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).
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.
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.
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.