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


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.