Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What we're doing for Thanksgiving

Sorry that we haven’t updated you in a while.  It has been a very busy time!  I (Susan) was busy in the week after STEP ended with a community theater production of Fiddler on the Roof.  I was in the chorus and also played the butcher’s dead wife, Fruma Sarah (The scary lady in the dream scene).  It was a lot of fun, but a lot of work as well.  I promise to post some photos once I get my hands on them.  It was amazing to me what  a high-quality production this little community was able to put on – I can’t wait until they do another play in a year or two.

Brian is busy getting filmed today.  A man from Wycliffe Canada is here to make recruitment videos, and Brian is one of the people being filmed.  The videos should eventually be posted on YouTube, though it might be quite a while before they are finished. 

So tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  It isn’t a holiday here in PNG, although there are so many Americans in Ukarumpa that it is definitely observed here!  Most people just have chicken.  You could get turkey this year, but it cost about $8.60 per pound, and you had to drive three hours to the city of Lae to buy it!  But we will be celebrating Thanksgiving in a very different way.  Tomorrow morning we are flying out to the village of Walagu with our friend Joy.  She does literacy work with the Onobasulu people there and Brian and I are her support team.  We are going to spend a week in Walagu, and Brian’s main goal is to fix the lawn mower that is used to keep the grass down on the air strip.  Pray that he’s able to fix it, because he’s never seen the machine to diagnose the problem, and has only been told stories about what is wrong with it, so he’ll be bringing a very select amount of tools and parts that he think might help.  If he has time, he might find a few other fix-it projects.  I’ll be helping Joy with some of her ongoing literacy work.  We also are taking out video equipment, so hopefully we’ll be able to show the JESUS film and a few HIV/AIDS awareness movies in the area while we’re there.

Usually when you go to the village your food isn’t very fancy, especially when you are flying and are concerned with weight limitations.  But we’re going to splurge for Thanksgiving and have some chicken, instant mashed potatoes, stovetop stuffing, and maybe even a pumpkin pie (we’re not sure if the last one will work, but we’re going to try!).

We’ll share some stories when we return in a week.

Monday, November 16, 2009

STEP Cultural Day

During the STEP course we encourage the students to value and preserve their unique culture and heritage in many ways. One of these ways, of course, is to ensure that the next generation is fluent in their local language through literacy programs. We teach the students to develop materials and curriculum that is relevant to their local culture. But one of the most fun ways that we celebrate local culture is through the STEP Cultural Day. This is a day when we invite the public to see a cultural show. The students dress in traditional dress from their particular area and perform traditional dances and songs. Here are some photos from the event, which took place on Saturday.

Me with two of the national mentors, Simon and Sylvester:

Irene (Keakalo language):

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bungim ston

Yesterday Brian worked through lunch without stopping. He was hauling rocks from the river, and needed to get as much done as possible before the weekend. I brought him some food and took these photos of him working down by the river.

Usually the Industrial department will dig their own stone out of the river, wash it and sort it into different sizes, and then crush some of it to make gravel. However, they needed a large amount of big stones for a construction project, and so they decided to buy it from the local villagers. There is often a lot of competition between different clans to get the rights to sell stone to SIL, since it is a good source of income. Brian was flooded with requests to buy stone from different haus lains, or clans. The locals put a lot of hard work into gathering stones. Women wade into the river, fill their string bags with four or five stones at a time, and then bring them to shore and form large piles. Brian wanted to gather as much as he could on Friday, because there was always a chance that we might get a big rain this weekend, and if the river floods then all of their hard work would be washed downstream!

Yesterday Brian was supposed to get stone from four different spots along the river – which he originally thought belonged to four different clans. It turns out, however, that a wily older gentleman with four wives set each wife and her offspring to work on a different sandbar, and so all of the income was going to the same extended family. The front loader (yes, it’s the new one Brian just bought) would scoop as much as it could, and then the women would throw stones into the bucket by hand until it was full, when it would be dumped into a waiting truck. The work was done almost entirely by women. There were a few men standing around and supervising, and of course lots of naked children splashing in the river, but the women did the brunt of the work, which is pretty normal for PNG.

Pasteurizing Milk

I’ve learned a lot of new skills in the kitchen since we came to PNG over a year ago, but pasteurizing milk at home is the latest. Neither Brian nor I are big milk drinkers, but we were still disappointed when we learned how rare fresh milk is in PNG. Most people use powdered milk or boxed UHT milk (the kind that can sit on a shelf for months and you only need to refrigerate it after it is opened.) But here in Ukarumpa we are a little spoiled, because there is a family that owns a Holstein cow, and their teenage sons deliver milk as a way to earn extra money. We pay $3 a week to have two liters delivered.

Just a few weeks ago, I decided to try pasteurizing the milk, because it tended to go off on the third or forth day. It was successful, and our milk lasts longer and tastes a little more like store-bought milk back home.

Here are the instructions, in case you ever get the urge to try it yourself:

Fill the bottom of a double boiler with an inch or two of water (make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the pot or bowl you set on top). Pour milk into the top of the double boiler. Before you begin, fill a large bowl or a sink with ice water. Over medium heat, stir milk and slowly bring it up to 161°F for 15 seconds. Immediately remove the bowl or pot with the milk and place in the ice water, stirring so that it cools down quickly. After milk has cooled substantially (to below 90° or so), I usually cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to continue cooling. Later I skim the film off the top and pour it into a pitcher.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

health lessons

As a part of each STEP module, the students learn about different health issues and translate materials that they can take back to their villages and use to educate others. Today one of the doctors from our clinic came to give a health lesson. We discussed how to know the difference between a common cold in children and pneumonia. Pneumonia is the number one killer of children in Papua New Guinea. However, there is a tendency for many villagers to go to the clinic and ask for “sut marasin” (an antibiotic shot) for any kind of illness that they have. Today the students learned that antibiotics should not be used to treat common colds, and also what signs to look for to know when a child really does need to go to the clinic and get medication.

We also learned about tuberculosis and the dangers of smoking. TB is a leading killer of adults in PNG, and so we learned about how it is spread, what the symptoms are and how it can be treated. Smoking is also very common in PNG, and there are common misconceptions. For example, many people believe that only imported, packaged cigarettes will mess up your body, and that the roll-your-own variety have no health consequences.

Finally, we spent some time talking about cholera. Just this year, Papua New Guinea experienced its first cholera outbreak. It started near a port city and is slowly making inroads to other parts of the country. The students were glad to learn that it is a preventable disease and what steps they could take to protect themselves and their communities.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Look at what we found in our stairwell this afternoon! He was just hanging out, and I happened to see him as I went up the stairs. Maybe that’s why we haven’t had rats in the house...

Here is a picture with Brian's hand for size comparison:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A little bit of Paridise

For the last two weeks I have been out on the island of Buka in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. It is a small island right next to the bigger island of Bougainville, so close in fact that you could probably hit a baseball across the channel that runs between the two. For you Oregonians imagine an area of water about as wide as the Willamette River separating the two. Buka and Bougainville are the main islands of the Bougainville Province of PNG, but there are many small islands and atolls that make up this whole eastern province. Bougainville Island is just north of the Solomon Islands and its people are more closely related in features and culture to the Solomon Islanders than they are to those who are from the mainland of PNG. Bougainville was also once home to world’s 4th largest open pit copper mine, but civil unrest in the 90’s closed it and it has not been reopened since.

So what was I doing in Buka? I was managing the kitchen at the regional center that we have there. For two weeks a short course for national translators was happening and they needed someone to look after the kitchen staff, buy food, make up menus, make sure the food was served on time and look after the finances of the kitchen. It was really a part time job broken up throughout the day and three times a week I would take the two cooks into town to do market and dry goods buying.

I also found a little time to do some of my own things while I was there like walking on the white sand beaches looking for shells, going deep sea fishing, or just relaxing in the warm tropical breezes. It was nice to have the two weeks to unwind and relax while still helping people. The big down side was that Susan wasn’t there with me. She had to stay in Ukarumpa to do her mentoring for the STEP course that was going on at the same time. However, when the time was over they all asked if I would come out again and that I should bring Susan next time, so I think there is a strong possibility of that in the future.

So I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Hope you enjoy!

Some of the translators hard at work. There were about 20 working on several translations.

On Buka there are only trade stores like this one for buying dry goods. This one is pink and blue, the colors for a PNG-made ice cream brand called Gala.

Of course there is going to be Buai (betel nut) at the market! However, these were about three times the size of the normal ones you see on mainland PNG.

Also what would the market be without kaukau (sweet potato)?

Making the dinner.

Then serving it. This meal is brown rice, cooked bananas, and kumu (any kind of greens) with some kind of canned meat mixed in.

Everyone enjoying the meal!

The "wharf" where you catch a boat taxi to Bougainville Island. They also load up cargo of food, dry goods, and whatever else onto these boats to take over since the big ships from the mainland generally only land on Buka to offload cargo. That is Bougainville Island in the background across the water.

On the beach.

A local boy learning the art of paddling a canoe on top the reef.

Tommy, Abel and I with our catch of Tuna and a Mahi-Mahi.

Checked luggage

PNG just makes you laugh sometimes.  Like when Brian was in the airport in Port Moresby (the capital city) yesterday as he was returning from his trip to Buka.  At the luggage carousel he saw this bunch of freshly-picked taro going round and round with all the suitcases.  He had to snap a photo.  It’s not uncommon to see bush knives (machetes) or coolers as checked luggage either.  It’s common in PNG culture to send a visitor away with a gift of food, so that probably explains the taro.  It’s just not something you would see in the U.S.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

More STEP activities

I sent our good camera with Brian to Buka and the old one I had here died last week, so I haven’t been taking any more pictures of what is happening with STEP. However, our friend Joy also works with STEP, and she has been writing about what we have been doing this module on her blog. Check it out at .

Brian comes home tomorrow (yay!), so we’ll find out if he took any pictures while he was in Buka.