Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Home again

Well, the trip took longer than expected, but I finally made it home at about 3AM Monday. I ended up having to take a different (later) flight from LA to NYC, and ran into more delays on both ends of that flight too. It all worked out in the end though, and now I'm home unpacking and trying to get my body to believe that it's really early afternoon rather than the middle of the night.

Thank you for all of your prayers, support, and encouragement! I had a great experience in PNG, and I'm so glad I was able to go. Many of you will hear more stories and see more pictures in the near future.

I haven't decided whether or not I'm going to keep this blog going. It's certainly not going to be updated as frequently as it was while I was in PNG. We'll see...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Brisbane

Well, I'm here safe and sound in the Brisbane airport again. Unfortunately, I just found out my next flight to LA is way behind schedule, which means that customs and everything in LA is now compressed into a 20-30 minute window at best, and at worst, I'll land in LA after my next plane to New York has departed. So... if you read this between now and sometime Sunday morning EDT, please pray that all goes well! Thanks!

That said, my last few days in PNG were relaxing. I had some time to myself in the hotel to kind of reflect on everything. This morning's sunrise (as seen from the POM airport as I was boarding my plane) was beautiful, and it made for a nice last glimpse of PNG.

That's all for now, as my internet time is almost up. Hopefully I'll be home in less than 24 hours!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Final week

I can't believe it's already time to say goodbye to PNG. My plane leaves Ukarumpa Friday morning, and then I'll leave Port Moresby Sunday morning. Has it really been a month and a half already? It went so fast, probably because I enjoyed my time here so much. I'm excited to be coming home again, but I'm definitely going to miss it here too.

Everyone here who hears about all I've been able to do will inevitably say something like, "wow, you've really seen almost everything" or "you've jumped in with both feet" or (my favorite) "you've really jumped off the deep end, huh?" (no, I'm pretty sure that wasn't supposed to be an evaluation of my sanity :)

Looking back, it really is incredible how many opportunities I've had and how many things I've done. You've already heard about most of them through my blog entries, but I didn't really explain that it's not normal to do all this in less than two months here. For example, there were some people at the Kuman dedication a few weeks ago who have been working with SIL for eighteen years and had never before been able to go to a dedication. Then, I was not only there, but I was also one of a few people who actually got to help sell and distribute the New Testaments. I've gotten to live in a village for a week (Elim), eat several mumu meals, take part in a Scripture check (Minimimb), see the impressive mountains and beautiful coast of PNG in all my travels, land on a dirt airstrip, take my first helicopter ride, and more. I've really been blessed to be able do all this.

It also seems that God led me to come at the perfect time for the finance office. They started using a new computer accounting system in the month of May, so I was here for the first end-of-month cycle. Even though sometimes I was only doing data entry or rolling coins, it was a help to the full-time workers there who were trying to learn the new system, which meant that they weren't able to work as fast as normal. We were able to mail May account statements out to all the SIL members here by June 10th (I think it was that day), which is apparently about as fast as it's ever done. And as I've shared before (early in my time here), I realized how everything that's done has importance to the ministry, even some of the small things that seem boring or insignificant.

I'm also going to miss many of the wonderful people here. Many families and individuals have done a lot to make me feel welcome and at home here, and I've enjoyed spending time with them and getting to know them. Last night, Mrs. Bandy hosted a going-away dinner for me. (and she even made shoo-fly pie! many of you probably have no idea what that is because it's a regional dessert from PA, and those of you who know what it is probably also know how hard it is to find it anywhere else)

This might be the last time I update from PNG, since I will be taking my computer in to the computer centre soon so that they can take it off the network and know to stop charging my account for internet access. I know that I won't have an internet connection at my hotel in Port Moresby either. Please pray for me as I travel back this weekend. I will have to stay two long days in the POM hotel before my first international flight departs. Then, I'll get up very early in the morning to catch my first flight to Brisbane, which leaves at 6:40 AM on the 13th. From there, I'll have a short layover before flying across the Pacific to LA and then another short layover before my next flight to JFK in New York, which lands at 5:20 PM, still on the 13th, yet more than 24 hours after takeoff in POM (don't you love the way the international date line works?). Pray that the short layovers don't become an issue if there are delays on the flights or through customs.

I also want to say thank you for all of your prayers and encouragement throughout my time here! I have definitely felt God close to me. Thank you for praying for the Kuman dedication; all of the Bibles were able to arrive on time. Also, the visa situation here is not resolved, but it is certainly much better. I don't know of any families that were not able to get their visas and passports before they left the country, though some had to wait until the very last day before their departure. Currently, there are still many visas to be processed, but the stress levels are very much reduced.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Yonki - Elim Lodge

I think this last week will be the most memorable part of my time here in PNG this summer. The Ukarumpa youth group took a missions trip to help the Sommer family start their new ministry, and I was able to join them in that.

First, here's a little background on what the Sommers are doing. They have recently bought a portion of land along Yonki Lake (the reservoir created by the hydroelectric dam that powers about a third of PNG) and will be starting an orphanage there for AIDS orphans. You probably don't know this, but unless something drastic happens, PNG is only about 10-15 years away from being devastated with AIDS like some of the sub-Saharan African countries. Normally, PNG operates on what is called the "wantok" system, where relatives will always provide for each others' needs. This has worked for years, but now there are a lot more orphans, and the system doesn't always work. Relatives either don't have enough resources to do their part, or they will tend to shun orphans because they are afraid of AIDS, or they are ashamed of the parents' actions that caused the situation.

The Sommers plan to build Elim Lodge (named for the passage in Exodus 15:22-27) to care for some of these orphans and to set an example for how others in PNG, hopefully nationals, can do the same. They will be building a house for themselves, a large lodge for cooking/eating, ten huts for the orphans, and some cottages/camping areas for people to vacation, with the hope that they will be able to use those as one source of income and support for the ministry. All this will be within sight of the lake, pictured below.

Monday morning, we packed up and left Ukarumpa. About an hour later, we arrived at Yonki, and spent the next few hours using the Sommers' boats to ferry across to the peninsula and settle in. That afternoon, we started on some of the construction projects we had planned for the week. I was part of the team that used bush knives to clear the tall kunai grass from a large semi-flat area that would become both the playing field and the helipad. Others worked on building a permanent dock along the shore, starting construction of the Sommers' future house, and completing a liklik haus (outhouse) near the haus kuk (cooking house). For the next three days, our schedule was to work on these kind of construction projects (mostly the dock and the new house) for the mornings, then to spend time in the afternoons running a VBS with the national kids from the villages there, and finally to show videos focusing on AIDS awareness in the evenings. This morning we packed up and returned to Ukarumpa.

We had no running water or electricity there, and we stayed in the large prayer house of the nearby village. Here's a picture of the house:

Without running water, we had to carry all of our water up from the lake, then we'd run it through some purifiers so that it was potable. It was still kind of murky, but we didn't mind. We didn't have any showers, so if we wanted to feel somewhat cleaner, we'd have to take soap down to the lake and wash up there. And as you've probably guessed, all we had for a bathroom was a liklik haus. We did all of our cooking with gas burners that we brought along with us, though we did have a mumu with the village yesterday. It was like living in a typical village setting, so that was a neat experience.

For the morning construction projects, I mostly worked on the Sommers' house. I did a lot of measuring and cutting boards and beams for the floor, though we were slightly held back by a lack of tools. We only had one saw (a handheld circular saw), two tape measures, one square, and three hammers. We also had to deal with PNG lumber, which isn't exactly cut to a regulation width and length due to the lack of perfect sawmill facilities. We still managed to get a lot done though. A few national men decided to help us out at the house, so I had an opportunity to practice some Pisin while I worked with them. They always walk around with bush knives, so there were plenty to spare for this picture!

Afternoons were a lot of fun! We had probably 50-60 kids show up from the two nearby villages. We would start with large group games until everyone was there, then we'd do some skits of Bible stories (without having practiced them beforehand) and share a little bit about those and the gospel from Eden to the resurrection, then work on a memory verse before going back to some more games. The kids' favorite games were red rover, "pusi na rat" ("cat and rat", basically cat and mouse), and "pisin, pisin, rokrok" (PNG version of "duck, duck, goose", except they don't have words in Pisin to differentiate between kinds of birds, so we had to do "bird, bird, frog" instead). It was fun to see them getting excited about that, and also to see how the rest of the village would come out and sit on the sidelines spectating, cheering or laughing depending on what was going on at the moment. The kids watched and listened intently to the dramas and Bible presentations we did, so hopefully that will leave just as much of an impression on them. (Some of the dramas we did were the good Samaritan, the prodigal son, and the crucifixion/resurrection of Christ) They were able to memorize the verse by the end of the third day too.

For the video showings, we always had a large turnout. We had brought a generator, projector, screen, and speakers so that we could do that. The first two nights' videos focused on AIDS awareness and prevention (emphasizing abstinence/faithfulness), and the third night's video showed a lot of why the Sommers are starting this ministry. It portrayed a true story of a family where both parents found out they had AIDS and went around to many relatives before they found a brother who would be willing to take their children in after AIDS had taken the parents' lives. The brother's family ended up treating the children poorly in the end. Even though it was in Pisin and I was trying to translate the whole time, it was still moving.

There's so much more I could tell you about the week, because like I said, I think it will be my most memorable experience, mostly because of the time spent in the village and with the kids. I don't want to make this post too long though! I'll end by saying that I got to take my first helicopter ride this morning on the way back from Yonki, rather than driving. That was cool too! It's amazing how it only takes about 10 minutes to get back to Ukarumpa by helicopter, when it's more than an hour by road.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Kuman dedication

This weekend I was privileged to be able to travel a few hours west to the town of Kundiawa for the dedication of the recently completed Kuman New Testament. It wasn't quite the atmosphere that I was expecting, which I think had a lot to do with the fact that the dedication was in a town rather than a rural village setting. Still, it was a great experience.

Kuman is the third largest language group in PNG, with 120,000 speakers. Apparently some Lutheran missionaries had begun translating many years ago, but never finished. Dunc and Mary Pfantz, working with SIL, spent the last 17 years on the Kuman NT, and were finally able to complete it.

We drove into Kundiawa on Friday morning, and the celebration began after lunch. A local trumpet school put together a small brass band and there was a miniature parade down the street to the rugby field where the dedication was going to take place. There were probably 250-300 nationals and about 100 "whiteskins" who came for the dedication. The band played for a bit while everyone found seats in either the grandstands or in the grass. (The pictures below are of the parade as it approached the field, the grandstands filling with people, and the same band as it played after everything was over)

For the next few hours, various men gave speeches to honor the occasion, but most of them were speaking in Pisin. Scott Bauman gave me general translations, and I definitely came away knowing a lot more Pisin than when I started! We were welcomed probably more than 30 times, but interestingly, the nationals there knew how everything works. Instead of thanking just SIL in PNG for bringing them the New Testament, they also said, "We want to thank everyone who is supporting the work of SIL for making this day possible." You had a part in this too!

One of the other speakers said, "English is a foreign language to us, and Pisin is a foreign language to us, but KUMAN is OUR language, and our hearts know this language!" The crowd was calm and mostly unemotional during the afternoon, but this was one time that they lit up and you could see that they were excited to be reading the Bible in THEIR language.

SIL director Jan Gossner read John 1:1 in the original Greek, then Spanish, then English, then Pisin, and then finally in Kuman. The crowd really got excited to hear it in Kuman, and I also got a better understanding of why it's important to be able to have the Bible in your heart language. Having had a year of Greek, I understood most of that, and having had two years of Spanish, I understood most of that too, but then when it was read in English, it was a lot more powerful and meant a lot more.

Another speaker challenged the people to use their New Testaments, rather than letting them sit on shelves and get dusty and eaten by cockroaches. He said that other people get their Bibles and are excited, but then sometimes they'll forget about them and it doesn't do any good. He said that the Kuman people weren't going to do that. They were going to use them all the time and recognize how valuable God's Word is.

The regional director of SIL also spoke and started his speech by saying, "These mountains weren't here at one point, and these trees weren't here at one point, and the animals weren't here at one point, and people weren't here at one point, but God spoke, and created all of this with His words, and now you have His Word in your language." We could see the nationals listening intently and looking around at the things which he was describing, then suddenly realizing how powerful God's Word is, and getting excited that now they could read and hear it in their heart language.

After all the speeches were over came the most memorable part of the dedication for me. I was asked to oversee/help with the sales of the New Testaments, so I went down to the tables in front of the grandstands to set that up with a few other people. As we were getting everything ready, the nationals started to bring a few boxes of Bibles from the truck to the table. As they did so, they were holding the heavy boxes high above their shoulders and shouting triumphantly. One man would start a single yell on a certain pitch, then everyone else would join in for a few seconds, and then they'd repeat the cycle. They brought the boxes to the tables, and as we started opening them the nationals started getting more excited. They kept up the yells as they walked in a continuous circle around us and the tables. I wish I had gotten a chance to get a video of that, but at the moment I was setting everything up. Then again, had I not been setting up, I wouldn't have been in the middle of it, and it wouldn't have been quite so incredible.

There had been pre-orders of Bibles, so many of the people had blue tickets to turn in for Bibles, but plenty of others gladly paid 12 Kina there for their copies. A local member of Parliament was there and had given a speech or two, and he bought 3000 Kina worth of Bibles (250) to give out free to local churches. He opened one box on the field there and said they were "free to the first people who get them" and nearly caused a stampede. At another point, Leah Pfantz started reading from the Kuman New Testament and gathered a large crowd around her as she read. The picture below was actually one of the Pfantz's guests telling stories, but it was the same effect both times. (The difference was that I couldn't get close enough to get a good picture of the crowd around Leah)

After it was all over, we split up and ate meals with various pastors and church groups in the evening. They were very welcoming and glad to have us there. After a good night's rest, we traveled back through the mountains to Ukarumpa on Saturday. The shot below gives you an idea of what it looked like. The road across the bottom of the picture is our road, but I'm not sure if the road through the middle was ours or if that one just leads to a village somewhere. Either way, that's what the roads look like through the mountains, though these were more often paved fairly well. You can also see a massive landslide in the top right of the picture that took out a village and part of the highway too.

This week, as I've already said, won't be spent in the Finance office. I'm leaving tomorrow morning to go with a mission trip to nearby Yonki until Friday. More on that later...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

On the road again

Tomorrow morning (early) I leave for Kundiawa and the Kuman New Testament dedication, and about a day after getting back, I'll be leaving again to serve in a different way here. Instead of working in the finance office next week, I'll be helping lead a VBS for the national kids not far from here in a place called Yonki. I'll have a lot more to write about both of those events after they happen, but in case you don't see any updates in the next week, it's because I'm not going to be around much.

I also forgot to mention two things about Madang. First, there are thousands of giant flying foxes (a type of fruit bat) in town there, roosting on trees everywhere and flying over the town after 6 in the evening. They have about a 3-foot wingspan... and it's surreal to see them all filling the sky. Here's a shot of one of the many trees that they sleep in during the day:

Also, I saw these construction workers in front of one of the stores in Madang. They were putting those metal pylons in front of the building to prevent cars from being able to run into it, and in order to do so, they had to make holes in the nice brick sidewalk you see here. Well, the two guys using the large irons to bash holes in the sidewalk were wearing flip flops, and often mashing them into the brick just inches from their feet. They do things differently around here than in the States, that's for sure! Oh, and the guy welding was sparing in his use of the mask too. I don't know how he did it, but he wouldn't put it on. He'd just hold it in front of his face every so often, but not even during the whole time he was welding.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Madang

I just got back from a relaxing weekend on the coast, near the town of Madang. It's in the center of the northern shore of PNG, and it's a beautiful place. Basically, think of the most perfect setting for the description "tropical paradise", and you'll get some idea of what it was like where we stayed. The resort was called Jais Aben, which in the local language means "resting place". Warm temperatures with a cool breeze, coconut palms and orchids, white sand beside clear blue water, coral reefs and tropical fish, clear skies and exotic birdsongs... yeah, it was nice. Our rooms were about 30 feet from the ocean, with great views of the bay and the nearby islands covered with palm trees. Here are a few pictures that don't really do it justice:

While Jais Aben was quite nice and deserves its title of "resting place", the ride down to Madang wasn't quite as restful. Right now it takes about 5.5 hours (by car) to go north from Ukarumpa into the Ramu Valley, across the Finnestere Mountains, and into the Madang region. I say "right now" because the road conditions are variable, and the current conditions are not so favorable through the end of the Ramu and the passage through the Finnesteres. The only road is not paved for 42 kilometers (about 26 miles) of steep uphill and downhill driving through the mountains. There are large potholes and rain gullies everywhere, and it took us about 2 hours to navigate it on the way to Madang. I took a six-minute video of it on our way back to Ukarumpa, so when I get home some of you will be able to see that and get a better idea of just how rough it was.

The end result of the journey was well worth it though, and the journey itself wasn't all bad. There were some great views throughout the trip, first from the top of the Kassam mountain pass as we came out of the highlands down into the Ramu. Then, in the Ramu, it was quite a sight to look up at the towering mountain ranges on both sides of the perfectly flat, 10-20 mile wide valley. Finally (in between bouncing in and out of potholes) I got to see some of the incredibly vertical and jungle-covered Finnestere mountains, where there were also more colors and sizes of butterflies than I even imagined existed.

The highlight of the trip was definitely snorkeling. We spent a day by the water at Jais Aben, where we saw some nice coral and quite a few brightly colored fish. The water was a little cloudy 10-15 feet down because of the previous night's rain, so it was still nice, but not necessarily spectacular. The second day, however, was absolutely incredible. We went up the coast a bit to a place called Rempi, where someone known by SIL had built a private little cabin beside a perfect lagoon. There was a coral reef and a small narrow island about 100 yards from shore, sheltering the 30-foot deep lagoon from most waves. The water was perfectly clear, so even in the deepest water, we were easily able to see every detail of the bottom. The coral here was much more vibrant, and there were thousands of fish here, much more numerous and varied than what we saw at Jais. It was amazing to be able to swim in warm water, surrounded by schools of bright yellow or electric blue fish, with their colors complementing the golden or orange-red or nearly ultraviolet colors of the coral below, all of which could completely fill your field of view and be patterned with lines of sunlight from the gentle waves above. I really wish I had an underwater camera for that, though I'm sure nothing short of the experience itself could come anywhere close to being as incredible as it was.

After arriving back in Ukarumpa, I was refreshed and re-energized to go back into the office today and work again. It was a good experience to get out of the centre here and see a little more of PNG - not just Madang and the coast, but also the land in between. I have a better perspective on the diversity of the geography here, why more than 800 languages have developed in the country, and why there are actually still areas where many people have never seen a "whiteskin". The mountains offer few places to put a runway, and the roads (if they exist) are as described above: barely passable. The landscape is breathtaking at times though.

I won't be here in Ukarumpa long, as I'm leaving Friday morning to go to the Kuman New Testament dedication. That will be another experience that I'll have a lot to say about. It should be exciting since it's the culmination of many years of work, and it's the real reason why everyone is here serving with SIL in Papua New Guinea.

I had asked for prayer for the visa situation lately, and God has been answering those prayers. Everyone who needed a visa before the end of June now has one, and to my knowledge, all of the many families leaving in the last week and a half were able to go on time. Continue to pray since there are still others planning to leave in July... but the biggest problem is past, and everything went well.

Another prayer request here is for the Kuman dedication this weekend. The family who did the translation said that there has been a lot of spiritual warfare in this during the last few months, and currently there are some issues in getting the bulk of the printed New Testaments to the dedication site and in a condition that they can be distributed. Pray that all the logistics will be worked out and that things will be ready on time.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Current Events

This week was quieter in terms of the number of activities or unique events that I got to be a part of. The high school graduation (29 seniors) was Tuesday night, so I went there to see Scott graduate, though by that time I also knew almost half of the other seniors too. It was a good ceremony, with some time spent in looking back and looking forward, personalized to each graduate. I guess that's the best word to use: it was personal.

Now that graduation is past, though, almost all of the seniors and their families are going back to their home states/countries for furloughs or to get settled into colleges. June is apparently the month known for this "mass exodus" each year, but this year is a little crazier than normal with the visa situation that I've mentioned previously. The families leaving this week are all taken care of, but I don't think any of next week's departures have their visas yet. Continue to pray for that situation.

This morning we had some rain, but then it cleared up a bit when I was heading out for work. Here's a shot of the finance office where I've been spending so much of my time, and after that are a few pictures of the flowers outside the Bandy's this morning as they were still beaded with raindrops. The gardener at the finance/director's office was so proud that I took some pictures of the flowers in his garden too! He's a nice guy. We can't really communicate that much, but he knows a little English, and I know a little Pisin, so we get by.

I've been asked to include another picture of the kittens here at the Bandys, and, well, this is about as good of a shot as you're going to get with five kittens to try to keep in the frame! It's fun to watch them, they're certainly a lot more active than they were before. They've also started to purr for the first time, as well as playfight with each other from time to time. One of them was even trying to lick his paws today. I'd better stop describing what they do, or else I'm going to have a few requests to bring them home!

One other cool thing that hasn't happened yet, but will be happening this weekend is that I'm going to Madang, which is on the coast. It's considered one of the most beautiful places not only in PNG, but in the Pacific. I'm pretty excited about that! I'll definitely write more about it on Tuesday or Wednesday when I get back.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Pavlova

I almost forgot... I got to experience an Australian specialty dessert today, called pavlova. It's really good, kind of a meringue cake with fruit on top (in this case, kiwis and strawberries). Mrs. Bandy said this is the best one she's ever made, so of course, I had to put a picture up and tell you all how good it was. :)

Latest adventures

Here's what I've been up to for the last few days... Thursday morning was the monthly half day of prayer on centre, so I joined many other people in the meeting house for that. It's neat to see everyone make it a point to get together for that much prayer time each month. I've already mentioned some of the prayer requests (visas, RAM water pump), and two of the other highlights were prayers for those going home for furlough or for good, that there would be new people willing to serve in their places.

Friday morning the audit team left to go back to their various home states/countries. I took some time off to say goodbye to them before they flew out. It was fun to s pend time with them over the last three weeks, and until this weekend, every time I went off-centre, it was with some or all of them. Later, in the evening, there were swing dance lessons and a dance afterwards, so I went with some of the YWAM team that's here to learn how to do that a little more.

Saturday I went into Kainantu again, this time with the Baumans to celebrate Michael's birthday. We ate at Hig(h)lands Chicken again (the "h" is in parentheses because on most of the signs and labels, it's written "Higlands." look closely at the icon on the left side of the sign though...) and did a little shopping there.

It was different going into Kainantu the second time. I picked up a lot more of what was going on and what it looked like, because I was already slightly familiar with the place. It's still nothing wonderful (they call it the armpit of the highlands) but it's certainly a unique experience to see what it's like. Below is a picture of an evangelistic billboard there, which also gives you a general idea of what the town looks like. You can see a little bit of the trash that's lying around all over the place, and the people lined up, sitting outside of almost every building. Also, the man smoking in the foreground. Actually, smoking isn't as big here as chewing beetlenut. (I can't remember if I've described what they do with that or not, so I'll take a paragraph to do that below the picture) I took this one while we were driving, so it's not as high quality. If you click on it to zoom in, you can probably read the sign, as well as see the K-Mart to the right and the bank to the left. I have no idea if this K-Mart has any relation to the K-Marts of the US, or if it's someone trying to make people think it has some relation to the K-Marts of the US, or if it's just coincidence.

Beetlenuts... ok, what the nationals do is they take the beetlenut, mash it up and mix it with lime (as in, what we put on our lawns, not the fruit) and mustard plant, then they chew it kind of like tobacco. Apparently it's like a mild narcotic. (I've heard many descriptions of what it does to them, but that's the most common one) It's a bright red color, and you can see it all over the streets in Kainantu where they've spit it out. (they're not allowed to chew it in Ukarumpa) It also stains their mouths, and creates lots of problems because it destroys their teeth and very often causes oral cancer. The Pisin term for it is "buai", and it's definitely a big, but not glamorous, part of the culture.

Today was a typical Sunday so far, sleeping in a bit and going to the English church service, then playing ultimate frisbee in the afternoon. I got so muddy doing that today... because we got a lot of rain last night. That reminds me, I experienced an earthquake for the first time last night! It was just a little one, and most people who were standing up didn't really notice it. I was in bed at the time, just about ready to fall asleep, when I felt my bed shaking back and forth. It lasted about 10-15 seconds, and it took me about 5 of those seconds to figure out what was happening. We'll see if another one hits while I'm here or not. They're not uncommon in PNG.

I think that's all for now... more updates later!

Hydrogen Dioxide

So I realized recently that I haven't really said much about how we get and use water here in Ukarumpa. It's actually a neat system. Almost every building has a water tank or two outside, with all the gutters and downspouts running into it to collect rainwater. Here's a picture of a typical tank:

The tank acts like an above-ground well, with a pump drawing water out as necessary. The water in the tank is not always sufficient to cover all the needs of a household, so we need to keep an eye on it and switch to a ground water source from time to time. (commonly known as the RAM pump, which serves the whole centre, and draws somewhat murky water from a site nearby)

Neither of these sources is very sanitary for drinking, so most households have a water purification system in a large bucket for drinking water. Everything else is done with untreated water.

For hot water, most houses have a solar water heater on the roof, which uses the sun's warmth to heat the water going through it. Obviously this works best on sunny days... but it will still be at least warm after a cloudy/rainy da y or two. Some houses have electric heater backups to make sure there is enough hot water for the demand. The picture of the solar heater below was actually taken at my hotel in Port Moresby, but there are identical units all over the place here.

There is a legal issue with the RAM pump at the moment, because it is located on property owned by a neighbor to the SIL centre here. I may have mentioned this before, but land ownership and property rights are big deals around here. Well, this neighbor decided that he didn't like leasing part of his land to SIL for the pump anymore, so he threatened to damage it, and now there is a court case about it. We're currently in the process of creating another ground water source on centre, which will either serve as a backup to the current pump or will replace it, depending on the final outcome. This is another area that could use some prayer.

Apparently at one point, there was even some tribal fighting over this RAM water issue, with some nationals supporting SIL and defending the pump against this landowner and some of his friends. Most here are on our side, even many members of his line (ie. family/tribe), and we are coming up with another source of water, so it shouldn't affect SIL too much. But pray that this doesn't become a long-standing barrier between the two sides, so that the work of evangelism is not hindered.

This post was originally supposed to go up on Thursday, but I was having some connection problems. I'll be back later today to update you on the weekend.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Flora and Fauna

I've had a few questions about the wildlife/plants around here, so I'll describe that a bit in today's post.

Most of you know I'm an avid birdwatcher, but so far I've only seen around 10-15 species of birds here. The ones that I have seen are quite plentiful, but apparently the avian population here isn't too diverse. I have heard a rumor that someone has a bird book that I can borrow, so it's possible that I can finally identify everything I've seen, rather than just a few of them. The most exotic species so far is some kind of lorikeet, brightly colored with red, green, blue, and yellow. There are a lot of those around, and they sit up in the trees and squawk (like clockwork) every morning from about 6AM to 7AM and every evening from about 5:15-6:15. There are several different kinds of hawks here, but I hadn't seen more than one species until this weekend. Now I'm up to four, but I only know the name of one of them. There was also some kind of... well, I don't even know what family of birds to put it in... it was mostly brown but it had bold yellow and black patterns on its head, and it was like a giant robin that somehow hung around on the tips of branches and stuck its head into flowers. I also saw a flock of finches/sparrows flying around Lonetree yesterday; they were mostly brown with yellow on their backs. Again, I don't really know what most of these are yet! Hopefully soon.

As far as mammals... I've seen... nothing. (other than pet cats and dogs) That probably has a lot to do with the fact that I'm inside Ukarumpa most of the time.

Reptiles/amphibians.... the only one in that category is the lit tle green/brown gecko that I see every once in a while. There was one in my hotel in POM, and I've seen two here in Ukarumpa so far. People don't really even talk about snakes here, so I guess there aren't that many in the highlands.

I was expecting to see a lot of large insects here, but so far that's been limited too. There are a lot of garden spiders that make their massive webs in bushes and trees (and can be seen from pretty much any place where you can see the bush or tree itself). They are black and yellow and green, and the largest ones are probably a little smaller than my palm. Not that I've gotten close enough to tell exactly... I also almost stepped on a big brown hairy spider in the basement last week. That's it as far as spiders though. I've heard that roaches (about 1-2 inches long from what I've seen so far) are somewhat common, but they mostly stay out of sight. There aren't many mosquitoes here in the highlands, which is good, because that lowers the chances of anyone getting malaria or dengue fever. (I've seen two mosquitoes so far here, and killed both of them quickly) There are lots of crickets and chirping things at night, but I haven't bothered to look for those.

While the animal world isn't that diverse here, the plant world certainly is. There are so many different kinds of flowers, bushes, and trees that it would be quite a task to learn all their names. The black, volcanic soil here makes just about anything flourish. I don't even know where to start to describe them all... other than that if you can imagine a plant, there's probably something here that's not too much unlike whatever you've just imagined. :-) In looking through my photo collection so far to find good pictures for today's post, I realized that I need to go out around Ukarumpa on a sunny day and get pictures of some of the flowers here. Most of what I have is either in less flattering light (since it's been cloudy a lot lately) or is just foliage, like these below.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Lonetree


Today, June 9th, is celebrated as the queen's birthday, which is a national holiday in PNG. I think it goes back to the time when PNG had some ties with Australia, which was of course once a British possession. Something like that. Anyway, it means that everyone has the day off here. So instead of going in to the finance office at 8 this morning, I took a hike up a mountain outside of Ukarumpa known as Lonetree with a group of others. Most of the mountain is covered with tall grass, as you can see from the picture above. The stand of trees up top is actually the edge of a small forest that extends down the other side, but apparently about 30-40 years ago, all you could see was one tree. Thus, it became known as Lonetree. (I am told that the historic "lone tree" has since been struck by lightning, died, and become not much more than a blackened stump)

We left around 8:30, just after the night's misty rain had stopped. (of course, in the end we still got soaked, because the grass was about waist high or more, and it was still all wet from the rain) We had to take off our shoes and cross the Bae River just outside Ukarumpa, then we went through a little village where a young boy named Jack took it upon himself to be our guide. He led us up to the top on paths that he assured us (in Pisin) that would keep us away from the landowners who would charge us 20 Kina to walk on their property. The paths were very narrow trails through the grass that were easy enough to see when you were on them, but were small enough that you probably couldn't find them if you were only 10-15 feet away. We estimated that it was about a two mile hike to the top, where (with Jack's help) we made a small fire to warm up and dry off a bit. We saw misty views like the one below on both sides of the mountain, which overlooks long valleys on both sides.


On the way down, it was an adventure making our way along the paths without slipping around too much. The dirt on the little trails was hard packed clay, and since it was wet and our shoes were muddy, we had fun laughing as we all took our turns on the ground from time to time. (Jack only slipped once I think. That was the spot where all of us ended up slipping too) By the time we were halfway down (again, about 2 miles in all) the sun was starting to come out and it was getting much warmer and drier. We came out to a little village and coffee plantation where of course everyone popped out of their houses to see us and wave and smile as we passed. It really is a neat experience to be able to make everyone's day with a wave, a smile, and an "apinun" greeting.

After that, it was about a 4-5 mile walk on a dirt road back to Ukarumpa. Now it was quite a bit warmer, since the sun had finally broken through the clouds, but it was still a nice hike. We got to enjoy seeing the sun and clouds playing across all the grassy hills, which is when I took the picture you see at the top of this post. We got back and were all ready for a rest, considering the whole hike was about 8 miles. Jack stuck with us the whole way until he had to take a trail back to his village towards the end, and patiently waited from time to time for us whiteskins to catch up to him on the steep climbs up the mountain.

It was a nice hike, and sometime I'll have to go up there when it's sunny so that I can see what's it's like when it's clear. It was still neat to see the mist and clouds rolling and moving across the top of the mountain and falling into the valley below. Now, after taking a shower and cleaning up a bit, I'm just relaxing and enjoying the day off.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Mumu!

Well, now I finally have some time to update you on my weekend. There were two high school music concerts this weekend that I very much enjoyed. The first was Friday night's jazz concert, and the second was Saturday night's band and choir concert. The kids here are very good musicians, and it was fun to hear what they could do.

Saturday afternoon, I took a hike with a few members of the audit team around some of the area south of the centre. It was nice to get outside of Ukarumpa for a little bit and see more of PNG. We came to this one little village where a big crowd of kids came running out to meet us. They absolutely LOVED having their pictures taken! I got some fun videos of them all screaming and laughing and jumping for joy as one of the other guys was getting ready to take their picture. It was fun to be the highlight of their day!

Today, I went with the audit team to the PNG Bible church just outside Ukarumpa. The service was in Tok Pisin, and the congregation was almost entirely nationals. It was interesting, even though we couldn't really understand much of what was being said. The sermon was about how Jesus needs to be Lord of our lives, we can't be going after materialism or spirit worship (something that was, and still is to some extent, a part of the culture here).

Afterwards, we went to a traditional PNG "mumu". That's their name for a big meal. What they do is they dig a pit in the ground, then put rocks in the bottom. They build a big bonfire on top of the rocks, which heats up the rocks. When the fire has died down, they scrape away most of the ashes and coals and leftover charred wood, then throw bundles of food (wrapped in huge green banana leaves) on top. They lay more banana leaves on top of that, then cover what is now no longer a pit, but a mound, with dirt. Typically they will also stick bamboo pipes in so that they can pour water into the mound through them, which creates lots of steam when the water reaches the hot rocks. They pull the pipes out and seal off the mound as well as possible so that they've essentially created a giant pressure cooker in the ground! About 2 hours later, they'll start digging the food out, and the meal is ready to enjoy. Here's a sequence of the food being uncovered:


The food was pretty good, mostly a variety of starchy items like 3 varieties of kaukau (sweet potatoes), some real yams (not what we call yams in the States, which are really sweet potatoes), some cooking bananas (which are meant to be cooked rather than eaten raw), and this grass/root thing (I forget the name) which I tried, and don't really know what to compare it to. Others said it tasted like cooked cattails, though I can't really vouch for that, as I've never had cooked cattails. If any of you have, well, then maybe you know what this tasted like! We also had some chicken, pork, and sausages to go with all the potatoes. Usually that's about the extent of the course options, but considering that we were a large group of "whiteskins," our host put out some fresh fruit as well. The pineapple was amazing! I don't think I'll be able to enjoy it in the States anymore. It has so much flavor here!

We also tried a few coffee "cherries" that were growing nearby. You would never know that we get coffee beans from them, if you didn't know better. It really does look like a small cherry, with something that looks a lot like a bean seed inside. The cherry part is fairly sweet, and the bean really doesn't have any flavor. Apparently the coffee beans we're used to seeing only get their flavor through being roasted. Speaking of which, apparently the coffee here is so much better than what we have at home, and it's a reasonable price too. (I don't drink coffee, but people who do have told me this) If any of you want me to buy some for you and bring it back with me, let me know, and I'll get a definitive answer on what the price would be.

There's a group that just got in yesterday who will be staying here in the same house I'm in for the next 2 weeks. They're doing a missions trip around the world, stopping in Australia, PNG, Thailand, India, Nepal, the Netherlands, and then back to the US. One of their leaders is named Jacob, and he and I are sharing the same room right now. They thought that would make things easier, having both of us in the same room. All they have to do is say "the Jacobs' room" and it's clear what they mean. The place is quite lively now that they're here. I may get to go out and around the valley with them from time to time too.

There's something here you can be praying about, that I don't think I've mentioned in any of my other posts. SIL members all have to have visas to be here, and I think they're valid for three years. Unfortunately, they are done in a large batch, so they all expire at the same time. Normally this isn't a problem, they just send everything in for renewal processing and within a month or two it's all taken care of. Well, this year, there's a big backlog in Port Moresby (which is where they're all processed) so a lot of people are without valid visas. The government is ok with letting them stay here even though their visas have expired, because the government knows the situation. Members can't, however, leave the country without a valid visa. There are a lot of people who are planning to go back to the States or elsewhere in the next few months for furlough, to take their kids to college, etc. If they don't get their visas on time, they can't go, which is anywhere from a $5000-20,000 loss depending on the size of the family and the number of airline tickets involved. At this point, people have been able to get their visas sometimes just days before they leave, but the whole situation is quite stressful for those with plans to leave. Pray that the offices in POM will be able to process everything quickly and that everyone who needs their visa will be able to get it on time.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Correction...

...yesterday's picture actually had five kittens in it, but you couldn't see the fifth because it was still hiding inside Kiki. This morning I went down to see how they were doing, and #5 was there, apparently born during the middle of the night sometime. The newest arrival looks a lot like #4, just without the white paws and white back legs. I would have another picture, except every picture I take only shows four of the kittens well, because there's always one on the bottom of the pile. Don't worry, if only for my sisters' sakes, there will be another picture or two later as they're growing up. :-)

This morning we had a heavy rainstorm, which was good, because things were starting to get dry. (unfortunately, it hit during the time that I had to walk across the compound to go to the print center) Things are a lot greener and brighter right now, as the sun has finally come out and is starting to set.

The reason I went to the print shop this morning was to help out with what's called a "Scripture check." Basically, when a New Testament is completely translated but not yet printed, a team of people will get together to review the final draft for technical or printing errors. There were six of us working, and we checked things like page numbers, text formatting, cross-references (to make sure they're on the right pages, are chronological, and abbreviated correctly), and more. The entire Minimimb (yes, that's really the name of the language) New Testament was printed on individual sheets of paper, like these shown below. (This is the first page of Revelation, as well as another page from chapter three. This is one picture you're almost certainly going to have to click on to enlarge and be able to see it well)


You might be able to see how there are little corner outlines not too far away from the main text. What happens is that when the check is finished, the printers will take pictures of the area between those markings on these sheets, then mass-produce print copies of only that area. We were careful to do most of our handling on the edges of the paper, outside those lines. (we also had to wash our hands before working, to keep the pages as clean as possible) If we found a mistake, we had to take the page off the pile, draw a big red slash mark across it, and mark the mistake so that the page could be fixed and reprinted.

This was another one of those jobs that's slightly tedious, yet essential to the work here. In a short time, these pages will appear bound together with the rest of the New Testament as it's never been seen before, and the Minimimb people will be able to read God's Word in their own tongue for the first time. To be fair, though, the actual work of a Scripture check is not very exciting, but the atmosphere is exciting, because everyone knows what the final result will bring. Also, this isn't something that happens every day. The last Scripture check was finished four weeks ago, and apparently it's not often that two are done this close to each other.

One other thing that I didn't take a picture of, but noticed about some of the pages: there are often pictures of things which the people here may not be able to imagine because they've probably never seen them before. For example, many maps of the Mediterranean Sea region, a picture of a horse being turned with a bridle and bit (James 3), and a lion, leopard, and a bear so that they have some idea how to picture Revelation 13:2. (I'm not sure how much it will help in that particular case to know what those three animals look like on their own... but I guess it's better than nothing)

Another interesting thing about the Minimimb New Testament in particular (and may be true of others, though I don't know for sure) is that the verses are really long sometimes. It's not uncommon to have only 7-8 verses on a full page of text. I'm not sure, because no one in the room could read Minimimb and the translator wasn't there, but it may be because some words or concepts that are meaningful to us really have no direct translation in many native languages. The translator would have had to use 15 words to explain one English word... possibly a phrase like "not feeling angry about something wrong that was done or not ready to get back at someone for something wrong they have done" to substitute for the word "forgiving." That's not an unusual situation. Either that, or the Minimimb are just exceptionally verbose.

One last comment about translation in general: there are some amazing stories about how translators have finally found a way to describe a concept previously unfamiliar to the people whose language they are translating. I won't get into any of them now, or else I'll be here typing all night, and you'll be reading it just as long. It's neat to see how God works it out though.

There are also lesser situations, like Jesus' quote of "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." (Matt. 4:4) Well, for some of the people here, bread is a foreign concept. They don't make it or eat it. Therefore, this verse has little meaning to them. Instead, the translator will use a phrase such as "man does not live by kaukau alone" (with the appropriate other native words of course) because "kaukau" is the name of the sweet potato that is a high-carb staple of many tribal diets, not unlike bread to us.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Kittens!

Well, it's getting late, but I have time for a quick post to update you on the excitement of the day. The Bandy's cat Kiki had 4 kittens today! I got to watch the first 3 as they were born during my lunch break, and the 4th was born just before dinner. Kiki is a proud mom, and she's been purring all day! The kittens don't sit still for pictures very well, so this is the best I got. You can see all 4 pretty well. From left to right: #4, #3, #1, and #2. Suggestions for names, anyone? I don't know which are male and which are female.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I'm in the Southern hemisphere?

So I just realized yesterday that because I'm in the Southern hemisphere, the sunshine comes from the north rather than the south. That's a weird concept that I haven't quite gotten used to yet. I also saw the Southern Cross constellation Sunday night, which was exciting. Even though the days are usually sunny, most nights are cloudy, so that was the first time I saw it. I don't know any of the other southern constellations, so I didn't recognize anything. Nothing was anywhere close to as bright as the Southern Cross though. Actually, I did recognize another one - it was the Big Dipper, which appears just above the northern horizon here.

Sunday was a fairly relaxing and restful day, which is nice. At school, there are so many Sundays where I have to be working on (or at least thinking about) all the things I have to do. I went to the English service rather than the Tok Pisin service this week, so it really wasn't that much different from anything we would find in the States. The evening service, however, was centered on the work of the translators here. The Lee family (from Korea) recently finished translating the New Testament into a tribal language (unfortunately can't remember the name...), and they were sharing about the nearly 20 years of work that they put into that and the dedication when the new Bibles arrived for the first time. They showed a video of the highlights of the dedication, and it was amazing to see the joy on the faces of those who were seeing God's Word in their native language for the first time. 1200 Bibles were distributed that day, with hundreds more to follow in the days and weeks following.

It's incredible to think of what it must be like to spend 20 years or more in the same village, translating the New Testament into that language for the first time. God certainly gives these translators strength that they don't have themselves. Some have a harder time than others, but even the "easiest" translation work still takes many years to complete, with many obstacles along the way. The village lifestyle is not easy or comfortable either, with most villages here lacking electricity or easy communication with the rest of the world. I can't imagine what it must feel like to see the fruit of their work after having gone through all that. I already mentioned the immediate result of joy on the people's faces, but there is also the long-term and more important result: many of these people will come to Christ, or at least know of Him, as a result of having their own New Testament.

Monday and today were spent mostly in the finance office, doing what probably everyone (even accountants) would consider less-than-exciting tasks. Examples: taking 4000 paper Kina notes fresh from the mint (which means they stick to each other), counting them in groups of 10 and folding those in half, then putting groups of 100 in rubberbands. Or, taking rolls of 25 coins, removing 5 of the coins, re-wrapping the roll that now has 20 coins, and collecting the extras that had been taken out to make new rolls of 20. This is so that it's easier for the cashier at the little bank to serve the customers who come in. Or another, photocopying all the checks that are ready to go in to the bank as a deposit. (There were a lot of those too)

I had plenty of time during these tasks to reflect on the work I'm doing here. I'm not here to serve myself, but to serve God and the people around me, so I've tried to have that attitude as I do these kinds of tasks. When I look at it that way, I really don't mind what kind of work I do. I'm just here to do whatever I can to help out, and right now that's an area where someone was needed to help.

Another way to look at it: I won't be translating the New Testament this summer, but that work wouldn't be sustainable without the support work here in Ukarumpa, part of which is the work of the finance office. Within the finance office, there is also work that is not glamorous, but it makes the operation of the finance office possible. So in a way, even folding money or rolling coins is furthering the mission of SIL.

Of course, there are many things done here that no one thinks of as "missionary work." When you think of being a missionary, let's say specifically here in PNG, you would probably first think of being a translator or someone who goes out and preaches God's Word in the tribal languages. Then maybe you'd think of the pilots who fly them around, and possibly even the doctors who serve the nationals and the mission workers here.

If you thought about this for a little longer, you could probably come up with other jobs, like accounting (though that's obvious to you now if you have any idea why I'm here this summer :), or teaching the children of those who are working here (which includes all subjects), or mechanics who repair the planes and vehicles that are so essential to the work.

But... now that you have a support center where almost everyone is based, you suddenly have a multitude of other necessary jobs. What about running a store, so that people can buy food and household supplies? How about a post office? Who will be equipping and maintaining the houses and buildings of the center (electricity, plumbing, construction/repair, etc? Or who will make sure that the supplies for all these jobs reach the center from the nearest port or larger town where they are available? Who takes care of the computer system and network of communication? Would you guess that there are people here to just serve as house parents for the children of translators, who need to go to school, which means they can't be with their real parents in the villages during the school year? (Their official job titles are "mom" and "dad") Further, who's going to manage, and more importantly, coordinate ALL these people and positions to make sure that the work done is effective?

The list could go on, but I think you get the idea. Some people have said that Wycliffe/SIL is the only organization where you can switch careers three times, yet still be working in the same place. Mission work can be done by anyone, in many different ways, and it's all important.


P.S. before I end this post, I know some of you are wondering what kind of birds are flying in the picture at the top. They happen to be black kites, and they are ubiquitous around here. It's not hard to take a picture like that, with more than one of them in the frame. It is harder, however, to get two of them in the frame in front of a cloud like that, which is being illuminated from behind by the setting sun.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Banquet and visit to Kainantu

This is a Willie Wagtail, one of the first birds I've positively identified here in PNG, as I have yet to find a bird book. For this one, Wikipedia came in handy. They're a rather common kind of flycatcher that rarely sits still enough to allow pictures like this.

Last night was the annual Banquet event here in Ukarumpa. It's a huge event, and it's basically all I've heard about all week. What happens is the parents of the juniors and seniors in high school here will take a week to set up and decorate the teen centre building with a theme that is kept a secret from the high schoolers. (this year was New York City, last year was Italy, etc.) The parents also make a fancy meal and prepare a play for the evening's entertainment. Then on Friday night, the juniors and seniors arrive all dressed up and in whatever dramatic form of transportation they can get. (examples: fancy police trucks, go-karts, and 3-wheeled "tuk tuk" trucks) It's a big deal, called the "grand entry." There's a huge crowd gathered to watch them arrive, and they all get introduced and show off their outfits before they go into the building. Scott and Michael Bauman were both able to go this year, as they are a senior and a junior, respectively. This week I learned that Banquet is a big part of the SIL culture, and it's neat to see how everyone comes together for the event.

I spent the rest of the evening with Mr. and Mrs. Toland, who are Arlene Bauman's parents. They served here in PNG for many years with two different language groups, and they came back for a year to work with the Rawa people again. They had some very neat stories and experiences to share, including how God called them back here again. Mrs. Toland dreamed that they were being called back, and prayed that Mr. Toland would have the same or a similar dream to confirm that it was God's calling. She didn't tell him about her dream, but a few days later, God gave him a dream that they were supposed to return. They've been able to accomplish a lot for their beloved Rawa in this past year.

The Tolands also shared how the culture here in PNG is very relationship-oriented, where most people are friendly and would give up everything they own rather than lose a friend. Life is also a lot simpler here, not only in the villages, but also in the SIL compound. Sure, things were kind of crazy this week preparing for Banquet, but for the most part, people aren't running around to 5 different activities. Instead, they're spending evenings together as families, or visiting with others. They're very open, and develop many good relationships. Those who have grown up here go to America and feel like so many people are either too busy to be a good friend, or they're wearing masks and aren't open enough to become friends.

There's also a lot less materialism in PNG. Houses are smaller, and some things that we take for granted as "necessities" just aren't common, if they're even practically available. However, there is some western industrialism and development that is starting to come into the culture, but it is creating more problems than benefits, as I'll explain below.

I don't know if I mentioned about how Ukarumpa has a security fence around the compound, and policemen with trained dogs patrolling after dark. Apparently almost everyone here has had some experience with being robbed, though it happens a lot less often inside the compound itself now that the fence is up. When people go to other towns, however, they have to be very careful with their money and valuable items, or else they will almost definitely be stolen.

The rampant theft and highway robbery has only come about in the past few decades, as people have started to see our Western advertisements. Any basic marketing class will tell you that advertisements are effective if they cause a person to feel a desire or even a need for the product being advertised. Well, these advertisements are doing just that. The problem is that while people have plenty of food (due to the excellent growing conditions), good houses, and good clothing, they don't really have much extra money. The only way for them to get these products they suddenly want is to steal. It's kind of sad to see/hear how things have deteriorated due to Western "improvements."

Today I took a trip with a group of people into a nearby town called Kainantu. There we got to experience a little of the real culture of PNG, rather than just the SIL-influenced culture of Ukarumpa. It's a small town, and actually it used to be an old airstrip. People started to put buildings on the runway because it was an open, flat piece of ground, and then it ceased to be an airstrip because it got too crowded. We were warned that there would likely be pickpockets there, and if we left the car at any time, we had to hide whatever things were in it and lock the doors so that it wouldn't be broken into. Thankfully, no problems this time.

We stopped by the Eastern Highlands Cultural Centre, where we were able to look at some of the native artistic handiwork, which was available for purchase. Here's an example of the Tok Pisin sign that announced the rules/standards of the place, which you might actually be able to understand with a little effort. It's easier if you read it out loud. At the bottom of this post, I'll give you a general interpretation. :-)

We stopped by the local market, and it was fun to be the cause of the most excitement they've had there all week. Everywhere we went, people just stopped and stared at us, and sometimes hid smiles or giggles. I didn't realize we Westerners look so funny! It was interesting to see the variety of fruits and vegetables for sale at the market. They were selling for incredibly low prices too. One of the most expensive things there was a coconut, which was 1 Kina, which is equal to about 37 cents. Most things (cabbages, groups of carrots, sugar cane, cooked chicken heads/feet, and other things I didn't even recognize) were selling for about 10-50 Toea, which is about 4-19 cents.

We also stopped at the most Western place in the town, a little "fast food" restaurant called Highlands Fried Chicken, where you could get anything you wanted, as long as it was fried chicken, and as long as they still had some left. (apparently our large group ate them out of their inventory of chicken) Most nationals only go there to buy drinks or ice cream, because it's too expensive for them to buy the chicken meals. They also served some decent french fries, which are called chips here. Oh, and chicken sandwiches are called chicken hamburgers. Above is one of the signs that was hanging in the little place.

There's so much more of the culture here/there that I could tell you about, but I don't want to make this any more ridiculously long than it already is. :-) You'll probably hear a lot of those things in later posts throughout my time here.

Oh, I almost forgot. The sign at the EHCC says roughly this: 1) Leave your bags and bilums (popular bag/purse-like things that almost every woman here has) at the door (when you come in); 2) If you break something, you buy it or pay for it; 3) You can't have anything for nothing (as in, shoplifting); and 4) You'll get caught stealing. Kind of a fun language, isn't it?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sunset stroll

Late this afternoon I decided to take a walk with my camera because it looked like we might have a decent sunset. There were a few nice panoramas, such as this one looking to the south of the compound. It makes a good picture, but it was a lot more spectacular in person.

Last night I went with Scott Bauman to a Bible study for some of the young men here. The topic was money, and Biblical stewardship of our finances. It was very interesting to discuss that with guys who had grown up here in PNG. Almost all of them had been to America at some point during furloughs, but the materialism and wealth of the United States was foreign to them. There wasn't the usual "Sunday school answer" of "I'll give money to missions," because these are the missionaries. Their families use their money to be missionaries, not to write checks to support someone else somewhere overseas. Like I said, it was interesting, and it was neat to look at it from a different perspective - it was more real.


I had to include this picture for my good friend Adam Aljets. He wasn't sure how pineapples grow, and when I found this during my walk tonight, I had to take a picture of it. Sorry Adam, they grow above ground. And no, I did not find one laying around and stick it in a bush to fake the picture. This is real. :-)

I also found the post I was trying to upload from Australia, and I put it up tonight. It shows up chronologically from when I started writing it, so you can scroll down to Sunday to find it.

P.S. You may have realized this already, but you can click on the pictures that I put in my blog, and they'll show up in a larger version. Some of the landscape pictures are better that way.

P.P.S. A certain individual asked whether the timestamps on my blog were my time or your time. They had previously been your time, but now they are all on PNG time. It's for that reason you may be reading this before 8PM Thursday and wondering where I found a time machine.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Winter weather?

Technically it's almost winter here right now, and we're at about 5200 feet elevation, but being so close to the equator means that we still had a beautiful day today. Sunshine, and temperatures in the mid-high 70s... just like it is almost every single day, all year long.

I spent most of the day in the finance office working on posting some cash out transactions (they have a little bank here), but I had time to walk around the compound on two separate occasions. I think I have a lot better idea of how to get around here now. The first time out, I took a road that definitely didn't end up going the direction I thought it was going to go, so I got to explore some new ground. The second time I took some new roads as well, but had a much better idea where they were going to end up.

My checked bag arrived today, and while it was missing the nice little name/address tag I had on the outside, everything appeared to be exactly as I had packed it. I got a laugh out of the ID label someone along the way had stuck to it, which read: "do not refrigerate." I also got my computer back from the computer center this morning, so I should be able to update a lot more regularly now.

So how can I put the last few days' experiences into a few short paragraphs... I'll go light on the details of the trip itself, since that's less exciting. Suffice to say it went well (now that I have all my luggage), but I was quite ready to be done sitting in planes by the time it was all over. The flight to Ukarumpa was the highlight of the trip, because I got to fly in a little KingAir plane and see a lot of the country. (by the way, the picture at the top of this page is the airstrip near Ukarumpa where we landed, and the plane there is not too much unlike the KingAir. The picture below is an aerial view of Ukarumpa, with the runway in the background.) When I got to Ukarumpa, I was greeted by the Baumans and then I had lunch/visited with them for a while. Coincidentally, I arrived on the same day as the team that's auditing SIL over the next few weeks, so I spent part of the afternoon with them going through some basic orientation.


That night I spent the evening at the Baumans' house, and they helped me get adjusted to the time zone by keeping me awake until about 10. (once I went to bed though, I didn't move until my alarm went off at 6:45 AM) We talked a lot about what it's like here, and some of the things we might do while I'm here. I'll write about those later if they take place.

Tuesday, I spent most of the day in the finance office, getting oriented and doing some odd jobs here and there. I spent the evening with the Bandys (the family I'm staying with for now), and went to bed a little early since I'm still not quite over the jet lag.

You already know what I did today so far... so I'll finish with a few descriptions of random aspects of PNG and the culture here. I've already described the landscape a little bit, since that was the first thing I was able to experience. You'll see enough pictures to know that it's quite a nice place. The people here are friendly, and it's impossible to walk around without having almost everyone smile (and sometimes wave) and greet you. Most of the nationals don't speak English fluently, if at all, but they all know Tok Pisin, the trade language, so I hear that a lot. I've picked up a few things here and there, since it uses a lot of English words or close transliterations of English words. (example, "road" is "rot" - pronounced like the English "rote", and "please" is "plis", pronounced the same way) Other words aren't so easy to figure out, but I'm hoping to learn a lot more before I leave here. There are only 3000 words in the language, and there aren't any verb tenses, so that should help.

Each afternoon I've been here, I've seen a group of kids playing rugby in an open area not far from where I'm staying. That's definitely popular here, as there was also a professional game going on at a stadium not far from my hotel in Port Moresby. I could hear the crowd cheering and chanting frequently.

The SIL compound offers many jobs to the nationals living nearby, and this morning when I was walking around, I saw many of them coming in for the days' work. A lot of them work as gardeners, so a few of the men were carrying large bush knives (rather more like small swords by their size). I was glad they were smiling as I passed. The market in Ukarumpa was open this morning too, and it seems to be quite the place to be. I'll have to stop in sometime to check it out.

I haven't gotten to experience the cultural cuisine yet, so I don't really know how it's different from what I'm used to. I can say, however, that Mrs. Bauman and Mrs. Bandy are good at cooking Western foods. Gardening is a big thing around here, as you can apparently put something into the ground, and without much care at all, it will flourish. I mentioned that it's almost winter, but since it's so nice year-round, the growing season never ends. I saw full-grown corn today, not far from a place where some others were tilling the soil around their little cornstalks that were only a foot high. Banana trees are ubiquitous around here, but there aren't too many that have fruits on them right now. The nationals even garden on the steepest hillsides, like this one outside of the compound.