Herein is the process, pretty unbelievable but true, that I followed to secure a job in Papua New Guinea (you will need one to pay for any extended travel here!) – a step by step guide which may, or may not, work for you.
Why Papua New Guinea?
As I indicated in my introductory page I lived in Papua New Guinea (PNG) from 1989 to 1991.
So why did someone living in Belfast, Northern Ireland decide to go to the other end of the world to live and work? Well it’s a bit of a story so grab yourself a drink, relax and let me tell you.
In September 1988, after three years apprenticeship and lots of exams I and about 12 others (the full 1985 intake) qualified as Chartered Accountants with a leading firm of accountants in Belfast. Within months all but one or two of us decided that we wanted to go overseas. Put that down to the wanderlust of the Irish as opposed to a particular desire to get out of Belfast, unpleasant though living there was at times in the late 1980s.
My colleagues determined to go to New York, Hong Kong, Sydney, Paris and the like. Never being one to follow the crowd, I opened an atlas and searched for the most obscure and out of the way place I could find. If I was going to go somewhere I wanted something different, something very different. I came across Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. I knew absolutely nothing of the place but decided there and then it was the place for me. After fairly extensive research at the local library and the Papua New Guinea High Commission in London I confirmed that PNG was the place for me. The internet didn’t exist in those days. I summoned up the courage to ring the London based international recruitment/transfer partner of the firm I worked for and asked for a transfer to Port Moresby (where I knew the firm had an office).
I assumed he had never heard of Port Moresby when he offered to consider me for Nairobi, Johannesburg and various other parts of Africa which were then fashionable for those not interested in the mainstream places chosen by my colleagues. Fearing that the gentleman hadn’t heard me correctly, I repeated my desire to go to Port Moresby. He now responded by asking me for a second preference lest Port Moresby not be available. I responded that my second choice was to remain in Belfast.
I imagine he assumed I was totally mad but rather than hanging up the phone he said that he was coming over to Dublin the following week and that he needed to see me. I agreed that this was indeed appropriate and a meeting was arranged in the Shelburne Hotel in Dublin for the following week.
The meeting in Dublin
We meet at the appointed mid-afternoon hour and having secured suitable alcoholic beverages settled in for a chat. We chatted, drank, chatted, drank and so it went on. Our chat rarely touched on Papua New Guinea, much less my suitability for a role there. After what was probably a couple of hours, by which stage we were both reasonably well lubricated, the partner whipped out a camera and inquired if he might take a photo of me.
I raised no objection to this odd request but did inquire at to whether or not there were any vacant positions in Port Moresby and, if there were, could I be considered/interviewed for the same.
It was at this stage he informed me that about a month earlier he had, in fact, been in Port Moresby (so he did know where it was!) and that there was a vacant position. In regards to the second part of my inquiry he indicated that I had been considered and that the prior two hours could be construed as an interview, if I wished to call it such.
Pulling myself together and sitting up from the rather informal slouched state I had assumed by this hour, I ventured to ask when would I hear the outcome. He promptly told me I had the job and must start as soon as a plane ticket could be acquired – the work permit could wait until I got to Port Moresby.
I asked him if it would not be a good idea to send my curriculum vitae, etc to Port Moresby and discuss my suitability with the partner in charge of that office.
He indicated that this would not be necessary, his exact words, which I remember to this day, being – “don’t worry they will take anybody in Port Moresby”.
By the way, I have no idea what he did with the photo he took of me. I do know, from subsequent inquiries, that it never made its way to Port Moresby which I understood was its intended destination. Clearly more important that someone knew what I looked like than whether or not I had any accounting ability.
It was early December at this stage and as he had been so decisive I thought I would be too. I let him know that I would not be starting immediately (I was inwardly soiling my pants at this stage but didn’t tell him so) but would do so by the end of January – I needed time. He didn’t have to think long about this and immediately indicated that that would be fine.
Clearly not only would they take anyone in Port Moresby but they would take them on any conditions. Obviously they were desperate!
So it was that I secured employment in Port Moresby.
By way of tip for readers with aspirations of securing employment in Port Moresby, I suspect things have changed little since 1988, so all you need to do is ask and “don’t worry they will take anybody in Port Moresby”.
Getting ready to go
En route back to Belfast that night (I took the train) I panicked – what had I let myself in for?
There was actually very little communication with London or Port Moresby over the next seven weeks during which time I accepted that I couldn’t get out of going. Final employment details were settled, an air ticket was acquired and my permitted one cubic metre of earthly goods were packed and delivered for airfreighting to Port Moresby.
One final formality was required and that was the work ‘going away’ party. The attached photo is of the cake – very fitting and proof that someone in Belfast knew something about Papua New Guinea, though not everyone did. One member of staff wishing to exhibit her superior knowledge of geography inquired of me thus – ‘Isn’t Papua New Guinea just south of the Canaries’?
I smiled and said, “Yes darling*, I do believe it is”.
*This was not a politically incorrect term in 1988 but a term of endearment commonly used in Belfast at the time.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on a couple of years living and working in Papua New Guinea. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Getting to PNG – or to start this loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – Papua New Guinea – Personal Memories.