Comparing PNG and Australia

I’ve done a lot of thinking about the similarities and differences between Australia and Papua New Guinea.  These countries are close together and both have a special place in my heart.  Australia and PNG are, of course, very different countries but they have many similarities.  They share some of the same unique animals; cassowaries, tree kangaroos, wallabies and other marsupials.  They are also both common wealth countries.  Papua New Guinea was under Australian control until 1975 when Australia freely gave PNG it’s independence.  This is another reason for some similarities in certain laws and governmental practices.  But there are also many differences, starting with size.

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Papua New Guinea may be much smaller but it has significantly more languages being spoken.  Australia has some aboriginal and immigrant languages spoken in addition to English but Papua New Guinea is the country with the most languages spoken in the world.  There are over 800 languages spoken in PNG in addition to English, Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu which are the three official languages.

I did a quick search for other similarities and differences and found some really interesting information.  Papua New Guineans make 93% less money and they are also not high energy consumers using almost 88% less oil and almost 95% less electricity than Australians.  In our world of very high consumerism, Papua New Guinea is doing pretty well for our planet.  This is consistent with my experience while living there.  I was less of a consumer, bought most of my clothing second hand, relied more often on my own feet for transportation, ate more locally and organically and much more.

Each country I have lived in is very different.  I look forward to discovering more about Australia once we are living there:-)

Meanwhile in Australia…

Every once in awhile I take a look through the Australian news.  I’m sure this practice will become more common as we get closer to moving but for now I just scan the headlines every few weeks.  Today an article caught my attention and as I read through it, I couldn’t help but think back on the training we received last week coupled with other cross-cultural experiences.

Aboriginal Input

The headline Australian PM knocks back Indigenous constitution plan was interesting in and of itself.  But reading the article it became more apparent that there were certain cultural norms and expectations at work.  And these cultural differences could easily be what is holding the Australian government and the Aboriginal leaders back from coming to an agreeable decision for both sides.

The article is regarding changes to the Australian constitution that would recognize Indigenous Australians and remove some race-based provisions. It cites the following as the proposed changes:

  • Recognising that the continent and its islands now known as Australia were first occupied by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • Acknowledging the continuing relationship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with their traditional lands and waters
  • Respecting the continuing cultures, languages and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Repealing the two so-called “race provisions”:

  • section 25 that recognises that the states can disqualify people on the basis of their race from voting
  • section 51(26) that allows laws to be made based upon a person’s race.

Reading through this article multiple times, on the surface it seems like both sides have valid points but I think that somehow their cultural values and worldview are coloring their vision and making it more difficult to see the point the other side is trying to make.  The Aboriginal community wants to have their own talks and come to a consensus separately regarding the constitutional changes and amendments.  The amendments directly impact their lives.  However, the Prime Minister has “anxiety about a separate Indigenous process is that it jars with the notion of finally substituting ‘we’ for ‘them and us'”.  Not being Aboriginal, I actually relate to the PMs point more but I really wonder what cultural norms are behind the Aboriginal wishes and if they could just be allowed their own process, if that wouldn’t make the final decision easier and more unifying in the long run.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out and how long it will take for an agreement to be reached.

Note: I’m not an Australian expert.  I’m not an Aboriginal expert.  I’m not a political expert or even well read in this particular political instance.  I’m simply commenting on what I see as glaring cultural and historical differences that are keeping these two sides at odds with each other.

The Bread and Wine

IMG_20150402_191240Communion was first taken as a part of a meal.  This was a meal shared among friends, the bread was broken and the wine was poured.  These are simple actions that would have meant nothing except that the next day the man who broke the bread and poured the wine would be crucified and die on a cross.  His actions fulfilled prophecy and took away the sin of the world.  He was the true Passover lamb.  Today is Good Friday and it is only good because we know how the story ends….stay tuned.

Not April Fools but Happy Birthday!

For some people April 1st might be just another day.  While for others, as one of my ESL students told me, it is a ‘day of jokes’.  But, when I think of April 1st, I think of two different things.  First of all, my parents had their first date on April 1st.  This date led to marriage, two kids and and 40 some odd years together (Is it terrible that I don’t know exactly how many years my parent’s have been married?  Sorry Mom and Dad!).  Well, they’ve been married a good amount of time and they are still going strong.  So that first date was no joke.

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Another celebration that takes place every April 1st is my friend Stacy’s birthday.  This picture is us together celebrating one of my birthdays because I’ve rarely been up in Sacramento around April 1st to celebrate with her.  But despite my birthday absences, we’ve been friends for a long time and if I was up in Sacramento with access to my elementary school pictures, I’m sure I could pull up all sorts of embarrassing ones of the two of us together.  Stacy was even my partner in crime during high school.  We spent a lot of time together, had classes together, did church activities together, hung out and got in trouble.  She stayed my friend even when I went through my ‘I want to be a hermit’ phase and we didn’t talk for awhile which was fine for us but really strange for the guys that we had to work with in science lab.  What!? Not everyone goes through a ‘I want to be a hermit’ phase?  Well, I did but thankfully I was over it after about a week or so.

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I have wondered what it would be like to go in to labor on April 1st.  Would anyone believe you?  What about the birth announcement?  And now with Facebook you have easy access to all sorts of people on April 1st who may or may not believe that you’ve just given birth to a sweet bundle of joy (or in this case sweet bundle of Stacy).

Well, it happened, Stacy is an official April 1st baby, and each year we get to celebrate her while everyone else plays jokes on each other.  So here’s to Stacy, my friend since childhood.  We’ve celebrated many milestones together and I’m so thankful that we can pick up where we left off even after being apart for months or sometimes years.  Here’s to the one who was my friend even though I was the strange kid who use to glue my fingers together and let’s face it, do many other strange things even after elementary school.  Here’s to many lazy pool days in her parent’s backyard and countless hours spent watching Life is Beautiful over and over again.  My friend Stacy, who appreciates the finer things in life, including hand-made cards and good Scotch.  I hope you have the happiest of birthdays and I wish you many many more.  Maybe someday I’ll even make it up to Sacramento to celebrate with you.  Happy Birthday Stacy!

They Fell For Each Other

IMG_20150307_144904~2Today Ryan and I got to participate in a wonderful wedding celebration.  Remember Jill’s wedding shower?  Well, one month later and Jill is married to Kevin.

IMG_20150307_165912Today they shared their first dance as a married couple.  Both of them love to dance and they showed off their skills on the dance floor.  It was beautiful and very fun to watch.  Later on they had a limbo contest.  Needless to say, Ryan and I are not very good at the limbo.

IMG_20150307_144830~2Kevin and Jill also shared their first kiss.  Waiting until their wedding day to kiss was important for Kevin and Jill.  I love seeing their commitment to each other expressed in many different ways.  Now they have the rest of their lives to enjoy each other’s kisses.

IMG_20150307_174441Ryan and I had a great time at the wedding, we danced, had our fill of nachos and donuts, visited with friends and had some fun at the photo booth too.  Kevin and Jill fell for each other and we wish them the happiest of ever afters.


Everyone is Living Their Own Story


I have a friend who lives in Papua New Guinea with her husband and kiddos.  We met while I was living in PNG and we now keep up with each other, as I do with many of my overseas friends, on Facebook.  Facebook can be a great communication tool and because it helps me to keep up with people all over the globe, I’m not giving it up anytime soon.  However, sometimes relationships are hindered in the Facebook world (think comparing ourselves to others, only showing our best selves, using the distance or anonymity to say things we otherwise wouldn’t say in person, etc.)  My friend recently posted these words and I thought they were such great food for thought and not just applicable to the Facebook world.  I’ve included my own response and thoughts after but for now here are her words:

“Something has been kicking around in my brain for a while and while hanging laundry just now the words finally came to me to express what I have been thinking. About six years ago, a wise woman told me “Everyone is entitled to their own story.” At the time she was pregnant with surprise twins that came six years after what she thought was her last child. She was a little overwhelmed at the thought of doing the baby thing all over again and also feeling guilty telling some of her friends who had been struggling with infertility for years that she had accidentally ended up with two more kids! But God gave her this bit of wisdom that she was entitled to her own story and all of the feelings that came along with it. 

I have been feeling lately that in the Facebook world we don’t allow each other to be entitled to our own story. Instead we have a tendency to place our story, our reality, on the shoulders of the one posting and expect them to feel the weight of our situation.

I’ll give you some examples. A friend posted on New Year’s Eve that her newborn was being fussy and jokingly asked if anyone wanted a newborn for New Years. Someone posted and said essentially “Oh, please don’t say that. I would give anything to have a newborn in my arms right now.”

Or this one. A friend who is a mother of three went down to visit another friend who had just given birth to her firstborn. The mother of three posted expressing how simple life is with just one tiny baby. Someone said “Oh, don’t say that! My son is serving in the military and I would give anything to have him with me right now.”

And my “favorite” example. Another friend who is the mother of four gorgeous American/African children was expressing frustration one day about negative things that had been said about her beautiful children just based on the color of their skin. Someone wrote “You think THAT is a bad day?! My mother is dying of cancer!”

While all six of these women are experiencing very real situations, some of them very sad and terribly tragic, I want to call us out and say that it is unfair to put the burden of your reality on someone else’s shoulders. I would say that most of us who are mothering children, whether it be one or many, feel like we are doing our darndest just to keep all of our own balls in the air. When someone shares on Facebook about her reality, she isn’t expecting other people to take on her burden. So, let’s do each other a favor and not throw our own ball into someone else’s circus.

Do you see what I’m saying?”

Reading these words made me think.  We all deal with good, bad and ugly situations in our own lives.  And in our minds it seems simple to place all our own story as well as the stories of others on a continuum of easy to difficult but that’s not realistic or wise.  Sometimes relatively ‘easy’ things in my own life seem overwhelming and insurmountable because it’s my current reality and I am living through it.  And I know from experience that while sometimes hearing someone else’s pain or greater problem can be a good reality check, more often than not it just annoys me that my own feelings are somehow discounted because whatever is happening to me isn’t bad enough to warrant sympathy or empathy.

We are all living our own story.  And I believe that the Facebook world (and the world outside of Facebook too) would be better if we were each allowed to live our own story.  Of course there is a time and a place for speaking into someone’s life but that’s not what we’re talking about here.  We’re talking about general, public comments/Facebook posts that seem to invite comparisons and sometimes criticisms of one persons current reality.

However, we ourselves should also be sensitive to our communities.  On Facebook, posts are general and not for any targeted audience but we could all do with a little sensitivity check once in awhile.  For example, a friend who finds herself pregnant with surprise twins would be wise not to express her frustration or trepidation within earshot of a childless friend longing for their own.  Likewise, married friends should be aware of singles in their midst when voicing longings for the single or childless life.  In addition, complaining about your job to a friend who is currently unemployed is also probably not wise or helpful.  And, of course, this list could continue.  This doesn’t mean that we should never express ourselves, by no means.  Instead just be aware of who is around you and what you are saying.

“Everyone is entitled to their own story.”  I hope this is thought provoking for all of us, whether applied to just Facebook or to the world outside of Facebook as well.  I’m thankful for my friend who put this into words and I’m thankful for the reminder that, we are all entitled to our own story, the story that we are each living one day at a time.

Married Expectations

Try as we might, we can’t get away from our expectations.  Whether low or high, they are there.  And unfortunately expectations sometimes hide themselves and only make an appearance when they are not being met.  Whether they seem reasonable or not, expectations can make a mess of certain situations.  Even the word ‘reasonable’ can be deceiving when we’re talking about expectations in general, but especially when referring to expectations within marriage.

Ryan and I have been married almost 11 months.  And I honestly thought that I came into marriage with reasonable (there’s that word again) expectations.  For the most part my wonderful husband has far exceeded my expectations.  The growing list of reasons why I love my husband is just a small expression of all the ways he is great.  However, I do recognize that I married a sinner.  After all, he married one too.  And no matter what your view on religion and sin, I think we all can agree that perfection in a spouse or a human for that matter, doesn’t exist.  We all have quirks, flaws and imperfections.

Now if you’re thinking this is going to be a juicy, whiny confession about how my emotional needs aren’t being met then think again.  Didn’t I say that the list of reasons Ryan is wonderful keeps growing?  And this isn’t about household duties or tasks either.  More often then not I find myself trying to convince Ryan that he has already done enough helping out for the day.  Maybe we’re still in the honeymoon phase but I’ll take it.  Every person/couple has their own set of unmet expectations but for me, my most felt unmet expectations center around the way Ryan and I view and organize our world.  These are expectations about time, priorities and organization.  It’s amazing how easy these expectations can be put aside when you aren’t permanently living with and trying to do life with someone.

Ryan and I view time, priorities and organization in very different ways.  We each have our own systems and they have been engrained into us.  And in addition to learning about how we each work, we are still learning how to communicate these views and beliefs.  It’s not only about the expectations that are revealed but it’s also about how we communicate our own expectations, understand each others expectations and ultimately come together in what to do and how to move forward.

It’s going to take a lot longer than 11 months for us to figure this out, which is no surprise to anyone who has been married any length of time.  It’s unreasonable to think that we can get rid of our expectations.  But it is reasonable to keep working, keep talking and keep praying over the expectations that crop up along the way.  Despite the frustrations and tears (mine mostly) I’m thankful for a man who not only exceeds my expectations but doesn’t run away when I find myself unexpectedly expecting something else from him.