Madang Mentor Visit with Betty

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.

The New School Building

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.

Some English Materials


Madang Mentor Visit- Take 2.

The Madang Lighthouse- as seen from a 206 (a small airplane).

Tomorrow I will fly to Madang again.  The purpose of this trip is the abridged version of the trip planned earlier this month to visit with Betty and to check her work for Module 4 and make sure she is ready to come to the STEP course.  In addition to spending time with Betty I hope to get to visit with my village living wasfemili (literally: watch family) as well as see a couple of friends who are currently working in Madang.  It is always fun to be able to leave Ukarumpa behind and tackle the challenges of a large PNG city.  I enjoy walking through the stores, not knowing what i’ll find and perusing the market for lowlands fruits and vegetables.  This trip will be short- only 10 days but it will be nice to be able to work with Betty again outside of Ukarumpa and also to visit with the V-bergs who are still Madang center managers.  On the 24th the V-bergs will be driving back up to Ukarumpa so I will join them.

Please pray for a safe flight down, good communication and a good visit with Betty and repaired, passable, safe roads for the drive back to Ukarumpa.

I will post again after I return on the 24th.

The V-berg Boys


Boys will be boys.  W and J are great kids who love their legos, juice and the men who work with Guard-dog, the main PNG security company.

Here in PNG the slightest thing, cut or otherwise, can get infected or progress rapidly.  And both W and J are prone to scraps and cuts just like every other little boy.  W and J had not-so-fun eye issues while I was here.

jesseeyeJ had a virus that affected his tearduct.

williameyeW had an infection that was complicated by a cyst under the eyelid.

Lisa is very thankful that there is a doctor from New Zealand working in the eye-ward here in the Madang hospital.  He was able to diagnose and treat the boys after the basic eye infection treatments were ineffective.

frogsLast night, the boys were feeling better and so they showed off their rokrok (frog) catching skills.  So far Lisa and Andrew have noticed no decline in the frog population.



V-bergs in Madang


I first met the V-bergs in Florida 3 years ago at training camp.  Then we met again for orientation camp last year, here in Madang.  It has been great to get to know them and their two boys.  Andrew and Lisa are currently Madang center managers.  I stayed with them during my visit and had a great time hanging out between my mentor responsibilities with Betty.

theboysThey have a great relationship with their PNG family too.  This is the youngest Brenden with W and J.

Tsunami Warning

10:59 AM:

Dear Wardens

This warden message is being issued to alert U.S. citizens residing and traveling in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu that a tsunami warning for ANUATU / SOLOMON IS. / NAURU / PAPUA NEW GUINEA / TUVALU /  NEW CALEDONIA / FIJI / KIRIBATI / KOSRAE / WALLIS-FUTUNA / HOWLAND-BAKER

A tsunami watch is in effect for  MARSHALL IS. / TOKELAU / KERMADEC IS / POHNPEI / NEW ZEALAND /  SAMOA / AMERICAN SAMOA / TONGA / AUSTRALIA / NIUE / COOK ISLANDS / CHUUK / INDONESIA / WAKE IS. / JARVIS IS. / PALMYRA IS. / GUAM / N. MARIANAS / JOHNSTON IS. / YAP /  MARCUS IS. / BELAU The U.S. Embassy will continue to monitor the situation, and will issue updated messages. U.S. citizens are urged to locate shelter, monitor media reports, and follow all official instructions. U.S. citizens should carry their travel documents at all time (i.e. U.S. Passport, Birth Certificate, picture ID’s, etc.) or secure them in safe, waterproof locations. We also suggest that American citizens contact friends and family in the United States with updates about their whereabouts.


While in the Ogea area a tsunami warning was issued (above is the email warning I received after the fact).  Usually I am living at 2,000 to 5,000 feet but this week I just happened to be in coastal Madang.  The village I was visiting was very close to the ocean and many people were gathering their possessions and heading to their gardens further inland.  It is amazing how fast news can travel thanks to the wantok system (literally one-talk: meaning your extended friends and relatives) and to cell phones (not all areas of PNG but most of Madang has very good coverage).  As soon as the warning was issued even the more remote areas received the news because their wantoks were able to just call and pass on the warning.  Unfortunately, not just the warning but sometimes panic and confusion were also passed along.  Madang town itself actually sits in a very protected harbor but there are villages scattered up and down the coastal areas so the potential danger is varied depending on where you happen to be but the threat of a tsunami is nevertheless frightening.  In the end the warning was lifted and peace was restored (below is the email I received an hour later lifting the warning).


12:08 PM:

We have been advised that the tsunami warning and/or watch issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center is now cancelled but would recommend that you continue to monitor media reports, and follow all official instructions in your specific region.

Madang Mentor Visit

MadangMadang Town

This past week was spent with Betty in Madang.  Between each STEP module, the mentor (that’s me!) is suppose to visit their participant (that’s Betty!) and check up on their progress and work.  For various reasons, this is the first time I have been able to visit Betty.  Betty, originally from Morobe, is very independent and has connections with a few communities in the Madang area who are trying to start and/or continue literacy programs in their area.  One of my main goals was to try and figure out how she divides her time, sets her priorities and accomplishes the STEP tasks in a very different environment than almost all of the other participants (most of the other participants live in a village that speaks the language that they are working with). It was great to be able to sit down with Betty, discuss her work, sort through what can be improved on and applaud her determination.

bettyBetty carrying coconuts back to Madang town- you shouldn’t come back empty handed from the bush.

One day we caught a PMV (public motor vehicle) and rode down the southcoast a bit to the Ogea language area.  Betty has done two materials production/writers workshops in the area, and lots of literacy awareness, so it was nice for me to be able to put faces with the names of the authors and illustrators of the books I had seen.  The teachers seem eager to use their language even though the area is heavily influenced by the widespread use of Tok Pisin.  I look forward to visiting again and being able to see the use of the Ogea story books in action.

An example of a book in Tok Pisin:



An example of a book in Ogea:



Rot I Bagarap

These are examples of the various obstacles on the road between Ukarumpa and Madang. There is a reason that we don’t drive at night.


Here the road is literally falling away. Sometimes you can drive by a spot like this and see the guard rail still there but on the hillside down below.


This is not a ford. There is a river crossing between Ukarumpa and Madang but here is simply where water has started flowing over the road and subsequently worn it away.


Potholes may seem innocent enough but when they are filled with water it is hard to judge how deep they actually are. Sometimes nationals put tree branches or leaves into the holes to mark them, sometimes they don’t.


It’s always an adventure.  Thanks for taking the pictures Susan;-)