Apr 1, 2010

Trip to Kutubu: Part 1

This will be a difficult post for me, as I know that nothing I share will be close to the experience of visiting the Southern Highlands area called Kutubu, but, I'll give it a shot. The flight up was uneventful. We checked in at Port Moresby, boarded an hour later, and arrived in Kutubu 1.5 hours after that. What I could see on the flight was lots of forest and lots of water. Image 1: Kutubu Airport.

I arrived in the airport of a typical industrial complex. As a new visitor to the Oil Search site, I was treated to the viewing of the site orientation (they used another word, but I can't recall it) video. It was VERY similar to other such videos--Chevron, ExxonMobil, Dow, etc.--that I have seen over the years. Once I finished that process, and was issued a temporary badge, we were on our way.

The Oil Search site, which covers the entire area, seems to be securely maintained by a system of checkpoints, gated areas, and a strong security presence. Our (the company I am currently contracting to, TWL) trucking operation is located on this site, and a stop at the Moro Head Office was first up on the list. I was given a place to set up my equipment, was introduced to a number of TWL workers (drivers, schedulers, mechanics, etc.), and began the task of sifting through company information in order to identify gaps and prepare a game plan for filling them. Image 2: Trans Wonderland Trucking Limited Moro HQ.

Still early in the day, we decided to drive up to The Ridge and get checked in for the stay. I was told "The Ridge" was first established by Chevron to a) separate workers from the locals, and b) try and avoid exposure to the malaria-carrying mosquitoes in the lower areas. I wasn't sure what to expect, but after Leo's descriptions of compound living in Nigeria, I thought it might be similar.

Besides the little room assigned to me, the mess hall was the other building on site that I frequented most. I just had to provide my room number, D9, to gain access to the building. The meals were delicious with lots of choices available. I really enjoyed meal time as a time of meeting new people, laughing and joking, and relaxing for just a bit. When sitting with other expats (Aussies, Brits, Kiwis [New Zealanders]), the conversation generally turned to language usage, pronunciation, eating habits, and the like. When sitting with the nationals, I was always treated with kindness and curiosity, and enjoyed hearing a smattering of different languages. [Note: PNG is rare in its proliferation of multiple, as in more than 650, languages spoken. Not different dialects. Different languages. Amazing!] The nationals seem to have quite a sense of humor although they are generally more reserved than the expats about expressing it. Most often, I found the humor in this group expressed in looks exchanged, quiet giggles, and comments uttered under the breath rather than in the raucous outbursts of the expats. Image 3. Mess Hall.

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