Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Kapul Harp

Today at STEP, Mathew came up to me at lunch time with an odd-looking contraption. It was a traditional instrument from his area and he gave us an impromptu demonstration. It’s sound is similar to a Jew’s harp, though it is made of bamboo. It has one step up on the Jew’s harp though – it has its own rhythm section. That bundle hanging from the string is a collection of cuscus jaws, and they rattle as he plays. (A cuscus is a small marsupial that is very common in PNG and is widely hunted for food).

The bell rang for class before I could ask Mathew what the official name of his instrument is, so for now I’m going to call it a “kapul harp”, since “kapul” is the Tok Pisin word for cuscus.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

STEP is back

While Brian is busy in the kitchen in Buka, I am busy with another STEP course. This is the third module, and 19 students and 7 national mentors have returned to learn more about tok ples (vernacular) literacy.

During STEP, I leave the house before 7:30 to walk out to the training center – a 20-minute walk from my house. I walk home again for lunch, and then back out again for another few hours in the afternoons. I always know that during STEP I will get plenty of exercise!

In these pictures the students are practicing their writing fluency. Fluency lessons are an important part of the course. These men and women will be examples for others in their communities, and so it is important that they are able to read and write their own language fluently. In this lesson, they are getting good practice at writing their names and the date clearly on the chalkboard.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Speaking of airplanes...

Yesterday morning I drove Brian out to the airstrip and watched him fly away. He went to the capital, Port Moresby, this morning, and then on Friday he will catch a flight to Buka. Buka is a small island that is just about as far east as you can go and still be in Papua New Guinea. Brian had been excited about getting to fly on the King Air jet – the largest aircraft that SIL has here, but when we got to the airstrip we learned that since there were only two passengers, they decided to take the smaller Cessna 206 instead. That means the trip takes twice as long!

Why is he going to Buka? There will be a two-week training course for national translators on the island, and they needed someone to manage the kitchen and make sure that everyone gets fed – so that is what Brian will be doing. He will supervise the two cooks and be in charge of driving into town to buy all of the food. He is very excited about the chance to see a new part of PNG and to be able to support the translation work in Buka.

So I am home alone for two and a half weeks. I would have loved to go with him, but today the third module of the STEP literacy course started, and so I have a lot of work to do here. I sent the camera with Brian, so hopefully he comes back with some good photos and stories to share.

Brian's new hobby

Ever since we lived at the JAARS center in North Carolina just after getting married, Brian has wanted to get into radio-controlled airplanes. I would never let him, because it can be such an expensive hobby. I mean, you spend tons of money to get the airplane, the controller, etc, and then you have to learn how to fly it, right? Of course you are going to crash the thing while you learn, and then what happens to your investment?

I thought that by moving to the other side of the world, I could remove him from his dream, but I was mistaken. Turns out there is a thriving club here in Ukarumpa, composed mainly of aviation guys. And then last week, someone offered to sell Brian a really nice starter kit for a low price. He looked at me with those big blue eyes, and I just couldn’t say no. So now he’s got a new pink airplane (he’s not thrilled about the color, but beggars can’t be choosers, right?) and just needs to recharge the batteries before he’s ready to take to the skies.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

New toy for Brian

Since coming to work at the Industrial Department in Ukarumpa I have been trying my best to breathe new life into old and very old machines. Some have been taken care of and others, well, leave something to be desired. It is a constant struggle to keep everything running at the same time. Some days I am successful and some days are like this last week where I had three different machines that couldn’t run at all.

Anyway that is not what this blog is about. Because so many of our machines are old and worn out or too small for the job, we were finally given permission to purchase a new machine. This is a Caterpillar 924H. The H is the latest series of front end wheel loaders to be made by Caterpillar with all the latest in technology and convenience. Needless to say it was a quantum leap from what we were using (a 22 year old IT12). Last Friday I held a small training course with all of our operators to help familiarize them with the machine and to help them not to be afraid of all the new changes this machine brings. We even got to put it to work a little Friday afternoon scooping sand and gravel out of the river and moving some of our dirty gravel stock pile around.

The guys are excited about it and so am I. It is nice to have something that I don’t have to babysit everyday and pray that it will keep moving. So now I will have time hopefully to get those other machines up and running.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Brian to save the day

A couple weeks back our aviation department got a load of Jet A fuel delivered. However, the driver of the truck was a little less than knowledgeable about the road. As you can see from the photos, he was stuck good in a ditch just outside of the airfield. The trailer completely sank up to the axles on this triple axle trailer. Luckily the driver had already unloaded the front tank which had the Jet A in it, but the rear tank was still full of 15,000 liters of diesel fuel. We worked on this for about 8 hours total to get him back out of the ditch. The company even had to come and offload the rear tank because we could never get it to move with it full. At the end of the day we got it out, but it sure was an adventure getting there. I have to give credit to the locals who helped dig out by hand some of the mud and dirt from the rear axles.

The driver was very much afraid that the whole truck might flip over. (Oh and yes that is a Western Star truck, just like what they sell in the States, only it is right hand drive.)

There are two more axles sunk in the mud ahead of the one you see here.

Lifting the trailer up with the track loader.

Kodiak finally in PNG

Many of you have known that the Kodiak airplane as been destined to come to PNG. Well after several years in the making it finally arrived under much fanfare and excitement. Here are a few photos so you can see what it was like for us to watch it land here for the first time.

Coming in for final approach.

Almost there...


The waiting crowd.

Up close and personal.