Saturday, December 22, 2012

The House Saga, Part 2

Back in July, we shared with you the saga of our house in Lawrenceville.  You can read the complete story here.

We spoke with our bank about doing a loan modification, so we could avoid adding to the debt by doing a refinance.  Before beginning all the work, we were assured by the bank that they wouldn't just look at our income and mortgage amount.  They would take into consideration our entire situation.  We began the process of the modification.  It was painful.  We couldn't do anything via email, which makes things difficult when you are dealing with a 14 hour time difference and located on the other side of the world with limited internet.  This left most of the work on Tara's dad.  Our first hurdle was having the bank actually recognize his Power of Attorney and talking with him.  That took a while.  The second hurdle was getting our information to them.  It seemed that no matter how many times Dad would upload or fax the information, they would still need stuff again and again.

The third hurdle was convincing them why we needed a modification.  This was tricky because if you just strictly looked at the mortgage payment and our year-to-date income, we should have no problems making our payment.  The one-time gifts we received to help cover our costs for plane tickets, moving expenses, and training were all lumped into our year-to-date income.  We also had to explain the much higher cost of living in Papua New Guinea in addition to the decreased rents in the neighborhood.

We drew up a budget and a letter of hardship for the bank explaining all of these details. We explained the reasons for needing a modification.  It took months of going back and forth between my dad and our "representative" from the bank.  Finally it made it to the review panel.  Unfortunately they looked at our income on the our pay stubs and looked at our payment amount and said 'denied'.  We were so frustrated and angry and unable to understand what happened.  We felt like we were lied to and deceived.  Our "representative" told me that our reasons didn't matter because they said we could make the payment according to their "charts" because we weren't living in the house.  I wanted to shout "if you knew this, why didn't you tell us to begin with?  The information we have is that you do NOT have to be living in the house to qualify."

The week before we received the word our modification was denied, we learned that we had someone who was willing to rent our house. (happy dance!)  It meant almost $400 less per month than we were getting with our previous renter, but we figured it was better than no income. We know that somehow God would take care of it.  We thought for sure that modification would come through, but it didn't.

It was tempting to just quit paying our mortgage and tell the bank they could have the house.  But we didn't.  We couldn't do that to the people that had just signed a rental agreement, especially since they had to move because the owner of their last rental was being foreclosed on.  We know that had we not had these wonderful people making our house their home, we would have just thrown in the towel.  We know that God has a plan for us in all of this.  He has a plan for this house.  Oh, how I wish I knew the plan, but I don't.  Instead I just have to rest in His sovereignty.

We are now back to trying to refinance the house.  Lots of fun to try to do during the holidays.  We are trusting in God to provide for the difference in the rent and the current expenses of the house.  How?  I don't know, but God knows.  So grateful that He is still in control and on the throne!

Please pray for continued wisdom as we deal with the situation and finances back home.  Pray for God's continued provision for our family and for Him to be glorified in all of this!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Spiritual Lessons from My Child

I have this child that tends to be strong-willed.  I just don’t know where it comes from, although my parents always mention something about paybacks. 

This child was told to wash the dishes after dinner last night.  Instead this child decides she is too tired and has to go to bed- at 7:00pm during Christmas break.  She would do them in the morning.  I have a sneaking suspicion the child expected the dishwashing fairy to come along and take care of the mess.  Needless to say the pile was still there this morning when she awoke, actually it grew as breakfast dishes were added.  This afternoon, she thought she would barter.  She offered to wash clothes for a week instead of doing the dishes. She even drew up a contract. I told her I was happy to have her do the laundry, too, but it didn't change the original command to wash the dishes. She pulled the clothes out of the washer and did her best to hang them on the line.  Of course the line is a stretch for me to reach, so you can imagine for someone a bit smaller than me!  

As I was resisting the urge to lose my cool or even to start cleaning up, I felt God speaking to me.  He said “My Child, how many times have you tried to do something else instead of obeying and doing what I’ve told you to do?”  Wow.  I thought back to the times I would do something that appeared “good”, but it wasn’t God’s best.  It wasn’t what He told me to do.  I ended up wasting my time and energy doing something I was not to do.  I did it because I really didn’t want to do what I was told.  I wonder how many blessings I missed out because I didn’t obey.  How much grief did I endure because of my disobedience?
It’s easy to see how my child has missed out on a beautiful day playing outside with her friends and is now suffering the consequences of double the work.  Has she learned her lesson?  I hope so.  

It was hard to leave our families in January to follow God here.  No one would have faulted us if we had stayed and done what we wanted to do back home because we wouldn't have shared the truth of where God wanted us.  We would have still had a great appearance to others.  It wouldn't be where God had called us.  God doesn't force us to obey.  He allows us to choose, but as I continue to grow and learn, I've learned that the best choice is to do as He directs.    

Friday, October 5, 2012

Life in PNG- Daily Routine

I'm beginning a series of blog posts about our life here in PNG.  I thought it was only appropriate that I begin with our daily routine.

After months of unsettledness, moving, and just insanity, we have finally settled into a routine and home here in Ukarumpa.
Our home!
What a blessing to finally have some sort of routine, even if it isn’t completely normal!  I thought we’d give you a glimpse into our daily life.

Every morning, I’m up with the sun at 6:00am.  The first order is to get this cutie pie outside, so he doesn’t think it is time to play.
Timbit- the newest member of our family
Andrew, the early bird, has been very gracious the last few days to get the dog outside before I get up!  This has given me a few precious minutes of sleep, but here in PNG the son is up and shining at 6:00am, so it is time to get the day started.

Then it is on to making coffee and starting my morning off in the Word before the day begins.  Some things never change!

The morning swings into full action around 7am when everyone else comes out to join the fun.  The kids get ready for school while Tim is either getting ready for work or doing our morning trip to the market.  Yes, I could make it sound like we are all about eating healthy, supporting the local economy, and eating only the freshest fruits and veggies around, but that would be a lie.  We go because that is the only way we can eat cheap and get fresh fruits and veggies.  Trust me, I think Tim would much rather have those extra minutes of sleep!
You'll have to use some imagination. Picture people around these tables selling their fresh fruits and veggies.  C'mon, you didn't expect me to actually walk down there just to get a picture????
Quick info on the role of the bell in life in Ukarumpa.  We live and die, or so it seems, by the bell.  The bell rings at 7:45 to signify 15 minutes to work, then again at 8:00 to signal work begins.  It rings at 10:00am and 3:00pm for tea time begin and 10:15am and 3:15pm for end of tea time.  It rings at 12:00 for lunch, 12:45pm to head back from lunch, and then at 1:00 to start work.  The best bell of all is the 5:00pm bell.  (That’s the one to go home).  So, yes, that bell rings 10 times a day, and I’ve come to rely on it to tell the kids when to come home, etc.

Tim has to be at work at 8:00am.  Because we don’t have a car, he must walk to work.  In order for him to be on time without rushing, he leaves no later than 7:55am. He timed his walk home the other day.  It was 2 minutes, 45 seconds.  Of course that is downhill to get home. 
Tim's office is in the back left corner.
The kids are rushed out of here between 8:10 and 8:15 to be at school.  They are a bit more spoiled and get to use their own personal vehicles- their bikes. 
Bekah outside of school on her bike.

Andrew was being silly and pretending to park his bike in a car parking space.   
Finally after they are gone, I rush around and am out by 8:29 to be at work by 8:30.  Yes, it is a hard commute.  I can see the door to the office from my dining room table. 
I'm standing at the edge of our driveway.  See that blue building? Yep, that is where I go to work.  
Are you tired?  I’m tired and the day is just beginning.

Tim & I work “ordinary” jobs.  Tim is working in the Communication and Technical Services department (CTS), and I work in the Director’s Assistant to Personnel (DAP) office.  Right now Tim goes into the office and assists with the telecom (telephone) side of CTS.  I really don’t understand what he does. I just know that I like to talk on the phone, therefore his job is important!  My job involves working with people that are here, are coming here, or are leaving our group in PNG.  I’m still not sure what I’m all doing, but I learn something new every day! 

Tim & I come home for an hour lunch break.  Many days that is about the only time we have together without the kids.

Sometime between 2:30 and 3:00, I leave work to come home to meet the kids.  They are usually home by 3:30pm for a brief snack and then outside to play until 5:00. For some reason it takes them a lot longer to get home from school than it does to get to school.  I’m pretty sure it has to do with waiting for every single friend to get out of school. I hear them LONG before I actually see them coming over the hill. So, it looks like I just get the afternoon of quiet.  Not hardly.  I’m scrambling around trying to get ready for dinner, cleaning up, and just getting the house back in order.

Confession- typically, I only work 3 days a week- Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  So, that must mean I sit around the rest of the time, eating bon-bons and watching tv.  HAHA!  The beauty of life in Ukarumpa is anything that has to be done, is done between the hours of 8am-5pm, Monday-Friday.  So, on Tuesday and Thursday, if we have work that needs to be done at the house, I can be here.  I do my store shopping on those days.  I do pretty much anything, including cleaning on those days.  My favorite mornings are Thursdays.  I am in a Ladies’ Bible Study that reminds me it is not all about living and surviving.  It is all about thriving in Him!

The sun goes down a little after 6pm, so most outdoor activities and traveling around usually ends by this time.  The kids come home at the 5:00 bell to begin homework before dinner.  I like to think that most evenings are peaceful and relaxing, but most are just crazy.  At least 2-3 times a month (sometimes more), we have a family over for dinner.  Then on Tuesday nights, Tim & I are in a couples’ Bible study.  We have the kids in bed between 7:30 and 8:00pm.  Some nights we do watch a movie together, but most often we are trying to catch up on email and handling things back home while trying to stay awake past 9:00pm. 

Many Friday nights during school, there is Hamburger Night at the Teen Centre.  This is the highlight of my week because it means I don’t have to cook!  Many of the high school kids make money by working Hamburger Night.  We have hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs (not your American hot dogs), and sometimes chicken sandwiches and salads.  It is so nice to be able to have a break from cooking, to enjoy a meal with friends while the kids play together. 
We all line up under that covered shelter.  People begin lining up before 5:00pm most Friday nights.  

You must read the board to know what changes there are.  This is PNG, Land of the Unexpected, so you  learn to expect the unexpected. 
Our weekends do tend to be a little bit more relaxing.  Usually Tim is working on some project around the house, while I work on other things, or just read a book and relax.  We have plenty of neighbors with kids, so frequently I’ll have different kids in and out of my house.  Sometimes my kids aren’t even in the mix.
On Sunday we have our church service with many of the other missionaries.  The kids go to Sunday School, and we all go to service together as a family.   Our Sunday evening tradition has become eating popcorn for dinner and watching a movie together.  It is a nice way to end our weekend.

This is the Meeting house, which is where we have our church services.
That is our basic daily routine.  Just remember, it rarely happens just like this.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

September Newsletter

Our September Newsletter is done!  You can take a sneak preview here or wait for it to appear in your inbox.  If you haven't signed up to receive our newsletter click on the "Sign Up" link to the right.

I'm back into the blogging mode.  I am currently working on a series of blogs to be posted over the next few weeks about our lives here in Papua New Guinea.  Is there some question you've been wanting to know about our lives?  Ask and maybe I can answer it in a blog post.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

First Day of School

The kids began their very first day of school- EVER on Wednesday.  My kids have been homeschooled since birth, so I wasn’t sure how we would do.  They were ready to be with friends and have something to do, and I was ready to be able to get stuff done without breaking up a fight or being interrupted every 15 seconds.  It was an exciting, yet anxious day for all of us.  But there were no tears- just peace.
Aren't they cute?  Andrew was already tired of the "obnoxious mom" pictures!

Before Tim and I had kids, he suggested we homeschool.  He was fed up with the public schools and didn’t think we’d have money for private school.  I told him God would have to work on my heart.  Well, God did work on my heart, and we homeschooled from preschool on.  When we were first led into missions, when schooling and education options were brought up, I remember thinking “This doesn’t apply too much to me.  I homeschool and can do that wherever I am in the world.”  After we received our assignment to PNG, I was sent the information on the school.  I began doing some research.  This school was exactly the kind of school I would have my kids in if I could design a school for them.  Tim and I prayed and decided we would enroll them when we joined the work in PNG.  This was a big decision for me.  On one hand I was so excited they would be going to school, so they’d make more friends and have some incredible experiences.  On the other hand, I was scared because they wouldn’t receive the one-on-one instruction they were used to and would bomb out.  And what if I had messed up my kids all this time by homeschooling them???? 

Have you ever sat back in amazement at how God works out all those details that you have been fretting over?  I did that yesterday.  The kids are right where they belong, at least where they belong at this time.  Ukarumpa International School (UIS) has students and teachers from all over the world.  Most children are missionary kids, while some are Papua New Guineans who live nearby.  It’s staffed with missionary teachers, who are teaching because they want to be here teaching these kids.  

When we first arrived in May, the kids were tested for grade-level.  UIS tends to be ahead of schools back in the States, so this was a bit nerve-wracking, especially when the kids had just gone through more transitions in a year than most kids.  The results weren’t that surprising.  We spoke with the principal and decided Andrew should go on to 4th grade and Bekah needed to do 2nd grade.  This is where things got a bit sticky for a homeschooler.  Most children have really strong areas and weaker areas.  Homeschooling gives you the flexibility to be doing one level math and another level language and do social studies and science across several levels.  Not so much with a classroom setting.

Andrew had been doing a lot of 4th grade level work, so he wanted to start 5th grade.  Because of his age (he was ‘supposed’ to finish 3rd grade) and other factors, we knew he needed to continue and stay on track starting 4th grade.  Again, I sit in amazement at God’s work.  I kept hearing a lot about the 4th grade teacher.  The more I heard, the more I knew it was where he needed to be for his first year in school.  She is structured and has high expectations of them.  Andrew needs the challenge and the structure.  God knows! 

Andrew’s class has 16 kids- 3 girls, 13 boys, and the majority of students are multi-lingual with another language as their mother tongue.  The diversity is amazing!  Andrew shares a desk with a Papua New Guinea boy named David.  He has already made so many friends in the class.  His biggest complaint is that he has to wear tennis shoes because shoes with backs are required.  He came home today a bit discouraged saying his teacher wants them to only use cursive.  He kept begging me to teach him cursive last year, but with all that was going on, I just focused on Language Arts and Math.  I guess we’ll be working on cursive on the side. 

The hardest decision was for Bekah.  She had just finished 2nd grade, but we needed to re-do 2nd grade.  She was not happy.  I cried with her, and we talked about it.  Her biggest concern was her friends back home in Georgia.  They would all be in 3rd grade.  It is hard for a child to understand and my heart broke right along with hers.  Bekah is a late August birthday.  In the States that means she started Kindergarten before 5 because of the September 1st cut-off date.  At UIS the age cut off is August 1st, which meant she would have started Kindergarten a year later.  Before we left for PNG, we had Bekah tested for dyslexia. You can read her story here. Her testing showed she was severly dyslexic and reading at a pre-K level.  We did some intense work and therapy before leaving.  It was amazing watching her progress and gain 2 years of progress in just a few short weeks.  She is my amazing girl!  The biggest difference between 2nd and 3rd grade was reading instruction.  In 2nd grade the kids are still learning reading strategies, but by 3rd grade they are expected to know them.  With the dyslexia, she needs that extra year of learning strategies.  Here is the awesome God working.  Her teacher struggled with learning disabilities as a child.  She understands!!!!  Want to know something else?  Her very first day, she made a new friend.  This friend also has some of the same learning struggles as Bekah!!!  How incredible is God!  I about cried when the mom called me yesterday to ask if Bekah could come over to play and then shared about her daughter.  Our God is so good!

Bekah’s class is a little bigger- 20 kids.  They have 7 girls and 13 boys.  She was so excited to find out they didn’t have homework this week, so she could go out and play!  They have at least 4 or 5 kids that will be in and out of the classroom.  They are part of the village program, which means their parents are translators, typically.  They will be gone for about 5-6 weeks at a time with mom teaching them from the school curriculum.  She is super excited about doing art and music this year- something this mama couldn’t teach! 

They have completed the first two days of term 1, and they both love it.  I’m so excited to see what God is going to do with their lives.  I know we will all face challenges this year.  We’ll attend Open House next week, and I can’t wait to see more of what they will be learning throughout the year. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The House Saga

The Beginning...
Twelve years ago we had one weekend in Atlanta to find a house.  It was quite a whirlwind tour, especially since Tim was expected to be reporting to his new office in Atlanta in just 4 weeks.  Our realtor took us all around Lawrenceville and Duluth looking at houses.  We found out about a new neighborhood under construction in Lawrenceville.  It looked like the perfect starter home community.  It was within our budget.  It was new, needing no repairs, and the values were just going to go up.  This is the house we found and fell in love with:

Of course at that time, it was just a shell of a house under construction.  We took home the information, so we could pray about the decision and talk it over.  From our home in Orlando, we signed and faxed the purchase contract on this house.  We were excited.  It was such a dream for us, especially Tara.  We were so excited to move into our new home in our new city in our new state as newlyweds.

The Next 7 Years...
We loved this house, and it served as our home for 7 years.  We brought both of our babies to this home, had many birthday parties, and plenty of memories.  The house that seemed so big became very tiny as our kids grew, so we moved into a house that we planned to stay in until our kids moved out.  (That is a whole other story…)  

The Landlord Years- The Beginning...
We felt God telling us to rent the home out, so that is what we did.  Being a landlord is hard work, but I (Tara) found the work rewarding.  We learned so much during our time as a landlord.  God gave us opportunity to minister to people we would never had met.  He continually taught us to trust on Him.  Even when times were tight and renters would leave without paying their rent, leaving damage and grossness behind, God showed Himself faithful. 

The Decision, Part 1...
About two years ago we committed to follow God as He led us to Papua New Guinea- the other side of the world.  We had to begin thinking and praying how we were to deal with both of the houses we owned- the one we lived in and this house in Lawrenceville.  We prayed and researched.  The housing market kept bottoming out- we thought it had hit bottom and then it went further down.  We were one of the many with an upside down mortgage.  At that time the concern in the government and banking industry was for those in their primary residences.  The investors had very few options, if any, for refinancing or selling.  

We had a renter who had just moved in, and it looked like a promising long-term rental with great references.  We felt this may be God’s provision for our time in PNG.  The rent was enough to cover our financial obligations.  We had replaced all the appliances within the last two years.  We left it in God’s Hands.  He gave us good friends who had agreed to manage our properties as their gift to us.  They are trustworthy and hardworking.  God provided an extra financial gift that allowed us to have money in savings for emergency repairs or vacant months.
The Drama Begins...
While we were in our training course and village time earlier this year, the renter moved out.  She left the house dirty and in horrible condition.  It took weeks and lots of hard work by our friends to get it ready to put back on the rental market.  Last week we learned the rental rates have gone down a LOT in the neighborhood.  At one time we could get close to $1100 per month, but we were now looking at $900 on the higher end of the rent.  We weren’t planning on that much of a drop.  We started praying and asking God what we could do. 

The Newest Occupants...
On Saturday our friend went to the house to get measurements for blinds.  As she walked in, she noticed the smoke alarm on the floor and a back bedroom door closed.  She had an uneasy feeling, so she walked back out and called the police.  The police came and walked through the house with her.  It appeared someone had decided to make our house their temporary home.  The fire extinguisher had been sprayed through the master bathroom.  There was a mattress in the master bedroom closet.  There was writing all over the walls, and it appeared the shower was being used.  They secured the house, again, and the utility companies were called on Monday to be shut off immediately. 

The newest residents did not appreciate all of their luxuries being turned off, especially the a/c in the extreme heat Atlanta is experiencing.  On Wednesday some of our friends were able to go for an additional assessment of the damage and take pictures. They found a lot more damage- holes in the walls, burns in the carpet, and the appliances gone.  Another police report was made and more security measures taken.  Before we thought the damages would involve some elbow grease and a small amount of repairs, but we are now talking several thousand dollars in repairs, and more time off the market.

The Decision, Part 2...
Two years ago we thought about either doing a short-sell or a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure on this house.  It was becoming pretty common for those in tough financial situations and a way to start over. God would not allow us to even begin pursuing the option. He was very clear to both of us that we were to honor the contract we signed to pay the mortgage on this house. We still have that same conviction, and it is getting harder to follow.  We do have a hope to lower our payments through a loan modification or refinance, but is this the answer?  We don’t know. We are in a tighter financial situation with the rents falling, the extra damage in the house, time off the market, and the neighborhood in decline.  We just see more money going out and none coming in to cover the cost. 

The Reality...
***Caution- honesty & rant alert.  This may not read like a missionary blog is ‘supposed’ to read.***
So, where does that leave us?  Well, it leaves us frustrated and angry and wondering what is our next step.  It leaves us feeling violated and disappointed and mad. It leaves us wishing we didn’t have to deal with this.  It leaves us with questions.  Aren’t we doing God’s will and following His call on our lives?  Why is this happening?  Why now?  Why did God allow this to happen?  Why do we have to drag our friends through this, too?  Yes, we have our times of self-pity and anger and self-righteousness.  I want to scream and holler.  “IT’S NOT FAIR!!!!!”  We don’t understand why this is happening.  We’ve faithfully paid our bills, even the HOA bill.  We left all the comforts and familiarity of our home to follow God’s calling to Papua New Guinea.  (This would be some of that self-righteousness.)  Why is it that people who aren’t responsible (by our terms, of course) get a ‘free ride’?  Why are things not turning out to be the way we think they should be?  WHY? WHY? WHY?????  By the way, have I mentioned I’m not a very patient person?  I want to take action and see results, NOW!  Why is this happening during a holiday week back in the States?  C’mon, we all know that no one actually works when the 4th of July falls during the middle of the week.  Yeah, some people may show up, but really work?  Yep, a week of action missed.  Doesn’t seem fair or right.
***Now I return you to your regularly scheduled blog.***

The Future...
We don’t understand at all, so we cling to our Father.  We cling to the promises in His Word.  We cling to the hope we have that we will see God’s Hand through all of this.  We cling to how He has provided in the past.  We cling to the prayers of our friends, family, and supporters.  Please pray with us!  Please pray God will be glorified in our decisions.  Please pray God will be very clear as to what steps we are to take next.  Please pray we will continue to focus on our work here in Papua New Guinea. 

The Prayers...
Pray these promises for us:
  • “We know that ALL things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28
  • “What then are we to say about these things?  If God is for us, who is against us?” Romans 8:31
  • “Refrain from anger and give up rage; do not be agitated- it can only bring harm. For evildoers will be destroyed, but those who put their hope in the Lord will inherit the land.” Psalm 37:8-9
  • “Wait for the Lord and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land.” Psalm 37:34
  • “Wait for the Lord; be courageous and let your heart be strong. Wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14
  • “For the Lord loves justice and will not abandon His faithful ones. They are kept safe forever…” Psalm 37:28
  • “Many adversities come to the one who is righteous, but the Lord delivers him from them all.”  Psalm 34:19
  • “I will praise the the Lord at ALL times; His praise will always be on my lips.” Psalm 34:1
  • “Who is the person who fears the Lord? He will show him the way he should choose.” Psalm 25:12

Our Prayer for you:
“I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  I am sure of this that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1: 3-6

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Day in the Village

We spent five weeks living in a Papua New Guinean village, and the experience was more than we would EVER experience in the States!  To say that life is different is just a bit of an understatement.  Life in the village made my hardest day in America seem like a walk in the park.  At the same time life in the village also made me realize what I don’t miss about life in America- the frantic pace and craziness of life.  I hope to share what a day in the life of our village was like. 
Here is our house that we called home for 5 weeks. 

This was my kitchen (haus kuk) located next to the house.

This was our bathroom, or more accurately our toilet (lik lik haus)- located about 100 feet from the house.

Our morning would officially begin at sunrise- around 6:30.  Although the roosters typically started waking us up at 3:30am.  Whoever started the lie that they just crowed at the crack of dawn, never had roosters roosting in the tree outside of their hut in the middle of Papua New Guinea! 

That is the one of those roosters that gave us an early morning wake up call.  They really liked to hide up there among the vines and trees!

Our first job was to get the fire started.  The first couple of weeks, someone started for us, but toward the end the kids were getting up in the morning and starting our fires.

Andrew is doing the most important job of the day- heating up the water for Mom & Dad’s coffee! 

After a breakfast that consisted of pancakes, scrambled eggs, granola & milk, or oatmeal, it was time for school.  No rest for the poor kids. The mean school teacher and principal of Ellis Institute of Higher Learning came with them to the village.  (That would be mom & dad).  Some days it was a quiet time of doing school on the veranda.  Other times we had many additional eyes watching and learning along with us.  They really enjoyed listening as I did our daily read aloud.

This is the one and only day we did our school downstairs under our house.  It was way too distracting! 

While the kids and I were doing school, Tim would do his best to find something to do.  Anyone who has been around Tim much knows he is not someone to just sit down and take things easy!  He has to be busy!

He managed to bring back some firewood one day.  This was a tremendous achievement, and it has nothing to do with Tim’s ability or inability.  Although he had chopped down several trees and cut more firewood than I care to count, the men of the village rarely let him do it.  The only reason he carried this back was because he grabbed it and just left. 

Most mornings he would walk to get our daily drinking water.  We have learned the value of re-using plastic bottles to collect water!  Many times the kids of the village would follow him and bring the water back.  He confessed to me at the end of our stay that he actually never collected the water.  Someone would always come along to do it for him.  

Our drinking water came from a stream that was about half a mile from our village.  The walk down was easy, but the walk back, well it was a bit tougher carrying all those bottles loaded with water uphill!  Our last week or so, our “dates” were trips down to get water.  Even then I got in the water to fill up the bottles while Tim put them in our bilum (string bag- see the previous picture).  It usually took about an hour to walk down to the water, fill the bottles, and then walk back.  It provided a great workout! 

After school it was time for lunch.  We tried to keep lunch pretty simple because we didn’t want to cook over an open fire any more than necessary.  We rotated between having tuna salad on bush crackers (think large animal crackers that are rectangular in shape), peanut butter & jelly on bush crackers, or 2-minute noodles (think Raman noodles- the things that only starving college students eat and I vowed to NEVER feed my family…) We would switch things up and occasionally have the tuna or PBJ on tortillas.  Yep, lots of variety here!  Our favorite time of the day was right after lunch- malolo (rest time) for a half or so. 

The afternoons usually meant it was time for me to wash clothes, dishes, and bathe.  For most of the ladies in our village, it was all done in one area.  My wonderful husband would go and get water for me, so I would usually do the dishes on the veranda using two separate tubs.  A couple of times we would bring enough water back to the house, so I could do the laundry on the veranda.  So, why wouldn’t I want to take it with me to wash?  Well, this is the trail down to the water…

Those steps tended to get a bit slippery if it had rained or if a lot of kids had been down there playing. 
The picture on the left shows the washing water from the steps.  The picture on the right is taken looking upstream from the large rock.  The water was about 3-4 inches deep after a good rain, but that is about it.  Needless to say, it wasn’t easy to wash clothes or bodies in this water. 

We hung our clothes to dry on a clothes line.  Tim made one for me outside of our haus kuk (kitchen), and then we had additional lines under the eaves of our house for when we didn’t want that extra “rinse” courtesy of the daily rain!

Before I knew it, it was time to prepare dinner.  Again, the choices included things I NEVER dreamed I would cook my family.  We preferred to eat before it went dark, so we cooked earlier than most of the women in the village.  This usually meant lots of stares and inquiries, but that is for another post!  Most of our meals consisted of some sort of tin meat or canned meat- think of spam, corned beef, and things I’ve never seen in the States.  Of course the only canned meat I had ever purchased before was tuna or occasionally the shredded chicken when I didn’t have time to make chicken for a chicken salad. 

Sometimes our evenings involved sitting with the men and women in the village to stori (talk) while watching all mongi (sounds like monkey) play. 

One night some of the young men would pull the kids down the hill in front of our village on a piece of limbum (a part of a palm).  They had the best time!

One day they brought home a pig to be roasted, which was quite an interesting evening!

One night we showed “The Jesus Film” in Tok Pisin (the trade language of PNG) for the entire community.  We had a generator, projector, and a white sheet on the front of a house.  It was all that was needed for a theater. 

This was just a basic example of what a day was.  Of course some days we went on little excursions.  Our favorite was probably the day we hiked up the mountain to see our friends in another village.  It was well worth the 2½ mile uphill hike for the few hours of being with friends.  

Although our lives were very different than it was back in America, or even now, there were some things that never change.  Kids still argue.  Husbands and wives have disagreements. (I know that probably just destroyed everyone’s perfect little picture of the couple that never fought or had misunderstandings.)  Kids get sick and injured.  Life goes on!   

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lessons Learned

We have been in Papua New Guinea for almost 4 months and finally have arrived in our new “home” of Ukarumpa.  It has been a long process, but we are glad to be here!

We spent 14 weeks in Madang (located on the Northern Coast of PNG) going through the Pacific Orientation Course (POC).  We began learning the trade language (Tok Pisin), learning many of the cultures and customs, and learning how to live life in PNG.  There were many “we’re not in Kansas anymore” moments.  OK, so I’ve actually never been to Kansas much less lived in Kansas, but it was much closer to home than where we are now!  The first eight weeks of our training found us living in a dorm with other families, singles, and couples.  They certainly weren’t as nice as the dorms at UCF!  And, I’m talking about the old, old dorms that are at UCF.  We soon found out that those dorms and life during our initial eight weeks was luxury compared to the next five weeks.  We spent those next five weeks in a village living with the people of Papua New Guinea- total immersion into the language and customs.  We kept telling ourselves that we could do anything for five weeks.  This is where we did become more aware of the needs of the Papua New Guineans and come to love them as individuals and not just a far-off people group.  The last week of the course was spent debriefing and preparing for our life here in Ukarumpa.  

Over the next few weeks, I hope to post plenty of stories of our adventures so far in PNG, especially the adventures during our time at POC.  I thought I would begin with some very important lessons that we learned during our time in the village. 
We spent our village time in the village of Dimer 3 (also called Malan).  It was located up a mountain about 5 miles from the ocean, but the only time we saw the ocean was when we went to town one day during our village stay.  We had a wasfamili, which was a family that was essentially assigned as our guardians during our stay.  We were family to them.  They were very protective of us, and they still call to check on us.  They helped us improve our Tok Pisin, learn about daily life in their village, and many of the customs of PNG.  The kids even got an opportunity to attend school with the kids from the village. 
10 Lessons Learned in the Village

1.       Mosquito nets have many important purposes.  They are not just for keeping malaria infested mosquitos from feasting on you during the night.  They are also great protection from other “gifts” left by the other creatures that live with you.  Here is a picture of a gift left by a gecko.  It was on the net right above where Tim’s head would lay down each night.

2.       Papua New Guineans love to have their picture taken.  I took over 800 pictures just during our time in the village, but the first one was my favorite of a little boy in our village.  He asked me take his picture one night and posed for me!


3.       Tim learned a very important lesson on our very first night in the village- before spitting you must look.  We thought everyone had left from under and around our house, but apparently there were some kids still close by.  He went to spit off the side of the house after brushing his teeth and just about hit one of the village kids.  The good thing is that after that time, I don’t think we ever had a problem with them hanging around our house after we went up to go to bed!

4.       I also learned that my husband is a closet artist in a medium that is rarely, if ever, utilized- toothpaste spit.  We would brush our teeth every night and spit over the back of the house (after making sure no one was standing there).  Tim’s claim to fame was the smiley face he did with just two spits.  Yep, it doesn’t take much to entertain us!

5.       Bekah can hitch a ride anytime and anywhere by just looking pitiful. She would catch a ride on the shoulders of one of the girls when we went to go swimming one day.  On her way home from school she and some other girls caught a free ride home on a local PMV (think taxi).

6.       The best anniversary present ever is a slightly cooler than lukewarm Coca-Cola!  It went well with the brownie mixed we splurged on especially for our anniversary. 

7.       A banana tree can be a dangerous thing.  We had one fall and take our out clothes line and rain water collector the night before we left the village.


8.       Receiving a gift of chicken for dinner is a bit different here than it is back home.  We received a fresh rooster late on Sunday morning- complete with feathers.  Don't worry, I was not harmed in the process of cleaning or cooking the bird.  I just took the pictures.              

9.       My kids will spoil any dog if given the chance. They made a special area outside their room for the village dog, “Buddy”- complete with a pillow made from a ziplock bag and leaves they made for him.  After all, we know every dog needs a good pillow to sleep on!  When puppies were born in the village, our kids not only made sure they were adequately loved on, but that they also had a nice place to sleep.


10.   Hens will lay their eggs anywhere, including the fire pit we did all of our cooking in!  Apparently the place must be approved by both the rooster and the hen.  We actually had "House Hunters International: Kakaruk" going on all around us.  There was great suspense in knowing whether the hen would choose our veranda, the fire pit in our haus kuk (kitchen), or under the fire pit.