Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What's your hobby?

Hobby: A pursuit or interest engaged in for relaxation. (Definition according to Webster’s Dictionary)

This is one of those questions I have never really liked and I guess that is because I never really had something that I would call my hobby. Sure I have always had things I enjoyed doing, but nothing I would call a hobby. I like working on cars, but I also get paid to work on cars. I like hiking and being in the outdoors, but is hiking really a hobby? Since we have been in PNG a hobby is something both Susan and I have tried to find for ourselves. Something that can take your mind off the things around you and just let you relax or maybe, if I dare say, even be someone different.

Flying model airplanes has had an attraction for me for several years. A few times when I was a young kid I got the chance to fly a couple of radio controlled (R/C) planes at air shows and such. I always enjoyed it, but I always thought it was an expensive hobby. When I lived in North Carolina there was an active R/C airplane club near my house. When I would go on walks in the evening I could always hear and see the planes flying around and would think that looks like fun. I even told Susan that it looked like fun. However, we never had the money in the budget for me to dive into the hobby. So I would walk by and wish that I could join them.

After we had been in PNG a year and we got settled into our lives here in Ukarumpa I met a guy who was really into R/C airplanes and gliders and was trying to start a club among the expats here. Now it isn’t the kind of thing where we have meetings, basically it is just a bunch of guys (mostly from the aviation department) who like flying model planes getting together on a Saturday. I went a couple times to watch them fly and even got a chance to fly a few times using a buddy box controller. After this I was hooked again, but again I still didn’t have the money. Then my opportunity came. A guy was leaving Ukarumpa and had a controller, plane and all the parts and was selling it for a good price. It had been wrecked the last time it had flown, but wasn’t in too bad of condition. With a few repairs I got it flying again.

Now I am not the best pilot out there, but it sure is fun! I have crashed the plane a few times since I got it flying, but that just helps teach me my limits and what not to do next time. The guys in the group are really helpful and encouraging. It is a great way to spend an hour on a Saturday morning and gives me a chance to do something different from what I do everyday.

Checking the balance before flying.

Keeping a careful eye on the plane.

Coming in for a landing.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone! It’s a hot and sunny morning here in Papua New Guinea, though it’s still Christmas Eve for all of you back in the U.S. Although we miss the snow and cold back home, there are nice things about living in the tropics – like fresh strawberries for breakfast, and fresh mangoes for lunch.

A big thank you to everyone who sent care packages. We were overwhelmed by how full our little fake Christmas tree was this year.

Even Ruby got a little Christmas treat.

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Lord.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

i gat bel

Just in time for Christmas, we’d like to share our good news with the world. We’re going to have a baby!

Susan is due on June 30. She got to hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time on Monday. The lucky girl has had no morning sickness at all. Her only weird symptoms (besides annoying Brian by talking about baby things constantly) are being incredibly thirsty all the time and waking up at 3am fully awake and ready to start the day.

Here is a photo from today of Susan at 13 weeks, trying her hardest to actually look pregnant and not just like she’s eaten too many Christmas cookies.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fiddler on the Roof

I finally got my hands on some photos of the community theater production of Fiddler on the Roof that I (Susan) was in last month. Hope you enjoy them!

For most of the play, I was a villager and part of the chorus:

I had a few small lines though. Here is me sharing some juicy gossip:

We had a very talented cast. I won’t bother you with pictures of a bunch of people you don’t know, but here are a few:

Yenta the Matchmaker and Golde:

Tevye and Golde:

We even had bottle dancers at the wedding!

I also played Fruma Sarah in the dream scene (the butcher’s dead wife who is angry about Tevye’s daughter marrying her husband). I got to scream and scare small children. It’s fun to play the bad guy…

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

our address

By request, here is our mailing address:


Brian and Susan Frey

SIL – Box 266

Ukarumpa, EHP 444

Papua New Guinea

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

going home in style

We were excited to learn that the Kodiak was scheduled to pick us up from Walagu and bring us back to Ukarumpa. The Kodiak is SIL’s newest airplane (see post from October 3). Besides having that new airplane smell, the Kodiak is faster than the Cessna 206 and is was specifically designed for mission aviation. It also runs on regular jet fuel, instead of avgas, which is more expensive and harder to find. It can carry about twice the weight as the 206, which is a big help for families or folks who have a lot of cargo. (Joy, Brian and I, along with our cargo, just about maxed out the 206 on the way to Walagu. Joy had even brought an extra box to the airstrip with us, so that if our cargo weighed too much, we could leave behind a few cans of food!)

Monday, December 7, 2009

a traditional house

We ate a meal with one of the families in Walagu, and afterwards they showed us a house that they had built in the traditional Onobasulu style. Today each family has its own house, and the houses are built in styles borrowed from other groups in PNG. Traditionally, however, the Onobasulu used to build one long house that would sleep the entire village. The example they showed us was built on a much smaller scale than the actual houses that were used, but it was built following the traditional pattern. Men would sleep at one end of the house, and all of the women and children would sleep at the other end, in sections that were walled off. Fire pits like the one you can see in the photo were built at regular intervals for warmth and for cooking. The hanging “baskets” over the fire pits were used for drying food.

The Onobasulu were traditionally a lot more nomadic than they are now. A long house would last around 5-8 years, and when it began to fall apart, the community would build a new house in a different part of the jungle and move.

playing with kids

Joy and I (Susan) spent a lot of time playing with kids in Walagu. We played Frisbee and made balls by wadding up plastic rice bags and other food wrappers and wrapping them with packing tape. Joy had created a memory game with photos of the kids that she had taken on her last village visit.

We also read books to the kids. Even Brian and I were “reading” Onobasulu stories (it’s a relatively easy language to sound out, although I had little idea what I was actually saying).

One day when Brian was holding Segia (see previous post), he decided that he really needed a bath. Much to the amusement of the other kids, Brian took him to the sink and washed him off. Then he filled up a basin with warm water, grabbed a bar of soap, and gave a few more of the younger kids a bath. The older kids who were watching thought it was hilarious.

Most of the younger kids did not speak any Tok Pisin, so it was a little hard to communicate. Luckily we had Joy with us, who knew enough Onobasulu phrases to communicate with them (and to tell them to go away when we were tired and needed to rest!)


I have to mention Segia, because this little boy attached himself to Brian on our first day in the village, and practically clung to him for the first half of the week. Segia’s parents were away when we arrived, and he had been left to the care of his older siblings. I think he missed his parents, because after they returned, he wasn’t nearly as clingy. But for those first few days, he constantly wanted Brian to hold and carry him. He even fell asleep in his lap…

World AIDS Day

December 1 was world AIDS day, and we celebrated in style in the village. We had brought a video projector and generator with us. On two separate nights we showed the JESUS film to decent-sized crowds, but the big crowd came on Tuesday night when we showed two HIV/AIDS videos, both of which were produced in Papua New Guinea.

Rong blo’ mi yet tells the story of a young girl who goes to the city to attend high school. She is jealous of other girls whose boyfriends give them money and buy them nice things, so she starts an affair with a married man. Two years later she discovers that she has AIDS. When she goes back to her village, her father is ashamed of her and afraid of the stigma that AIDS will bring on the family, and leaves her in the jungle to fend for herself. Eventually the father is convicted about the way he has treated her and goes to find her and bring her home, but it is too late, and the girl dies.

Kisim AIDS, Kisim Taim is a short video that SIL produced. It tells the story of a woman who finds out that she is HIV positive after she brings her sick baby to the clinic and the baby is diagnosed with AIDS. She got HIV from her ex-husband. Her current husband is a Christian, and is not HIV positive himself. Her husband decides to take care of his sick wife and child, and together they speak out in the community about the dangers of HIV.

AIDS is a growing problem in Papua New Guinea. It is said that if things don’t change, in a few decades it will be as bad in PNG as it is in Southern Africa today.

The Airstrip

Two days of our time in the village were spent helping to cut the grass on the airstrip. Although from the air it looks like a tiny green stripe in the jungle, imagine 5 football fields end to end… and it was covered in nearly knee-high grass. We actually had four lawn mowers, but only a few rakes (4 the first day, only 2 on the second day) and one wheelbarrow. Cutting the grass wasn’t so hard – it was all of the raking and hauling it over to the sides where it could be burned that was the killer. We got nice and sunburned, and came home exhausted, but the airstrip looked pretty nice when we were done.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Lawn Mowers

The main reason that Brian, Joy and I made this short trip to Walagu was so that Brian could fix the lawn mower that is used to maintain the airstrip. Walagu is a remote village. The nearest town is a few days’ hike away, and so the airstrip is a lifeline. Not only is it used to fly in SIL workers, but the government also uses the airstrip to fly in medical supplies for the community clinic.

Whenever Brian worked on a machine, he always gathered a large crowd of onlookers. In addition to the airstrip lawn mower, there were actually several other mowers in the village, most in various stages of disrepair. I had to laugh as Brian used creative analogies to teach the men the importance of checking oil, changing air filters, and other basic maintenance. “Imagine hiking to the top of Mt. Bosavi with your hand clamped over your nose and mouth – you wouldn’t be able to get any air! That’s what it’s like for the machine when the air filter is as clogged as it is now.”

Before we left home, Brian thought that there was a problem with the transmission on the airstrip mower. That’s what it sounded like from what he had been told. So those are the parts that he brought with him. When he examined it, however, he found that the transmission was fine, but that there were a lot of other little things wrong with it. So he fixed what he could, and then got on the radio and asked a friend back in Ukarumpa to send out some additional parts on the flight that was coming to pick us up. We asked the pilots if we could have an hour on the ground before taking off, and so Brian was able to straighten a few last things right before we got on the plane to fly home.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thanksgiving in the village

In a way it was lucky that we flew out to the village on Thanksgiving Day.  Since we don’t have refrigeration in the village, our meals are somewhat limited.  But because it was the first day, we were able to create a surprisingly good Thanksgiving “feast”, with some pre-cooked chicken, instant mashed potatoes, Stovetop Stuffing mix, and green beans.  Joy even brought along a few pieces of pumpkin pie for dessert.  Yum!


Yesterday we returned from the village of Walagu, in the Southern Highlands province. We promised you some pictures, and so here is a start. First of all, here is an aerial view of the airstrip:

And here is part of the crowd that was there to meet us when we landed:

The airstrip is a 20-minute walk from the house where we were staying. Joy had warned us that it’s often easier to go barefoot than to try to wear shoes, especially if it has been raining. The trail can get pretty slick with mud, and then of course is the issue of all the log bridges that we had to cross…

Ok, the pictures don’t do the bridges justice. I know it doesn’t look that dangerous, but the water was full of thorns from the sago palm, so you didn’t want to fall in! We were a good source of entertainment as we nervously crossed the bridges. The locals can do it without help by the time they are toddlers, and they can carry all sorts of things across them without balking!

The village is in a beautiful spot, with houses scattered along the ridgelines. Here is a photo of the house that we stayed in:

And here is the view: