Monday, July 20, 2009

Happy Birthday Susan

Even though Brian had to work on my birthday, he made it up to me by planning a party with some friends the following day.  He even made me this cake, all by himself!  He also bought me some lovely pottery from a local studio.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I've got the light

“He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him all men might believe.  He himself was not the light; he only came as a witness to the light.—John 1:7-8 (NIV)”


On Saturday I was involved with a big power project here in Ukarumpa.  For the last couple of months we have been having power problems - one of our power feed lines kept burning in two.  This is not good.  The wiring was rather old aluminum cable that had been overheated numerous times from too high of loads.  We had already patched the line twice, but knew that if the wire blew again there would be nothing that we could do to repair it, leaving many people in the dark.

Our solution was to have a planned power outage and replace not only the cables with heavier copper cables, but also to replace the old (and now burned out) fuse boxes with new modern circuit breakers.  We also decided that a Saturday would be the best day to do this since all the offices are closed and most people would just be at home.  Too bad it was Susan’s birthday as well.

We started at 7:00 AM getting our cherry picker into position and all of our tools and supplies ready before we turned off the power to half the center.  Luckily our house was on the half that still had power.  We tore out the old wire and fuse box (you can see the old fuse box on the ground outside the building) and then installed two new runs of conduit (the two orange pipes in the picture) with our new cables in them on to the power pole.  Oh, and did I mention that it was raining most of the time we were doing this?  We had to mount a new box inside for the circuit breaker and then run the wires to all the right spots.  Having a little portable generator set up outside to run power tools and work lamps, plus an electric tea kettle so the guys could have tea break helped the work go quickly. 

It took us until 5:30 before we had the power back on and the guys even gave me the honor to throw the switches back on. (Maybe they figured that if something was wrong I would be the one electrocuted.)  The lights all came back on without a problem, so I guess we did it right.  My job in all of this was really to make sure the guys had all the tools and supplies that they needed, run the banding tool to secure the conduit to the pole (something I learned working in a parts warehouse), and make sure Susan brought lunch at the right time.

So not only do I get to share the light spiritually speaking, but practically as well.

(And I’m making it up to Susan about working on her birthday by throwing a party today.  I even made the cake myself!)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tairora Portraits

The village that we visited was in the Tairora language area, one of the main languages in the valley where we live. Here are just a few portraits of the people that I thought you might enjoy.

Raw food photo shoot

When I was taking pictures of the mumu preparations, the people enjoyed it so much that I was taken around to at least 10 different mumu pits and instructed to take photos of all the people holding food in various combinations. Then I would show them the resulting picture on the back of our digital camera. They loved it! And then they would tell me to take more pictures. So now I have waaaaay more pictures of raw meat than I’ll ever need. I thought I’d share with you some of them, since the villagers were really thrilled with the idea that their pictures would go back to America, and that the people in America would luksave (know by seeing) the kinds of foods that Papua New Guineans eat. So here are a few photos of people holding yams, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, greens, various kinds of raw meat and even pig intestines. Yum!

Oh yes – many people asked about the pigs’ blood tapioca in the last post. Yes, they do cook it, and no, we haven’t tried it yet!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mumu time

A mumu is a special PNG way of preparing food. The term is also used to refer to a feast, since a mumu is usually done on occasions such as weddings, funerals, and various celebrations. A pit is dug in the ground, and large stones are heated with fire until they are very hot. The stones are put into the bottom of the pit, and then layers of food and banana leaves are piled on top. The whole thing is then covered up with leaves, and water is poured on the hot stones, causing the food to be cooked by the steam. You can cook just about anything in a mumu pit. Several pigs were butchered for this celebration (a baptism and confirmation service in the local Lutheran church), but they also bought cartons of “lamb flaps” (lamb ribs) in town. They cooked them with sweet potato, cooking bananas, pumpkin, corn, and a variety of local greens.

Sometimes meat and greens are stuffed into a bamboo tube and cooked.

These ladies are preparing a special delicacy – tapioca mixed with pig’s blood!

Village Accomodation

As we mentioned before, we spent last weekend in a nearby village. Above is a photo of the view from the village. This was our first time staying in a Highlands-style house, which are pretty different from coastal houses. Coastal houses are built to stay cool. They are up on stilts and have lots of windows. Highlands houses, on the other hand, are made with warmth in mind. They are built on the ground, and rarely have windows. They will often have a fire pit in the middle, and the smoke just wafts out through the grass-thatched roof. You can see in the photo below that the roof is blackened from the smoke. The house that we stayed in was similar to this one, except that it was rectangular instead of round.

Inside, the house is just one room. It has a dirt floor, and around three sides it has a wide low platform for sitting and also for sleeping. The house that we slept in was about 30ft by 15ft. We shared it for the night with about 7 Papua New Guineans. We were glad that we had a fire for warmth, but we went to sleep with smoke stinging our eyes.

One of the adventurous things about staying a village is that you never know what to expect when it comes to the liklik haus, or bathroom. In this particular village, this was all there was:

It was out past the houses, which was nice, since as you can see there wasn’t much cover provided! And this was probably the most challenging liklik haus I have encountered so far. Usually the hole is a little bigger!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Is the doctor in?

Many of the guys that I work with jokingly call me “the doctor.”  They tell everyone that all I need to do is give a machine a “shot” (or sut in Tok Pisin) and it will be all better.  I must say that it is not as easy as they make it sound, but since arriving in Ukarumpa I have been able to breathe life back into many things.  The latest project that I saved from the scrap heap was this Caterpillar generator.  It had been sitting for ten years in our tractor shed since being replaced with a bigger generator, and we finally decided to sell it.  I was told that it had run 10 years ago, but since then no one had tried to start it. 


A week ago I put an advertisement in the newspaper classifieds trying to sell it.  We needed the space, and were also hoping it would help to pay for another machine we are looking at buying.  Some of the people before me had been real packrats, so there is quite a bit of stuff lying around.  Anyway I decided I had better get it running first before people came to see it (plus power wash off 10 years worth of dust and dirt build up).  We hauled it out of the tractor shed to our work area and then drained the old oil out of it and put in fresh oil.  Then we pumped fresh diesel fuel through the injector lines and then finally connected the batteries.  It took us a couple hours to get all this accomplished, but after getting all the air bled out and a couple huffs of starting fluid, the engine coughed and sputtered back to life in a large cloud of black smoke.  Amos (who is seen in the picture) and I were all grins seeing this old machine that others had deemed as just junk brought back to life.  I can now in good conscience sell it to someone who will get many more years of service out of it.  And the doctor has saved another patient.

Pulap truck

This past weekend Eddy (standing on right), one of Brian’s workmen at Industrial, invited us to come and show the JESUS film at his village and to spend the night.  We agreed to give Eddy and his family a ride.  When you agree to give a ride to a Papua New Guinean and his “family”, you can pretty much bet that they will keep piling people in until it isn’t physically possible to fit more.  A few guys didn’t make it into our truck, but they cut across country on foot and made it to the village about the same time we did by road.  We didn’t get an accurate count, but there were five people and a baby in the cab, plus another 5 or 6 crammed in the back with all of our equipment.


Our truck was “pulap tru” (full-up true).

Monday, July 6, 2009

More house photos

We’ve had time now to unpack at least the main rooms (the office is still pretty scary looking, and so is the spare bedroom), so here are some photos.

Our cozy living room. The first time we made a fire in the fireplace we left for work when it was still smoldering. A log fell against the screen, knocking it out, and then the log lay on the floor for a few hours and burned a nice hole in the hardwood floor. Brian was not happy! But we’re thankful that we didn’t burn the whole house down! (The fireplace also serves as a backup water heater if it has been cloudy and our solar hot water system isn’t putting out enough heat).

Susan’s favorite place – the kitchen! I joke with Brian that I get tired cooking here because I have to walk around, the kitchen is so big. In our last place I could just turn in a circle and reach the stove, refrigerator, sink and countertop.

The master bedroom. The floors in the attached bathroom and closet have never been finished, so that’s a small project we have yet to do.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy 4th!

They say that it’s during holidays that you feel most homesick when you are as far away from home as we are. On Thanksgiving, we had just come back from 5 weeks of living in the village, and we were just thankful for running water, hot showers, and beds that were raised off the floor. At Christmas we were just settling into life in Ukarumpa, and it never really felt like Christmas. We hadn’t brought any decorations with us, and the packages that our families sent didn’t arrive until New Years Eve, and so all we had was a “Christmas Lamp” with a few small presents wrapped in newspaper:

But the 4th of July actually turned out pretty nice. We had just celebrated Canada Day on the 1st, so we were already thinking about patriotic things. The weather was warm and sunny – just like a nice July day back home (unlike at Christmas, when the weather was nice and sunny – very unlike a December day back home!). We went to a big barbecue with some American friends (and some British, Australian, Canadian, Dutch and Swiss too), played Frisbee and croquet. We barbecued and ate tons of food. And we even had fireworks! (sort of). Someone had managed to buy sparklers, and we also discovered the wonderful things that can be done when you attach steel wool to an unfolded coat hanger and set it on fire:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Some of you have already heard that we bought a house in Ukarumpa just last week. The hints that we need to post some pictures have been getting more and more blatant, so we’ve taken a little time to show you a glimpse of our new home (or at least the outside. We moved in on Saturday, and we’ve both been too busy at work to finish unpacking, so photos of the inside will come once we’re a little more settled… hopefully soon!).

It was built in 1962, and although the upstairs was completely renovated 5 years ago, the lower level is still decidedly “original.” So there are a few quirks that will give Brian something to work on on the weekends. Here are a few pictures of the back yard. Yes, it did come with a trampoline. Now I have no excuse not to exercise!

One of the nice things about owning a house here is that we can really make it our own place. No more living with someone else’s decorations and using other people’s things. We also don’t have to worry about being moved around from house to house and all the stress that goes with moving every year or so. Hopefully it will end up saving us money in the long run. And when we return after furlough, we will have a familiar place to return to.

Em tasol for now. We’ll post more photos soon.