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.