Sunday, May 17, 2009

powdered milk, plastic buckets and tinned meat

I decided I’d better write one last post before we go to the village tomorrow. I have to do it now, because in a little while Brian will be going down to the generator shed and will turn off the power for half the center. Our house will still have electricity, but the computer room won’t, which means no internet! You see, last night just as we were finishing dinner we got about 6 calls from people whose electricity had gone out. Brian and Clark discovered that one of the main electrical wires had burnt through, leaving about every third house on the lower part of the hill without power. It wasn’t something they could fix last night in the dark, and in fact it won’t be fixed properly until they can get parts from Lae, but they are going to try this afternoon to patch it together so that those families who were affected can have their electricity back. Of course this had to happen right before we are getting ready to leave for two weeks!

Tomorrow morning (Monday) we will load up the back of our truck bright and early, pick up Gil (who will be traveling out with us) and then drive to Imbo-Ungu land, in the Southern Highlands. We’ll be staying in a house that a former missionary family built in the village, which hasn’t been regularly occupied since the late ‘90s. While there, Susan will be helping the translation team check some of their rough drafts and also check in on the literacy students she is mentoring. The village has high hopes that Brian will be able to patch together the leaky rain water tank that the village uses for drinking water. Brian is a little worried about living up to their expectations, because it seems like the water tank really is on its last legs. So maybe you can pray for that!

The nice thing about being able to drive to the village (hey – it’s a 7-hour drive over bumpy roads, I have to try to find something to look forward to!) is that you don’t have to worry about the weight of your cargo. When translators have to fly to their villages, they have to count every kilo of food and clothing. Our friend Joy flew out to a different language group in the Southern Highlands last week, and she had to dehydrate all of her veggies and meat. But we are driving, so we get the luxury of canned food. Ah, village food! As you can see, we’re going to enjoy such delicacies as Ox and Palm tinned corned beef, powdered milk, and laundry detergent. Ok, the laundry detergent bucket is actually full of flour, rice and sugar. Plastic buckets are prized possessions in the village because they keep bugs and rodents out!

Well, I’d better finish packing. Check back in June for some stories and pictures from our time in the village!

Friday, May 15, 2009


While we were at POC last fall, I remember one hot afternoon when Brian and I were sitting in the shade and reading, because it was too muggy to take an after-lunch nap in our room. I was reading some John Grisham novel about some fancy-pants rich lawyer, and all of a sudden, I slammed my book down and exclaimed, “Brian!” Having got his attention, I told him in a voice filled with yearning, “He’s eating a bagel… with cream cheese!” (referring to the character in the book). We both stopped and thought about how long it had been since we had had the luxury of eating a bagel with cream cheese, and then returned to reading. A minute later, I slammed the book down again in frustration. “What is it now?” Brian asked. “Brian… he threw the bagel away!” I couldn’t stand the fact that a fictional character had so carelessly disposed of such a luxury!

One of my first jobs when I was 14 was mixing bagels at my uncle’s bagel shop. At that time all I did was dump the ingredients into the huge commercial mixer and then, after the dough had risen, I would cut it into strips and feed them into a machine that formed the bagels. At that time I was never involved in the boiling or baking (someone wisely decided that it was not wise to trust a 14-year-old with a giant oven). It wasn’t until recently that I took up bagel-making again, after seeing that cream cheese is available in our store here (though not all the time). It actually isn’t as hard as it looks, and home-made bagels taste awfully good.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

traim tasol

A phrase that you hear often in PNG is “traim tasol,” which means, “only trying” (or more freely translated: “it doesn’t hurt to try.”) Someone might come up to you and ask for money, a job, or any number of things, and when you tell them no, they just shrug and say “traim tasol.” Some of my Australian friends say that they have a similar mentality, and will often ask for things that as an American I would feel awkward asking for. (For example, asking that a store would honor an expired coupon. The worst thing that can happen is that they will say “no,” so why not ask?).

So I figured I would give it a go by featuring our post office box in this post. And if you say, “Hold on! This is just a shameless attempt to get people to send mail!” then I will shrug and say, “traim tasol.”

This is our mailbox, box 266:

Three days a week an airplane goes down to Port Moresby (the capital) and back, and these are the days when we can expect mail. This is what we hope to see when we open our mailbox:

And we get really, really excited when we see this. It means that we have a package:

Today I got a package from my friend Janice, which included things like chai tea bags, a new apron, a cooking magazine (my favorite), and a very newsy letter:

A few of the most useful things we have received in the mail:

- spices

- deodorant (they only have roll-on deodorant in this country)

- a rubber boot (this was for Brian, whose feet are too big for us to be able to buy footwear for him here. Apparently the boots are too big to send two in one box. We’re waiting for another package that has the second boot in it!)

A few of the most random things we have received in care packages:

- 3-D glasses

- baby clothes (from some would-be-grandparents… a little hint, maybe?)

- twisty ties (actually have proved very useful)

Things we got really excited about:

- a CD of photos and videos from home

- Sunday comics, or once a whole month’s worth of the daily comics from the paper

- DVDs

- Letters

- Baking mixes

- Magazines (we can always use new reading material)

The simplest little things are very meaningful when you’re far away from home. Are you inspired yet?


One of the things that I miss from home is a clothes dryer. The other day I was reminiscing about when we lived in North Carolina, and I would do laundry just once a week. I would do three loads, one after the other. And then nothing for the rest of the week!

Here it seems that I do laundry almost every day – one load per day. You see, all of the washing machines here seem to take at least an hour to run a cycle, so I have to load the machine first thing in the morning if I want to have it out on the line before I go to work. And it often rains in the afternoons, so you pretty much have to have your clothes out on the line by 8am if you want them to be dry when you come home for lunch.

It is possible to buy a dryer here, but they are expensive and also very expensive to operate, because electricity is not cheap here. Most of the time I don’t mind hanging my things on the line to dry, but they do seem to get stretched out and faded a lot quicker. And my towels are not nearly as soft. Someone advised us to bring lots of extra underwear and socks with us – enough for four years. I’m so glad that they did, after seeing just how saggy everything can get after just a few months!

Another thing that I have discovered in the world of laundry is Napisan. It’s a product used to sanitize and clean cloth diapers. I don’t have to worry about diapers yet (or “nappies”, as the Aussies call them), but I have found that it’s about the only thing that will get the grease out of Brian’s coveralls when he comes home after a day of rolling around in grease puddles or whatever it is that he does to get so dirty. I usually soak them overnight in Napisan and then wash them, and they come out nice and clean (and then all the other mechanics make fun of him because his clothes are so bright).

Laundry is just one example of how just living takes more time here. It’s amazing how the little extra things around the house that you didn’t have to do back home really add up. Cooking, cleaning, laundry… it all just takes a little more effort than it used to.

Oh, and just for laughs, here is a photo that proves that I have become a true missionary:

Yes, I now rinse out and save my Ziplock bags!