The Perimeter Fence

You may be wondering if I’m quite safe here.  The answer to that is rather tricky, and when it really comes down to it, it all depends on the perspective of who you ask.  From my perspective, and from the perspective of everyone I’ve have talked to here, I’m am indeed safe.

Really we should say I’m as safe as most of you.  Crime does happen here, but crime also happens at home.  And also like home, it’s usually the wealthy or the vulnerable who are the targets for most crime.  In Papua New Guinea, though, simply living in a western-style house (as most of us do in Ukarumpa) immediately pegs us as “wealthy.”  More so, I should think, if we have a car in the driveway (which I don’t, you’ll be happy to know; I’m also in the center of town, which helps on the safety issue, as most crimes happen on the outskirts).

Based on what I’ve heard from folks I’ve asked, this is what I’ve pieced together about the situation here at Ukarumpa.  I’ll let you know if my history or my facts are wrong on any of this, but I think everything I’m saying here is true:

For the most part, Papua New Guineas are happy to have “whiteskins” around, and all the ones I’ve encountered are as friendly as can be (one is making a knapsack for me right now, in fact).  But (again, just like home) there are a few folks in the area that are less than trustworthy – and as such, it’s always best to keep one eye open.  For these reasons, we’re advised to lock our doors and women are kindly asked to stay inside at night unless accompanied by others.

On top of that, the area we’re situated in is a particularly volatile area from time to time.  Not Ukarumpa itself, but the neighboring villages have (as I’m told) what one modern rock band would call “a cycle of recycled revenge” that keeps them fighting one another off and on.  In the near past (within a decade or two), the closest village to us was burned to the ground as a result of this tribal conflict.  At least part of it has been rebuilt.

In light of all that, and the fact that rape in particular was more prevalent here than usual in the 90s, the perimeter fence was built.  And yesterday I took a long walk as far as I could around it.

Ironically, the safety the fence provides is also an uncomfortable reminder of our constant need for protection.  As a literature teacher, it’s hard not to conjure images of dystopian worlds when I see the barbed-wire fences encircling the village, but after a few days, I’ve already grown used to it.  (During the day, by the way, there are open gates here and there in the fence that people are free to come and go from, so we’re not really “locked in.”)

Looking past all this though, the Perimeter Fence Walk (as I hereby call it) is a lovely stretch of the legs.  Just over four miles in length (if my calculations are correct), the walk takes you past everything from rolling hillsides to cabbage gardens to rickety bridges, and all that comes in between:

…including dogs (per WD’s request):

Well, I’m sure that’s really a great deal more information than you needed, but hopefully not too much more than you wanted.  Either way, it’s all I have for you on the subject, so (for now) we have no choice but to leave it at that.

13 thoughts on “The Perimeter Fence

  1. It’s indeed a shame the fence is necessary, especially for such lovely surroundings. -not quite sure about that bridge. Cute dog, though:)

  2. “rickety” does not come close to describing what looks like should be a bridge, but instead rather resembles poor quality product and engineering gone horribly wrong. indiana jones just needs to cut the rope and be done with it. then you could use the tall metal frame and get a giant rubber band to sling yourself across to the other side. i think that would be safer. and a lot more fun.

  3. =) Like the pup! Does he belong to the tribal peoples since he’s on the other side of the fence?? We are missing you big time, Alan! And we are SO enjoying the posts!

  4. Looks like one o Hig’s long lost relations! And I’m glad to note the absence of any “50,000 volts” signs along that fence line – though Hammond wouldn’t feel the same way.

  5. Sounds like all is well and good. Looking forward to hearing more of your experiences there. Papua New Guinea looks quite beautiful! Teach those chillins well and stay strong.

    Peace,

    Christophocles

  6. As far as I could tell, this was just a stray dog, wandering the wilds of Papua New Guinea by his lonesome. A sad fate, but perhaps he’s enjoying himself as much as he appears to be. :)

  7. That suspension bridge looks like a death trap! The only thing it’s good for is termite food. Can you fish in Ukarumpa?

  8. You know… I’m not sure about fishing, but I’ll check with the locals and see. The river is pretty muddy, so I doubt this is the proper place for it.

  9. Well – I almost did not open this one!!! Fear of the unknown you know…….
    but I did- not sure if that was a smart move or not. Thinking the surroundings are very lush and green, thinking the fence is good and bad (but necessary) !!!
    The dog looks a little poorly but happy. Just wondering if Mowgli would be considered a wealthy Dog in PNG due to the beauty of her coat. Ha -Sweet Mowgli – Stay safe my friend – Miss you too!!!!!

  10. That looks like a beautiful walk! It’s just missing some sheep dotting the hillsides ; )

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