Time to go

The last time I was in Lae was in 2015 during the PNG Games there. I was a technical official for the sport of Karate and stayed at the University of Technology. This time I traveled there again – as a technical official – for the Department of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology.

My trip to Lae, although planned, was a bit unexpected. The trip had been planned for 2 weeks ago. However, we had to keep deferring because payments for accommodation and logistics was not being processed on time. After the second deferral, our team leader Thimon decided to go personally and check for our payments.

His sense of urgency came after the news that the University of Technology would be having their examinations this week and the it would overlap with other activities. Our window of opportunity was closing.

Well, needless to say he got the payments (cheques) and by 12 noon I was told that I would travel at 4 pm last Wednesday. It was crunch time as I rushed to get my bag packed and equipment ready.

I checked in at 3 pm. Fortunately, it was not as busy and I got in fine. However, I could have missed the flight.

Near miss

While I was in the airport boarding lounge I was preoccupied with trying to sort out my equipment that I did not see my colleague Eulalia and our team leader Thimon walk out to board when the call came.

When I looked up and did not see them I assumed they were still outside that I decided to go and check. I had my hands full with technical equipment that needed to go through the airport scanner – and I had safety boots with steel caps that needed to be removed, plus and iron belt buckle.

So when I rushed outside and saw no one I rushed back into the boarding area. Now, the majority of passengers had boarded and then I heard the voice over the PA system calling out my name among the stragglers.

The call sent me into a kind of panic and I rushed to put my boots on without tying the lace, shoved my belt into the bag and rushed to the boarding counter.

At the counter I inquired about my colleagues and – they had already boarded.

Departed delay

I rushed to boarding gate 9. There was no one and the half walk half running seemed long and lonely. As I neared the gate I would see Air Niugini staff smiling at me. I made it in time! But the plane had not waited for me. There was something more electrifying stopping the plane.

Out of breath and sweaty I got seating between two Asians; one looked like an Indian while the other could have been Chinese. The air felt stuffy and I was wishing the flight would take off. The sooner we got out of the plane, the better. However, the next announcement by the pilot seemed to make the confined space hotter.

The pilot announced lighting directly in our ascension path so we had to wait until it cleared and for about 30 minutes we waited silently. When it was all cleared, I had already read the in-flight magazine and gone through the crosswords. It would be another 45 minutes of nothing to do.

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Thimon standing in front of Polytech’s administration building.

Our departure meant a late arrival and Thimon drove like a madman to Lae. For those who have never been to Lae, the airport is located around an hours drive away and with detoriated road conditions along the way – it can take more time to get to Lae. We made it in 45 minutes! However, we had another obstacle when we arrived at the hotel.

No vacancy, and a shortfall

It was around 6:30 pm when we arrived at Lae City Hotel – our designated accommodation. However, since our bookings were made for 2 weeks ago and they were never reconfirmed, the rooms we thought would be available were no longer vacant. Fortunately, as we brought payment with us, the hotel accommodated us at their sister hotel; Hotel Morobe. But that was not the end of the trouble.

When we arrived at Hotel Morobe we found out that the payment was not adequate for 3 nights and we had a shortfall of K621. They booked us for only 2 nights. After the first night our team leader negotiated with the hotel manager and they gave us and extra night which the department will have to pay.

Anyway, the rest of the trip was not so colorful and it was business as usual. I, unfortunately, did not have time to visit my sister Antonia at the Timber College nor did I have time to visit Natalie at Post Courier.

I’m looking forward to a few more trips in the coming months so there will be more stories coming soon.