Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Last day of school

Today was the last day of Module 4 of the STEP course. We spent the morning singing together and sharing testimonies. Now the students will go back to their respective language groups and try to put into practice the things that they have learned this past month. Their two main tasks will be to hold a workshop to train other literacy teachers and to continue writing a preschool curriculum in their own language.

The fifth and final module of STEP starts in August, just about the time when Brian and I hope to be returning from Australia with a new baby. The students are excited to meet the new little Frey, and have been debating if it will be a boy or a girl. Matthew and Jecobeth tell me that if it’s a boy, we’ll have to bring him out to the village so that they can kill a pig and celebrate, since that’s the Imbo-Ungu tradition when your firstborn is a son.

Here is one final STEP picture for you – one I took this morning of Matthew playing the ukulele. I was taking photos for the graduation booklet that will be printed for next module, because he didn’t like the one of him that they were planning on using. However, when I showed this picture to him, he insisted that I couldn’t use a smiling picture for the graduation booklet. He had me take another one with a serious, deadpan expression. (Papua New Guineans don’t smile for formal pictures.)


HIV/AIDS lesson

Our second health lesson at STEP was about HIV and AIDS. We spent a whole day learning about the disease and then producing posters and other materials in tok ples to be used in the village. There are a lot of common misconceptions in PNG about HIV, and stigmatization of those affected is a big problem.

Here are a few statistics about HIV in Papua New Guinea:

  • In 2008, about 2% of the population was HIV positive. It’s estimated that by 2012 , 5% (one in 20) will be infected.
  • Papua New Guinea has the highest infection rate out of the whole Pacific region.
  • While previously infection was concentrated in urban areas, there is now a higher infection rate in rural areas.

Here is the poster that Jecobeth did, illustrating the statistic about how the infection rate is expected to increase by 2012:


Matthew’s poster reads “Don’t buy AIDS,” warning those who pay for sex that they may be getting more than they bargained for.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Dental health lesson

As you may remember, each STEP course includes a few health lessons.  After each lesson, the participants translate health materials such as posters or books into their language to help them share what they learned with their communities.

This week we had a presentation on dental health by SIL’s dentist – Nelis Tumae.  Both Brian and I have gone to see Nelis at the clinic, and he does an excellent job.  (He also happens to be a neighbor of ours).  There are relatively few practicing dentists in Papua New Guinea, and most Papua New Guineans will only go to see a dentist if they have major problems.  With a traditional PNG diet, tooth decay was not a big issue, but with the growing popularity of rice, flour, sweets and soda, it’s becoming more and more of a problem.

Nelis taught the students about brushing their teeth, and also about flossing, which was a new concept to almost all of them.  He also showed them a slideshow of some major restorative dental work that he has done, and I think the students were all suitably impressed.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

why NOT to bring leather to PNG...

Ukarumpa is a pretty casual place, as far as attire goes. There is certainly no expectation that you have to dress up for church on Sunday, though a lot of people still do. Brian will often wear shorts, a collared shirt, and flip-flops to church. But every so often he decides to break out the old dress pants and dress shoes. After all, his weekday uniform is dirty jeans, old t-shirts and coveralls. Sometimes it’s nice to show everyone (including your wife) how well you clean up. (He did comb is hair before we left the house, I promise!)

Unfortunately, when he decides to do this, he usually ends up spending some time cleaning the layer of mold that has grown on his shoes since he last wore them. Yeah, leather doesn’t do so well in this climate! We’ve tried washing them with vinegar water to change the pH, as well as letting them sit out in the sun, but nothing really works. It’s not as though they are sitting in a damp corner either. We try to make sure they get plenty of ventilation.

So if you come to visit us here, don’t worry too much about appearances. Leave the dress shoes at home!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

STEP Module 4

The STEP students are back for their fourth installment of literacy training. This time, however, we have moved to the new training center facility here at Ukarumpa. Although we were emotionally attached to the old, drafty roundhouse where we used to hold classes, the fact that a large tree fell on the building last month and pretty well squashed it helped the staff to make the decision to move to the brand new classrooms down the road. Ukarumpa’s training center is still a work in progress. Although we have nice new classrooms and dorm facilities, we’re still using the old dining hall and the old computer classroom.

Mathew and Jecobeth are back and hard at work developing a preschool curriculum in the Imbo-Ungu language. The usually travel the whole day on a highway bus to get here, but this time, they got to fly part of the way since there were 7 landslides blocking the road (don’t you just love rainy season?). They caught an MAF flight from Mount Hagen to Goroka, and then were able to travel the rest of the way by bus. I asked them what they thought of their flying experience. It was Mathew’s first time flying, and he enjoyed it, though he said that being in a small plane made him a little nervous. Jecobeth had actually flown once before on a commercial flight, but she found the small 6-passenger airplane quite a terrifying experience. She told me that she just hugged herself and closed her eyes for the whole 30-minute flight, and was too nervous to look out the window.