Thursday, January 26, 2012

POC has begun!

We have officially completed the first two days of our Pacific Orientation Course.  It is only 6:45pm here in PNG, and I'm ready to crawl into bed!  Needless to say it has been exhausting.  I'm hoping to get some pictures posted this weekend of some of our activities and surroundings.  It is incredibly beautiful here!

Pacific Orientation Course (POC) is the 14 week orientation to Papua New Guinea, its language (Tok Pisin), culture, its land and animals (including all the creepy crawlies), and most of all  the people.  It has been quite an adventure so far.  We feel like we've been here for weeks as opposed to just a few days.

I typically begin my morning at 6:00am (when the sunrises, and boy is it beautiful!) with a "conditioning" hike down the mountain.  The 1km down the mountain is great.  The 1km up is a whole other story.  Today Bekah joined us.  I was so proud of her!  She did incredible!  I'm hoping to get Tim & Andrew to join us by next week!  Once I get back from the hike, I try to cool off before its breakfast time.  Breakfast is served at 7:00am.  Our classes begin at 8:00am.  So far our classes have been just information about how things will run after this week.  We'll have some medical lectures telling us about how to survive in the village when there is no doctor or nurse or medical anything around to help out.  I paid partial attention because I know I have Tim!  (He used to work at a hospital...)  We've had talks about what to expect on our hikes and swimming.  I think the best part about this course is how they prepare us.  It isn't for wimps and can be very overwhelming, but they prepare us along the way.  I just focus on one day at a time!

Today we experienced our first swim in the ocean.  Well, it is a lagoon off of the coast of Papua New Guinea, but it is saltwater and connected to the Pacific Ocean.  I wasn't too sure how this would work initially.  I had heard about the mile swim in the ocean and was a bit perplexed.  Fortunately, the lagoon is calm like a lake, and our goal is to improve each week.  We won't fail the course if we don't make the mile.  After today's swim, I'm definitely aiming for a mile if not further in the next 8 weeks.  They put out a rope that is parallel to the shore for us to swim around.  It takes 8 laps to equal a mile.  My initial goal was to survive (not even swim, just survive) 1 lap.  I did 3 laps.  Yes, there were those that did more, but I'm impressed with myself, especially since I actually swam over half of that as opposed to floating or doggie paddling.  There is hope for me!

Tomorrow (Friday) we begin officially our language learning.  This is another apprehension of mine.  I really want to be able to communicate clearly with the people of Papua New Guinea.  Please pray that we will understand the language, how it is used, and how to clearly share with the Papua New Guineans in their language.

Our first official hike is on Saturday.  We get to tour/walk/hike (depending on what your ability is) around to a couple of the villages here on the mountain we are staying.  This will be a chance to really get a good idea of the Papua New Guineans live.

Thank you for the continued prayers for our family.  We really need them.

  • Please pray for health while we are here.  
  • Pray for good rest each night.  We are staying in dorms with no a/c and there have been some hot nights, which can make it hard to sleep.  
  • Pray for stamina and patience on the part of each of us while we transitioning to a new culture.  One adjustment we are having to make is no physical contact between members of the opposite sex.  This means that Tim & I can't hold hands or hug while in public.  Just a bit different for us.  I'm also having to deal with how to most appropriately dress myself and Bekah.  I was ready to cry earlier today before our swim because I had to wear shorts a swim shirt and a swimsuit cover-up over my swimsuit, and I was HOT!  I did get confirmation that the swim shirt was unnecessary, so that was a relief.  Normally this would not have been a big deal, but today it was. 
  • Pray for success for our town trip on Saturday.  We went earlier this week, and it was a bit unnerving for us because it was different, we didn't know where we were, and we couldn't find a SIM card for our phone.  We did finally buy a phone just for the SIM card, so we could put it in our phone.  Pray I will find Bekah and I some appropriate clothes.  I need to get Bekah a few more skirts and I need some shirts that are long enough for me to wear with pants.  
Look forward to posting pictures in our next update!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

PNG Day 1

OK, so today was our first full day of being in Papua New Guinea.  To say that it is different from home would be a slight understatement.  It is HOT and HUMID.  Not that different from summers in Atlanta or Florida, BUT there is no air conditioning.  You can't escape from the heat.  We're learning to keep hydrated and trying to keep cool.  I did splurge today and purchase a Coke.  It was a little bit of home made right here in PNG!  Gotta love it!

It was quite an ordeal as we are trying to make our little room a home for the next 14 weeks.  I have lived in utter chaos for the last 4 weeks- living out of suitcases.  I don't do well when I don't know where things are or where things belong.  It stresses me out.  Tim had to do a lot of calming me down and reminding me it was just temporary.  So, today, we wanted to start putting things in a "home".  It was incredibly overwhelming going through the crates and bags that we had packed and re-packed, and re-packed.   It was a bit disappointing when you realize that somewhere along the way you have lost the kids' two Language Arts textbooks (you know the ones I just bought and had to have expedited because the internet wouldn't work while at POC, yeah those textbooks), the drink mixes, and a couple other things we had specifically wanted at POC.  At least our clothes are here and everything now has a home!  We may not have everything we think we need, but we know where things are.  It made for a nice, relaxing afternoon. 

A Mama always knows when her baby is crying.  She can pick her baby's cry out over all the others.  That's true whether it is a baby or that baby is 7 or almost 9.  The interesting thing about our current living conditions is the super thin walls and the open windows.  (Remember, no a/c).  I was sitting in our room and heard Bekah crying.  She had fallen on the play ground and hurt herself.  Just now as I was typing this entry, I heard my baby boy crying.  He and Tim were in the bathrooms taking a shower.  I listened for a minute (wanting to yell "QUIET" because there was other noise) to make sure it was Andrew and it was an "I'm hurt" cry.  It was.  So, I grab my flashlight and off I went.  I found out Andrew had cut his head on the bucket in the bucket shower.  Right now, I don't know how bad.  The nurse is right behind us, so I went to get her, so we could go to the Klinik to get bandaged up.  I'm so thankful that there is someone here to help in these situation. 

So Andrew has been running around the campus all day, climbing, sliding in mud, just being a boy.  He has no injuries until he goes to get cleaned up.  Such is life.  I'm so grateful that his daddy is with him.  He just came in with a bandage on his head.  Because his hair was wet and there was no good way to shave his head, they bandaged it for tonight.  We'll go back tomorrow for an evaluation and steri-strips.  He is so bummed because he just wants to play all day tomorrow, and can't.  Fortunately tomorrow will find us going to Madang to go shopping.  We'll see if he'll be cleared to take the ride down the mountain.  A little thrift store shopping always cheers him up! 

Day one is coming to a close, and I'm still not sure what we've gotten ourselves into.  If we didn't know without a shadow of a doubt that God had called us, I would be wanting to find the nearest hotel.  I still don't know what the next 14 weeks will bring.  I just know that our Father will get us through it.  I'm sure it will be an adventure.  I'm sure there will be many times I just want to be done with this part and go home.  I'm clinging to my Jesus and His calling on our lives.  That is what will get us through. 

PS- Andrew is doing fine today.  It's been a struggle to keep him from being overly active, but the down time has been good for him! 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Australia Adventures Part 3

Before we left Australia, we wanted to share some more pictures from our time in Australia.  After we went parasailing and bumper tubing, we decided to go explore the city of Cairns.  It is a beautiful and busy city.  They have a lot of things to do.

Of course, this is what Andrew & Bekah wanted to find most of all- McDonald's!  They had a lunch special from 12pm-2pm, so it was the cheapest meal we ate while in Australia!  

Apparently Tupperware is big over here.  We saw a Tupperware car!

They speak my language!!!

After lunch we went to visit the "Lagoon", which is a large free swimming pool that is part of the Cairns Esplanade.  Although we hadn't planned to go swimming (no towels and the kids didn't have swimsuits), it was a great way to cool off. 

 They were anxious to go and explore the Lagoon and cool off!

Fortunately I had worn my swimsuit under my clothes!  

The pool is right at the edge of the ocean.  You can see the faint outlines of the mountains in the background.

The kids had a great time!

At the end of the day, we went to a local grocery store to pick up a few things and waited on the bus to pick us up to take us back to Tree Tops.  We had two tired kids!

We are incredibly grateful for our friends that made this trip to Australia possible.  We look forward to visiting again!  

The Baggage Dilemma

As we are preparing for the last leg of our journey to Papua New Guinea, we are faced with the issue of our baggage, again.  Our original goal was to have our luggage at 8 bags at 50lbs each, 4 rolling carry-ons, and 4 backpacks.  That was an ambitious goal.  We ended up with 13 checked bags, 4 rolling carry-ons, and 4 backpacks.  Yes, that is a lot.  Here's a visual.

This is Mom & Dad's van.
It is stuffed solid with our luggage.

The poor skycap

Yep, we had a LOT of bags. OUR plan was to check our bags in Tampa all the way through to Cairns, Australia.  Our carry-on bags had everything we needed to get us to Australia.  Sounds great.  Well, we hit the first snag in Tampa.  After paying our excess baggage fee, we discover they will not check our bags all the way through because our layover in Dallas is more than 12 hours.   Hmmm, problem number 1.  We made sure that after paying that baggage fee, we wouldn't have to pay it again in Dallas or any other leg of our journey.  We were assured that it would get us through.  

We searched DFW website for a place to store our luggage.  Apparently they have no where.  Dean Hart to the rescue.  He just rents a U Haul to pick us up at the airport.  OK, so you know you have a lot of luggage when you have a UHaul pick you up at the airport.  That worked out great.  

We re-checked all of our luggage at DFW and it was checked through all the way to Cairns, Australia.  Everything looked great.  They verified the fee we had already paid covered us all the way to Australia.  Great, sounds like a plan.

We arrive in Tokyo after being on a plane for 13+ hours.  We are tired and just want to get through customs, get our next boarding pass, and go take a nap and shower in our reserved day rooms. (Narita, Japan has rooms that you can rent by the hour that have two twin beds and a shower for travelers.  We had reserved two of them in advance.)

Andrew CRASHED on the airport floor.
Tim decided to join him.
We went to the counter, and were told that we couldn't take all of our luggage on our next flight without paying an additional excess baggage fee.  WHAT???  Yeah, didn't make us feel all warm and fuzzy, that is for sure.  We showed her our receipt for the fee and explained what we had been told in Tampa and Dallas.  The lady at the airlines earned her pay that day!  She kept going back and forth and trying to figure out what was going on.  She spoke a little English.  I'm not sure she thought we understood what she was trying to say, and we weren't sure she understood what we were trying to say.  She was going to try to contact a supervisor, so we sat down.  Andrew had already crashed next to the check-in counter, so Tim had to carry the boy over to our seats to let him lie on the floor, out of the way.  By the time she came back, we had missed our check-in time for our dayrooms at the airport.  The supervisor would not be there until 5pm, so we went to try to find something to eat and hope maybe there was still a dayroom open for us.  We agreed to be back over at the gate at 5:00 to talk with the supervisor.  

We prayed, and asked some of our friends to pray.  Of course it was the middle of the night back in Georgia, but we know we serve a mighty God!

We met with our friend at around 5:00 as we were headed to find some dinner.  She had found out that the airline was going to charge us overweight fee.  Originally they wanted $3,000 for the overweight baggage.  Our friend was able to get them to do for only $1,800.  At that, we might as well leave all the extras back in Japan and just buy new stuff in Australia and PNG.  After another hour and a half of negotiating and Tim talking with the people at the American Airlines counter, they finally said just go.  All of our luggage had been checked through and there would be no additional charge!  PRAISE GOD!

So, we finally enjoyed some dinner at a restaurant in the airport.  

Poor Bekah was so tired that she fell asleep sitting up in her chair while we were eating dinner.

All of our luggage made it to Australia!  We made it through customs without any problems.  We had four luggage trolleys.  It was crazy!  

Now we are preparing to go to Papua New Guinea.  We are able to leave some of our luggage here in Cairns to be shipped to Ukarumpa, PNG, which is where we will be living.  That is a huge praise because it saves us about 6 bags and was going to be shipped from Port Moresby to Papua New Guinea.  

Today we are not quite sure what our limits are for our flights.  Apparently it is all up to the ticketing agent.  Please pray that we are allowed the maximum for travel to/from US.  Pray that we are able to get the remaining through at a reasonable amount per kg.  We are only able to take our backpacks on the plane, so we have to check our small rolling luggage.  I think we are at 11 checked bags.  None of those bags are at the 70lbs that is permitted for each checked bag travelling to/from the US.  Pray for wisdom as we go through the travel.  

I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Australian Adventures- Part 2

Because of the kindness of some dear friends and partners, we were able to take some time to enjoy at least one outing as a family while here in Australia.  We wanted to do something fun and special.  There are a lot of things to choose from here in Cairns, but we settled on going parasailing and bumper tubing.  It was a blast!  I had been parasailing a long time ago, but no one else had.

We had just a few pictures (over 300 after deleting the ones that didn't turn out) of the day's activities, so I've chosen some of the best.

Bekah is enjoying the boat ride as we prepare to go "fly"!

Andrew & Tim with the city of Cairns in the background.

Bekah and I are ready to go "fly"!

We're flying!

Up in the air!  That is the wake of the boat down below Bekah.

They gave us a camera to take up with us.  This is a self-portrait.  Look at the gorgeous mountains behind us!

It's the boys turn to go flying!

The boys took a little dip in the water.

Tim's self portrait!  Yep, this is the same man that hates to have his picture taken, but I had not one but two self-portraits on him up in the air!

Andrew hanging on for dear life!  

Time for the bumper tube!  The boys wanted to go first.

Just a relaxing day for Tim.  OK, he sat in that position for all of 2 seconds before grabbing the handles and hanging on!

They got a little bit of air on this one.  

Now it's the girls turn!  Bekah laughed the entire time.  She kept wanting to make it bumpy.  I guess actually sitting was overrated for her.  (Notice how far up she is off the seat...)

The best part was catching air!  Our driver took it easy on us because the kids were small.  I'm sure if we come back in 4 years, there will be more air with the possibility of being flipped out!  

We survived!  That is the city of Cairns behind us.  It was an incredible day for all of us!

More to come later!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Australian Aventures- Part 1

We arrived in Australia on Thursday, January 19th at 5:30am local time.  It was still Wednesday sometime for all of you East Coast people.  It had been quite an ordeal, but I'll save that for another post.  I just wanted to share some pictures of where we are staying and activities we are enjoying while in the Great Down Under.  

Andrew was a bit tired as we left the airport in our taxi to go to our hotel.

Bekah got to sit in the single back seat with all the luggage.  She thought it was pretty cool.

Our home for the next 3 days.  Tree Tops Lodge Cairns serves as a guest house for the members and guests of Wycliffe and Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF).  This is an incredible place that we are enjoying while we prepare for PNG.  We look forward to coming back on vacation during our time in PNG.  

Pictures from the taxi as we made our way to Tree Tops Lodge.

View from the playground at Tree Tops Lodge.  Can you see why it's named Tree Tops?

Swimming at the pool.  It was a bit cold at first, but they quickly got used to it!  It is a saltwater pool, so they weren't used to that, but they loved it!

On the playground.  Who needs roller coasters when you have a spring see-saw?  

Sliding through the trees!  It was a lot of fun!

These are little green tree ants that are everywhere.  We were told that you could pick the green part off the back and eat them.  They have a citrus-y taste.  I'll take their word for it!

Our first day was spent trying to NOT sleep, so we could get over our jetlag.  We were all in bed before 7:00pm local time.  Never had my kids want to go to bed early, even before 7:00pm.

Stay tuned.  Next is our parasailing and bumper tubing adventure in Cairns.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Couple of Crazy Stories

I'm sitting here at 38,000 feet somewhere over the Pacific Ocean going back over all that we've gone through the last few weeks.  It has been an incredible adventure watching how God has provided for our family and brought us through some crazy times.  Here are a few of our stories.

A Sale, A Rat, and Stuff
Thursday, January 5, 2012 was by far our craziest day in Florida.  It started out as a fairly normal day.  We had to drive to Orlando to get our typhoid vaccinations and our malaria prescription.  OK, so maybe not that normal, but it wasn't to be anything spectacular.  We were going to the Lego Store at Downtown Disney for one last time while in Orlando. 

Tim had arranged to meet someone that was interested in purchasing our Jeep at 4pm back in Plant City.  We had posted it earlier that week, and had gotten quite a bit of interest.  We made it back in plenty of time, so there would be no rush.  This gentleman was actually flying in from out of state, so we wanted to respect his time.  He got there around 4:30, and all craziness rained down on us! 

Tim had someone else that was going to make his way toward us to also look at the Jeep in case the first guy didn't buy it.  So, while the first guy is looking at the Jeep, the second guy gets there.  He is very patiently waiting for the first guy to be done, so he can test drive it and take a look. 

In the mean time Tim gets a phone call.  Apparently all of our things we were shipping to Papua New Guinea had arrived at JAARS Shipping, but they did not have any information.  We hadn't emailed our paperwork, yet.  So, Tim runs in to tell me to send them the paperwork ASAP.  I try to get all of that information together to email and my phone starts ringing and email is buzzing with the shipping department calling us.  I couldn't remember the exact number of pallets, so I went outside to ask Tim.  Of course Tim was gone on a test drive with potential buyer #2.  I had to guess.  Fortunately, I was correct.  We gave them the clearance to take our stuff to ship and sent them all of our paperwork. 

While all of this is going on, my mom is trying to get dinner ready.  The plan was to grill chicken and pork chops.  Dad goes out to the patio to get the grill started.  He says something about the kids putting dog food in the grill.  Well, then they see something run.  It was a rat.  The rat had chewed through a rug they had on the ground, the grill cover, the plastic cover to the grill tools, and used it to make a nest.  It had also gotten the dog's food, too.  Gee, those poor kids get blamed for everything!  At least this time it wasn't their fault, this time!  So, on to Plan B for dinner while my brother and dad clean out the grill and decide what to do with it. 

Mom puts the food in the oven and Bekah mentions the fridge light is out.  We thought it was the light until we started noticing things weren't so cold.  The ice cream was soft.  Panic started setting in.  No worry Super Mom & Tara to the rescue!  We figured out it was just a tripped breaker.  What a relief.  We thought we would be spending the next day shopping for a new fridge.  Well, maybe it was a relief.  I don't think Mom would have minded a new fridge.

So, all the above happened with in one hour.  It was complete insanity around the house.  We sat down to dinner and just looked at each other.  We were tired! 

By the way, Tim did sell the Jeep to the second buyer for our full asking price!  PRAISE GOD!  

A Cracked Screen
It was the Friday evening before we were to leave for Papua New Guinea.  It had been an exhausting week finishing up last minute shopping, making sure we had all of our needed supplies, and packing, packing, packing.  We were nearing the end and ready for bed.  Tim closes his laptop and hears something.  He remembers he needed to check on one more thing, so he opens it back up.  His screen has cracked.  Anyone who knows Tim knows that he is one that takes extreme care, especially with computers.  He has seen several cracked screens in his day.  He was sick to his stomach.  We had plenty to do on Saturday to finish up.  The last thing he wanted to do was to deal with this. 

This was a fairly new laptop.  We had purchased new laptops back in November for us to have in PNG.  These were to be our laptops for the next four years, and now the computer guy had a laptop with a cracked screen.  What to do? 

Since we had only had the laptop 2 months, we tried to go back to Best Buy.  There is a year warranty on the laptop, so we prayed we would get mercy from the manager.  Our best case scenario was either to do an exchange or to get a credit to purchase a new one.  That wasn't to be.  They told us they wouldn't take it back because of the screen, and the best they could do would be to ship it to HP.  Obviously we didn't have that kind of time. 

(Side note- I was so proud of my husband.  That man has the patience and grace and mercy of a saint!  I was ready to pull out the rudeness when they were rude to us, but he didn't.  He explained the situation, didn't loose his cool, then calmly took the laptop back and said goodbye.  Wouldn't have been the same if it had been just me.)

So, now we had to go find a new laptop.  Obviously Best Buy was not on our list!  We went to a couple of places to look at ones that Tim would like.  They were more expensive than the one we had originally, but we did what we could.  We went to lunch to talk it over and to compare what we had found.  We agreed on one at Compusa.  It ended up being a better computer, but it didn't have the 17" 'mega' screen his old one did. 

We remembered we had purchased the laptop on Amex, and Amex offers an extended warranty on items purchased.  So, I went to do my research.  Better yet, Amex has a 90 full replacement guarantee on any item purchased with Amex.  Tim called Amex that night.  They just needed a picture of the crack screen, and  a copy of the receipt.  They are going to fully reimburse us for the broken screen!  PRAISE GOD! 

We are keeping the old laptop, so Tim can use the parts.  He can always hook it up to an external monitor.  Even when things are grim, our God is good.  I'm waiting to see how God uses that 'broken' laptop.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

January Newsletter...

We are packing, packing, packing, but we did take the time to post our latest newsletter.  We are excited to begin our journey to Papua New Guinea.

Check out the latest newsletter with the details.

We'll try to post more next week as we are between flights!

Friday, January 6, 2012

What's Left?

I apologize for not updating lately.  It has been a whirlwind of craziness for our family.  In just 10 days we board a plane to begin our journey to Papua New Guinea!  TEN DAYS- 240 HOURS!!!!  Yeah, I'm full of all sorts of emotions. As I look around my parents' house which is buried with our stuff and try to figure out how we are going to cram the rest of everything we own plus all the items we need for our initial training into 8 pieces of luggage (hopefully not more), I'm reminded that just a few weeks ago I was sitting at our house wondering how in the world we would be able to get everything packed to be shipped to PNG or moved to Florida.  God was so incredible faithful with providing the time, resources, and most importantly, our INCREDIBLE friends who helped us pack.
Three Pallets ready to be shipped to PNG!
Three of our packing elves with our final crate!

Our plan was to leave on Friday the 23rd to begin the drive to Florida.  On Thursday morning we woke up, realized how much had been accomplished (the packing elves had come!) and thought we could actually pull out that afternoon, drive part of the way and stop for the night. So, I booked us a room at the Hampton Inn in Tifton, GA and with the help of our friends, we finished loading the moving truck and Jeep.    We pulled out a little after 4pm on the 22nd and drove to Tifton.  We were able to get a good night's sleep and a good breakfast before finishing our trek to Florida.  We made it in time for lunch.  Granted, there was no one here to fix us lunch, but at least it wasn't fast food!!!
Not so patiently waiting on Christmas morning!

We had a great time with our family for Christmas.  Christmas Eve we attended the Candlelight service at First Baptist Plant City.  It was one of Andrew's request that I was very excited to fulfill.  It was a great time for us to refocus on the meaning of Christmas- the birth of our Savior.  After our hectic schedule, we needed it even more this year!

On Christmas morning, the kids were so excited to receive Legoland tickets from my parents and tablets (which have been turned in for Kindle Fires) from Santa and the MP3 players from Mom & Dad that were loaded with their favorite music.  Don't worry, there were still plenty of Legos to be spread all over the house.  Some things never change!

Our last couple of weeks have been busy with filling out paperwork, verifying travel plans and documents, getting last minute medicines and vaccinations, and of course, packing and repacking all of our goods.  Praise God we sold our Jeep yesterday!  We got our full asking price!!!  Tim literally had buyers lined up.  Our God is so good!!! For the first time in our lives, we own no vehicles.  Kind of freeing!

How has God worked?  Let me share with you a few praises:

  • We have met our goal of 100% of our budget!  Our God is so faithful!
  • We arrived safely in Florida with both kids and our "stuff".  
  • We sold the truck and the Jeep for our asking prices!  
  • We have someone that will be listing our house in Snellville and finding us a renter
  • We have someone who has already done a fabulous job of getting our house in Snellville ready to be rented and will manage both properties while we are in PNG.
  • Our goods that are to be shipped to PNG have arrived at JAARS in North Carolina.  From their, they will be put on a crate with everything else that needs to head to Ukarumpa, PNG!

So, what's left to be done?  How can you pray?

  • We still need to get our house back in Snellville rented out.  
  • We have to pack and make sure our luggage meets all the airline regulations, which is much easier said than done. We are allowed 8 pieces total without charge and are prepared to pay for an additional piece per person.
  • Donate everything that isn't worth saving and won't fit in our luggage.
  • Enjoy a full day of fun at Legoland with the kids.  (Hey, its tough, but someone has to do it!)
  • Finish all the paperwork and banking that needs to be done before we leave the States.
  • TAXES- trying to get these done before we leave town.  
  • Find a little bit of peace and sanity.  
  • Finish our January Newsletter.  It will be the last one for several months while we are at Pacific Orientation Course.
Thank you for all your prayers and encouragement as we have continued on our Great Adventure.