It never ceases to amaze me how creative children can be. They may not have remote control cars or even matchbox cars to play with but they will find a way to create their own toys. Old bottles, discarded string, bits of wood and four large seeds can become functioning racecars. These boys were happy to show off their creations.
Lalu and I had an adventure going down to a nearby village because she wanted to show me what a pulo tree was (more about that adventure later). The pulo tree is covered with fuzzy red pods containing seeds that can be used as face and body paint. The seeds use to be used to paint “bilas” (decoration- both verb and noun) on the skin during traditional singsings or other celebrations. This shows up beautifully on their black skin but just gives me a red-tinged jaundice. Anyway- Lalu and I brought back a branch of this tree to Kapawa in order to show Steve and whoever else wanted to see it. When I got back, I sat down below my house and just storied with the women who were around. Their children were all playing in and around the classroom and some of them were very curious what this red fuzzy plant was (it doesn’t grow in Kapawa so the little ones had never seen it). I broke open a couple of pods and showed them that it could be used to paint their skin- then after convincing them that it was not edible, I went back to talking with the mothers. I watched out of the corner of my eye as these young girls proceeded to paint their finger and toe nails with the seeds. Then one of the older girls painted each of their faces. It was very cute to watch these beautiful little girls bilas themselves and each other.
Before I left for Kapawa, I was praying for a friend- someone who I could talk to and spend time with while I was out in the village. Let me introduce my friend Lalu. Lalu is 19 and the second child in a family of four. She has an older brother named Max (the guy holding the bee hive), a little sister named Kiu and a younger brother who they call Denge. Lalu is very sincere and has a natural gift of patience. She is a patient language teacher and a very patient trail guide. I look forward to spending time with Lalu again when I am back out in the village in May.
One Sunday she met me at the bottom of my stairs and asked if I wanted to visit the Kunai which is a grassy hill where the cows tend to hang-out and graze. It’s only a short walk but of course, down a steep ravine and then back up again. However, it was worth the walk. The view from the top of the hill was spectacular (this picture does not do it justice) and it was great to send some time with the girls. Lalu and her cousin Lizeni are showing me the watermelon that Lalu had bought at the market the day. As we ate slices of watermelon, I told them stories about seed spitting contests and watermelon eating contests in the US. They thought it was pretty funny that we don’t save the seeds to plant again and that we would give a prize to someone just because they could eat fast. Then we watched the clouds roll in and cover the hill. This picture is me standing close to the same spot but a half an hour later (wearing yet another pair of super stylish culottes;-).
We see the world as we are, not necessarily as it is. – Mark Ambrose
Sitting in the STEP course, we were shown a picture of a pig and asked what we associated with it. The Americans and Canadians assisting with the course responded- farm, bacon, Babe the movie. However, the Papua New Guineans responded- brideprice, compensation, money/wealth, food/fat and markets.
While I was in the village I would often take a walk and end up visiting with Lucy (little Adoniya’s mother) in her haus kuk. One morning she was boiling a very full pot of food and she told me it was for her pig. I was pleasantly surprised because many nationals just let their pigs forage for food. A few days later I visited again and once more she was boiling kaikai bilong pik (food for the pig). It seemed to me that this pig was living the good life- a shelter over its head and a semi-consistent supply of food. A few days before we left, I went for a walk again and visited Lucy. I noticed the pot boiling away over the fire and just assumed that it was for the pig. After being asked if ate pig, I noticed the distinct smell of cooked pig wafting through the haus kuk. The boiling pot wasn’t food for the pig, it was the pig. Evidently Lucy had decided the night before to butcher it because she felt like eating meat. It smelled pretty good so I accepted the offer of a piece of meat and some kaukau. While I enjoyed my food I got to observe once more how Papua New Guineans don’t waste anything. Children happily ate pieces of pig- skin, fat and all. Adults gnawed on the backbone until there was no trace of meat left. And the dogs lapped away at coconut shells filled with the soupy drippings and carried away the remaining bones. As I observed the scene I noticed an addition to the pig jaw bones that were lined up on their wall- the jaw of a pig who just a few days earlier was living the good life.
People love getting their pictures taken, especially now that we have digital cameras and they can see the picture right away on the screen. I guess in a place without many mirrors, seeing your face is a novelty. These women asked me to get Debbie to take a picture of them with me. It took a few minutes to line up in a way that satisfied them and I was happy to end up in the middle holding little Ella. My favorite part of this picture is the little boy at the right who is wearing one oversized flipflop. Although most people don’t wear shoes, it is not unusual to see kids or even adults wearing only one shoe. Shoes are expensive so if one breaks, they don’t throw out the one that didn’t break. They continue to wear it until it completely falls apart.
Isn’t he precious? Adoniya (the Tok Pisin for Adonijah) was named after the Biblical King. He is Bomes and Lucy’s 4th child. Bomes is Steve’s co-translator and their family has been and continues to be a blessing to the McEvoys in many ways. Lucy was one of Debbie’s first friends when they first came out to the village, Lucy is easy to talk to and very smart. I look forward to spending more time getting to know Lucy and Bomes when we go back out to the village.
While I was cleaning my room in the village and preparing to move in, I heard a loud buzzing coming from one corner. I told Steve and after further investigation he uncovered this large hive in the wall where my bed is now located. As soothing as the hum of a bee hive can be, I am very glad that the wall was opened and the hive was removed. Max took the hive away and i’m not sure what he did with it. I also got to learn that Steve’s brother and Dad have a business taking care of honey bees. Maybe someday Steve will have his own honey bees in the village, but I hope they will be housed someplace other than my walls.
One of the best parts of living and working in Ukarumpa is all the cool people you get to meet and interact with. Dave and his wife have served in PNG for many years and they have four children. The first time I met Dave was at a “Broadway Name that Tune Night” where we discussed the origins of Boxing Day. Then a few days later he was the pilot who took me on my first helicopter ride. I am very thankful for all the support personnel whose jobs enable translators and other language workers to do their jobs more efficiently. Without a helicopter pilot, it would be possible for us to get to Kapawa. However, instead of an hour and a half flight we would have a longer and more complicated journey. This would entail taking a car or PMV (public motor vehicle) to Lae, catching a boat to Finschhafen, taking another PMV up the coast and then hiking the 3000 feet up to the village. Steve and Debbie have taken the long way to the village before but now with their 4 children it would be too difficult. Maybe sometime I’ll try it but for now I will just be thankful for people like Dave who provide me with another option.
I have been in Kapawa for a little over a week now and have two weeks left before I will return to Ukarumpa. I will be sure to post pictures when I get back but for now you will all just have to use your imaginations. It has been great getting to know the people who live here and they have been very helpful- showing me around and talking with me about their customs and language. Kapawa is in the mountains so the water that they use to wash (clothes, dishes, themselves) and drink is down a steep hillside. I have been down there three times and I make the nationals nervous because I am not very nimble or graceful as I slip and slide down different muddy parts. They worry about me falling and getting hurt or getting dirty. But it’s ok cause at the bottom of the mountain we wash anyway, even though by the time we get back up the mountain I am dirty and sweaty again. While I was walking back the second time, I saw what I thought was a piece of rope on the trail- I thought for a second about kicking it out of the way but didn’t and just walked on by. When I looked back I saw that it was slithering away- it was a snake! I don’t know what kind of snake it was but most snakes here are poisonous. I am very glad I chose not to kick it. I had an encounter with swarming insects too. The room which is now mine had some buzzing coming from it that sounded suspicious. On closer inspection we realized that in the year Steve and Debbie had been gone, wild honey bees had made a hive in the wall. Steve neutralized them with some rounds of mortein insect spray and then they opened the wall to remove the hive, which was quite large. Unfortunately the mortein left the honey inedible but I am glad to have the hive gone. Now I sleep comfortably with my head against the wall where the hive use to be. Since this seems to be all about animals I might as well tell about the grubs that we found in the firewood today. I was working on a word list when Debbie called me over to see a grub in the wood Steve was cutting. It was white and thicker than my index finger but probably just as long. After taking a picture- Steve asked me if I wanted to eat it but I declined because who am I to deny the village children of such a delicacy. Then Steve took a video of one of the boys happily eating it. I thought the entertainment was over but then they found another grub in the same wood. This time Steve got the whole action- from the removal of the grub, to the consumption of the grub on video. I’ll see if there is a way to post that for your viewing enjoyment. Some day I may have a video of myself enjoying the bush delicacies but maybe I will fry it first.
Tomorrow I leave for Kapawa. It has been complicated trying to pack for bringing exactly 40kg and enough food items for three weeks worth of breakfasts (I will have lunch and dinner with the McEvoys) but I am finally ready. Everything is packed, weighed and labeled. I have also cleaned and moved out of my apartment in preparation for my early morning departure. So for two nights I am staying at Brian and Susan’s house and they are generously allowing me to store everything I am not taking to the village in their extra bedroom.
Let me introduce the generous Brian and Susan. Brian is a diesel mechanic from Oregon and Susan is a linguist from Colorado. They met during training camp, then dated and married a year ago this January. Now living at Ukarumpa, Brian works in the industrial department and fixes machines and equipment. He’s the one who will fix the generator when PNG-power goes out or repair the tractor that maintains the roads. Susan will be assisting in various roles in the language office- which will include material distribution and advocate work with a people group in the Mt. Hagen area. Both of them have very different interests and talents but PNG provides opportunities for them both to contribute positively to the work of bible translation.
At the end of POC Brian and Susan volunteered to be my support team for my village stays. Support teams are one of Ukarumpa’s safety nets for village teams. I am still learning all of the roles that a support team can play but mainly they are there to help prepare me for the village, provide moral support via radio and help with various other practical tasks while I am away from Ukarumpa. As a support team they will also be learning about the province and language group. But I think Brian and Susan are most excited about the opportunity to have a subsidized visit out to Kapawa at some point. I am excited about that too!
But for now, I am looking forward to radio skeds with Susan and sharing village stories with them when I get back. I will be sure to come back with lots of blog material to share with all of you as well.