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Inside the Crocodile: The Papua New Guinea Journals Paperback – July 30, 2015
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About the Author
Dr Trish Nicholson, writer, social anthropologist and world traveller, has twenty years of experience of international development in the Asia Pacific. During her five years in the West Sepik province of Papua New Guinea, she served as Honorary Consul for the British High Commission.
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Top Customer Reviews
The author takes us unflinchingly into her experience—not sparing any details about the rugged terrain, fraying vine bridges across rivers; tiny, rickety, old planes that land in between mountains and carry her even deeper into uncivilized places ;and corrupt local politicians who thwart her efforts to bring organization and progress to the area. The reader is immersed in a culture where students build their own schools, babies’ weights are recorded in rice bags and women walk for days to sell their produce at markets.
Against the backdrop of this cultural immersion, is a personal story of close friendships forged by a common purpose to bring change and improvement to this underdeveloped area. One of my favorite characters is Frisbee, the dog who steals Trish’s heart and provides a source of comfort to her. We feel her pain when due to her required travels she is forced to leave Frisbee with a friend.
Trish captures the human experience with humor and passion. Her writing is descriptive and engaging. I was right there with her as she faced one obstacles after another—bouts with malaria, the extreme weather conditions, irascible politicians, saying goodbye to close friends, working with the locals to build a school. Interspersed throughout the text are quotes from the locals in their Pidgin language, which brings the reader even closer to the experience. A glossary is provided for quick and by the time I was halfway through the story, the foreign words were flowing.
The author answers the questions I posed in the beginning. Through this story, I learned that Papua New Guinea is considered to be “the most culturally diverse nation on earth”. Her vast experience, combined with her resilience and amazing spirit of adventure helped her to not only reach her goals to bring change and progress to a remote region of the world but also helped her to grow personally. It is in this transformation that this story which stemmed from her daily journaling, is such a worthwhile and inspirational read. She delivers on all counts—cultural enlightenment, personal growth and adventure. I highly recommend this fascinating travel memoir to anyone who enjoys reading about another culture and wants to enter into an adventuresome experience.
In her task, I was often amazed at her ability to survive the mind-numbing procedural complexities combined with the sometimes petty and anarchic disregard for truth and transparency of those entrenched in the system. Fighting ongoing Malaria, dramas such as pay-back killings, vengeful jealousies and corrupt practices, it took more than Trish's strength to cope. Towards the end of her stay, she became dangerously ill with Malaria. Nevertheless, she builds wonderful friendships with her PNG colleagues and earns immense respect for her courage and pluck in tackling almost anything that comes her way. This includes a three day hike through dense and inhospitable bush that would have sent me scurrying for home about one hour into it, particularly the idea of crossing bridges made of rotting rope or vine over deep river gorges.
There are delightful side characters, such as Sebby, who gate-crashed seminars and scribbled on blackboards intended for training notes. Frisbee the fly-everywhere dog also adds a special canine touch to the story.
The book is quite long and very detailed, but this serves to underscore the chaotic situations Dr Nicholson, or rather 'Tris' had to unravel. I found it completely absorbing and was easily able to transport myself there into the time, period and place. I was also glad she provided a glossary of Pidgin terms at the end and enjoyed the photos that gave visual reality to some of the characters and situations. All in all, this is a wonderful journal, a great memoir and a riveting read.
This is a fascinating, colorful journey through a very different sort of life. The writing is replete with words and expressions particular to the region, such as wantoks: those of the same lineage, sharing the same language, or, tabus: in-laws, and many others, that lend the narrative a vibrant 'felt life' aura. This allows us, additionally, through the many incidents, progressions and reversals, to be transported into an exotic world few of us would otherwise experience.
It is a generous, entertaining memoir rooted in the love of place, language, and culture of the sort that we have come to expect of Dr. Nicholson. At times whimsical, often dramatic, Inside the Crocodile will linger in the mind long after the last page has been savoured. Highly recommended.
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