Thursday, May 14, 2009

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 fa├žade 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.

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