Sunday, November 28, 2010


Sorry, this is not a completion of the Saut hike story either. Brian is too engrossed in his book right now to blog, and so I’ll just entertain you with some photos of my handsome, clever son for a while.

Look at him – sitting up! (Ok, I confess. I cropped out dad’s hand in the corner of the picture, waiting to catch him when he toppled. We haven’t quite got the balance required for sitting yet. I have told Greg though that I would really like him to learn to sit before Christmas, so that he can look cute in Christmas pictures. We shall see if he cooperates or not…)

This morning we moved a bookshelf from downstairs to Greg’s room, so that he can have a place to store his books and toys.

He wasn’t quite as engrossed in Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel as Brian had hoped he would be.

Greg loves the camera. Here is his supermodel look. (I think too many people have told him he looks like the Gerber baby and it has gone to his head.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

NOT about the Saut hike

As a brief intermission to the stories and photos from Brian’s Saut hike, I (Susan) would like to post about what I accomplished while Brian was away. It’s not as breathtaking or interesting, but I’m proud of it, because it was over a year in the making. On those long, quiet evenings after Greg went to bed and I was alone, I finally found time to finish the cross stitch project that I started last October. And without further ado, here is Starry Night:

It’s now hanging in our kitchen. (That’s an 8x10” frame, if you were wondering about the size). Even after being in our house for over a year, the walls still feel rather bare. So I’m trying to do my part to combat that and make our house look more homey. But at the rate that I complete cross stitch projects, it might be a while!

Our time in Saut

The village of Saut is located at around a 6,000ft. elevation and so even though we are in what is considered the coastal part of PNG it still has a Highlands feel. That means that it is cold at night. We all brought warm sleeping bags, wool socks and sweatshirts. During the day we would hike in shorts and t-shirts, but the nights brought out our cool weather gear.

Saut is where Ryan and Crystal have lived and worked for the last year. We stayed on their house, which is about the size of one of those canvas tents that men in North America using for elk hunting. It has two rooms. One with a little propane stove, a water filter, and a couple of cabinets with food. The other room is the bedroom/radio room. This room has plastic up against the grass roof to prevent the crud that falls out from getting all over their stuff and has linoleum on the floor to keep the cold breeze from coming in at night. The bed slept two people, so we took turns on different nights enjoying the comforts of a soft bed vs. sleeping on the floor. Their house is wrapped on the outside with Tyvek - a DuPont product used to wrap homes for moisture protection in first world countries, but we found that it works well in the bush too.

In Saut Ryan was able to meet with village leaders and discuss the problems that had arisen in earlier trips and the reason they had to evacuate when threats were made against them. This was a very positive time for both the village and Ryan and it ended with us all going around the village and praying for God’s protection of all those who will be working in the translation process.

This is Ryan and Crystal's house. Out back is their rain collection lean-to which has a tin roof and two 55 gallon drums for collecting rain water. On top are two solar panels that recharge the three big truck batteries that power their little home.

The center of the village is the sports area. This village is really into soccer. Of course it is all village rules which we never really understood, but every night a group of young men would play until dark. The silver roofed building is the Lutheran Church that is located in the village. All the materials to build it were hiked in on the trail you just saw on the earlier post. It even has a complete concrete floor under it!

Our personal chef Caleb looks into the supplies that Ryan had in the house. All our meals were pretty tasty as Caleb blended noodles, tinned meat, and sauce into an array of meals.

Taking a rest.

Here I am talking to Susan back in Ukarumpa. This radio also had the ability to pick up several AM stations that are broadcast across the Pacific. This included US radio for US service men and Australian radio. It is an interesting experience to listen to the financial report on the Dow Jones when you are out in the bush of PNG.

Another common scene in a village is sitting around talking. In this case I was taking a break and looking at the sky. You could seen the moon and someone asked about going to the moon, so I started telling stories about how rockets work and how astronauts wear special suits to enable them to walk on the moon. Who knows if they really got what I was saying, but I always think these types of conversations are interesting to have with Papua New Guineans.

Here we are trying again. We didn't really find that the antenna worked, but we did find that Nokia cell phones worked. One of the national men traveling with us had a Nokia and he started making calls to all his friends, but our phones never got a signal. I think Ryan might be buying a new phone soon.

The fish pond, which was also right next to the clothes washing and bathing area.

During one of our days in Saut we decided to try and go look for birds of paradise. These rare birds are found throughout PNG, but are very skittish and thus hard to see unless you hike into the bush and then are very quiet. While we were hiking to go look at some these boys decided to hike to the top of the hill and serinade us with Sunday School songs.

We did see a couple birds of paradise, but never close enough to get a good photo. So here is a photo of us trying to take a photo of the birds instead.

The biggest and most powerful thing that we were able to do during our time in Saut was to gather the people to pray over their village. We talked about how the devil didn't want this work of Bible translation to go forth, but if we prayed for God's protection that He would be faithful and watch over the work and the people involved. So these last photo's are of us gathering to pray at different spots in the village to claim the village for the Lord.

This blue/green building is the local Health Aid Post.

Finally this photo is for my Mom to show her the dahlias that are growing on the edge of the heli-pad in Saut. Can you name the variety?

Hiking to Saut

As we left Kesengen we started the most difficult of all the hikes we were to make on this trip. It was difficult because we would be climbing to an elevation that was over 1,000ft. above Kesengen, but in the middle was a river that we would have to cross. So that meant that we had to first hike down to the river crossing, and then back up the other side to a higher elevation than we started at. This hike was not for the faint of heart. Often we would hike along ridge lines where there were drop offs on either side of your foot-wide trail and there are no hand rails or warning signs telling you to be careful. However, you do feel a bit guilty when you are hiking with just the clothes on your back and some woman passes by with a large bilum bag full of food or other heavy item and she thinks it is just the most normal thing.

The hike took us three hours (however, Ryan did inform us that it only takes about 3 minutes in a helicopter), but we were rewarded again with beautiful views of the backcountry of PNG. There is one thing that PNG never seems to be lacking and that is the awesome beauty that accompanies such harsh terrain.

This is what we would be hiking through. You can't see it well in the photo, but Saut is on the ridge on the left side of the picture.

Here are our porters coming up the trail behind us. We left about ten minutes ahead of them, but they caught up to us at the top of the hill.

Here we are at the top of the hill above Kesengen trying the cell phone antenna again. Once again it did not work.

Leaving Kesengen we were walking on a newly bulldozed road which was nice for hiking. However, we came to the end of that and then we started our descent to the river below.

Finally we came to the water crossing. This is the bridge that the people have built to get across. It is made of bamboo and logs lashed together with vines. Very Indiana Jones looking!

Here I am crossing the river. Needless to say that it was one at a time going across.

Once I was across this old women with her big bag of goods is walking right across like it is no big deal.

Every time we came to a water crossing it was time to waswas. Let me remind you that we are high in the mountains and even though we are on a tropical south pacific island this water was quite cold.

I felt it was important to add this photo of my near death experience on the trip. The pool that we are swimming in looks fairly tame, but the current was strong and while I was trying to swim across I got swept down stream onto that rock in the middle of the photo. I was able to barely get across to the branches on the other side and pull myself back up the river. Below this point were many large boulders and the rapids were much worse.

Finally one last look before we headed back up the mountain to Saut.

When I said up I meant UP!

Just before you reach Saut there is this beautiful water fall.

Finally we have made it to Saut. This the view from the area just outside Ryan's house.

What is long hike without a cool refreshing shower to end it with.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Our time in Kesengen

After our long journey up the mountain we were greeted by a large number of people who were looking forward to our coming and sharing with them. We sat down to a meal and shared about the things that Ryan wanted to accomplish in the trip. The four things for the village of Kesengen were: what was it like to travel the road to get there, what kind of condition the school was in, to discuss with the leaders the problems that had come up in Saut from this one individual making threatening comments, and finally what kind of condition the old air strip was in. We spent two nights in Kesengen which gave us plenty of time to survey the things Ryan wanted us to check out, take pictures of and discuss. Having three other expats along on the trip helped Ryan to think of things that might be important to know, but that he might not have thought of or noticed on his own. Mike, Caleb and I were mostly seen and not heard in the discussions on the issue with the individual making threats, but we were able to walk around and snap photos and ask questions about the water supply, how often they got fuel to run the school generator, how did they cut the grass on the sports oval and where did their drinking water come from. There is a good chance that Ryan and Crystal might move down to this village when the actual translation part of their work takes place, but while they are doing the language learning part being in Saut is actually better with its remote location and thus less outside influences to disturbed their learning.

Here are the four of us along with Eric and Bape who are from a neighboring language. They were also sharing with the village all the different things that go into a translation program.

Here is the crowd that enjoyed watching us eat our dinner.

As night fell you can see the porch where these meetings were conducted lit up by a solitary pressurized kerosene lantern.

We awoke to beautiful morning the two days we were there.

Here we are checking out the school.

The Library

The office had a computer, printer, and photocopier, which is a pretty significant thing for rural PNG. Ryan was quite pleased to see all of this and that the teachers were using it and taking care of it.

The upper grades classroom

The lower grades classroom. You can see that this one is built from traditional materials.

The generator that powers the school and the teachers' homes.

The sports field for the school with the teachers homes in the background.

Here is the water system source. Now for some of you it may look like some old WWII gun turret with water coming out, but believe me it is not. What the community has done is cemented over a spring on the hillside and let the water run into the cistern. That is the part we are standing next to. The bottom of the cistern has a black poly pipe coming out which runs down into the village and at multiple locations. The white PVC pipe coming out of the cistern is just the over flow so that the cistern is always full. The whole system works on gravity.

Here Caleb and I are pumping water through our water filter next to one of the spigots located throughout the village. Even though the water source was pretty clean, we still did not want to take our chances with catching a bug.

Here is what is left of the old airstrip. In the sixties and seventies airstrips were built all over PNG because there was no other way to access most of the country, but with the advancment in roads many places that once had airsrtips no longer use them and turn them into gardens or build houses on them like Kesengen has done. However, with a little help from a bulldozer this one could probably be opened again.

We also were testing cell phone reception in this remote part of PNG. Since 2007 cell towers are springing up all over PNG, which has made communication much easier and more reliable. However, in Kesengen the service is still spotty and most of the time you have to hike to the top of the mountain if you are going to get service. Our communication and technical services department sent us out with a special antenna to test to see if it would boost the signal strength enough for us to get reception. Here we are attempting to use it with the crowd of on lookers. Sorry to say that we got no reception during this attempt.

This is the sign telling people the price per kilogram for sun dried coffee beans in the big coffee bags. This region grows a lot of coffee and we walked though many coffee gardens along our trek. This weeks price is 3.50 Kina or about $1.35. This coffee is then taken to a coffee mill that will roast it and bag it to sell to the public or overseas.

Leaving Kesengen we pile up our bags for our porters to carry. Now before you think that we have just slipped back into colonial times it is a good thing that we had porters carry our bags. First off, the trail ahead was pretty rough and we didn't want to go tumbling off the mountain trails to our deaths and also the people feel it is a gesture of hospitality to help you as you travel though their area.

Finally the view of Kesengen from the road as we climb the trail on our way to Saut.