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Today's quote:

Monday, May 8, 2017

The memories of Bougainville


The newcomers were men attracted by high pay for a short stint in a place about which they knew nothing and cared nothing. They were men without women who worked hard, drank hard, and crudely ogled the Bougainville women."

That's how Don Woolford describes in chapter 3 of his excellent book "Papua New Guinea: Initiation and Independence" the men (and it was only men) who in the late 'sixties came to work on what was then the world's largest construction job, the Bougainville Copper Project.

He was partly right: yes, we came for short stints (six-month contracts for tradies, and twelve months for office wallahs like me), and yes, the pay was double the Australian pay with only a quarter of the tax, and yes, we worked a minimum of ten hours a day six days a week.

As for not knowing and caring, it was more lack of time to get to know and care, and what little time was left was often spent drinking, although the only alcohol allowed was beer, with some sly-grog shops doing a roaring trade in beverages with a higher alcohol content.

I remember drivers slowing down at the Bovo River where the local women did their morning's ablutions. They weren't exactly doing socio-cultural anthropological studies but 'crudely ogling' they were not.

For most of us it was neither the drinking nor the 'anthropological studies' but the professional experience and the human camaraderie that left us with indelible memories of a time and place that will never come again. And to keep those memories alive, I set up the Bougainville Copper Project website and the Bougainville Blog.



That was many years ago and emails are still coming in which proves that the memories of Bougainville are still very much alive today.