Several weeks ago someone asked how we would describe culture stress to someone who has never experienced it. This produces a lot of different responses. Someone said it was like being in a snow globe that had just been shaken, but once things were about to settle, it was picked up and shaken again. I have related it to starting a new job in a new place. But, like in the movie Ground Hog Day with Bill Murray, you repeat that first day over and over and over. You come into the job thinking you know so much only to find out you don’t know much at all when it comes to the basics of surviving. You don’t know where anything is, who anyone is, or exactly where your place is. Eventually you settle in and start learning and start feeling confident. With culture stress, it is that same feeling but exaggerated and every time you think you have it figured out, you realize you don’t have a clue. Very humbling!
A few months back we experienced probably one of my most stressful days living in Papua New Guinea. We had to take Andrew to Goroka, the province capital city, to have his eyes examined. Just getting an eye doctor appointment is an adventure. We emailed the doctor to schedule the appointment. Unfortunately he would be unable to take any appointments during our school break, so we had to schedule for the following Friday. Tim was in Enga to participate in the Bible Translation kick-off celebration for Engan translation, so I had to make an executive decision and hope and pray he could take Friday off, too. We planned to go with the father and son of another family that also needed to see the eye doctor. We had appointment for after 2:00pm. This presented a problem because it’s a two to three hour drive, one-way to Goroka. We do not want to be driving after dark, so we needed to arrange a place to stay. Two days before we leave we learn that the other family we are going with really needs to be back in Ukarumpa because their son is performing in his final band concert. So, the plan changes for we will definitely spend the night to we’ll keep the reservations just in case. We decide to leave at 8:00am to give us some time to do some shopping and eat lunch before going to the appointment.
The morning of the appointment, I check my email a little after 6am. There was an email from the eye doctor. He couldn’t see Andrew at the scheduled time because he had to leave that morning on a 10am flight. Could we make it between 8:00 and 9:00- the closer to 8:00 the better. (Stress meter starting to rise) I wake Tim up; we call the other family, and make a quick decision to throw everything in the car and go. Fortunately we had rented the 4wd Land Cruiser to make the trip. The roads are rough, which makes driving difficult and slow.
As we leave Ukarumpa, I receive a phone call from a local airline. I had booked a ticket for one of the Discovery interns, and his ticket was suspended. They never got my email with the information confirming I booked the ticket. All they needed was for me to send them the information. The computer with the information and the internet connection is at home. We’re racing to get to see the closest eye doctor before he takes off on a flight. I tried to explain this information, but it wasn’t working. After spending at least half the trip talking with various people (and using all the money & minutes I had on my phone), I finally was able to get his ticket released. Unfortunately, he missed the flight and had to go on the next flight.
We finally found the haus sik (hospital), which the doctor was located. He had gone to the airport to check in and leave his baggage, so we had to wait. While waiting the boys decided to pretty much memorize the eye chart. The doctor did a quick examination of Andrew and was able to write him a prescription. Fortunately, he did not appear to be as bad as we expected. The next stop was the place to get glasses. It wasn’t an easy place to find, but we found it. They had about 20 or so different frames to choose from. We were very grateful that he had the lenses Andrew needed in stock and was able to grind them and put them in the glasses that day.
Finally, time for shopping! As we are leaving the first stop and going to pick up the glasses, I get a text saying the above mentioned Discovery intern did not make it to his final destination. Uh-oh. I have no money on my phone to text or call back. We find a place to purchase a card to add money to my phone. We head to lunch, and I’m back on the phone trying to track down the missing intern. While talking with the leader that is in Ukarumpa, my phone runs out of money, again. By this time, we are at the restaurant, and I’m sitting in the waiting area talking. The leader calls me back. As we are talking, Tim runs out of the restaurant after the employees alert them that our vehicle was being broken into. The rest of the time while in the restaurant, the guys take turns going out to check on the vehicle during lunch. In the meantime the intern is finally located, and I begin to breathe easier.
When we go to get back in the car, someone comes to tell us that a bag was taken out of the vehicle. Andrew’s backpack was stolen. Fortunately it was pretty much empty. It was a small price to pay, and we were grateful because much more could have been taken!
The drama isn’t over. After we finish our meal, we have a couple of more stops to make. Our final stop was at New Tribes Missions to pick up some equipment. We get out of the car. The only time during the day that we didn’t have to check to make sure the doors were locked, all the doors locked with the keys inside. It took 4 missionaries and 2 missionary kids 30 minutes to get the car opened. They don’t have much of a future as car thieves!
We finally make our way home. We arrive home exhausted and ready to collapse. Unfortunately I still have to make some sort of dinner. There is no drive-thru or ready-made meal for us. Boy do I miss Chick-fil-A and Publix!
As I'm putting away our purchases, I realize the case of tuna we purchased at the store was not the one we wanted. Anyone want a case of 48 cans of hot & spicy tuna? Yes, I was ready to cry!