All the things we need

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I have browsed the internet about living in the tropics and Papua New Guinea to prepare what I actually should take with me. I came across some horrific stories of violence from PNG, and I was wondering if my thoughts of preparation are not a bit silly in comparison. I was actually searching for information on how to keep my laptop going and how fast the internet connection might be. Such stories make me wonder about my priorities in life. I am not worried about violence in Kavieng, but it does make me pause and wonder if I am not overrating the importance of my laptop. However, I am going there to teach how to edit videos and to make films and I need a laptop. So it is important.

There are other things I have to sort out. Water, for instance. I am looking of ways to have clean drinking water available. I am not entirely happy having to rely on bottled water for a whole year. Just the waste of plastic seems insane. While backpacking and camping I usually boil water for treatment, but that is not suitable for everyday life. I looked at several portable filter systems, from pumps to UV filters to chemical treatments. Most filters were either to expensive, or needed batteries or they make the water taste like sh……. The solution for me came when I asked the travel doctor on what she recommends. And she talked me into a (relative) cheap plastic bottle with an integrated filter system. This filter apparently removes 99.9999% of bacteria and viruses from any fresh water source. However, this is just an optimistic way of saying that there is still a chance of 0.0001% of getting sick. But, hey, it’s an adventure after all, and I like to take risks. No, in all honesty I am very impressed by this and the bottle is my new best friend. We will not part a single day. If this filter works as it claims to work I should be able to scoop out a hearty soup from a public toilet and drink it and be fine. My love for experimentation does not go that far, however. I will conduct tests, but in creeks and rivers in the Waitakere Ranges.

Another thing I was looking into was Malaria. Mainly about how not to get it. I will have tablets which I have to take daily while on my assignment. There is no 100% protection against it but I take anything I can get to minimize the chances of contracting it. Unfortunately, Anti-Malarials seem to come with a couple of side effects, in the case of “doxycycline” it is photosensitivity. So I will get sunburn quicker. Which is not good news as I don’t really consider myself to be very sunburn resistant to begin with. I wonder how I can top that and be even more sensitive than I already am. I lived in Bermuda for three years and for some reason my skin got used to the intense sun after a while. Nevertheless, Bermuda does not have Malaria and I did not have to take any tablets which made me more sensitive to sunshine. I wonder how this will play out in real life. I picture myself getting off the plane in Kavieng and the the first ray of the equatorial sun hitting my skin will make me burst into flames and melt me into a pile of dust, like a vampire in a cheap B-movie from the 1950’s. Hopefully, reality will be a bit less sensational than my fantasy. But it would give bystanders a heck of a story to tell at home.

It seems the best way of Malaria prevention is not getting stung by mosquitoes. As I found out this is easier said than done. In Rarotonga I used the apparently strongest insect repellent on the planet, an australian brand by the name of “Bushman”. I still got stung and contracted dengue fever. But I will stick to it, I have not found anything stronger than that.

The last thing I looked into was about swimming in the ocean. Hopefully I will be able to make use of those incredible coral reefs in my spare time. Scuba diving and snorkeling must be amazing. Kavieng has some of the best diving spots anywhere. There are a few dangers in the water, however. But it’s not the “classic” sources of fear and terror like sharks that I’m worried about. One thing to watch out for is the stone fish, according to wikipedia the “most venomous fish currently known in the world.” That sounds like something worth watching out for. I don’t want to step on one of those little friends. I wear flippers for snorkeling and stepping on one and getting damaged shouldn’t be a huge problem. But there is another, equally dangerous critter living in the area, the box jellyfish. According to articles it beats the title of even the stone fish as being “the world’s most venomous creature “. How do you beat that? THAT is what I call dangerous! Getting stung by one is not fun as this video demonstrates:

The problem with the box jelly fish is that they are almost impossible to see in the water. So I thought finding a protection would be good. At least I would feel less tense while being in the water. There are some options available and I went for a “stinger suit”, which is essentially a full body lycra suit. Amazingly, the thin lycra seems enough protection against the stings of the jellyfish. It will probably be quite embarrassing to wear it in public, I think I will look like a drowning Power Ranger in the water, but I rather live with humiliation than being stung by that lovely sea animal.

I did find a cheaper method of protection but dropped that idea relative quickly. Normally the phrase “cheaper method” gets my attention but if you read the article you might understand why I went for the slightly more expensive stinger suit option:

In two weeks I head down to Wellington for a four-day briefing course at VSA. Looking forward to it.


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