Drum Oven

The best thing about having a drum oven is actually being able to make bread and cookies- The worst thing about having a drum oven is the work that it takes to actually bake whatever you are baking.  This oven is placed over a fire and then we keep the fire hot enough for the time it takes to bake the food.  That’s all just fire and a metal drum with some sand in the bottom.  Sharon and I made this drum oven out of a kerosene drum, some sheet metal and pop rivets.  Don’t ask me how we did it but I think it turned out alright.  We even got ambitious and bent metal into pan shapes so that we could bake the bread and cookies.  Other than a burned arm no one was harmed in the making of the drum oven.  And it made some very delicious peanut butter cookies last week- this week chocolate chip!

Stretching My Spiritual Muscles

My time in PNG has so far been dominated with very practical lessons.  Everyday we are working on our physical strength and endurance.  Our minds are also being stretched and filled with language, culture, history, government and all the lessons on everyday living in PNG.  With all of these activities it has been a challenge to find time to spend exercising my spiritual muscles.  I believe that I am here in PNG for a reason and in God’s sovereignty this is part of His master plan.  However, that does not negate the everyday struggle that comes from being away from my support system and built in influences of my church and spiritual family.  I am thankful for every blessing that falls into my lap to remind me of God’s faithfulness. This week we had an amazing woman come and talk with us about government, history, missions and life in general in PNG.  Gail was born in Australia but is now a PNG citizen. She has lived in PNG for over 40 years, married a PNG man and has two biological children along with many adopted children from the wantok system (the language community/family system in PNG).  Gail and her husband lived at Ukarumpa for 25 years.  During our devotions Gail shared what God had taught her during that time and she expressed her heart in a way that I really indentified with.  Philippians 1:6 spoke into her life at that time.  In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul says “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus”.  It is so easy to loose focus, but this is a reminder that a good work has begun in me and I am not yet perfected in Christ.  He is still working in me and He will continue despite my human nature.  I am getting, loud and clear, the message here that I need to take my eyes off myself and focus on Christ.  I may not have the same support system as in the US but God is still at work here in PNG and He is sufficient.

Tok Pisin (Melanesian Pidgin)

Since the first week we arrived, we have had Tok Pisin lessons nearly every morning with teachers from the surrounding community.  We would gather in our groups (about 6 to a group) and learn dialogues related to community activities, read various stories, sing Tok Pisin songs and even went on a couple field trips to actively practice language.  This picture is of our Tisa Itbam showing us how they would catch a wild pig if it was bothering our garden. He also gave us a tree climbing demonstration so that we could go get our own coconut or buai.  These classes have been great to gain insight into the culture through the language.  Below is a language quiz so that you can try your hand at deciphering some Tok Pisin.

Match the following Tok Pisin Words (1-8) with the English Words (A-H)

1. nogat

2. tisa

3. gras

4. pren

5. pis

6. traut

7. kaikai

8. pik

A. hair

B. food

C. friend

D. no

E. pig

F. teacher

G. throw up

H. fish

Translate the following

Mi laik kaikai pik.

Matching Answers

1=D      2=F      3=A      4=C      5=H      6=G      7=B      8=E

English Translation

I like to eat pig.

Independence Day

Just a short history of PNG (thank you to a previous teacher at POC who made this timeline accompanied by illustrations- below is just a summary):

A long long time ago- The first people came over the ocean to PNG most likely from Asia and slowly moved from the Coastal Regions to the Highlands.

A long time ago- People began farming in each region of PNG and trading between themselves.

Some time ago- PIGS=WEALTH in the Highlands and kaukau (like sweet ptotato) begins to be farmed and becomes the main food staple. Pig and people populations increase.

1526- People on the south coast of PNG see Jorge de Meneses on his way back to Portugal and are startled by his white skin and HUGE sailing canoe. Jorge sees the peoples “frizzy hair” and names them “Papuans”.

1600’s- People on the islands and coastal regions discover Dutch explorers.  Their white skin and material possessions are very surprising so the people in PNG begin to try and explain their encounters through myths and legends.

1700’s- French and English explorers are discovered on the islands and coastal regions.  The people of PNG begin to trade wood, spices, bird of paradise plumes, pearls, etc for knives, axes, beads, cloth etc.

1800’s- The “white skins” begin to stay and settle in PNG. Some of them make the people in PNG work on their plantations, others are missionaries who tell them about Jesus and try to get them to discard their PNG traditions. Some PNGers fight with the “white skins” and some are friendly.  Some are kidnapped by slave traders.

1884- People in the north are told that they live in New Guinea and that they belong to Germany.  People in the south are told that they live in Papua and that they belong to Great Britain.

1900’s- More “white skins” come looking for gold and they bring in amazing “cargo” (cargo refers to the possessions that have accompanied “white skins” coming into PNG- more on cargo cults in a future blog post). People in PNG continue to try and figure out where the “cargo” is coming from and how they can get it themselves.

1906- People in Papua are told that they now belong to Australia.

1914- People in New Guinea are told that they now belong to Australia because Germany started a war somewhere.

1920’s and 30’s- People in the Highlands see “white skins” for the first time and are scared and confused.  They think the “white skins” are their ancestors come back from the dead but after further investigation and personal contact they realize they are only human.

1930’s- People in the Highlands are told that they must obey certain Australian “white skins” and new local leaders with foreign names taken from the PNG coastal areas and imported into the Highlands.

1942- Japanese invade and take over the North Coast and try to move through PNG to take Port Morsby.  People flee into the bush and caves as their villages are destroyed and many people die.

1942-1945- As the war continues men are recruited as carriers, laborers and soldiers and begin to travel around and see more of their own country.  These men continue to be amazed by the “cargo” and lose more and more respect for the “white skins”.

1945- The war ends and life goes back to normal.  However, many “white skins” stay in PNG and the men who worked alongside the “white skins” are told to give back their uniforms but receive little to no thanks in return.

1949- Papuans and New Guineans are told that they are now united under Australian rule.

1950- Australia forms local governments so that PNG is ruled by its own people again (sort of).

1951- Australia forms the first Legislative Council and chooses 3 Papuans and New Guineans to be a part of it.

1961- Papuans and New Guineans are allowed to vote for the first time in a national election.

1964- Australia forms the new House of Assembly out of 38 Papuans and New Guineans and 26 Australians- some are chosen, others are elected.

1973- Australia allows Papuans and New Guineans to govern themselves (with Australia’s help).

September 16, 1975 Papua New Guineans put up their own flag and peacefully became the independent nation of Papua New Guinea.

On Tuesday September 16, 2008 Papua New Guinea celebrated 33 years of national independence.  To celebrate the people up on the NobNob mountain put together a festival.  This included a volleyball tournament leading up to Tuesday (a team of “white skins” from our training entered and lost all their matches but provided much enjoyed comic relief to the PNG locals).  The festival began with the raising of the PNG flag and the singing of the national anthem.  Then there was singing and dancing, different skits to music, various local bands playing traditional music, more volleyball and assorted concessions ice cream, popsicles etc. to buy as well.  My favorite part of the day was interacting with the local children who like to come and sit on our mats and play with the white children.  They are either inquisitive and just sit and stare, or they interact with you and smile and are eager to share the bugs they find crawling on the ground.


Sharon is a doctor from New Zealand.  She will be working in the Western Province of PNG with the Aekyom people group.  She has specialized in rural medicine.  For the next 8 weeks she and I will be partners for all the activities here in Madang.  We will cook on the weekends together and spend 10 days living in a village together before she leaves. This picture is us in front of the Madang market together.  I am holding a kulau (a green coconut that you drink).  We went to the market to buy all sorts of interesting foods to try cooking this weekend.  We bought kaukau (a root vegetable kind of like potato) and saksak (I will tell you later when I figure it out).

Haus Kuk

Pictured here is my first tangible accomplishment in PNG. With just some bamboo, various other woods, some string, a tarp and axes and bush knives (on the table behind us) Julie, Sara and I built this Haus Kuk (House Cook) with our own 6 hands. This activity consisted of sharpening the ends of the poles to be forcefully driven into the ground and then lashing everything together so that is can withstand the random downpours of rain that occur even though it is the dry season. Other than a little (ok so a lot) of help pounding the many support poles into the ground we constructed the rest ourselves including the benches and table behind us. The side even has a counter where we can prepare food and wash dishes when we make our own meals outside over an open fire on the weekends. It only took us about 6 hours over two days to complete the entire Haus Kuk. Today we got the experience of making a fire and each family (my “family” is Sharon- I will introduce her next post) cooked something different to be shared for lunch. Sharon and I made fried kaukau (basically sweet potato chips). It is amazing what you can do with a little fire, a grate, some tin cans and a lot of patience. Starting this Saturday we will be cooking our weekend meals as a family. I will try and post a menu at some point too so that you can see what more typical PNG foods are. Stay tuned- there are plenty of new experiences to share.

Seismic Activity in PNG

Here is the promised picture of the ‘gutpela luk luk’ or view from my bedroom window which is up 1000 feet above Madang, the town hidden in the trees on the coastline below. While I was sitting in my bedroom on Saturday afternoon resting- I felt what I thought was a strong gust of wind shake the building.  However, the curtains were not billowing as usual and the considerable shaking didn’t stop.  It was my first earthquake in PNG!  Coming from California it didn’t seem too out of place but it was surprising nonetheless.  The shaking stopped after about 30 seconds and it wasn’t strong enough to damage anything or even knock things off the shelves.  Earthquakes are a normal part of life in PNG and the seismic activity has had a big impact on the culture through geography.  In the chapter Long Taim Bipo from the book Papua New Guinea by Sean Dorney- he describes the geography of PNG stating that “Geographically it is a young, violent land.  Located between the old, stable continental mass of Australia and the Pacific Ocean’s deep basin, the segment of the earth’s crust on which most of PNG sits is highly mobile.  The friction caused by its constant movement has created the folded and faulted mountain ranges which continue to shake and occasionally explode to this day.”  So I don’t mind the earthquakes but hopefully I will be able to steer clear of the volcanoes.

Still the Other Side of the Road.

Once again I don’t know what I was expecting but here they drive on the other side of the road too. However, that is only the beginning of the differences that will soon become normal to me.  While I am making this transition, I will do my best to describe- without pictures- my daily experiences.

The Airport- we flew in on a smaller two engine airplane and were greeted at the “gate” by Glenda and Ray who are the directors of the orientation camp (POC).  I say “gate” because we just climbed down the steps of the plane and walked about 50 feet to a fence where we walked through and then waited behind a table for our luggage to be hand delivered from the cargo hold to us.  Welcome to Madang.

Madang- Madang is a city on the northern coast of PNG.  I have spent two afternoons now shopping and having a look around.  The markets are filled with bight colored clothing and lots of fresh foods.  The stores seem to be well stocked with a great variety of things from clothing and basic toiletries to many Australian food brands.

POC- The Pacific Orientation Course is situated on a mountain looking over the city of Madang and the coastline. I have a beautiful view out of my window and will post a picture as soon as I figure out how.  We are just settling in and learning to live with 15 other families that include more children than adults. Each time I get frustrated or find myself overwhelmed with our orientation tasks I will simply look to one of the families with four kids in tow and tell myself it could be a lot more difficult.