Living In A 3rd World Country Where Your Everyday Belongings Send A Wealth Message…
My first few days on Bougainville Island were quite frankly, a culture shock.
We arrived on Friday morning, were met by one couple who took us to our new home, (provided by the company), showed us our survival kit, four of everything in terms of crockery and cutlery, plus a few cooking utensils.
We then went to the supermarket.
I was supposed to shop there?
The shelves looked just like our Australian supermarkets when Covid was at its height and people were panic-buying…empty.
Bananas, pawpaw and pineapple were in plentiful supply. It was the tropics after all, but all vegetables were foreign to me. And there weren’t many.
To this day I can’t recall what I bought, nor do I remember what we ate over the weekend, but the feeling of being on an alien planet, was front and center.
I later found out about the Tuesday morning markets, run by residents of Panguna, up in the mountains.
These people left home at midnight, trekked all the way down the mountains with their produce, and trekked all the way back when produce had been sold.
Sadly, there were no markets open on a weekend.
We were then left alone, ill-prepared for a long weekend, knowing not a soul, with no car, and no idea about the layout of the island.
Nobody took pity on us…just the two of us, with some books, and an unspoken wish to hop on the next available plane.
We did a lot of walking, checking out the few stores available, the sailing club, the one hotel, and at least we tired ourselves out.
But it was still a long weekend and family and friends seemed so very far away.
Of course we learned later that this rarely happens to newcomers on the island. Dinners and drinks are organized, as well as food drop-offs, and potential friends dropping by to say hello.