Saturday, June 1, 2013

One month in Alotau!

So, it's been a month since I arrived in the town of Alotau, the capital of the Milne Bay Province in Papua New Guinea. It's a beautiful place, as you can see.

Normally, in these tropics, it would be the dry season. However, around this region, the wet and dry seasons are reversed, and so I have arrived in their rainy season, which doesn't bother me so much, as it means that the temperature stays more or less tolerable - even if my clothes do go a little mouldy if I leave them in the wardrobe for too long!

The name "Alotau" means "a safe place", and this town certainly does have that reputation. Even so, the usual safety precautions are advised, and it's taken me this long to start to feel familiar enough with the town and its daily goings-on without feeling too much out of control of my personal safety. However, I'm finally making friends - which can be harder than you think without the right introductions or stumbling into the right networks. I've also manage to suss out little things that I used to take for granted - things like internet, which is now a hundred times more expensive, and thus something that I need to wean myself off. There is also a significant lack of chocolate, which I'd like to think I can live without at the best of times, but also find myself craving at times.

Emotionally, it's been a bit of a rollercoaster. The first weekend was the worst - I found myself well out of my comfort zone wandering around town after dark, and ended up getting seriously spooked and feeling socially isolated. The second weekend I tagged along with some British medical students and went island hopping, which was exhausting but filled with beautiful beaches, sunburn and mosquito bites. In the following weeks, I oscillated between being somewhat reclusive in my bungalow with books, and forcing myself outdoors, and taking opportunities to meet new people. Even if it meant participating in boot-camp style cardio exercise. Which it did.

I don't know if it was the added exercise, or my slowly-growing social circle, but in this past week I've definitely feeling far more stable now. I'm buying more fresh vegetables and cooking properly again - much better than the rice and baked beans, 2-minute noodles or dry biscuits which were becoming my staples. A few weeks ago, I told a friend back home that I certainly didn't think I could spend a year here. Now I'm starting to feel like eight weeks isn't going to be long enough.

I even surprised myself today by saying that there was no way I could go back to doing what I was doing before. That has to be an indication that I'm finally headed in the right direction.