The main purpose of my trip down to Madang was to check on Betty, see the work she had completed, encourage her and to get a better picture of her work and life. Betty picked me up in town, we went shopping for food and then we climbed into a PMV that would take us out to the village. The PMV was an large open back truck with an awning for shade. It was very full with people sitting on the side benches as well as down the middle on top of large sacks of rice and chicken feed. Riding on the main road isn’t too bad with the wind making the Madang heat bearable but the side road into the village was very bumpy. And due to recent rains there were parts of the road that were very muddy and sometimes flooded.
Once we reached her village we sat and storied, caught up on what has been happening the past few months since the last STEP module and I got to meet some of the other ladies who live in the house. Betty is currently living in a house built by the church to house ladies who come from other areas to work in a near-by factory. There is a common area and rooms with an open area with benches and a shared cooking area underneath. I am always amused to watch reactions of people who walk by and say hi not expecting a white person to be sitting there. Sometimes people just stare or frown, look confused, some kids laugh but mostly they just grin and shout a quick polite greeting and continue on their way. There was lots of opportunity for this as we sat, storied and cooked our afternoon meal.
The next morning I woke up with the sun and enjoyed a hot cup of tea and some biscuits (crackers) for breakfast. Then Betty and I sat down and went through all her assignments before heading off to visit the school. It was nice to see new buildings that has been built since my last visit. I got to shake hands also with some of the teachers who were cleaning up their classrooms and meet some of the kids as well.
Balama is a village in the middle of the language group Ogea. However since it is very close to town many of the kids do not speak Ogea anymore. They are almost all learning tokpisin first. The parents would like for their children to speak Ogea and they are learning different ways to help encourage their children but it is difficult in an area where tokpisin really is the language with the widest use. However they are trying to start using Ogea in the schools and also teach with some English materials. It is a really big job to make a curriculum to meet all the diverse needs in this community. And then to produce the materials and books needed to follow the curriculum. Betty has her work cut out for her. I am glad that I was able to go and encourage her. Seeing the school also gave me a better idea of how to help her during this module to equip her for the challenges in Balama.