Fresh Pair Of Eyes

“Medicine is not only a science; it is also an art. It does not consist of compounding pills and plasters; it deals with the very processes of life, which must be understood before they may be guided. “
– Paracelsus

I thought I’d take a moment to recount some of the experiences and stories that Anna and Hannah have stumbled upon during their two months in South East Papua New Guinea. They have been working in a hospital for their medical elective – firstly in coastal Alotau and latterly on Goodenough Island, one of the D’Entrecasteaux Islands in the Milne Bay Province. It’s interesting to hear about the PNG culture from a totally different perspective. The highlanders are still viewed by many of the coastal folk as complete savages! An Australian called David who’s been working with the palm oil plantations for the past 18 months described his first encounter: He had just arrived in PNG and was staying at a hotel in Port Moresby. The first time he ventured out of the house he saw a ‘rascal’ (generic name for thieves or troublemakers) attempt to pick-pocket a highland man in full traditional dress. The highlander grabbed the rascal’s hand, cut off his arm with a bush knife, threw it on the floor and carried on his way. Nobody else on the street batted an eyelid. David retreated immediately to his hotel where he remained for the rest of his stay!
Anna and Hannah were staying in similar accommodation to me, partly with a Pastor and his family in their little family-run church and partly in the hospital’s accommodation on the island with four other Slovenian students. They made up the only six doctors on the island. The doctor-patient confidentiality in PNG is not quite as rigid as the system at home; whilst they were doing the procedure for contraceptive implants they had a stream of spectators wandering in to watch or take photos. As an example of the sort of cases they dealt with a young boy was brought it who had fallen six metres out of a coconut tree. They were trying to pacify him, worried that he’d ruptured his spleen, but he didn’t seem to grasp the concept of staying still and kept trying to get up to go to the market!
They also spent some time in a rural aid post in a stilted wooden hut. Every morning a man would blow a conch to summon the families from across the local area and mountains to bring their children down for inspection. They would weigh the kids in a big sack hanging from the roof with the equivalent of supermarket scales!
They also similarly had interactions concerning witchcraft: A young lady called Sandii told them about her Uncle who ‘flew around the islands to eat people’. She was uneducated as apparently her Uncle had put a spell on her giving her a permanent headache and therefore preventing her from going to school as her dad owed him money. She’s now a yam farmer.
There’s a little flavour of their side of the PNG story.

Anna and Hannah with Trobriand facepaint.

Anna and Hannah with Trobriand facepaint.

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Weapon Of Choice

As my time here draws to a close, I’m carefully abiding to the Papua New Guinean motto: ‘Expect the unexpected.’ My communication with UCL following their invitation for an interview this November in London (Great, but also very impossible) has led to the arrangement for an interview over Skype tomorrow at 19.40 PNG time (9.40 in England). I’m incredibly grateful that the time difference is not at all inconvenient; I was not relishing the idea of waking up at 4:00 to answer questions about my life story. I will be (hopefully) flying to boiling Port Moresby tomorrow so with any luck, I’ll be able to find some internet there! I’ve spent today trying to remember what I included in my personal statement…not easy! The frustrating thing is that UCL offered me a place when I first applied but I turned it down. Hopefully they won’t remember but one of the inconveniences of having such a strange name as ‘ffrench-Constant’ is that it doesn’t blend in as well as your average ‘Smith’ or ‘Richards’.

I’ve also spent the day debating which of my gifts to risk taking through the labyrinth that is Australian customs. I’ve taken out any items with seeds on them (usually in the form of beads) and bilas with fur or feathers on – I’m going to try to post them home! I’m risking taking my 10 spears and other bits and bobs including bow and arrows through customs. I’m not particularly optimistic but we’ll see!

Thalia and I have just been listening to Verena reading German advent stories under candle light. I’m going to miss this family.

 

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