Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Great Village

I had the rare privilege of attending an important event at the University of Papua New Guinea. First, I had the duty to be present at the official ground-breaking ceremony of the 2015 South Pacific Games Village. The construction of the Games Village at the University of Papua New Guinea brought the Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill, his fellow Ministers Hon. Peter Ipatas, Governor of Enga, and Hon. Justin Tjachenko, the Minister for Sports and Recreation. Members of the PNG Sports Federation, the South Pacific Games Organizing Committee, the UPNG staff and students, and the press made the event momentous enough to remember.

Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill officiated the groundbreaking ceremony for the SP Games Village, after expressing his irritation at the slowness in getting things moving. Though his blame was on the bureaucrats for delays, there was more to what the Prime Minister said.

The road to 2015 South Pacific Games in Port Moresby is the challenge the government, organizers, and the country have to deal with. It is not a straight road, but one that needs some sense of commitment and purpose. Nothing will happen in 2015 if the important decisions, infrastructure, and funding are not made available. The political will is to see that the 2015 South Pacific Games become a reality.

And, in that will comes great expectations. Preparations for the 2015 South Pacific Games must have a total commitment from all stakeholders. It is not only about the excellent sports men and women, but also about Papua New Guinea as a nation. The South Pacific Games will show case our people and nation, but also become the very site in which our linkages and relationships with other Pacific Islanders are affirmed and strengthened.

Other Pacific Islanders will come to enjoy our hospitality, goodwill and friendship, which they will take back with them to their own countries. In many respects the South Pacific Games will be a combination of our ancestral and spiritual mana with those of our individual talents and skills.
Prime Minister of PNG Hon. Peter O'Neill
 at the Ground Breaking Ceremony of
the 2015 South Pacific Games
Village at UPNG

During the ground-breaking ceremony for the SP Games Village I stood back to take in the development taking place at the University of Papua New Guinea. With so much space in terms of land UPNG can develop and widen its scope and capacity. The sad truth is that UPNG has not seen much infrastructure development for many years until now.

Aside from the South Pacific Games Village a new School of Law building began last year. The new School of Law building is next to the Ulli Beier centre.  The SP Games Village is build next to the School of Law building.

I spent nearly three-quarters of my life, except the years I was away for studies and work overseas in New Zealand and USA, at the University of Papua New Guinea. The place has become for me a village of some sort. Growing up in it, getting a degree, getting married, having children, and grandchildren who also see the UPNG grounds as their village, make me appreciate being part of the big UPNG village.

Seeing the Prime Minister, Ministers, and other leaders who are the finest products of this national institution of higher education return to the village to help develop it is very moving. It feels like our relatives who have gone away from us have returned to make us proud of them and to give us the new life we needed.

It is a sense of admiration for our relatives who are making us proud and who continue to bring us to the top level of society. They carry our name with pride and are the embodiments of our hopes as the elite villagers of the University of Papua New Guinea.

The South Pacific Games Village is the latest addition. There is the Tumbuna Village and the Veari Village, both struggling to maintain the condition habitable for humans. A walk through Veari Village reveals an interesting side to the accommodations at the UPNG. Veari Village and Toa Village are in serious condition for infrastructure rehabilitation. Buildings at the FCA campus and Tumbuna Village are in need of surgical repair work.

What is hard to ignore is that one of the long houses in our UPNG village was burnt down last year. It has not been cleared. The skeleton of the house still haunts those who lived in it last year. 

UPNG as a village has seen us grow into the kind of person we are today. Many of our leaders acknowledge their times as UPNG as the most important part of their lives. Many went away after graduation to contribute to nation building.

Others like me remained at the institution to localize the academic positions. The challenge was to become as good as, if not better than, our professors and lecturers before they left the University of Papua New Guinea. We became teaching fellows and library fellows before pursuing MA degree studies and PhD studies in overseas universities. That is the best possible path we had in the 1980s and 1990s. Our crop was prepared for the responsibility to maintain a university system introduced to us from the Western academic traditions. A strong academic foundation of highly trained and qualified professors, senior lecturers, lecturers, and tutors, make a university solid in its mandate to deliver what the government wants for a university.

Sometimes I think such a foundation is precisely what makes a university a solid institution of higher education.

In as much as this piece is a reflection I am also conscious of the need to acknowledge the government’s commitment to do all it can to restore the pride of UPNG. It wants to see that UPNG continues to provide quality education.

My views expressed here do not necessarily reflect any official views of UPNG in any way. These are the views, I. as someone with a long association with the University of Papua New Guinea feel I wanted to express at this time.


Dealing With Fear

The number one fear I have is of heights, more specifically of flying. The greatest fear is of flying in a small plane. I can list down the many occasions I refused to fly small planes even if it is so important. The times I fly in planes with propeller engines are when I have no choice or alternative mode of travel. When I am flying in jet planes I always carry a rosary or my Bible with me.  Heights scare me a lot. At times in my travel and work I have to live in tall towers.

I remember I was living on the fifteenth floor of McKnight Tower in Minneapolis, USA for four years. It was never that comfortable, but it was the only place I stayed in for all those years. In Tokyo I had to stay on the twentieth floor. That was scary. I prayed every night and every morning to calm me. One day there was an earthquake. I rang home. Everyone at home prayed also for me.

The second fear I have is on thunder and lightening. I am so afraid of being struck by lightening. I can’t stand thunder and lightening. I have to stop or refuse to drive when there is lightning or thunder.  I don’t sleep when there is lightning and thunder.

I have other fears that I have to live with. I know I have to deal with these fears all my life. They will not go away from me. The important thing for me is to deal with them; to acknowledge them as fears I have to live with.

On a trip to Fiji I was to fly on a propeller plane from Nausori to Nadi. Instead I decided to hire a cab to drive me from Suva to Nadi. I did not care how much it cost me to hire a cab. I had the option and money to do what I could to avoid my fear.

There are other fears that I had to deal with such as fear of making mistakes. I make many mistakes anyway. The truth is these mistakes are avoidable if I was thinking correctly. I made mistakes that are genuine then I accept them as mistakes resulting from my ignorance, unpreparedness, or not making sure of details. Sometimes they are not even my mistakes, but other people taking advantage of me.

One such occasion that caused me so much stress was in Honolulu, Hawaii. I had a couple of PNG friends come over to my house on a Sunday in March. We had some drinks, listened to PNG music on my laptop, talked about home, but called it off by 10.00pm. It was not the best decision I made at that time. I regretted it for a week. By the middle of the week the manager of the properties sent out notice of car theft and car burglary reported on Monday and Tuesday. That made me so scared. I thought because it was odd, but my fear was that because they saw many black people together someone had suspected we were up to something. I found it silly, but the fear was that other people’s fears that led to the notice were also causing me unnecessary anxiety and fear of being seen as a burglar or car thief. I was not one anyway.

I feared being questioned or evicted from my apartment that might lead to me shame. It was a fear that caught me for a week. I rang all my friends and told them not to come to my apartment. It was a mind-boggling experience. I kept a low profile that whole week.

John Maxwell writes: “When it comes to dealing with fear you have three choices. First, you can try to avoid it altogether. But that means staying away from every known or potential fear-producing person, place, thing, or situation. That’s neither practical nor productive. If you move tentatively from place to place, always worrying that around the next corner you’ll come face-to-face with something that could cause you to fear, you will be tied into knots.

Face Fear Don't Walk Away From It
“A second way to deal with fear is to hope that it will go away. But that’s like hoping for a fairy godmother to rescue you.

“Fortunately, there is a third way to deal with fear, and that is to face it and overcome it. In the end, that’s the only method that really works. Here is a strategy to help you face the fear and do it anyway:

·           60 percent of our fears are totally unwarranted; they never come to pass.
·           20 percent of our fears are focused on our past, which is completely out of our control.
·           10 percent of our fears are based on things so petty that they make no difference in our lives.
·           Of the remaining 10 percent, only 4 to 5 percent could be considered justifiable.

These statistics show that any time or energy you give to fear is totally wasted and counterproductive 95 percent of the time.” We need to understand ourselves more by thinking about the statistics given above. I think they make sense to me.

I dealt with this fear by persuading myself that such notices were normal in a place such as the one I was living in. It was clear to me that someone was making things up to protect their own interests. Other people’s insecurities and fears must never ruin my life.  I am an honest person with the right to be where I am and must continue to do what I always do.

I chose to write about the theme of fear this week. It is one way of dealing with fear. I hope sharing this will inspire you to deal with your own fears in a positive way. There is always a reason for everything that happens around us.
Instead of worrying about our fears we should deal with how we can use our fears to our advantage. 

Publication Culture at UPNG Alive - EM TV

Publication Culture at UPNG Alive - EM TV featured the book launch Transitions and Transformations at UPNG recently. The launch was both creative and intellectual. I acknowledge everyone who came for the book launch. Let's keep the literary flames burning!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Healthy Living

Alcohol also contributes to lifestyle diseases. Good to see billboard such as this one declaring war on alcohol abuse.

Fear of death makes people doing the wrong things. Fear should be a wake up call for one to think about taking advice, council, and changing one’s tactics to avoid death. So often people all around us let fear grip them as if there are no choices to make. We fear death, that’s inevitable, but must also not allow that fear to take complete control of our lives. Think about how to get out of that fear. Think about the options available.

This was part of the discussion I had with Dr. Chris Kinibi, the Medical Director of the University Clinic last week. I had visited him after going through one and half week of illness resulting from severe cold and flu. I contracted the cold and flu illness from staying out late and in the open the previous weeks as a result of visiting several ‘haus krais’. It was that exposure to the elements of dust, airborne bacteria, and contact with others through handshakes that could have provided the opportunity for the infection to take hold of me.

Dr. Kinibi wrote down the meaning of FEAR as he explained many things about life-style diseases, healing in the biomedical sense, and also in the spiritual sense. F stands for False; E stands for Evidence; A stands for Appearing, and R stands for Real, was how the good Doctor explained the meaning of that word to me. 

After he had diagnosed me of my affliction the good Dr. Kinibi shared some of his deep thoughts on what he thinks are some of the things people should know about health, life-style, work, and family. Many young professional between the ages of 45 and 58 die young as a result of life-style diseases. It is true, I agreed with the UPNG medical doctor, but felt guilty because even though at UPNG we have medical advice and service made available to us, most of us fail to use the Clinic. For those of us in the ‘high calories use’ employment bracket the service is open for consultations, yet we ignore it, playing the knowing it all game until death finds us to our own detriment.

Depending on the life-style one has lived in their early years before the critical age of 45 one has to reassess one’s own life, re-examine habits, life-styles, and attitudes to everything from work, money, family, friends, and daily habits. It is important that these are looked at critically and with self-discipline. Make amends where necessary, intervene into negative habits, and adopt positive family oriented life-styles. Simple things like spending time with family more, allowing one’s spiritual faculty to be enriched in prayer and divine interventions, and opting for more balanced approach to one’s life can help save lives.

Our conversation on good health and what each one of us must do to care for our lives is made possible, because Dr. Kinibi has by now full knowledge of what my medical history is when it comes to health problems. I was glad he took the time to talk to me about good healthy living habits and in addition to the medical explanation of illness and healing. The reassuring part of the conversation with Dr. Kinibi was about the spiritual faculty of our lives. It was good to go beyond discussions on biomedicine to spiritual healing. One cannot avoid the experience of spiritual interventions in our societies. The good doctor felt that many people need to allow Jesus into their lives to give them a sense of peace, balance, and restored mind from the pressures and stress associated with work and the contemporary life-styles we are living. The spiritual dimension of our lives must never be under valued or relegated the realm of mysticism.
Bomana Catholic Seminary Chapel

I found out that Apostle Luke was also a medical physician in those days and this is reflected in the style of writing that is different to the other Gospels in the Bible. Luke is more intellectual and challenges us to read and think beyond the ordinary about meanings embedded deep within our lives.

Dr. Kinibi made reference to Romans 8: 28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who live him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I reflected on it later at home. I realized that instead of letting fear take control of my life I need to replace that with the Word of God by programming into the mental hard-drive so that in whatever circumstances I find myself in where fear threatens to control my life I can replace it God’s presence in it. That is a powerful feeling.

The discussion with the UPNG medical doctor was very renewing and rewarding too as a patient but as someone concerned about my own health and life. I want to live a long life, but the way death seems to make its ugly presence felt in my communities and work environment, I have reason to start thinking about more life-changing positive approaches to life.

I have written about fear some time ago after reading the John Maxwell’s book. The two greatest detours in life, according to John Maxwell are: (1) fear of the unknown and (2) fear of failing. These fears are experienced everyday in our lives. The fear of the unknown stops people from taking advantage of the situation, when a problem appears in their journey. People are unwilling to take a detour from their original plans. Some people just resign or give up because they are not willing to learn something new from the situation. The second fear is that of failure, which many people have in their journeys.  Nothing could be overstated with how people deal with their fears.

John Maxwell’s teaching on dealing with fear and failure are sound advice that helped me to face my own fears of the unknown and the fear of failure.

Next week we will continue to talk about the element of fear as part of our lives. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Remarkable Moment

During the Australia Week I had the pleasure, on behalf of the Vice Chancellor, and the University of Papua New Guinea, to host a night of remarkable moment with Dame Carol Kidu, speaking about her life, work, and vision. The talk took place at the Main Lecture Theatre of the UPNG where Dame Carol spoke with the undiminishing passion and affection she has for her family and people.

The PNG Society of Writers, Editors, and Publishers in conjunction with the Australian High Commission initiated the concept and organized the guest lecture, featuring the former politician and MP who had set the bar above, and beyond her peers. It is awe-inspiring to be present in the same space where a person of Dame Carol Kidu is the featured speaker. Part of the appeal is to encourage Papua New Guineans to write for The Crocodile Prize competition.

I had the good fortune of knowing and working with Dame Carol in other professional capacities. Taking on the role of host for her talk is only little I can do to show my respect for someone who is a champion of little people and the rights and plight of urbanites and women. Her simple down-to-earth approach to establishing relationships with those whose paths cross hers has had remarkable impressions on people long after such encounters.

There is respect, envy, and admiration of this person who gave up everything to follow her heart to Papua New Guinea with her boyfriend, who would later become her husband. The man she married, Sir Buri Kidu, would soon become the first Papua New Guinean Chief Justice.

Dame Carol recounts the journey in her first autobiography, A Remarkable Journey, and in her talk at UPNG she reveals more intimate details of the encounter and the journey of her life with her late husband.

“Don’t ask me to choose,” was the preferred title of the book. The reason was that it was the statement that Sir Buri made to Dame Carol during the time they began seeing each other. Sir Buri made no indication as to the question of serious commitment in their relationship during their varsity years at the University of Queensland.  Sir Buri had told Dame Carol that if she asked him to choose between his people and her he would choose his people. Dame Carol thought about it before making her decision to follow him to Papua New Guinea.

In Papua New Guinea Dame Carol recounts the experiences of cultural immersion was taken care off by her mother-in-law. Dame Carol had chosen to follow her heart: Buri Kidu and Papua New Guinea. She had never regretted one moment of that decision.

Dame Carol has so much honor and dignity in her stride that at the passing of her husband, Sir Buri Kidu, she took it on herself to pursue some of the dreams they shared in their partnership. Partly out of respect for her late husband and partly the need to speak about the people she has become part of and they a big part of her life. In their lives she came and settled, become absorbed into social and cultural fabric of the Motu Koitabu society, and made it become hers as well.

Dame Carol Kidu during her talk at MLT, UPNG 2013
Talking about her life during the Australia Week evokes a certain kind of connections and strengthening of existing relationships between the people of Australia and Papua New Guinea. It is one of the most important relationships that exist at both the political and personal level. People from both countries find mutual commonality in various engagements and endeavors, even if historical antecedent is anything to go by.

In her life outside of politics Dame Carol is working at her autobiography, capturing everything, the highs and lows, the leaderships challenges, and the peculiarities of wrestling with power at the male dominant world of politics in PNG.