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!