The plan was to follow the NPAT group up to a village market and perform. John Doa told us he would be there at 9:00 am.
With fatigue as our constant companion at this leg of the journey we mustered enough energy to get ourselves out of bed, showered and feed, ready to go by 9 am.
As the clock slowly ticked by, we waited, and waited. At 10 am a phone call to Todd’s cell phone informed us that John would be at our guest house in 10 minutes.
Forty minutes would go by before we would hear a honk indicating our departure was at hand. We hurriedly piled into the van along with one of the NPAT actors to help us navigate our journey.
We headed back down the highway towards Lae for several miles before turning right off the road and up into the mountains.
The scenery was breathtaking.
We traveled for about 30 minutes on this road before another phone call to Todd’s cell indicated that we were almost there, another 10 minutes.
Forty minutes later we seemed to arrive at our destination. A large market off the side of the road with hundreds of people milling around. We followed John’s van as he drove onto the muddy, grassy market area. The contents of the van in front of us was removed of it’s contents as swarms of people encircled our vehicle. Unsure of what to do, we did nothing but sit. Since it was well after lunch time I decided that our actors needed to have their now traditional peanut butter and honey sandwiches so I distributed their meal.
We watched as John pushed back the crowd to almost a perfect half moon circle giving way for the actors to ‘set up the stage.’
Like monkeys in a cage we sat eating our lunch, watching the watchers. We laughed about what would happen when the first of our group exited the bus. Would they applaud? Should we do a little ‘ta da!’ ?
As was often the case, as soon as I was finished with my sandwich I exited the bus to no fanfare. Soon the others followed and we sloshed our way through the grassy mud to find a place to stand.
Rhett soon informed our team that it was time to do “Hello.”
I was so proud of them for risking so much as they went through the skit. A simple misstep could send them falling into the grassy mud.
Over 2000 eyes were upon them as they performed.
Their audience was keenly tuned to their every move.
Loud applause met the conclusion.
Now what do we do?
The NPAT performers then took the stage and it became obvious that we needed to find another place to stand. We went back to the bus.
Safety. Comfort. We could watch, but not hear or understand, the performance. The appreciative audience declared their approval at the end of the first skit. About half way into the second rain began to fall. Lightly at first, but soon a pretty serious rain had arrived.
Soon our bus was full of the NPAT team, not really sure what they were doing either, they jockeyed for position on our van.
Much later Rhett explained that part of the delay earlier in the morning was the lack of vehicles for the NPAT team so they had to make two trips to the village market.
We had volunteered to help them out by transporting part of their team back to Goroka.
It was a lively trip down the mountain with many conversations happening from the front to the back of the bus.
Upon returning to the theatre, John told us that we should go back to the guest house for a short rest before the afternoon performance began.
It was the ‘variety’ show we hadn’t heard much about.
So that’s what we did.
At the appointed time we returned.
We sat through hours of “So you think you can dance?” wannabes.
Skits, songs, both traditional and modern filled the stage.
Our team performed ‘The Weave.’ For the first time in the trip it seemed out of place in the marijuana smoke filled room, but the actors performed it beautifully. Whitney shined in her roll and I was so happy that Rosie and her family were there to watch.
Rosie is a woman who was raised by Whitney’s grandparents: almost a sister to her dad.
She and her husband had arrived earlier that week to connect with Whitney. They had a lovely family, both were teachers and believers.
On this day they spared Whitney, Rhett and myself as they took us away from the variety show for a time to give us some gifts.