Papua New Guinea: A Land of Enchantment

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Papua New Guinea is one of the most unique and diverse countries that can be found in the world. Situated between Indonesia on the west, Australia on the south, and the culturally colorful Pacific islands on the north and east, Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a beautiful conglomeration of peoples and cultures.

PNG has a population of 4 million. The main languages of PNG are Tok Pisin, Hiri Motu, and English. Added to that are between 700 and 800 tribal languages used, about 1/5 of all the languages in the world. Pisin is a pidgin language and is the most widely used. It developed as a trade language.

PNG is made up of an enormous variety of landscapes. Among the kinds of land are Highlands, plateaus, valleys, savannas, rain forest, mangrove swamps, gardens, plantations, island archipelagos, and coral reefs.

The coordinates of PNG are 6 degrees S and 147 degrees E, with a land area of 451, 710 square kilometers, an area slightly larger than California. PNG is made up of about 600 islands. The climate of PNG is tropical with both the northwest and southeast monsoons reaching the islands. Situated on the Ring of Fire, earthquakes are common and active volcanoes exist. Rainfall is common year-round, although in most places there is a definite difference between the wet and dry seasons. Most of the area gets more than 2000 millimeters of rain a year, with some regions getting five times that number.

PNG, with an official name of "Independent State of Papua New Guinea," was administered by Australia until 1975, when it gained its independence. The current government type is parliamentary democracy.

One of the main differentiating characteristics of PNG is the people. When man first immigrated to the islands, the denseness of brush and varying landform contributed to village life, with mainly small settlements existing greatly isolated from each other. This contributed to the formation of so many languages and as many separate cultures. PNG has a history of cannibalism and head hunting, but not to worry- this only takes place now in the deep bush and is mostly eradicated.

Technology as we know it did not come to PNG until the twentieth century, and therefore tools were very primitive. The people developed very beautiful woodwork carving techniques, weaving without a loom, and a way to press bark and dye it to make beautiful tapestry-like art, as well as other arts, in spite of this lack of technology, and the new tools and ideas have not phased their artwork out.

Here are a few cultural things that women should know about.
1) Women should always wear at least knee length skirts.
2) They should not step over food or children (makes what they stepped over "unclean" and is at the very least disrespectful).
3) They should not go somewhere alone.

Some tips for travelers in general:
1) Do not ask someone's name. the natives usually do not use them, although in bigger towns it is getting more acceptable.
2) Do not show mixed-gender affection in public. Men can hold hands, or women can hold hands, and it is a sign of friendship, but husbands and wives, and mixed-gender couples should not.
3) Avoid eye contact with strangers. It is considered asking for trouble.

A traveler also needs to be aware of how to travel in PNG and how to avoid trouble. There is too much info about that to tell- the best thing is to hook up with a native you trust that can be a guide for you.

Most of the things listed above are important if the traveler wants to respect the culture. PNGians will understand if a visitor does not follow these guidelines, but it is important to fit in as best as
you can.

A traveler in PNG, after following these guidelines and doing their own research, will, as a thoughtful and conscientious guest, be welcomed into PNG. The people, for the most part, are friendly and welcoming. By finding a tour guide a visitor can enjoy and explore the many beautiful and amazing sights to see, from waterfalls to butterflies, amazing coral reefs to many species of the Bird of Paradise. Travelers should be aware that this is a developing country, and can be dangerous and unrestful at times, though, and take precautions.

PNG’s main exports are gold, copper, ore, oil, logs, palm oils, coffee, cocoa, and lobster. They import machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, fuels, and chemicals. They receive economic aid from ODA and Australia, and have an external debt of $3.2 billion. As of today, the economy is still mainly agricultural, with a mostly rural population. Because of this dependence on the land, droughts such as the one affecting the country presently can potentially harm the economy greatly.

Papua New Guinea is a land of adventure and beauty, and is easily identifiable by the characteristics presented above. The diversity of the nation only adds to its color and charm.

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