Bringing Up Baby At The Edge Of The World: Dispatches From Papua New Guinea

We all dream of a life of adventure. A life where we can spontaneously chuck our day jobs and go off seeking the unknown. But what if the dream did come true? If someone told you to pack your belongings and move to the other end of the world? With a little toddler in tow? While some may hesitate, Roshni Rao took the plunge. And what a thrill-a-minute ride it has been.

When my husband got a job offer from Papua New Guinea, we actually had to open a map to locate the country. If that should have deterred us, it didn’t. In less than 48 hours, we had decided to move to the South Pacific islands to start life afresh. Barring a few friends and family members, most people thought we were crazy. Overnight, I quit a high drama television job while my husband shut down a promising production house. We packed up our belongings, closed down a house in Delhi and moved to Papua New Guinea (PNG) – ‘land of the unexpected’ as the locals claim. The ‘land of cannibals’ as our ‘well-wishers’ warned. Our logic was simple. We didn’t want our child to grow up in a city where breathing is tough, attitudes are tougher and fun equals going to a mall. We told each other ‘let’s go on this adventure while our child is too young to argue.’

Let’s go on this adventure while our child is too young to argue

After travelling by air for 2 days, we arrived with 2 bags, that’s it – all that was precious fit in 2 blue bags. Our first impression – this country is stuck in a a time-warp. The internet is super moody, opening a bank account takes over a month and the city has all of 1 mall, 2 supermarkets and 1 park. Our idea of night life is a quick dinner at 7:00 pm because the city sleeps ‘early’. You may say ‘I told you so’ but we have absolutely no regrets.

In this Melanesian country, our 2-yr-old has no idea about skin colour. He thinks black is the new white. He accepts that everyone looks and talks different and that’s okay. He has already picked up and understands the local language while we adults are still struggling. When he was just 18 months, he learned to swim. Now Z plays with dogs, runs on the beach, rides farm horses and eats barbecued bananas.

Recently, we went to an island in the country for a short holiday. First we took a plane (2-hr journey), then rode a rickety bus for 1 1/2 hours and then sat in a boat for an hour before we reached our final destination. Was our 2yr-old stressed? Not at all- when we reached, he changed into his swimming trunks and jumped into the ocean. Yes, you heard it right, not a pool but an ocean. He swam in the ocean while the parents snorkelled for hours. Another time, we hired a small boat and spent the entire day island-hopping. Our picnic lunch was on a steep 10×10 rock in the middle of the sea and our sandwiches never tasted better.

Of course, there’s the bad side too. There’s one good hospital with one good doctor. We don’t get branded clothes for our toddler, diapers and baby products in the supermarket are limited, toys are even rarer. But we make do, we buy second-hand clothes and baby books, ration out our diapers, order baby shoes through someone coming from Australia.

But this is an extremely small trade-off, because guess what? 20 years from now, he won’t remember that his second birthday didn’t have a circus theme with 200 guests  and was instead spent swimming with the parents. He won’t remember the hand-me-down toys. He won’t remember the small things that are not important. All he will remember is being messy, running in the wild, throwing stones into the ocean. Doesn’t sound like a bad deal to me. At 2, our child has more exposure than we ever did in our 33 years.

Roshni Rao is ex-TV tribe, rookie communications teacher, a wannabe guitarist (enough procrastination already) and a ‘trial-&-error’ mom, who is currently negotiating life with a toddler in Papua New Guinea.

5 thoughts on “Bringing Up Baby At The Edge Of The World: Dispatches From Papua New Guinea

  1. What a wise decision by the parents. When we moved from Jamshedpur to Muscat almost 30 years ago, we had to tell people it’s Muscat and not Moscow… no one had heard of the place!
    I keep trying to convince Sandeep to move to a new place… maybe after little a is sorted with his speech issues. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great decision. I am sure no regrets. Have fun, enjoy yourself and live in harmony with nature. Your child will thank you one day for this bold but unconventional decision. Prakash Rao.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When he has parents like you, whichever part of the world you guys are in, he will thorougly enjoy.. He is connecting with nature which is imperative for children of his age.. He is gonna thank you down the line for sure

    Liked by 1 person

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