Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Journey Into and Away from Myself

Looking through another's eyes  allows you to view the world from a perspective other than your own.  To see things through another cultural lens.

Looking through another's eyes also allows you to see yourself, your culture, your interaction with others and the world around you from the perspective of others.

This experience has been a true journey into and away from myself.  Each day, whether consciously or unconsciously, I learned more about myself, who I am, who I want to become.

I have seen and experienced many beautiful, unique, heart breaking, and utterly  shocking things.  Things that no matter how out of this world amazing or how horrific they may be, I am always reminded that they are all part of the human experience.  The unique yet interrelated exchanges between one person and another, between mother nature and the human race, between the sun and the moon, the earth and the sea.

Thank you for reading and allowing me to share my life as a VSO volunteer in Papua New Guinea.  Although I will not be making any new posts, I will not stop looking through another's eyes.

The Network

The Network is Papua New Guinea’s National Disability Magazine

Edition 20:  Millennium Development Goals: Is PNG Meeting Them? I have co-authored an article  (pg. 12) about Goal 2: Achieving Universal Primary Education.

The Network is an awareness activity of the National Disability and Advocacy Center (NDRAC) based at Divine Word University in Madang.  NDRAC recently became its own ngo and is currently staffed by 2 dedicated persons.  The Network is distributed within PNG and internationally.  Contact NDRAC ( if you are interested in joining the mailing list or contributing to its content.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

10 Facts about disability, poverty and education in developing countries

1. Ninety-eight percent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not have access to education, 98%!! (UNESCO)
2. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted in 2006 after four years of negotiations, is the first human rights Convention of the 21st century, and addresses civil, political, social economic and cultural rights. So far, it is ratified by 25 countries (UNCRPD)
 3. 50% of children who are deaf and 60% of those with an intellectual impairment are sexually abused (Save the Children Alliance as quoted on
4.  Hunger is the most extreme form of poverty; 1.02 billion people across the world are hungry; everyday almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes--one child every five seconds (
5. Poor nutrition and calorie deficiencies cause nearly one in three people to die prematurely or have disabilities (WHO)
6. Every year, more than 20 million low-birth weight babies are born in developing countries. These babies risk dying in infancy, while those who survive often suffer lifelong physical and cognitive disabilities. (WHO)
7. In 1998 the US spent over $8 Billion in cosmetics, Europe spent $50 Billion in cigarettes.  Compare that to what was estimated as additional costs to achieve universal access to basic social services in all developing countries: to basic education $8 Billion, to basic health and nutrition $11 Billion (
8. In Africa, only 62% of pupils complete primary education and are therefore ready to pursue their studies, compared to an average completion rate of 94% in North America and 88% in Asia . ( UNESCO Institute for Statistics)
9. The average primary school class in low income countries has a 60-to-1 student-teacher ratio (World Bank)
10. 80% of persons with disabilities live in developing countries (UNDP)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

10 Favorite travel destinations of mine in '09 and why

 When I first decided to start a blog I was leaving for the Peace Corps and the blog's primary purpose was to keep my close friends and family up to date with my new experiences.  Since then my blogging has evolved to include social, political and developmental issues (not claiming to have any expert knowledge beyond my personal grassroot perspective).  But mostly I use the blog as a personal journal to remind myself of small things that have made big impacts on my life; to remind me of the lessons I have learned (and most often the hard way), the people I have met and places I have been.  Which brings me to another list of 10: Favorite travel destinations of mine in '09 and why

1. Singapore is a busy and clean city with loads of diversity.  It has endless shopping along Orchid Road and it is easy to explore places like China town, Little India and Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling!
2. Yogyakarta is a wonderful blend of Indonesian culture with the magnificent Borobudur (Buddhist) and Prambanan (Hindu) Temples, delicious vegetarian dishes and Via Via's off the beaten path tours.  I particularly enjoyed the Religion Tour of temples and learning about the religions blends in Java.
3. Langkawi, Malaysia  is a great place to relax on the beach and still enjoy inexpensive luxuries like the Red Tomatoe's mexican pasta dish and the all night dance clubs!
4. Sepik River, East Sepik Papua New Guinea was the most incredible adventure of my life!  Crocodiles, canoes, fishing villages, marsupials, carvings, weaving, a culture that must be experienced!
5. Kar Kar Island, PNG, beautiful black sand beaches, lush coconut plantations, and volcano!
6. Goroka, Eastern Highlands PNG is known for its incredible coffee, Asaro Mudmen, and the Goroka festival
7. Hong Kong--top class Asian city!  Food, shopping, culture, ferry from Kowloon to Victoria Harbour
8 and 9. The border crossing between Jayapura Indonesia and Vanimo, Papua New Guinea.  The views are stunning, lush tropical trees and the pristine sea.  The vibrant colors, the pureness of it all, simply untouched.  The traditional villages spotted along the coast.  All this contrasted by the adventure of riding with armed guards during the often times unstable border crossing! There is notable contrast between the two border towns, both beauty and beast.
10. Madang, PNG.  Not called the Prettiest Town in the Pacific for nothing.  Singsings, flora and fauna, spectacular reefs and fishes, countless islands with an amazing mountainous backdrop.  A must for all adventurous travelers and avid divers,

Monday, January 18, 2010

10 Favorites of Papua New Guinea

(In no particular order…except for Asaro Mud Men…they have to be #1)
1.  Asaro Mud Men
2. ‘Bird of Paradise’ flowers
3. Jolanda, Marleen and the Nissan.
4. Flying Foxes
5. Kranget Island
6. Kundiawa Coffee Shop
7. Bilums
8. Eden’s Restaurant
9. Kalibobo Second Hand Shop
10. Kulau

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hong Kong: A feast for my senses!

Three days in Asia's World City while in transit home for the holidays.  This multicultural gateway is a complete 180 from PNG, a sophisticated metropolis where culture is respected and cutting edge technology embraced.  Its vibrant, bustling, developed, everything that PNG is not.  It has superb infrastructure with efficent transport.  The leather seats and wood grain interior on the airport shuttle were a far cry from  Madang's PMV buses where the doors fall off!

Close to midnight I arrived at my 4 Star hotel  (less than US 100), but unlike Madang's empty dark streets, this city never sleeps!  The lights, the 360 degree harbor skyline, trendy night spots, night markets and street hustlers selling "genuine copy watches"  and "real copy handbags"...and windows without bars!  For the first time in months, I could walk around without feeling marred down with tension and fear. 

The first night I endulged in luxuries by taking a long, leisurely shower.  I stood there letting the water wash PNG from my body and mind.  Then I turned on the flatscreen and ordered room service from my fluffy bed!

The next morning I strolled the streets and popped into a coffee shop for an espresso and bagel..savoring each bite as I people watched from the cafe window front.  Appearances are evidently important, no tatty second hand clothes here.  These trendy, multicultural people hop in and out oft the subway and shops wearing the latest high end fashion.  Gucci suits, Coach bags, and knee high boots.  

Kowloon is a shoppers paradise.  From shopping centers boasting names such as Vivian Westwood, Prada, Tiffany to bargain markets selling packaged plastic bangles, chopsticks and silk bags.  Each shop I entered, I walked out wearing the new leaving behind the old for the trash! Every other store flashed neon lights with the latest high tech inovation. Nikon, Canon, eyes were bulging from my head!  And obviously the hustlers could see "easy target" written clearly across my face.  Long story short, after hours of what I thought was bargaining, I found out that I was ripped completely off.  When I finally found my way back to the one of  hundreds of shops along Nathan Road, they would only refund 70% of my money! I left without my bargain Hong Kong electronics, but with a very expensive lesson learned.

The next day, in an attempt to avoid the endless choices of products and brands, I ventured out to Hong Kong Island.  Subway and tram to The Peak, Hong Kong's largest tourist attraction overlooking the entire city and Victoria Harbor.  The city was particularly buzzing with people and events for the 2009 Asian Games.  Museums, cultural dances, martial arts.  After a ferry across the harbor, I walked along the waterfront waiting for the worlds largest permanent light and sound show.  Each night at 8:00 over 40 buildings along the 360 degrees of harbor skyline is illuminated by a laser light show.  It was incredible!

Boasting the title of "Culinary capital of Asia" Hong Kong has thousands of resturants.  Chinese traditional dishes, Japanese sushi bars, Balinese and Indian cuisines.  (And of course a McDonalds and Starbucks on every corner) I particularly enjoyed the fresh sashimi and sushi...and Japanese beers and sake! 

Hong Kong has now become one of my favorite cities, a real feast for my senses!