Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 13/3/2012

I am writing this in Singapore. I have not been here since 1973. It has changed.

The first thing I noticed on landing was that the plane took almost 20 minutes to taxi to the terminal tentacle and out my window, below the runway, I could see highways full of domestic traffic.

On terra firma I expected to be buffeted by multitudes but was pleasantly surprised to discover there was space for me, my baggage and a lot of other folk.

My hotel room is just right and the breakfast on offer is an interesting mix of European and Asian. I have settled on a fried rice base, with yellow dhal and alfalfa shoots, followed by fruit.

On my first morning I was joined by Sir Michael Somare, the ex-PM of Papua New Guinea. We talked about the current situation in Port Moresby and how hard it was for old men to give up power, read a book, go fishing, or learn backgammon.

All right, Sir Michael didn’t join me but he did sit three tables away and I would have spoken to him but he had eight men and one woman guarding him, following him and carrying his crockery.
I wanted to say: “Mate, if you can’t carry your own plate, you’re not going to manage a country?”

The big news in town this week seems to be that foreign maids will henceforth get one day of a week, or pay in lieu. One maid was proudly photographed with her bosses and revealed that not only did she already have her day off but she also borrowed the family car and went on holidays with the entire mob. Sacre bleur!

Highlights so far include the bright eyed children I have visited in schools, one of the finest laksas I have eaten and an island tour by Singaporean poet and Albany regular, Alvin Pang.

I have a feeling I will return.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 28/2/2012

Two weeks ago I started working as a volunteer to welcome the boat people. My little blue-shirted group stood in the street and welcomed passengers as they alighted from their buses.
Our fearless leader Jenny Howard kept us well informed in the lead up and made contact during the morning to alert us to sudden changes.
The volunteer operation was started over five years ago by Jenny and her friend Pat Kerrish after they found themselves inadvertently helping dazed and fazed tourists wandering around wondering what to do now they were onshore in the prettiest little own they had ever seen.
In those days there were 16 vollies on the books and now there are nearly 50.
The first boat to birth for my inaugural tour of duty was the Celebrity Century and we were told it had 2150 people on board. According to the Celebrity Cruises website the ship carries 1814, which may have accounted for the passengers streaming offshore in rapid numbers.
Although none, when greeted by us on the pavement, screamed: “Thank goodness we’re off the sardine can.”
The planet seemed well represented and among those we offered to assist were folk from the United States, Canada, France, England, New Zealand, Germany, the Philippines and Perth. All right, Perth is just up the road but they seemed just as foreign as the others.
The next boat was the Silver Shadow, once again we were told there were 400 on-board but the website suggested 382 would be a full-house.
I am beginning to think the shipping companies are a bit slack in their webpage maintenance because the Silver Shadow gang were clearly used to an abundance of personal space and each bus from the port only carried five or six of them.
Much fun was had by all and in between buses we told each other scandalous tales and attempted to influence the behaviour of land-based tourists.
Would I do it all again?  Oh yes, just try and keep me off the streets when the next boat comes in.