Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Where on Earth is PNG?

Who is asking?
Too many people have asked me where Papua New Guinea is and if it's part of Australia. This usually comes after a question about where I'm from originally.

Here is a little education for those who didn't pay much attention in geography class and care to learn now :o)

Papua New Guinea (aka PNG)
PNG is one of Australia's nearest neighbours, being just over a 2 hour flight from Cairns, Qld. It sits on the Ring of Fire which is a volcanic region of the Earth that experiences earthquakes and tsunamis and not a Johnny Cash song. Japan and Hawaii also live on the Pacific Ring of Fire.

I was born in Rabaul which was recently partially wiped off the map (or covered in 10ft of ash) in 1994 by the volcanoes that also call it home. The best way to describe Rabaul is being like a half full cup of tea. The tea in the cup represents the water over Rabaul Harbour which covers the flooded caldera of an active volcanic. The rim of the cup is the circle of volcanoes that surround the harbour and just inside the cup above the liquid sits Rabaul. That description never sat well with me as a child, especially when we were woken in the the early hours of the morning as children and made to walk down the stairs and stand outside our house while it shook from a larger of the hundreds (yes hundreds) of earthquakes experienced each week.

PNG is in the southern hemisphere. My sister was born on a naval base at 2 degrees south of the equator on Manus Island. I often mistold the story and said she was born on a naval boat in international waters. Sorry about that K.

It's a country like Australia that likes to dig up and sell it's dirt to the rest of the world. 72% of it's exports are oil, copper and gold. That's one reason they dispute the succession of Bougainville so strongly because it has a helluva lot of the countries resources.

With just under 6 million people, it has around 1000 languages and dialects. That's about one language per person and it sure feels that way when you visit. English is the official language but the main lingua franca is Tok Pisin. If you are Papuan then you should be speaking Hiri Motu.

Papua and New Guinea were separate territories until they were brought together after WWII. Everyone has had a go at running the place including the Germans and Dutch and finally Australia before PNG gained independence on the 16th of September in 1975.

The currency is the Kina - you'll get K2.3222 for $A1.00 at the moment. It is the 54th largest country in the world sitting on the world's 4th largest island. Sweden is the same size as PNG.

It is a beautiful country with rainforests, white beaches, coffee plantations, infrequent snow on it's highest peaks and lots of friendly black people. I love it and always will even if my Mum does sometimes look disappointed with how Aussie I can be :o) Yes, the main cities like Port Moresby and Lae are dangerous but the rest of the place is worth a visit.

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