#31 Cafe Whispers in Lae, PNG

Cafe Whispers.

Cafe whispers muted, rustling and audible. Ice in my coffee, K4 wara, na K2 coke, surrounded by non-Indigenous Papua New Guinean residents. This is what the weekly pilgrimage looks like.  Same-same but different. 

I put on my best grin as if to greet a long time friend. It’s only the girl behind the counter. I expect something, but not even a momentary silence could solicit a response. No courteous pleasantries. 

I sigh.  It’s different.  Different is just another normal – I tell myself for the hundredth time this week. 

I hope she makes good coffee though. She’s cute, I could stay in her eyes for endless moments but I check out instead.  Her innocent smile gives her away,  I see a whole world between us that would be pointless crossing. 

No small talk today pretty lady. 

Short. No sugar. No milk. I like mine black. 

I find my place in the middle of the cafe. In the corner, there’s a group of expatriate wives and girlfriends sharing a laugh over their regular Friday coffee-mornings. Behind me, a group of ladies, both non-Papua New Guinean and Papua New Guinean sit huddled practicing their Tok Pisin, mastering the art of ‘Maus Wara’, all dressed in Morobean meri blouses. A missionary pilots wife and the mother’s leaderdship group – she is pregnant. There is something oddly calming about it all.

Cafe whispers muted and rustling.

But there’s the noticeable absence of men here. Why?-

A child scurries across the floor to catch her mother’s laughter. Between the ladies, the table is set for play. Toys lay littered between mugs and plates of half eaten cakes. The child is passed around, resting in the arms of the oldest in the group. The child’s mother prepares a bottle of milk. A well rehearsed drill between the six of them. 

The strength of women. I am reminded of my aunties and mothers sat atop woven-mats spread across a creaky wooden bed in a ‘haus win’, sharing a child’s cries. 

Same-same but different. 

Cafe whispers take on a whole new meaning now. I see this third space more for what it is then what it was. Here, the humble cafe serves more then just coffee. It is an elevated space – almost sacred to these non-Papua New Guinean residents – offering a taste of what is normal for them in a land foreign to them. A space to reproduce some semblance of their culture while they wait out their time in this timeless land. Sharing stories, rearing children, creating their version of a Papua New Guinea they will not soon forget – that their children will call home forever. 

Sitting between both worlds, I too have come to associate the humble cafe with a space for respite. I gravitate to it to escape the strangeness – to make sense of the strangeness – but mostly to find familiarity, to sit and meet with my thoughts, to make memories I would not soon forget. 

I notice these things more, the more I come back to this place. 

I catch a young Papua New Guinean child pierce the hum-drum chatter of the cafe with his curious stare. Hiding behind a plastic pot plant, he peers through his fear of being seen, wondering how far apart our worlds really are. An outside observer making mental notes, who will no doubt tell his friends of this strange gathering of white people and this black guy at the monestary of the black juice. 

How primitive they must be to work so hard, to earn that money, to spend on expensive dirty black water. Samting bilong ol waitman.

Our eyes meet and hang a second too long, reminding me of my own foreigness – both in this cafe and in my own land. 

I avert my eyes. I sip my coffee. I continue to write. 

He’ll never know how much I need my dirty black water. 

Sigh. 

It’s different. There is nothing wrong with different.  

One-hundred and four. 

Hans

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#19 Lessons Learnt, Lessons Earnt

Remember –

sugar free

lemonade

is the most

bitter taste.

–  by Hans Lee

Being the first officer of a plane experiencing dual engine failure is always going to be daunting and nerving experience. It must be worse when you know that you are still a subordinate to the captains orders. Knowing that the initial impact will determine whether you survive or not makes critical every effort to ease the severity of the impact.

I pose that scenario to begin my reflection on the science of an undoing of a company. I have often prayed to be exposed to failure at a grand scale and I think I am about to see it go down like the twin towers. After all, the best lessons are the ones learned through experience. I hope that the insight gained through this experience will give me exceptional foresight in the management of my future company.

So where do I begin?

Firstly, always remember that a garden must bear fruits before you can start eating from it, but if you want more from it, you must be wiling to take some of that product to the market to sell it for money. That money can either be reinvested into growing the garden or exploring other money growth opportunities. The K50 earned from the market sales should be reinvested for the future, sacrificing today’s rewards.

The basic principle is that, before something can look after you, you must look after it.

Asset rich – Cash poor brings creditors knocking at the door.

Whether you are working for yourself or working for someone else, remember that operations get harder when there is limited cash moving through the veins of the company. A company can feel and look like it is rich i.e. have a lot of property, plant and equipment, but if they aren’t making money, or the company doesn’t have cash reserves, they are in a very risky position. Imagine what would happen if you only had K5,000.00 in the operating account and the credit accounts due (your debtors) were chasing after K10,000.00 payment immediately.

Lack of vision is lack of direction 

It is easy to follow blindly especially when the leader thinks what they are doing is for the best. They risk everything including killing the company to carry out a flawed plan.

Be mindful of someone you are following who has not thought out and explained a plan properly. When they cannot see where they are going, they will always get lost. When you join organisations, ask them what their plans are for the short, medium and long term, even if you do not know whether you will be there for the long haul or not, it is encouraged that you find out where the company is going and whether you could fit the carrying out of that vision.

Never get too comfortable, all can be taken away

One thing I am terrified about is being comfortable, or the though of it. I have always believed, and will always believe, that comfort breeds complacency. For me it is a fate that precedes death. Think of all the people who are forced to retire, if they chose to kick back and relax, it is the beginning of their demise to the box, but for those who remain active, for them are rewards of a life fulfilled.

Comfort can often blind us to the temporary nature of life’s pleasures like friendships and social activities but when you realise that you are not entitled to those things anyway, it makes you work harder. It can all be taken away at the shortcoming in cash flows and court notices.

Know when you are in trouble and let go

Very few people are able to admit when they are wrong or are about to fail. The saying too big to fail doesn’t apply equally across the board. Sometimes we need to stop and reassess if we are too comfortable or whether the people around us are changing or not changing.

Too few too know how to break out of the mould they have built for themselves. Knowing when you are wrong and asking for help from those around you who are smarter then you is the first step in fixing a problem.

 

That is about from me so far.
Hansley

#4: Orlando Shooting: A Year on From Charlston Church Massacre

Disclaimer: In writing this post, I do not in any way condone the actions of those gun-wielding psychopaths that ruined the lives of their communities. I merely want to understand how the environment in some American states are more susceptible to mass-shootings then others. I am not a citizen of America, don’t have an opinion about gun ownership in general,  and certainly do not consider myself a homophobe. 
On Friday 17th June, time will assign to US history a year since the infamous racially- driven Charleston Church Massacre. Then on the 12th July, the people of Denver, Colorado commemorate the fourth year since the 2012 Aurora (Theatre) Shooting. Forgive me then for writing that it seems only fitting that a mass-shooting occur on the 12th June in Orlando, Florida, home to, arguably the happiest place in the world- Disneyworld. What cruel irony.
If the last five years have taught us anything, it is that loaded barrels rarely sit idle…only in America if only by cliche. I could go on to look further beyond this time-frame but I would rather you have a look at Wikipedia’s List of Rampage Killers and make your own mind up about frequency of incidents. But I will say this, in President Obama’s eight years in office since 2009, he has had to make comment on 16 massacre events . That averages out to two mass shootings each year. A statistic that would make any politician cringe. I won’t delve into the details of those event’s either but safe to say that gun’s played a role in those incidents.

What is of particular interest though is the colourful rhetoric that has come to the fore in the last five years around US anti-gun laws, or lack thereof. I support Obama’s frustration and empathise with his fight for stricter controls on ownership of high-powered weapons, a perspective shared also by his Democrat peer and Presidential hopeful, Hilary Clinton. However I do take a departure that would question my own punting habits. Frankly, if I was an American citizen, I would most likely be a Democrat, but in this instance the Republican’s seem to make a bit more sense on. Gun’s may be an issue but there is no doubt that human’s too play a small but significant role in gun-related violence.

The former speaker of the Floridian House of Representatives and Republican Presidential Candidate, Marco Rubio, seems to share that opinion too – people kill people. His comments couldn’t be more in contrast to that of Obama’s, let alone the prevailing popular opinion in much of the western world in the aftermath of the Virginia journalists shooting in August 2015. You may not be able to see a person shooting in the frame of that video footage but trust me, the gun was shot by a person.
It’s often hard to separate weapon and person. By Obama’s logic however, if a rock was used to kill people, there would need to be stricter controls on possessing rocks. My point is that, there is an issue underlying the psyche of some American’s that needs to be addressed. I pray that they do address it for the betterment of their society. Putting restrictions on gun-ownership fuels division in their society because there are people who see it as part of their American DNA, a rite of passage if you will.
It is a reality that is foreign to us in other countries and societies to even begin to grasp the symbolism and cultural significance of gun ownership but could you imagine a world where gun-related violence dominates the headlines on a daily? Maybe not here but in only in America.
Hanslee

#2 Designing Big for a small Cairns

Hi

So this Thursday 26th May, I am going to be part of a panel discussing the future of Designing in Cairns. The panel is made up of several emerging thinkers in their particular fields of civil engineering design, architecture, marketing, property investment, public art policy and my 2 cents in urban planning. The event is part of a lecture series held on the last Thursday of each month, organised by the Architects Institute of AustraliaFNQ regional branch titled “Designed in Cairns”. A recent piece written in the new News reel in town called “Tropic Now” gives a good summary of the event.

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Having met up with the participants and shot ideas around, I am pleased to say that, at the very least you will learn something, or will end up appreciating a new perspective on an old topic. Hope you can join us for what should be an insightful discussion.

Cheers

Hans