08 August, 2010

A Change of Pace, Maybe. Of Place, Certainly

No, it's not a refugee camp, though I admit that it does look a bit like one. This is one of the photos I took during my time at the SIL Pacific Orientation Course in Madang, back in 2002. It's in black and white because I like shooting black and white and because at the time I was trying hard to come up with ways to make the batteries in my camera last longer. (By the way, on that Toshiba camera that I had back then, I did find that by switching to black and white I could squeeze a few more photos onto my camera's memory card and that there was a little less waiting time between shots.) This photo was shot from the door of the room where I lived for 16 weeks, (with 5 weeks taken out near the end where I went and lived with a family in a village about 100 km north of Madang). POC is where we all go to start learning to speak Melanesian Pidgin and to start learning a bit about Melanesian cultures, all to prepare us for living and working in Papua New Guinea.

For most of us, POC is roughing it. If we wanted hot showers, we had to build fires and heat the water ourselves; the power was often off, so we used lanterns and candles to see at night. A few weeks into the course, the kitchen closes on the weekends and you are left to fend for yourselves if you want food, so you learn to cook over an open fire. If you want to go into town, you have to walk a few miles down to the main road and hope to catch a ride on a PMV that isn't already full of people going to town. The whole experience is meant to prepare people for living in remote villages in PNG. Even people like me, who don't live in remote villages, are often required to go through POC so that they can have a better understanding of what life is like for their co-workers and national friends who do live that way.

POC also involves a fair amount of physical training, including required daily hikes through the surrounding jungle and required swimming down at the ocean. Here's a photo of myself and two couples from my POC group heading out on a three day hike with 3 Papua New Guineans who were on staff for our course. The man next to me with the cowboy hat on was a good friend of mine at the time. He helped to teach me Tok Pisin (Melanesian Pidgin) and I spent a lot of time with him and his family:

Anyway, a few weeks ago I was approached by the director of the Pacific Orientation Course and asked to be on staff for the next POC, which, with 32 adults enrolled, will be one of the biggest courses in several years. (In contrast, mine had only 13 adults enrolled.) As mine was the first POC to happen after the current directors took over, it seemed fitting to me to be on staff for this one, which will be their last course before moving on to take up another position in Vanuatu.

SO! Starting later this month, we will be in Madang for 8 weeks on staff at POC! What was I thinking?! Hopefully we can be an encouragement to our fellow staffers and a blessing to the students.

02 August, 2010

Farewell, Faithful Lumix, You Will Be Missed.

Ah, sad day. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ15 digital camera that I have been using for several years now has finally bitten the dust. It was a great camera, I took it with me all over PNG, all over tropical North Queensland, Sydney, Melbourne, the US, and twice to the UK and took an awful lot of pictures with it. It was the first good digital camera that I ever had. My first digital still camera was a really cheap RCA that predated USB connections and took forever to upload it's entire load of 16, low resolution images through a serial port cable to my computer. (Or maybe it was the computer I had at the time that predated USB, I can't remember now--I just remember that it took lousy photos, not very many of them, and they were a pain to get off of the camera). My second digital camera was a Toshiba--a big, clunky one. It too, was severely limited, but at least it took reasonably good quality photos, but I could only take 1 photo on a cheap set of AA batteries before they were dead or 10 photos on Duracells. Only 10! And that was with the flash, the LCD display, and all the sounds turned off! The Toshiba was the camera I brought with me to PNG when I arrived in 2002. It lasted me a couple years, then one day I was in a little museum in Goroka and I was taking photos of WWII junk in this museum when a Papua New Guinean man walked up behind me and quietly said "no pictures". I protested that I wasn't even using the flash and again he said quietly, "no pictures". Oddly enough, that camera never took another photo, and even the photos that I had just taken were not retrievable. I've always wondered if maybe that man cursed my camera somehow, it just seemed like too much of a weird coincidence to me.

Anyway, the death of the Toshiba made it into my newsletter, which had no photos that month. One of my financial partners contacted me shortly after that and told me that he wanted to buy me a new camera, and to let him know what I wanted. Well, I sent him a list of my top 4 or 5 cameras, (naturally a really nice Nikon dSLR was at the top of the list, yeah, pricey, but he did say to let him know what I wanted, so I did), and the Panasonic Lumix was, as I recall, right in the middle of my list. That's the one he ended up buying for me and I was very happy with it. So happy, in fact, that I've decided to buy another Panasonic, but this time I'm buying a used one off of eBay, one that is a few years old, but is in very good condition and has seen little use as it was somebody's back-up camera.

I can't say for sure what happened to my FZ15--one day it just wouldn't come on any more. But it had lived a full, rich life and its carcass has the scars to prove it. I think that I can honestly say that I used it up. My new camera will be able to use the same SD media cards that I have for the FZ15, and I think I might be able to make the FZ15 rechargable Li-ion batteries work, too.

As a back-up camera I've been using a little Canon Powershot A430, (I think it's an A430), but recently it has suddenly decided to make every photo look washed out. With a good deal of jiggerypokery, I can manage to get a photo that is at least viewable, but certainly not what I'd call a "good" photo. So, no photos for now until the new-to-me Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30 gets here. I'm hoping it will get here within a couple of weeks, but will more likely be a couple of months.