.
The church was a large open hall and on that particular day, it was beautifully adorned with red, black and yellow shirts and flags, proudly symbolising the hope that the members of the congregation had, about the future of their land, and its people.
Amidst the celebrations that day, however, I couldn’t help but realise this unsettling sense that behind those smiles and songs of praise, were these overshadowing feelings of uncertainty, mistrust and hoarded caution.
I didn’t however, let that get in the way of enjoying the, somewhat hazed sense of freedom, they all shared
The organisers of the Youth Democracy Camp had put, Fiji participant, Maca and I at the Peai Lodge, some ten minutes away from the Transparency International national chapter headquarters, to wait for the start of the YDC.
We were soon to be joined by three PNG youth, Solomon, Jeremy and *Cynthia. I spoke to Solomon and Jerry that evening and without using too many words, they both shared across the same sentiments.
PNG is a land of harsh realities for young people, living with gentle aspirations. They live in constant uncertainty about the futures they dare to dream of.
In a time and age of touch screens, social media, human rights and information, PNG seems to exist in a time capsule that curses the land with a small island reality saturated by big city possibilities.
In a land steeped in corruption and injustices, and in a land where both poverty and wealth continuously subsist, I dare to ask the question, for the youth of PNG, is their true enemy hope?
As the rest of my journey in this beautifully sculpted land would reveal, I was highly mistaken!
The Youth Democracy Camp, opened up my eyes to a lot of things, I so naively overlooked.
Apart from its admirable and praiseworthy programme, I felt like the participants that attended, had somehow turned me upside down, emptied my core of all doubt and scepticism, turned me the right way up again and filled me with encouragement reminding me of the true power of a young person with a purpose driven mission.
 It was overwhelming to be reminded that the dreams and aspirations of youth are so wonderfully omnipotent. It cannot be hindered.
The YDC participants are a living testimony to the power of a movement.
This whole experience literally nourished my soul.
I found youth of PNG to be filled with sincere humility and blessed with an inherent ability to listen. They could take in all the opinions and influences from those around them, but naturally stand by their own beliefs.
These YDC participants are the fortunate few who got to go on this amazing journey. They had the opportunity to be educated on the role of parliament in their country, the duty of the court, the election procedure, the importance of voting and most importantly, they all equally desired to answer the call, to stand up to injustice.
They were a new breed of young people here in PNG; they were the principal ingredients of a more analytical generation.
Could they become the leaders this land so immensely deserved?
Could they really put aside their differences and genuinely, build the sense of nationhood, this land required?
In all honesty, I really think they can.
Some may say this is quite the leap of faith, some may call it naive, some may even put it down to my hopeful nature, but in a time and age where everything and anything is possible, a time where young people are persuaded to dream and subsequently empowered to follow that dream, I stand by this opinion and sincerely hope they do
In this land of the unexpected, one’s thing is for sure, change is coming!

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