Sunday, May 31, 2009

Thursday May 21

(Continuing the story now that I have internet)

Thursday, May 21 – Ukarumpa Kai Bar

Funny story

Last Monday, when Stephen was sick, we went to his host family’s house – Marsha and Larry Jones – for supper.

Rhett and I went in to visit the ailing lad. He was obviously delirious.
Later I brought Stephen some broth and crackers. As he sat up in his bed we chatted about his state. He commented on how a ‘bird of paradise’ was doing a dance for him on a log outside his window.

Stunned (that a bird of paradise was in Ukarumpa) I looked out the window only to see a magpie fluttering around.

Not wanted to contradict the sick lad I affirmed his sighting and left the room, concerned more than ever for his health.

On Wednesday, when we were having lunch at the Kai Bar at Ukarumpa I over heard Stephen telling everyone the story of the Bird of Paradise sighting.

As did I, the students began to question the authenticity of his sighting.

Soon I was called upon to confirm Stephen’s story. Unable to do so, the entire story became very humorous and I have tried to discipline myself not to continue mocking him. I haven’t been very successful.

I have since learned that the bird was actually a Willy Wagtale.

We are in Goroka. We are staying at the Research and Conservation Foundations Guest House.

It’s clean, nice, friendly and we have access to a kitchen for breakfast. Not sure what we will do for lunch and dinner.

We ended up eating pizza at the Bird of Paradise Hotel. I ordered Lemon Lime Bitters for the brave and most were wondering if there was alcohol in it. No…..

We had dessert and coffee and it was nice to have a big meal at a restaurant.
We were going to have dinner at the Mandarin Chinese Restaurant but since most of the violence around the country has been targeted towards Asians, Rhett wisely diverted our dinner plans to the Bird of Paradise.

Back at the guest house we had intermittent electrical outages. Guess the problem is city wide.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Words in waiting

I have many pages of writing to catch up on. I hope to start typing them up soon. Lack of battery for the computer forced me to write down my thoughts on paper.

But I will have tons of pictures and words to share soon.

I am now with our friends, Luke and Esther Davidson in Macmasters Beach, New South Wales - about 90 minutes north of Sydney,

Having a lovely time, getting better everyday now that I am on antibiotics for the infection I got from a sore while in PNG.

There are SO MANY BIRDS in the Davidson's back yard! Kokaburra, Bell Birds, Cockatoos, and so many more. Today I sawa blue headed wren for the first time! They are soooooooo cute!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Monday, May 25 - Returning home via Australia

We are all safely waiting to board the plane for Brisbane in the Port Moresby airport.

We have had no internet for the last week but we have had an amazing time.

Can't wait to share it all with you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wednesday, May 20 - Here today, gone to Goroka

We are in our final moments at Ukarumpa. We feel such a peace about going to Goroka now. Reports have been received that the strife has subsided a bit.

We now need prayer for safety in travel as the road to Goroka, it's not I-5. Or highway 240 or anything like it.

We are saying our goodbyes and making final arrangements.

Irame and Edolwais

One of my greatest joys was reconnecting with my house meri, Irame.

She was such s wonderful friend and helped me in so may ways. Not only helping me around the house, but understanding the unique culture of Ukarumpa and the relationships we can have with the nationals in the area.

Edolwais, her daughter, was 8 years old when we left. She is now employed by SIL in the finance office.

It was great to reconnect with the two of them.

Whtiney in Ukarumpa - May 2009

Sue, Whitney's mom, gave me a number of notes to give to Whitney as we journeyed through Papua New Guinea. Whitney was born in Ukarumpa. And although she was a year when she left, her life was impacted by her time here.
Here are the pictures of Whitney’s journey back to Papua New Guinea.

#1 Mapang Guest House – Port Moresby

#2 Highlands Highway

#3 Ukarumpa High School

#4 House where she lived (we think this is the one.)

#5 SIL Clinic

#6 Ukarumpa Store

"No Marshmellow Creme, mom!"

There is one more that Whitney will get when we leave Ukarumpa.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tuesday, May 19

News from the US Embassy in Port Moresby has reached our guest house managers, Esther and Corney Goertzen: US citizens in Papua New Guinea have are being warned to stay away from large crowds and to be alert for mobs of people intent on looting and robbery.

On Saturday an incident in Kainantu, a town 10 miles from Ukarumpa, put people in the area on alert. A rock had been thrown into a store owned by a Chinese man. There were reports of looting but nothing was substantiated.

We have also heard reports that Lae and Goroka have been experiencing unrest and mobs intent on rioting, causing problems, etc....

In a third world country to disparity between the ‘have and the have not’s’ in great. When the arm of government that provides protection for its people is ineffective the possibility for unrest increases.

We have been in contact with our host, John Doa, in Goroka. John is the director of the National Performing Arts Troupe in Goroka. Todd spoke with him by phone yesterday. He confirms reports that it is tense in Goroka. But he did not say that we would be in danger if we came. We really have no choice. We are 45 miles from Goroka. We are 200 miles from Lae. Both cities are reported to be in a state of unrest.

At this point we plan to move towards Goroka. We will go straight to the performing arts center in the middle of the day which tends to be a more settled time to travel. We will be surrounded by a group of Papua New Guineans our entire time in Goroka.

It seems that this final leg of our journey will be the most integrated and immersed in the PNG culture. On Thursday we will go to a village to participate fully in a sing sing and mu mu – bilasim skin and all!

On Friday we will spend another day in the village watching the NPAT performers and perhaps be able to share our stories as well. I am extremely excited for this opportunity as I know how ready our team is to completely immerse themselves, shedding all fears and apprehension into engaging with this exciting and different culture.

But first we have to get through today.

Basically we have the morning off.

Jessie Sarver is going on a village clinic that I arranged. During my time here years ago I participated in village clinics on a fairly regular basis. Jessie is very excited. She is going alone, meaning, no one else from our group is going with her. I volunteered but if you know Jessie, you know how independent she is.
I am meeting Whitney at 10 am for our walkabout tour so I can give her the notes from her parents.

Then at noon I’ll meet up with Edelweiss and get a pictures of Irame and her and myself.

At 1:30 pm we meet up as a group for devotions that I am leading.
Then we drive out to Aiyura National High School were we could be performing for over 600 high school age Papua New Guineans. The plan is to do the entire set of dramas and then have a talk back session. We plan to be very evangelical as Wendy Bailey has encouraged us to be so.

If you are reading this please be in prayer for our team. Here are the specific points for prayer:

1.Discernment for Rhett, Todd and I as we continue on the rest of the journey.

2.Prayer for our vehicle: good brakes, tires, etc….

3.Prayer for Todd as he drives the bus!!!!!!!!!

4.Prayer for peace for the team.

5.Good health – Stephan has been sick. If he isn’t markedly better this morning JereAnn is taking him to the clinic.

6.Prayer for protection and good favor for our time in Goroka.

7.Prayer for your return trip to Lae on Saturday. It’s a LONG one down the very scary Markham road and Kassam Pass. VERY SCARY!!!!!!!

Since we may not have internet connection after leaving Ukarumpa, this prayer list includes our return trip to Lae.

I’ll post more as the day goes along.

Whitney and I had a wonderful walkabout ending at the store where Stephen, fully recovered from his mysterious illness, and Jordan were hanging around. We had a wonderful time with them.

At lunch Edolwais, Irame’s daughter, came by to see me. What a beautiful young lady she is! I was so impressed. We had a short chat before she headed back to work at the finance office.

At 1:30 pm we all gathered at the guest house for devotions. The three points that I covered, as I believe led by the Holy Spirit, was the love that we all had for each other, and the way we were living out Phil. 2: 1-5. Secondly, because of this love that we had for each other, this love would be the evidence that others would see, plain as day, in a supernatural way, and the explanation for this love is Jesus. Thirdly, because of this love that others would see, Satan would want nothing more than to discourage, destroy and cause us to fall. So we needed to be prepared spiritually and with the armor that God gives – Ephesians 6.

With that and our prayers we headed out to Aiyura National High School: unsure of what lay ahead and a bit weary.

We arrived to the auditorium unsure if even 10 people would attend. Communication with the administration had been limited. We started in by setting up the stage.
Finally one of the administrators arrived and spoke with Rhett and Todd. We found out that the principal had taken ill and was not able to attend.
Before long a few people started to come into the auditorium and sit down. Tony came in, a teacher, and assured us that people would start arriving at around 2:45 pm. Was this PNG time?

Wendy Bailey, who works with the youth of the valley, not Ukarumpa youth, had been encouraging us all week that God had something special for us at ANHS.
Why did we not believe?

At 2:50 pm the entire auditorium was full to capacity and overflowing.
Throughout the performance, their rapt attention and appreciative response goes down as being the best audience so far, in my opinion.

The performances went off without a hitch, with Rhett speaking, explaining each drama in between. He did an excellent job.

At the conclusion of the performance, Tony spoke a brief, uncharacteristic of our other hosts, thank you as the team gathered their props and came into the audience to say hello.

Typically, Stephen immediately had a swarm of people around him. Next, Jordan sat down on the floor and was surrounded by 30 or so men. Nicole immediately gathered among the women and began to talk. Whitney too was swarmed and went outside with her ladies.

The others more slowly began to engage with the group. I was watching everyone’s bags and belongings so felt a little tied down to one spot. Finally Emily came over producing two things: One, people began talking with her and her presence allowed me to roam around, get pictures (and they are wonderful) and have conversations of my own.

Questions varied from person to person. At our debriefing we were able to capture them all:
• What is GFU like?
• What is happening in America with the economy?
• What do you think of Obama?
• For me, I was asked since I had been in PNG before, what was my impression of it now?
• What is Arnold Swartzenegger like?
• Jordan was asked a lot about school and Hollywood.
• Many were asked about their faith.
• Many wanted rumors confirmed about micro chips being implanted in everyone in America by December 2009.
• Education
• Global weather patterns
• Why d0 we think that the people of Ukarumpa ignore them

These and more amazing questions.

We talked with the students for an hour and a half. More bilums arrived as gifts, names and addresses exchanged before leaving after 5 pm.

We had two reactions from the Ukarumpa community: why did we even go to Aiyura HS and why did we stay so long.

After returning I walked to the Walkers house with Cyndi and Jessie and I had been invited to dinner. The Walkers were friend when we were here before. I wasn’t looking forward to dinner conversation based on what the girls had told me. The attitudes and comments made by the Walkers was consistent with the attitudes here at the guest house and what we were finding throughout the Ukarumpa community: how would I respond?

Well, God, faithful as always, gave me the gift of gab for a reason, and we had a lovely volley of conversation reconnecting, touching base about others we knew in common, listening to a song called “The Boob Fairy Didn’t Come For Me.”
At 8 pm Todd picked us up in the van for our debriefing.
Another awesome time together ending in prayer and the distribution of our hostess gifts.

Reports from Goroka seem more stable and we have hired to security guards to ride along with us.

This will be my last posting for a while, unless I have internet access at the guest house in Goroka.

My computer is acting strange too (the LCD screen that was just replaced in intermittently buggered up)!

I would say that we all are ready to leave Ukarumpa. We have such an exciting time planned in Goroka with the National Performing Arts Troupe – real theatre exchange, village visits, a mumu and sing sing!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Walkabout at Ukarumpa

The first house we lived in when we first arrived in PNG in 1988. They have added a porch and built on the far side.

There is now a leash law for missionary dogs. (Funny term.) But not for the national's dogs. Here's one I ran into on my walk.

Nipa House - where Jesse was conceived. (Sorry Jess.)

Ruth house where we spent our first Christmas.

Monday, May 18

Watching the different performances is interesting. While I watch the same drama performed, the audience changes. The team responds to each audience differently. Although each performance is given with great effort, and passion, surely the audience comes into play at some point.

Last night was the first time “Midas” was performed in front of an English speaking audience. Laughter was heard where we would expect. Sighs and awes were uttered appropriately as well.

The non-reverent side of me laughs with the Papua New Guineans when Karith and Cyndi fight during ‘The Weave.’ The MK’s at their gathering last night did not laugh at this conflict.

The impact is powerful without the laughter.

‘The Weave’ depicts God giving two human being two different gifts. These gifts are in the form of a scarf. Karith’s scarf loves to dance and twirl around in circles.
Cyndi’s scarf loves to jump up and down into the air.

When the two discover each other’s gifts, they are jealous. They take the other person’s scarf but neither can make it work just right.

After returning the scarf’s to the proper owners, they marvel at their ‘gifts’ for a moment before being distracted again and a fight ensues for the other person’s scarf. This is when people laugh. It is funny watching Karith and Cyndi go at each other. But the wonder of the story is what happens next.

God sees the two people lying still, dead on the ground. God finds Jesus and gives him a more beautiful scarf and teaches him to use it.

Jesus then, at God’s urging, releases the two from their tangled, mangled scarves and revives them. Jesus then shows the two beings how to weave their scarves together with his to make a braid.

It’s a lovely picture of unity.

But the fight scene is funny, especially when other people are laughing.
So our time with the MK’s was brief but good. They are looking forward: Big Day is next weekend and then the next weekend is graduation.

At 6:45 am several of us met at the guest house and went together to the market. It is much bigger produce wise, and has lots of PNG crafts. Many bilums and a lot of bows and arrow sets. Carvings of all kinds and jewelry. I bought Jesse his Goroka hat. Two of them, in fact. The first one I bought wouldn’t fit about his head, but I didn’t realize that till I bought it. But I found one I liked better.

While hanging around waiting I spoke with a man from England. He gave me some very helpful information about getting stuff through Australia. We had a good laugh about how harsh they are. He suggested that we tell them that all of our wood carvings had been in a freezer for a week.

We also learned that the Australian government won’t let people in the country with things made of kus kus hair. It was suggested that we send those items home. Good stuff to know! We already have a black mark on our name in Australia for all the crackers we accidently smuggled into the country. God forbid we do the same with kus kus fir.

This morning the team gathered for a thoughtful devotion lead by Nicole. She encouraged us to live in the moment.

After prayer, the team headed over to the primary school for chapel and then a day of workshops. I went to Marsha Jones’ house for tea and a lovely conversation. Marsha and Larry Jones lived here for a year in 1971. They then returned after they both retired from teaching. They are here for a 2 year term. Their son Jared and his wife, Jody, lived in the house in Newberg where Wade and I lived when we first came to Newberg in 1979. Rhett and his wife are good friends with Jared and Jodi. Marsha’s niece, Analiese Van Brocklin, is a friend of mine (in person and on Facebook) and a graduate of GFU. Do you hear the song ‘It’s a small world?’
Jordan and Stephen are staying with Marsha and Larry. Rhett, Todd and I are going to their house for dinner tonight.

After leaving Marsha’s house I went to the clinic to confirm Jessie’s participation at a village clinic on Tuesday. I went to the entrance that I knew about and spoke with the receptionist. After getting more information I turned to go and a voice calls out my name, “Jere?” It is Betty Kenea. I had gone to the Pigin Service yesterday to see if she and John were there. I didn’t see her but as we talked I found out she was there. She had seem me talking to someone and didn’t want to interrupt.

So we had a nice chat, catching up: Michael is actually living in Canada and going to Bible College there and living with some Wycliffe missionaries.
Then, they have three daughters: one at the University of PNG, another a senior at Aiyura National High School and the youngest daughter is a freshman at Ukarumpa High School.

John still works at the print shop and Betty works in the library. I hope I can connect with them before I leave.

I then went to the post office and mailed Jesse his package.
Then I went to the store and waited for Sara to arrive to help me carry the lunch for the team to the primary school.

Yesterday I had talked to Irame about getting together with her and Edelweiss after lunch today. Miscommunication – Edelweiss came at lunch. But I went ahead and sat down with Irame, gave her the gifts and showed her pictures of the kids.

Hopefully Edelweiss can come tomorrow.

Then she brought me a beautiful bilum. I really love it! And I am very picky!

This afternoon I will catch up with the team at 3:15 pm at the Kai Bar at the store for ice cream.

Several want to get things at the store too.
And then, as I mentioned, we have dinner with the Jones’.

One more full day in Ukarumpa. The only thing the team has to do tomorrow is perform at Aiyura National High School. I am glad everyone agreed to do that performance.

Later in the evening:
Todd, Rhett and I had a lovely dinner with the Jones’. Spaghetti dinner with delicious homemade French bread and berry cobbler for dessert.

We had a lovely conversation. They are really wonderful people. They are also good friends with the Scorza’s. Funny, Larry could pass for a relative of Dave’s.

The team is at the guest house watching “Sister Act 2.” I am going to plan devotions for the morning and hit the hay.

Good night.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sunday, May 17 - Ukarumpa

Have you each reached a point in a trip where you weren’t sure if you wanted time to speed up or slow down? Part of my dilemma comes from the fact that I am very anxious to spend a week in Australia with the Davidson’s.

The time here seems to be going very fast, so fast that it seems every day is getting shorter and shorter.

My Sunday morning started with another interesting breakfast conversation.
I haven’t really said much about our fellow guests at the guest house here in Ukarumpa. There is an audit team here. Small worlds collide. They are from Houghton. The man and woman heading the team live in Houghton and she teaches a may term accounting course. The other three students are accounting majors who are working with the couple on the audit. The older couple could not be more opposite that Todd, Rhett or I. Their perspective on just about everything could create an interesting dialog should we allow it. I know I have had to keep my tongue about me. It’s been interesting for sure.

Small world: the older couple are friends with a couple that I met (from Houghton) that were at Equinoxe in Nouackchott.

The two church services this morning were rather good. I enjoyed both of them immensely .

I ran into Bonnie Moeckle, who was quite friendly. I also talked with Jeff and Sissie DeJernes, who were cordial.

I had a lovely conversation with the center doctor and his pharmacist wife. We talked about the veterinary situation and shared my lovely dog stories with them. They arrived when the Hauschildt’s were here. They go on a village clinic on Tuesday so we may be able to work it out for Jessie to go with them.

Irame made a delicious lunch to go along with our long conversation. I am working on listening rather than responding.

The students are now rehearsing. I am going on a walkabout.

Later, that afternoon: the walkabout was great! I ran into a couple, the Rearick’s. They know the Scorza’s. We talked for a long time. I believe we would be friends with them.

The Ruth house has changed a lot. It is no longer the entrance to the horse world of Ukarumpa. They have fenced the house (as well as MANY others on the center) and made a drive way to the perimeter fence that now keeps the rascals out of the center. At least that is the purpose of the fence.

Exhausted from the climb up the hill, I sat on the side of the grassy hill right below the Ruth’s old house and took in the scenery. A guard with an umbrella walked by, waved and then sauntered on. I missed getting a picture because my camera was not turned on. Rats.

After resting and drinking half of the water bottle I continued on my way to Nipa House – where Jesse was conceived.

More familiar territory as I made my way past the field that Honda stayed in and the road where I learned to ride a motorcycle. Remember that Wade? Remember how once I got going I took off and you yelled “I didn’t teach you how to stop!” Or something like that.

What amazes me most is how my memory has faded. I remember well the places where we spent most of our time. The rest is like a misty fog; I can see through it at times but the view to my memory is dimmed by the mist of old age.

Tonight we connect with the teens at ‘Soul Purpose’ - their youth gathering on Sunday night.

The ‘quiet hour’ just ended and noise around the valley is picking up. Two young men just passed my window pulling a wagon behind them with a large piece of plywood wedged inside. I thought they were hauling a lawnmower behind them.
Sounds of children laughing, parents walking with their kids, birds singing, the putt-putt of a motor bike fills the air.

I swear I just so Luke and Kurt going down the hill at break neck speed on a wagon.

Saturday, May 16 - Ukarumpa

What a refreshing morning: it was cool, crisp and the air smelled so good!

After our debriefing last night I wasn’t sure how today would be met. Jessie gave an encouraging devotion and our prayer time was sweet.

Our first stop was at 9:30 am at the new primary school. It had a great auditorium where our team would work with middle and high school students to create stories.
This would be the first time I would see Rhett in action teaching. With great anticipation I sat myself in the audience ready to take it all in.

Our group of MK’s ended up being pretty much middle schoolers. And they were a lively bunch. When Rhett got up to teach he became so animated! It was really something to see.

First Rhett took the group through theatre exercises and a game. Tempest. After that the entire group, both GFU team and middle schoolers, were divided into 3 groups. Their assignment? To create a still picture of: Hope.

It was amazing watching the creation of this story. I had never seen anything like it before.

When each group performed it’s picture, Rhett led us through a discussion to explain what the picture was saying. I apologize but I cannot fully describe what I witnessed. My words would fall flat and perhaps you would draw false conclusions. You will just have to trust me. The finished product was inspiring.
For the final picture Rhett asked the groups to create a picture that tells a story about their community. I can hardly tell this story without crying.

I took notes for these pictures. Group number showed a circle of people doing various things: whispering, pointing, sneering, laughing & playing. One person was on the outside of the group hiding behind a chair with a pencil pointing at them.
This group was trying to show the routine of life at Ukarumpa which in part includes gossip, having fun, conflicts, but trust even in light of the negative things that go on. The person outside the group is a ‘rascal’ threatening with a spear.

Next, Rhett asked the group to resolve the picture. They changed the essence of the picture to reach out drawing the ‘rascal’ in and depicting a more caring community.
Group number 2 had Jesus standing on a chair reaching out to the audience. Behind Jesus was a group of people obviously worshiping. Then a one person reaching out to Jesus but also with her hand on a young man clearly depressed. Then sitting on alone was a girl who was clearly lonely but no one was reaching out to her.

The resolution was to bring Jesus down from the chair, amongst the people and everyone giving concern to those who were hurting.

Group number 3 – well, this one got to me. Two different groups with one person sitting in the middle, looking as if she was praying but also looking sad. One group was obviously happy to be together but two of them were pointing to the other group with a mocking kind of smile. The other group had a person shielding them from the other group, sneering. This picture told the story about the tension at Ukarumpa between the adults and the teenagers.

The resolution was to have one side reach out to the other in love and understanding.
Basically, it was amazing. To watch these two groups work together to produce such deep and meaningful stories in two hours of time astounded me.

We all left rather suddenly as our time ran over what we expected. We scurried back to have lunch at the guest house while the students either fixed a sandwich from the food I had bought at the store, at a sack lunch from their host family or ran back to their host family for a quick lunch before meeting at 1:20 to meet Wendy and John Bailey. The Bailey’s are amazing people.

They are Irish. They are ‘tent makers’ and working with the PNG government to improve agricultural and conservation of water and resources. They used to live off center, but due to an unfortunate situation (not of their making) they moved to SIL housing. What a privilege it was for us to work with them this afternoon. They are exactly the kind of people we needed to see here.

They have coordinated a drop in center at the old primary school site. Although the buildings and property now belong to the district of Aiyura, they allow the Bailey’s to control the old auditorium (where we held a dance back in the day). Each Saturday they take a few people out to minister to the children and teenagers of the valley. Wendy especially has such a deep love and passion for the people of Papua New Guinea. Our team performed Wantok (and they loved it) and the Weave. We then created picture stories. Most of the kids flocked to Stephen and Jordan, as usual. But each of the groups were pretty amazing.

However wonderful it was to watch the dramas that were created, everyone was stunned by the two deaf young men who came. Although Emily speaks American Sign Language and these two men were taught English Sign Language, the image of their encounter will stay with us all. I hope my pictures turn out to give you a glimpse into what we saw. Emily said they learned from each other. She’s so precious and loving. I am sure these two young men will never forget Emily. We were so blessed to be able to witness such an encounter.

So I have been doing a lot of thinking today. My emotions have run deep.
While things are familiar in the sights of Ukarumpa the essence of our time in PNG is no longer here: our friends, the students that we came to know and love.

The things that I didn’t like about Ukarumpa remain and in some way are accentuated by the perimeter fencing and Guard Dog Security. I know that SIL must protect the people here especially if they intend to draw workers to complete the task. But I have some serious concerns that haunt me, reminding me of the times when I was ‘in trouble’ for interacting with the Nationals that went contrary to popular opinion here.

The work that SIL does here is the entire purpose of Ukarumpa. I can’t lose sight of that. My short time here does not give me permission to cast judgment. I wish all of humanity could just get along.

As I anticipated out debriefing was long and meaningful. I so enjoy listening to the perspective of each team member. Their words are so inspiring: their perspective refreshing and heartfelt.

As a talker, listening to them has been such a great exercise. I am grateful beyond words for this experience. I am learning so much from Rhett, in the way he leads discussions, drawing out the thoughts, words and emotions from each of the team.

Our group scattered to the winds at 6 pm. After a nice dinner we dealt with internet issues and then electricity outages. My outlets don’t work but neither do some in the main part of the house. At least we have lights and water. And it is almost bed time. Sunday will be here soon enough.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday, May 15 - Eastern Highlands, PNG

We are in Ukarumpa. It is beautiful! I am in awe of this place.

I'll post pictures later but the trip was breathtaking.

Rhett, Todd and I are at the SIL Guesthouse. I have my own room with a bath. Mi amamas tru!

Irame, my house lady when we lived here before, was at the guest house when I arrived. It was so good to see her!

I'll look forward to spending some time with her in the next couple of days.

We leave for the Teen Center and hamburger night in a few minutes.

More later.....

At 11:00 pm - last night - I woke up and felt like I was suffocating. I’d been asleep for about an hour, the house was quiet. Our room in Lae doesn’t have a fan, no wind was moving through the open, slated windows. I laid in bed with my nose close to the windows, praying, begging God for a little breeze.

That’s when the dogs started yelping right outside my window. Two dogs, stuck together in the act of fornication. I doubt they were married.
Still no breeze. There were other nights like that one. But usually some kind of breeze moved through the house. I began to panic. I began to sweat.
I needed air. So I grabbed my foam mattress and took it to the living room where Jordan and Stephen lay under the fan. Relief. Sleep.

I awoke at 6:13 pm and got in the shower before everyone else. I am still wondering why I even bothered showing in Lae because 5 minutes after the shower I am sweating.
I began making our special birthday breakfast – French toast – Jordan turns 22 today. We bought birthday candles at the store. One special one with the ability to sing out a tune – Happy Birthday. Jordan was surprised – the girls had made a card and we all secretly signed it the night before.

We had all our suitcases packed by 8:30 am for devotions. By 9 am we were walking to the chapel for the seminary students. One last chapel and then good bye.

The Maipai Transport van showed up about 10 am. Confusion about who was going and what was happening but soon we were on our way with two seminarians from the highlands, Peter and John. Their presence would be useful later on in the day.
We stopped at the bank in Lae for the students to get money out. Once again Rhett was denied access to the trips funds. Hopefully he has enough till we get to Goroka next week.

On the road we welcomed the wind, albeit hot wind, as we headed towards the highlands.
Although I know I it was a road I had traveled before nothing about this journey was familiar: Except for the beautiful scenery as we passed further and further was the city and into the bush. Past the Ramu Valley with Brahma cattle grazing in the kuni.

Foolishly I had failed to think about what to do for lunch. We should have packed a lunch. Here is where John and Peter helped so much. We discussed our need for food and drink. Peter suggested a place several miles up the road.

This place was just a market where we could get cold drinks and Wopa Biscuits and fruit. It was a great experience. Peter, John, Jordan and I headed into the market leaving the others in the van. We returned with plenty of food for the rest of the journey. I only wish I had gotten a picture of the whole think. Maybe one of the students did.

With great expectancy we head for the hills – highland hills. Cooler weather awaited us around every bend. Breathtaking vistas new around every turn. When we reached the summit of the Kassam Pass, Peter exclaimed “Now you are in the Highlands.” Immediately we knew there was a difference.

The humidity was gone, and although the sun was out it was not as hot as Lae. Everyone felt the relief.

We dropped Peter and John off in Kainantu. Did I mention it was fortnight? Pay day. Everyone is out on the town. Rhett gave each many 100 kina and they planned to get a PMV back to Lae that afternoon. They were along the ride to make sure we made it to Kainantu.

Rhett was worried the most about this part of the trip. Fortnight isn’t always the best time to travel. Our group made it all that more stressful. I can’t help but think about Wade as our first day in the country was a fortnight as well. He had to travel by PMV (Public Motor Vehicle) from Goroka to Ukarumpa….alone, on a fortnight.
The scenery began to look familiar. And then we crossed the Ukarumpa bridge. It has a gate on it now. The entire area was crowded with people waiting. We drove right to the guest house and were warmly welcomed by Esther. As I looked into the kitchen I saw a familiar face: IRAME!! I cried a little as I hugged her. She looked really good! She looked healthy and happy.

Soon the host families were arriving to pick up the team. Everyone seemed a little sad to leave the group. After all, we’d pretty much been together 24/7 since we left 11 days ago.

I walked down to the store to buy bread, peanut butter and honey, for sandwiches, in case we need them to feed the students later in the week.

The store is VERY different. It has a fence all around it. And there is a Kai Kai bar in the front that serves everything from meat pies to ice cream. Todd had met me at the store and he bought me an ice cream cone.

I plan to go back there for meat pies later this week.

We met everyone down at the Teen Center. It was packed and smokey inside. The Jone’s family, Marsha and Larry – who’s son Jared used to live in our house on Meridian in Newberg, is hosting Jordan and Stephen. They sat with us. They are both teachers here on a one year assignment. I plan to have tea with Marsha on Monday at 10 am.

We all walked up to the guest house for our debriefing. Some people are having trouble leaving the wonderful relationships that were made at Lae. Since our time here is rather uncertain, for those who need to have things spelled out, it is hard for them to wrap their heads around what is in store.

I’ll keep you all posted. But for now, since I have wireless, I’ll post this and maybe a picture.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thursday, May 14

The performance at the Lae Technical College was amazing. The team was treated as if they are celebrities. It was the Christian clubs weekly meeting and the large auditorium was packed.

The performances were great, and the response of the crowd was perfect. Lots of laughter and applause. The team performed Hello, Midas – the Greek story, The Weave and the Apostles Creed. Everyone loves it when Cyndi comes out and speaks Tok Pisin during the Apostles Creed.

Stephen also stole the show when the team introduced themselves and he sang out “Nem bilong mi Stephen.” The team called him “Brownpela Nose.”

Jacob Luke was able to attend. I hope he was proud of the response we received.
After the service the team was surrounded by men and women and wanting to exchange addresses and have a conversations in English.

I am happy to sit aside, watch the girls bags and marvel at how easily our team embraces the conversations with the people of Papua New Guinea.

At the debriefing Cyndi commented that several women thanked as her presence stage gave their voices strength. Knowing that women in PNG are not treated with equality it is a privilege to perhaps be a conduit for improved relations. Perhaps our team is paving new roads for the women of PNG to walk.

Today at 4 pm is the big performance between the seminary students and our team. As many have been advertising this event I am certain that the event will be huge.
Tomorrow we leave for the cool of the highlands. I do feel that I have been acclimating to this heat. It’s not quite as oppressive as it has been in the past.
I am very excited to see Ukarumpa, travel the Markham Pass and watch as the team begins the next phase of our journey.

Wednesday, May 13

It was another cooler night. No sheet, but also no sweat. I woke up refreshed and ready for the day.

The sky is clear and you know that it is going to be a scorcher. It’s 89 at 11 am but it doesn’t feel like the humidity is to high.

Whitney, Emily and I attended the pigin service at the chapel. I could catch most of what the sermon was about: Believers in Jesus do not need to be afraid of death.
The team is off at another class and I am left to do a load of laundry and prepare the noon meal. I love this quiet time. The beauty of the surroundings is amazing. The sounds, the sights and smells – I love this country!

I repacked my suitcase with the hostess gifts, putting the items in five different bags. I hope that is enough. Not knowing how many homes the team will be staying in makes it hard to plan. But I DO have a plan B.

I am so excited to leave MLS and go to Ukarumpa. Some of the students are nervous about being separated into the different homes. Also, Todd and Rhett refer to Ukarumpa as “Little America” the team has developed a bias against it. The time here, at MLS, exchanging ideas and developing relationships with them makes them want to stay here longer. God help them adjust and be just as caring and giving in Ukarumpa as they are here at MLS.

It reached 100 degrees this afternoon. I must be acclimatizing as I am not horribly hot.
After a lunch of toasted tuna and cheese sandwiches and fruit (papaya, banana and orange) salad, Todd and I went to town for our last trip to Food Mart.

We are way under budget for food costs in Lae, but it’s hard to spend 14 kina for a gift of English Breakfast tea for Jordan’s birthday on Friday.

Todd and I then stopped at the Lutheran Church headquarters to post a sign about the performance tomorrow (Thursday) from the MLS classes and the team. I think it’s going to be a HUGE event.

At the headquarters office Todd ran into two of his former students: Gary and a lady I never did catch the name of.

We had a nice chat with Gary. He is head of ministerial training for the Lutheran Church in PNG. He has 5 grown children. He’s probably close to my age.

I am now preparing a special dinner of spaghetti as Jacob Luke has been invited to join us at 5:30 pm for kai kai bilong belo.

Then we all travel down the road to a school for a ‘copi shop’ performance for the students. I am not clear about everything that is going on so you’ll hear more about during tomorrow mornings writings.

Tuesday, May 12

The Sounds of Lae

Mr. Rooster (s) start up at about 4:30 am. The chorus of kakaruk’s get’s louder as each moment goes by. Then, as if summoned by the orchestra conductor, more birds join the rooster choir creating a symphony of sorts. This continues on for hours. About the time we get up (starting around 7 am) the roosters stop but the rest of the chorus keeps going.

While we hear the birds they remain hidden in the lush trees and bushes. One species of birds sounds just like a slide whistle. I think I bought one for Jesse at Easter.

Dog wails are another part of the concert. Dogs are not treated well here in PNG. For the most part they are mangy, scraggly and thin. Most have a limp of some kind, no doubt from a kick from someone which creates the wail that we so often hear at night.

It’s pretty noisy all night long, and yet, we somehow manage to sleep through it all.

We survived the storm. The rain that we ran around in last night never left until 4 am or so. It rained so hard we had to shut the slated windows. We even turned the fan off because the wind was so ‘cold.’ We lost power right before midnight. Making one of my many bathroom trips I noticed Jordan and a few of the girls sitting at the kitchen table with a candle in the center of them. It looked like they were involved in a séance, but turns out we lost electricity and they were finishing up their game of cards.

Jordan figured out that it rained 10 hours last night. Surely we don’t have to worry about the water for a while. What must it have been like for those in the this area living in a hut.

I must have slept well because for the first time since leaving I dreamt. Wade was sequestered at Hazelden for treatment. He had an encounter with one of the other patients. Weird.

This morning breakfast everyone was on their own which has given me a chance to write this morning.

At 10 am we are all going to the seminary to listen to Don Michael tell stories from his asples, Enga Province. I am looking forward to this opportunity.
Although I was not sure what to expect, I was looking forward to getting a chance to interact with the seminary students. Todd made a lot of this opportunity to exchange stories but from what I could tell we were not sharing our stories, but only listening to Don. What stories would we tell if we were to share? I don’t think I have any stories that are worth telling.

Once the seminary students arrived Todd got the class under way. Don was called up to the front of the class where he stood with his head hanging down while he leaned on the desk. It seemed awkward. I wasn’t sure what to think.

Don asked that he have a translator as he wanted to tell his story in Tok Pisin.
Todd asked John, another seminarian, was asked to come up and translate for Don. That exchange was also awkward, as John mumbled something about being from a different province than Don. He finally went up to the front and did a fine job of improving upon the story as John used words that we would understand but were quite different from the Pigin word.

The first story was about a lake in the Enga province called Lake Lau. (John laughed when I told him that my bosses name was Brad Lau.)

The story goes like this: Two children, a boy and a girl, were orphaned when their parents died. They took care of themselves, raising pigs and making a garden. They lived very well and were happy. Then one day an evil spirit took on the image of the boy, went to the girl and tried to seduce her. She fought off the spirit but thought it was her brother. When the real brother returned all she did was cry and run away from him. She was so hurt. She didn’t know it was really an evil spirit and he didn’t know about the evil spirit.

The brother tried to make his sister stop crying. He made a mumu for her but she just kept crying. No matter what he did, she kept crying.

So finally the brother went to the mountain and dug a big hole and fell on his spear. When the sister realized that the brother was dead she cried so much that the hole filled up with water. She finally threw herself into the lake but the lake rejected her and spit her back up on the land. She left the lake and was never seen again.

Don explained that this story was about how bad it is to let misunderstandings come between families.

The second story was very interesting. It was about the last cannibal.
The story starts with a family with 6 sons and one daughter. One by one each son goes into the forest and never returns. Finally the last son goes much to the mother and father’s dismay. He too never returns. What the family doesn’t know is that each son has been captured and eaten by an old man deep in the forest.
At some point the family figures out who is behind their son’s disappearance.
One day the daughter goes to the river and is bitten by at mosquito.

After a period of time her belly begins to swell. The family is upset because she is unmarried. She denies having sex with anyone and soon she delivers a son.
When the son grows up and ends up going into the forest and killing the cannibal.
End of story. Don says that this is the story to depict the end of cannibalism in the Enga province.

It is interesting that we do not have a story to tell from our culture. We can steal stories from other cultures but we do not have stories of our own. I find this sad. I wonder why?

Today was another day of laundry and then cooking lunch and dinner.

Beans on toast and leftovers for lunch.

Lamb neck stew and rice for dinner.

There is a sweet kind of rhythm here. When the team heads over to the seminary classes, I am alone. I read and write. I have contemplated watching a movie but so far haven’t had the time.

Right after the students left tonight the cicadas were so loud I could barely hear myself think! Then all of a sudden, about 45 minutes later, the noise stops! Silence.

It’s been a quiet day. Tomorrow brings new experiences to enjoy.

Monday, May 11

I realized this morning that I am not dreaming at night.

We all got to sleep in a little this morning. I fixed sweet rice cereal for breakfast, toast for some and coffee.

At 9 am the students were invited to the seminarians devotion time. At 10 am they would be working in the speech and drama classes.

Sara Kelm is suffering from an upset stomach. She has stayed behind. I washed some community towels and the shower mat that was completely gross.

Finally, I was able to connect with Wade on his cell phone. I lost the satellite feed the first time but connected after several tries and was able to say and hear I love you’s! I miss him, and it felt good to hear is voice. It will be great when he meets me at the airport.

We will be going to the market today. Everyone is excited to finally get into the city and walk around.

Lunch will be leftovers and peanut butter sandwiches.

After lunch the team debriefed from the mornings classes. I was cleaning up from lunch so didn’t hear a lot of the details, but I was able to catch that things went pretty well.

Rhett wisely suggested that the team spend an hour cleaning up while he and I settled finances. It was good to get the house clean, and find out that we are under budget for our food in Lae. It has felt so strange spending 600 kina on food, at one time! And then to watch it disappear so fast!

We then headed in our new Mapai Escort Vehicle to the Lae Market. While I was able to get the fruits and vegetables I desired, the overall feeling was that there really wasn’t much there people wanted to buy. A few of the ladies bought meri skirts and personal food items.

We then went to the Food Mart by way of a tour of the town courtesy of Todd. I purchased the bulk of what we would need for meals the rest of the week but the best buy of all was a huge wheel of fresh rolls. It would be perfect for dinner.

Once home, I began making One Pot Chicken, with kau kau, kumu, bok choy, onions, chicken and curry. It was very good. Everyone enjoyed it. It’s funny, and we commented about this, what if I didn’t know how to cook? The way we are all working together is evidence of God’s provision in putting this trip together.

After dinner the rain came…HARD! So far it has only rained in the wee hours of the night. So Whitney and Cyndi headed outside. Soon most of the team was outside. It was awesome. I was actually chilled a couple of times. It was fun to see how much the kids enjoyed this little activity.

Those who joined in the fun eventually came in the house, piled their wet clothes in the hamper (I volunteered to wash them in the morning) and we all settled down for a time of journaling, reading and NOT sweating. Sara is actually sitting next to me cuddled under a blanket.

So we have been on this journey for one week now. Overall, it’s been a huge success. The students are amazing. They have been stellar in every way.
With the cool breeze and the rains here I hope we will sleep well tonight.
The weather has been really pretty great, except that it is hot and humid. But it has only rained at night, and so we are relived to get some water into the cistern but still be able to be outside during the day. It’s the kind of weather I remember during our time in PNG. The rain and heat create this tropical paradise, flowers and plants galore!

Sunday, May 10

I woke up this morning without sweat dripping from my body. In fact, I remained sweatless until halfway through breakfast.

Breakfast was a sweet potato frittata. It was really delicious.

We attended church in Lae at the Resurrection Lutheran Church – the English service.
A quick shopping trip across the street at Food Mart before heading home.
I had planned to make tuna fish sandwiches. As I opened the can I realized something was amiss. Upon closer examination I realized that I had tuna in tomato sauce. I drained the sauce, added a can of mackerel (777) and added the mayonnaise I had bought at the store earlier.

After lunch I volunteered to do laundry while the team rehearsed for first time presentation of “American Midas.” Todd tried to show me how to use the twin tub but I assured him that I was an expert at the twin tub.

It took me all afternoon to complete this chore. I was drenched. I hung up the laundry as each small load was spun dry. I would have each of the students retrieve their own laundry from the line.

After a supper of spaghetti, peas and really good French Bread (with garlic infused butter) we attended the evening service. Tonight the team would perform for the first time “American Midas.” A little bit of tension, apprehension, nerves. How would the performance be received?

During rehearsal earlier in the day they had quite an audience watching. These people showed up for the evening performance and brought their friends. The place was packed. Later we learned that this evening service as much larger than usual.
The performance was wonderful. I had not yet seen it performed beginning to end. And in fact, a change was made to the ending during the rehearsal on Saturday.
At the conclusion of the service, a few men stood to tokautim to the group. It was a great experience to see and hear as this was tradition amongst the Papua New Guineans.

As soon as the service was dismissed a swarm of people gathered around the students. These were the people who had connected with the students the day before. From small children to teenagers, our team was embraced by the families of the community.
One little girl who captured everyone’s heart was a girl named Jeri. Yep! Her mother brought Whitney a bag of food – banana, oranges, peanuts and sugar cane. Jeri’s dad was a second year seminary student.

The teenagers wanted to get addresses from the girls. Emily was especially popular with two girls whom we met at church in Lae that morning. They too lived on the seminary property.

After about an hour we started for home. Everyone promised to see each other tomorrow.

I am especially impressed with the ease in which Stephen and Jordan connect with the boys. Already Jordan has held hands with another young man.
I might as well say right now that these students are amazing. I am so proud of them. Also, I really think that the kids at Ukarumpa are going to get a lot from these guys.

May 9 – Saturday

About 3 am I awoke to the lights of the hall beaming into my eyes. There would be breakfast in the morning.

Today was the dreaded “workshop” day. I say dreaded because neither Todd nor Rhett knew what to expect. The students would be working with two groups of seminary students: the speech class and the drama class. Each class would be divided up to and one or two of our team would work out a story with either a group from the drama or speech class.

As I mentioned, it was uncertain as to whether this would work or not. The team seemed a little apprehensive.

We all began to rouse about 6:30 am. Everyone had eaten breakfast by devotions at 8:15 am. The team headed off to the workshop at 8:40 am. I remained behind to clean up the kitchen and take a nice cold, but quick shower. I had the whole morning to myself which was really nice. I organized my luggage and did a small load of laundry.

At 11 am I made a water run to the team. It was a good thing too as to temperature had already reached 90 degrees and I am sure the humidity was equally as high. We have all been pretty wet….all day….all the time.

As I walked across the grass I remembered that early in the day I had thought about asking one of the ladies in the community if I could purchase some bananas and papaya, kau kau and kumu. I overpaid for what I purchased but I felt pretty good about the conversation with the lady, all in Tok Pisin.

Anyway, I digress. After the workshop, which went very well, the students came back to lunch that I had prepared. It was actually a snack. Later in the day we would be attending a baby naming ceremony. In Papua New Guinea where there is a ceremony, there is the promise of food.

We were to head over to the cafeteria at the seminary when we heard the sound of the bell.

We waited quite a while for that bell to ring. When it seemed that someone had forgotten to ring us over to the party, the bell rang.

What awaited us was something quite exciting. Tables of food and one large roasted pig as the center piece.

Our hosts asked us to sit in small groups at different tables so that more of the community would have a chance to interact with us. I sat with Whitney.
The hour long ceremony was brief. Several pastors spoke, both of the grandfathers spoke and we were introduced to the baby: Mosepundajudy. A few prayers later we were invited to go through the food line first. Two types of rice, kau kau, taro, kumu, carrots, cabbage slaw, fruit, BBQ’d lamb ribs, chicken of various types…just to name a few.

We stayed for an hour more before it seemed appropriate to go. However, on the way out the worship band was playing and the students had another impromptu practice time.
Soon the singing spilled out onto the grass and I watched as the team played with all the little children of the community. This experience would prove to be one of the most impactful experiences for several students. (I’ll revisit this later.)
I had come back to boil the sweet potatoes that I had planned to put into the frittata. I had a nice time alone doing my nails and drinking a cup of Milo.
I called home this afternoon on the satellite phone but only reached Kalie for a brief moment. Several students called home as well. Many of them hadn’t communicated with family since we left. I am sure family members will sleep good tonight.

May 6

It is actually May 8th, so much has happened it is hard to believe all that we have seen and experienced since arriving in PNG. As I write the team is rehearsing ‘American Midas’ in the sweltering heat, sweat is dripping from my entire body and I am just sitting here waiting for a breeze.

The electricity went out while were eating at the Lae International Hotel. They had a generator: we do not.

So let’s go back to where I left you. We woke up from our host family’s home, had a shower, breakfast and a quick ride to the airport where we met up with the rest of our team.

As luck would have it Quantas had introduced their new software and we were not entirely on the travel docket. The staff worked through the conflict, accepting that their system was not up to speed, and soon we made our way down to the departure area. As the plane was delayed (hmmmm….. ) we all had time to get coffee. Although internally filled with excitement fatigue kept us from thoroughly enjoying the 2nd to the last leg of our journey.

The minute the airline staff opened the hatch I knew we were in PNG: Smoke scents filled the cabin and soon we all felt the wave of humidity.

Again, I marvel at the variety of security measures we encounter as we travel. Australia was the toughest. PNG has the appearance of high security but in fact it is the opposite.

The line for obtaining a visa in country was long. Maybe an hour went by before we all made it through. Jordan Beanblossom entered the country (officially) first. We had understood that we could use Australian dollars to purchase visas. Not true. So Jordan (and he was one of many before him who did this) was allowed to leave the line, walk across the room to the currency exchange booth, exchange our Aussie money into Kina, and then return to the line.

Todd was faithfully waiting for us along with Pastor Tau, whom we hired to transport us from the airport to the Mapang Guest House.

At the Mapang Guest House Whitney received her first note from her parents. I gave it to her after dinner. Jessie took pictures.

Memories of the Mapang Guest House are faint. But I do remember the dining hall, the rooms. The area around the guest house is completely foreign to me. I was delighted to be able to be driven around the town, down to the actual port, and visit a village that exists on stilts over the bay. Words cannot describe what we saw. Children ran along the slated walkways, now slippery with the rain that fell. Pigs were kept in cages alongside the homes….homes that had no windows but plenty of openings for the breeze to blow the stench from the muck below….muck that awaited the next tide to wash away the waste from everything up above.

After this we drove through the crowds of people waving and smiling to the van filled with white people. We shouted our “hellos” and “Apinuns” returning the waves and smiles.

Port Moresby is the capitol city of PNG. Like many capitol city’s it is dirty and crowded. 19 years ago we missed experiencing the city of Port Moresby. We didn’t see the sky scrapers or Ela Beach. We missed it all. That is why, although not my favorite part of the country, I am really grateful to have been able to see it.
After having a wonderful dinner at the Guest House and our time of debriefing and prayer, the team rehearsed. I went to bed in our air conditioned room. It would likely be the last time we had the cool to sleep in. Lae would be much different.
Pastor Tau arrived to take us to back to the airport with a quick detour to the parliament building.

Again, we experienced the unique façade of PNG’s security measures. At one point I thought for sure the x-ray machine was something from Star Trek’s set.
I knew that we were in for a scorcher even before we actually left the plane. Everything looked hot and muggy. As I waited for my bags to be unloaded I could feel the sweat drips run down my back. It was very hot.

Here is where we met Jacob Luke. Jacob is a friend of Todd’s. He was a seminary student at the Martin Luther Seminary where we are staying and interacting with the drama students. Jacob Luke owns the biggest transport company in PNG: Mapai Transport.

He has been a good friend and supporter of the Lutheran church. He owns a fleet of trucks (58) that transport goods up and down the highlands. He also has buses for people transportation. He had generously given us a driver and a van to get us around town and then up to the highlands next week. He is very wealthy. He took us to his truck shop and it’s not only huge but due to a mining contract with Exxon he is purchasing 22 more trucks to transport chemicals, explosives, machinery and other things as part of the construction of a natural gas pipeline. This trip is made more amazing by his wonderful gift of security and transportation.

Jacob Luke assures passage of his trucks because he drives the routes himself and gives money to those who would otherwise rob him. He makes them become part of his ‘payroll’ by paying them to guard his trucks as the lumber through the highland roads. Also, he is unable to purchase insurance for his trucks. His payments to the villages along the way are his insurance. He also names the trucks after one of the villages.

The Lae International Airport is located 16 + miles from the city of Lae. The drive was amazing. Rhett was sitting up front with Jacob. Now and again he would turn around to look at us with the most amazing smile on his face – he was HOME tru! The beauty of PNG passed by as we drove along the road. People dotted the roadside at buia stands and kerosene shops. As we caught people’s eyes they waved excitedly to which we replied ‘apinun.’

The students were laughing and joking around. We were riding in a small bus with the windows open. The smells and the humid air swirled around us. I think it was Jordan that made the comment “That’s so Lae.”

On our way from the airport we drove through a chicken drive thru. Todd and I left for the bank and grocery store. I shopped for three days worth of meals but still didn’t get all that I feel we need. Water is one thing we should have gotten. Especially now that we have no water. :)

LIGHTS! Water! Fan! Hurray!!

As soon as Todd and I returned with kai kai, we went on a tour of the seminary – this is the place where Rhett grew up.

Martin Luther Seminary has been here since 1966. It’s a gated community with administration and classrooms in the center. A beautiful chapel sits in the center. Around the outside of the oval are homes for the teachers and staff. Students stay in dormitories.

Beyond the staff homes are small driveways that lead to homes in the bush.
The community is quite diverse. It’s a small little community which gives us the pleasure of living in a village. The sounds of the cicadas and birds fill the house, almost in surround sound with the open windows blowing in sounds as well as the slight breeze. This morning a cockatoo few to the top of a tree outside our kitchen window.

So….after unloading the groceries we took a tour.

We ended up at the chapel where the seminary’s worship band was plugged in and practicing. It was awesome to see that the team, with just a little encouragement from Todd, jumped up and sang a song in Tok Pisin. Both groups enjoyed the encounter. I took pictures with Whitney’s camera. She was grinning ear to ear the entire time.

It’s hot. But things are good. The team is a little punchy but nothing near unbearable or bad. It’s an awesome group.

I am cooking everyone breakfast tomorrow – not sure what it will be if the electricity doesn’t come back. But hey, that’s a worry for tomorrow.

Monday, May 4

We left town under a cover of rain. It had been pretty cloudy all morning, was able to take the dogs for one final walk.

The goodbyes were slightly tearful, although no gushes of water, other than what was falling from the sky. Rhett got a little choked up as he began to pray. Fatigue coupled with anticipation raised the emotion level a fair bit.
Once in the vans the air lightened and laughter drowned out the tears.
I think I am going to laugh more than I have all year. Jessie Sarver
And that is really the truth. Already we are laughing and making jokes, creating funny situations out of the efforts of travel.

Portland to Los Angeles – nothing exciting happened along the way.

Sara Kelm won the first game of ‘finding someone you know.’ There were two gals from GFU traveling to New York. They were Chinese. Sara recognized them from the Portland airport. She also recognized them from school. She didn’t really know them so I am not sure she really wins. But in order to instill enthusiasm for the game I made a big deal about it.

The game is still on. I will try to think of a prize of some kind along the way.
Traveling on the shuttle bus to our terminal was interesting. Doubts were raised as to whether we were going in the right direction. See I had exited our flight in LA first. I took it upon myself to find out from an airport employee where our next gate was. Gate 35, take the shuttle bus to terminal four. Two shuttle buses later we arrived at our destination. For a brief moment there seemed to be a question as to whether I knew where we were going. Was I leading everyone astray? Jordan Beanblossom volunteered to accompany me as I inquired from someone with Quantas. Vindicated I motioned everyone inside the terminal – we were on the right path.
Due to my deviation to visit the Davidson’s after our stint in PNG, my seating was different from the rest of the gang. It soon became a point of humorous contention when I was seated in row 9 and everyone else was in 23. I reminded everyone that the safest part of the plane was the back.

On our flight to Australia I was seated in row 51 – everyone else was in 65 or so. Hey, it’s not like I selected my seats! I only asked for an aisle seat, which I received…both times.

All in all the 16 hour flight went pretty fast. I watched a couple movies, slept, watched another movie, talked to Rhett, watched another movie and then we were preparing for landing!

There is no standard for entering a new country. Each one is different. An hour before landing we were given customs forms to complete. Standard questions about how long we were going to be in the country, and who we were staying with, and then a host of items to declare – weapons, steroids, medicines, fruit, meat, cheese, etc…
Most of us were sniffed by the food sniffing (not drug) Beagle because we misinterpreted dried to mean fruit not crackers. It took a while to get through customs. But at least we made it.

A $14 train ride and we were at Central Station in downtown Brisbane. I’ll mention right here that I am in debt to Stephen Pick. I had 4 pieces of luggage to carry. I was carrying the hostess gifts for our stay in Ukarumpa. Plus the presents I had for the Davidson’s. Without Stephen carrying my big suitcase I am certain I would still be navigating the stairs to the train platform. Assistance to the disabled is not always available in other countries.

A quick jaunt to St Andrews Unity Church where Rhett had arranged to store our stuff while we explored Brisbane. Later that night we would be uniting with our host groups. But we had the whole day in front of us.

After several clothing changes, teeth brushed and hair brushed, the consensus was that we travel together to Lone Pine – the Koala Bear Sanctuary. Amazing. Not only Koalas but roos as well! Not only did we see them but we touched them, held them and quite a few other animals as well.

It couldn’t have been a better day. The weather was perfect: partial clouds kept the hot sun at bay and the many trees provided shade when the cloud cover was scarce. We were all excited about the accessibility of the animals. Again I marvel at the restrictions we suffer in America because of the selfish, stupid people who ruin things for the rest of us.

Almost everyone got their picture taken with a Koala.

Our mode of transportation to the sanctuary was bus. Our ride back to Brisbane was a slow cruse down the river. Bonus: traditional Australian folk music played softly through the loud speakers.

For a group of road weary travelers the journey down the river was just what the doctor ordered. I shared my life’s motto with everyone and received a few laughs from those who were within ear shot.

After disembarking from the boat, and with plenty of time on our hands before reuniting with the pastor of St. Andrews, we slowly made our way across the bridge to downtown. We stumbled upon a farmers market on the corner across from the old treasury building which, ironically enough, is now a casino.

A few people bought some fruit but all expressed a desire for buying more. Rhett and I promised more lovely fruit in PNG and since we wouldn’t be able to take what was purchased at the market to PNG it seemed best to wait for the sugar bananas, papaya and mangos of New Guinea.

We collected our wits and our bags from the church and made our way through ‘end of the work day crowds’ to the train station.

Rhett, who has been a bevy of great ideas so far, suggested that due to the crowds, we spread ourselves up and down the train cars so we would be assured a spot on the same train. With our destination in hand (he had printed maps before leaving the US) we knew that our stop was Corinda, where we would meet up with our hosts from the St. Johns Lutheran church.

We were all divided into different households: I was assigned to go with the pastor. At least that is what we thought. Pastor Mike (?) told us that he would be taking two gals to stay with Ruth. Sara and Jessie piled in with me and together we drove into a suburb of Brisbane.

However, when we arrived at our host family the pastor told me “I’d like you to stay here” which I interpreted to stay in the car and wait while he got Sara and Jessie settled. In fact he wanted ME to be one of the three of us staying with Ruth.
I’ll say now that I was blessed. Ruth grew up in PNG and we were likely around the same age. We had a delightful time chatting as Sara grew more and more weary and ready for bed.

We each had our own room (one more night not worrying about my snoring) and had the most delightful dinner. Ruth and I ended the evening with a cuppa while Sara made her way to bed.

Although concerned for Jessie, we felt blessed with our hostess and pray a huge blessing upon her.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Someday I'll be able to post all that I have written!

Today is Thursday, May 14. We are in Lae, Papua New Guinea.

It's been a good stay here at the Martin Luther Seminary. The team is awesome as they engage in the exchange of ideas, stories and dramas.

I have a lot written, but my computer won't connect to the internet and so I can't upload the stories and the pictures.

It's very hot and humid - in the 90's for both most of the day.

Tomorrow we head for the highlands and more temperate weather.

I am very excited to get to Ukarumpa. I will upload pictures and copy all that I have written.

Love you all!


Monday, May 4, 2009

It's Gona Be a Long Day

What one wears on a long day of travel is very important. Things to consider: comfort, spillage, bathroom breaks in a small airplane potty, temperature.

Part of the problem is we are starting out in a typical rainy Pacific Northwest day and arriving in Brisbane's(according to the internet) 80 degree, partly cloudy weather.

This year I will not spend one day in May 5th. We fly right over it.

When our flight leaves LA at 11:20 pm on May 4th we won't land in Brisbane until 6 am on May 6th. Thirteen hours in the airplane is a long time. 6 hours is a long time.

I covet your prayers and hope to share at least some of this journey with you. You'll be sleeping in your bed tonight: I'll be somewhere over the Pacific.

Lukim yu bihain!