Sunday, July 29, 2012

When I was a Game Show Contestant in Port Moresby

Seven and a half hours. I squinted at the screen, fuzzy letters announcing the arrivals and departures for the Port Moresby airport.  I had been sitting in this tiny airport for seven and a half hours—and now there was only (theoretically) a half hour to go before boarding my flight to Rabaul, East New Britain. I looked at the flight list again. Yes, it was still there. Cancelled. My flight was cancelled.

I flicked the off switch on my Kindle and looked around. Since my early-morning arrival from Cairns, Australia, I had been curled in a worn blue-covered foam seat at the gate (when I say “the gate” I do indeed mean the only gate), watching my shade turn to sun. I had visited with an Australian Aid team, a campaigner in the election, a mother and her Twisties-covered son travelling back to see her family, and a first-time overseas couple looking to visit their daughters in the Sepik (obviously American, I concluded, as I overheard their struggle to convert 15:30 to 3:30 pm). I had read books and journaled and watched wave after wave of people creak out of their seats, gathering bags and children in response to the muffled “now boarding flight…”

And now, it didn’t look like I was going anywhere. I zipped my bag shut and started standing in lines. First at the gate counter (yes, it’s cancelled; go to customer service). Then at customer service (yes, it’s cancelled; go collect your baggage). Then at the baggage claim (yes, it’s cancelled; now go to customer service). As I pulled my bag back to customer service and into the continually growing press of tired and disgruntled people, I considered my situation. Night falls quickly in the tropics. It was now quite late in the afternoon, and I, a young white female, was alone in Port Moresby during the election season. Not quite an ideal situation. Customer service had mentioned something about accommodation, but exactly where and how I was supposed to get there (much less it’s relative safety or expense) was unknown. I tried calling the local guesthouse where missionaries typically stayed—no answer.

Okay, Lord, I threw a quick glance upward. It’s in your hands. You know what Moresby is like, and since I can’t seem to go to the guesthouse, you must have another idea.

I shifted my bag and glanced around. Another expatriate woman was ruffling through her paperwork while waiting for the line to move. Probably her first time in PNG, I guessed. I introduced myself—and found my hunch was correct; she was hoping to visit missionary friends on New Ireland. I was even familiar with the language group!

As we chatted, I could hear the harried customer service agents parcelling out passengers into various hotels, but I couldn’t help but grinning as I resumed my earlier conversation with the Lord: Abba, if you could send me to a hotel with this woman, I would really appreciate it. I think it would meet both our needs.

He had much more in store than that.

The rest of the evening I felt like I was the grand prize winner on a game show, watching the host role out prize after prize, heaping them into a mountain at my feet. But wait! There’s still much, much more!

My all-expense paid accommodation voucher in hand (provided by the airline), I and a few other passengers (yes, the other woman among them) stared wide-eyed out of the complimentary hotel shuttle (no need to call a taxi), as we pulled up to the Ela Beach hotel, a high-buck waterfront property whose rate per night was more than my plane ticket. “Sign here please,” the attendant indicated, and I found myself swiping my room key into a private suite complete with air conditioning (!!), a big-screen TV (with more channels than I could count—and none of them were playing rugby!), and a courtyard view of the luxurious pool and waterfall.

Goodness gracious. I stared out my window, incredulous. I don’t think I’d stayed in such a nice hotel back in the US!

Except for a quick snack grabbed at the airport cafe, I hadn’t eaten since my 6 am flight. The restaurant must be down by the pool, I guessed. Earlier, in the lobby, we had been handed our meal vouchers... and I and the other national passengers had stared at each other in astonishment. 82 kina per person!  

Were they serious?? My seatmate and I exchanged looks. “We could go to a kai bar and get a full meal for K10!” She nodded, “Too bad we can’t do that and pocket the rest!” (The other expatriates were extraordinarily calm in comparison; apparently, they had no idea what they were experiencing and thought this was normal.)

Well, I thought as I glanced through the menu, if I have 82 kina to spend on this meal and it can’t be used anywhere else...I might as well go all out.

On what? The one thing that I would likely never purchase again...



Yes, here it is: the spectacular steak. The other expats must have thought I was crazy... but, I figured I might as well embrace it! :)

The evening sped by as I dined on steak, shared about my work here in PNG with the other stranded passengers, savoured the steak, answered questions about PNG from the other curious expats...and, of course, relished every bite of steak. Before I knew it, I was stumbling out of bed for a 2:30 departure to the airport, stood in more lines, read the notice that the airline is not responsible if in-flight meals are disturbed due to volcanic activity(!), and finally dozed off in my window seat, to the vibration of propellers and the miles of ocean and clouds under the plane’s wings.

I was finally on my way to Rabaul... but not before feeling like a game show winner in Port Moresby.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Of Glue Sticks, Carbohydrates and Some String

Snip. Snip. My scissors rattled the cardstock, slicing through the green like the newly chopped furrows in the garden next to our house. Now spread the glue….center it 4 cm from the left… I hummed as I worked. Now to add the yellow mulis (citrus fruit).  I began scattering the yellow blobs on the leafy-green background, and the poster with the cardstock tree began to come to life.

I looked at my handiwork and couldn’t help but grinning. I have a very odd job. I thought. I can never anticipate what will happen next!

As a linguist and Bible translator, ultimately I will be working with a language group long-term to do Bible translation. However, the process of finding that language group and another partner to work with can take a long time; right now, I’m waiting on the Lord to provide both those needs. So, in the mean time, I serve in many other roles critical to Bible translation, which also broadens my skill base and thus is better preparing me for when I do finally settle in a long-term project. In May, that meant helping out in the linguistics office, archiving resource articles for translators. For the month of June, that meant a quick change of plans such that after my holiday in Cairns, Australia, I flew directly to Kokopo, East New Britain to be the kitchen manager at a Church Engagement Training Course.

And now, for the past month of July, that has meant working in the literacy office, which has included more than a little cutting, gluing, and coloring. In August, I will be helping staff a literacy workshop held in Madang area, so right now, much of my job has been putting together posters and other teaching aids, from principles of literacy to creating balanced diets. I even built a portable hand-washing tap out of string and a vinegar bottle!

Hehehe—who wouldn’t think playing with primary colors and glue sticks is fun?

I leave on 26 July and will be gone five weeks through the month of August, living in the village of Saidor, Madang. I, along with eight other expat and national staff, will be running a literacy workshop that teaches national teachers how to prepare effective reading and writing materials for their community. This is applied practically to their lives through topics such as basic health and nutrition practices, leadership training, Bible study skills, traditional storytelling, etc.

Communication via internet and email will be very limited during that time, so I written some blog posts (such as about my adventures in Kokopo) and scheduled them to post throughout the next month for your reading pleasure. I appreciate your prayers as we serve the communities on the Rai Coast and worship the Lord through literacy work—after all, without literacy instruction, no one can read a translated Bible!

And now, I better remember to go pack rest of the markers…

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Attempting Tourism

My list was very small:
  • Go to a grocery store.
  • Go to a clothing store.
  • Eat cool food. 

Just relax and be a tourist, my friends told me.... but after you have spent a year trying your best not to be a tourist or be branded anything close to it, it is kind of a strange feeling to accept that identity.

Thankfully, it didn’t seem to bother my aunt at all, so we actually did some pretty awesome things (besides eat bacon) while we hanging out in Cairns, Australia for a week this past June. Because my aunt had been so busy with her work with the audit team while in Papua New Guinea (PNG), we didn’t actually see a lot of each other. By going to Australia, not only were we both able to catch a quick holiday, but it was also a chance for the two of us to spend some concentrated time together since we won’t see each other again for another year.

We did, of course, get our beach time (sandy beaches—hooray! In PNG, the beaches are often made up of bits of coral, so the sand was a lot of fun.) and people-watched from behind a book as people wandered down the Cairns Esplanade...

Going to the zoo was pretty fun, not only because this has been my family’s tradition since I could walk, but also because many of the animals that are in northern Queensland are also found in PNG. I could learn about the ecosystem and creatures in my country :) and that was pretty awesome.

Yes, we have crocodiles in PNG

So was holding the koala

And feeding the kangaroos

And petting the wombat :)

Since we didn’t have a car, we also went by railway to the historic town of Kuranda, located in the Queensland rainforest not too far outside of Cairns. Kuranda is cute, touristy little place with lots of food choices and shops. Unfortunately, all that choice was a bit overwhelming for me (remember the discussion about the grocery store?), so my favourite parts were those set in the rainforest (it felt almost like PNG)—the train ride up the mountain and (wait for it...!!!) the sky-glider ride back down the mountain. Wahoo!

I definitely think we should install one of these, especially for getting up and down Nobnob mountain for POC participants.

Really cool!

And lest you think I missed my clothing store experience, lo and behold, I even walked into an Auzzie Target!

And thus concluded my attempt at being a tourist. It was decently successful, I suppose. After all, I only carried my bilum (traditional PNG string bag) on my head once!

Where have you been a tourist recently?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Covert Ops: Cuisine Edition

I took a quick look around. The waitress was busy with other customers and the patrons at the table next to us were engrossed in conversation. Perfect timing. I raised my camera and snapped a covert picture. A spy couldn’t have done a better job.

This past spring, when I was on staff at the Pacific Orientation Course, my housemate and I had draped ourselves across the couches of our flat, sweating in the humidity, and dreamily compiled a list of foods we desperately missed. She later blogged about it right before she headed back to the US for a quick trip—you can read about it here.

Around the world, the presence of food holds a deep and unrivaled place in culture—it’s how we bond, celebrate, mourn, comfort, and show love. We take dinners to new moms and hold potlucks after church. We eat certain foods at Christmas (like lefse!) and bake cakes for birthdays; there is the traditions of Saturday morning breakfast and who could forget your grandmother’s unsurpassed cookies? Our preferences, tastes, and associations are entrenched within us from the moment we begin to show a fondness for our own mother’s milk and are moulded by every meal you eat afterwards. So, even though you can learn to appreciate and even love the penchants and quirks of a different food culture, you will always retain a certain partiality for food from your own life and world.

And that includes missionaries working in Papua New Guinea (PNG). So, when I went to Cairns, Australia for a week-long vacation this past June, I thought you might enjoy seeing some photos of what got me so terribly excited. :)

My first meal was breakfast. Well, it was actually lunch, but I ate breakfast food. Why? Because the “traditional” American-style breakfast with bacon and sausage and eggs and cheese and fresh orange juice is all quite expensive in PNG. (And, the bacon and sausage here aren’t very good anyway, so why spend the money?)

Then, we decided that since prices are expensive in Cairns, we would make at least one meal a day in our kitchen flat. But lest you think that we skimped on that meal, think again—just take a look at all these DELICACIES!!  Sliced cheese, sliced meat (ham!!), grapes, apples, pretzels (not stale or soggy), and whole-wheat sliced bread! :)

The next day, our large meal was a hamburger and chips. Mmmmmmmm, real hamburger!!

PIZZA with real cheese and lots of it!!! Ohhh, yum :) And which one did I pick? The one with bacon, oh yes.

And then I walked into a grocery store again and couldn’t help but buy more extravagant cuisine fit for a king’s table: blueberries (I swear angels started singing the Hallelujah Chorus), cashews (the same size packet in PNG would cost well over $20), Toblerone (perhaps $30 in our store), and Snickers...because I wanted it (and because it was less than a dollar. Oh my word—are these prices real?)

The next day, we were wandering around the zoo and got hungry. So, Belgian Waffles were on the menu as a delectable and unexpected treat (especially when theirs come with ICE CREAM!)

Speaking of ice cream, I will just post one representative photo of my ice cream consumption—not only did Australia provide dozens of flavours to chose from but (get this!) they were all made with real cream and dairy products and hadn’t been thawed and refrozen about 15 times. Ohhhh, deliciousness! (In PNG, choices in your thawed-and-refrozen ice cream flavour are an unexpected privilege and may be limited to deciding between turquoise blue and hot pink.)

Notice the brand "ColdRock." Sound familiar, my US American friends?

At the beach, we got hungry...and what did I find they offered? A BACON sandwich with all the fixings. Yum.

I had been craving Mexican food, but I wasn’t sure what I could find in this tropical tourist town...but, lo and behold, real tasty fajitas, Australian-style! Hooray! (And I did I mention the various thickshakes I enjoyed? Oh yes, don’t forget those. And the real hot chocolate too!)

And last, but not least, I also must comment on the restaurant service itself: the clean tables (and clean floor and clean room...), the menu that was completely understandable (rather than half of it written in Chinese or Thai), the actual availability of all the items listed on the menu, the quick food delivery, the accurate food delivery, the paying for your check at the table...

...and waiters who look the other way when you take pictures of your amazing food.:)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

One small step for man... one giant step for Catherine

I wonder how Neil Armstrong felt before he stepped onto that dusty surface of the moon. Everyone back on earth was holding their collective breath—would it support him or would he just sink to his armpits in cosmic dirt? Did he climb halfway down the ladder and gaze at the bleak landscape and wonder at the strangeness of all, the otherness of this world compared to his home, now hanging in the sky like a jewel on black velvet? Did he clear his throat before he spoke to millions, in an attempt to cough out his uncertainty and apprehension? Could his eyes stretch wide enough in eagerness to take in the firstness of this experience?

And then, I wonder if Neil Armstrong realized that planting his feet on the moon was like strolling out your front door compared to a reverse-culture-shocked individual walking into The House of Choice.

You’ve probably been there a time or two and never even realized the momentousness of your trip. I admire your joyful obliviousness. Not so for me, when, after a year of being in Papua New Guinea (PNG), this past June I walked into a Western grocery store while on a week-long holiday in Cairns, Australia.

In PNG, choice is often limited. Only one or two stores in town may carry the items you are looking for, and within their aisles you might have one or two options of different brands or quantities, if at all. Even the stocking of the shelves is limited; often there are only a few items on the shelf, and when they are gone, the store may or may not have more in the back room. Anything that has to be imported (so anything that is “Western” in nature or coming from Australia or US) is quite expensive. Rice Krispies (known as Rice Bubbles) is over $15 USD per box. Meat, cheese, eggs, chocolate, peanut butter, brown sugar, powdered milk, eggs, cream, foreign fruit... all of these can eat into our budgets and are rationed with creativity (one of my friends blogged about prices here).

So, we get used to it. We make substitutions (and even substitutions for our substitutions). We are delighted when the food item appears in the store and could care less about the brand. And we get used to not needing to discriminate between foods—so the day that I went to the store to buy canned corn and there were three options, I stood in front of the shelves with my mind in turmoil. Three choices? How was I supposed to pick the right one? Why did three exist in the first place?

So imagine with me the emotional turmoil when you are faced with an entire aisle dedicated to cheese slices.

They even have a sign dedicated to cheese slices. Wow.

I had heard about people breaking down and sobbing in the grocery store aisles. Now I knew why.

What was I supposed to do? In our center store (which has an unusually high stock of “Western” foods), we only occasionally have one brand of a packet of cheese slices—12 slices for $15 USD. And here there was an entire aisle. My fingers twitched around the shopping basket handle in consternation as I tried to hold back my first raging conclusion—just buy everything because A) its dirt cheap and B) because in PNG, if you don’t buy it when you see it, it may be gone the next day and not reappear for months at a time.

No, I took a deep breath and admonished myself. You know that’s unreasonable. Just buy one kind of cheese slice. Or maybe two.

Ha. And this from the girl who thought three kinds of canned corn was too many.

It’s a strange sensation to realize that you are somewhat paralysed in the aisle, praying for guidance about food choices, and watching other shoppers browse past you in oblivion as you struggle with emotions that have been building throughout the day due to over-stimulation of the senses—there is just too much food, too many advertisements, too much choice. And then it is compounded from your attempts to control what you know are ridiculous reactions to perfectly normal situations (after all, this is my world that I’ve lived in for 20+ years...I’ve frequented grocery stores innumerable times. It’s not like I am an astronaut or someone taking huge and climactic steps for the world!). But reason is inconsequential by this point, and soon escape seems like the only option.

Maybe we don’t need to buy cheese right now at all.

At this point in time, my aunt discovered me standing rather distraught in front of the refrigerated shelves and came to my rescue, deftly choosing for us the major delicacies of the evening meal—sliced cheese, sliced sandwich meat (ham!), grapes, whole wheat sliced bread, and apples.

As I trotted behind her while she shopped, I marvelled at the wealth and beauty of this clean and organized grocery store... and laughed as I envisioned myself standing speechless before all that plastic packaging. Moon-landing or not, grocery-store shopping could give space-travel a run for its money.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

When the Tardis Landed in Cairns

I stepped out of the airport and felt like I was stepping out of the Tardis. After whirling through space and time continuum, I slammed into a parallel, yet alternative universe. Once it had skidded into its characteristic screeching, grinding, and wheezing halt, I pushed open the police box door and stared about me in shock. Cairns, Australia was definitely a destination worthy of the Doctor.

In case you aren't familiar with the Doctor and the Tardis, his time machine, they are a part of a quirky sci-fi BBC TV show that shows you how strange we can get in Papua New Guinea.
Okay, so maybe I had been watching too much Dr. Who recently. But the flight sure seemed to occur like that!

My subconscious tried to make sense of the chaos—since I was no longer in PNG, I must be in the US...right? But, that didn’t make sense zipped along on the other side of the road and the currency in my purse rivalled a rainbow. About a minute and a half later, I found myself sighing with relief. No, this wasn’t the US; actually, it was a place that did reasonable things, like drive on the correct side of the road and colour-code their bills!

Some call it reverse culture shock, and some call it re-entry stress. I honestly didn’t think it would affect me much—this was just a week-long holiday with my aunt before she departed for the US. After all, I’d only been in PNG for a year—how much could my thinking and perspective have changed?

Go ahead and laugh. You know what’s coming: I was in for an adventure.

See the striping. Feel the striping. Love the striping.
From the airport, I stepped into the frigid (i.e., air-conditioned) clean car that still had all its mirrors and seat belts (which actually worked) and windscreens (which weren’t spiderwebbed with packaging tape repairs) and didn’t cough out dust and dirt. My first thought? There were no footpaths alongside the road. In fact there were no dogs, people, or buai (betel nut) stands either. Amazed thought number 2: not only were there no potholes in sight (much less the craters of PNG), but (get this) there was striping on the road.

Striping! Who would have thought?

Just imagine, it all lights up at night like a Christmas tree!
And so we travelled along and I goggled at all the cars. Clean cars, to be precise (and not all 4WD trucks or PMV vans). Actually, not only clean, but cars that stopped at working stoplights (stoplight, what’s that?) and obeyed signs (signs? There are street signs?). I felt paranoid about needing to log off my internet connection (both free and fast!!) and secretly rebellious about being able to see all your facebook and blog pictures. I walked into ground-level houses (no stilts) and saw nary a building without a metal or shingled roof. The shower had water pressure, and I could drink straight from the faucet. I didn’t have to bleach vegetables, break matches while lighting the stove, or carry toilet paper in my purse. My aunt and I caught the bus downtown, and I gawked at the floodlit city when the clock said night.

(Let me state that again in case you missed it, two women rode public transportation by ourselves in the city... and then we did the same thing at night to get back! Scandalous!)

I could read all the signs, and didn’t have to duck through doorways. I wasn’t stared at, called at, clustered around, or shied from... in fact, I was the one who felt slightly intimidated to be surrounded by so many more “whiteskins” than I had seen in one spot for a long time.

And I thought I wouldn’t be affected...hehehe. My poor aunt probably thought I was either drugged or seriously demented as I attempted to casually stroll alongside her, all the while, craning my neck, gasping in astonishment, and generally gaping at the world passing by.

Stores...real clothing stores on a clean, wide sidewalk!
In some ways, the entry into Cairns was like jumping into a swimming pool—the shock of cold water leaving you gasping for breath, the feeling of weightlessness and lack of control, before you find your stroke, attempt to adapt to this new environment. I had been warned about some parts (I’ll tell you more about The Grocery Store Experience) and stumbled into others (I didn’t expect to cry over aesthetics). Some were exhilarating (ready to hear about all the foods I got to eat?!) and some seemed natural (such a glorious, comfortable bed!). I recognized and accepted new things about myself (I walk slower than I used to) and struggled with others (I had no idea wearing jeans and seeing my knees again would be so uncomfortable). It was stressful and relaxing, aggravating and refreshing. It reminded me that my roots are in this Western world, my branches stretch and grow from PNG, but ultimately my citizenship is in heaven.

In many ways, I was amazed at how seven days could result in such a conundrum of emotions and responses...

But, I suppose that is to be expected. After all, that’s what happens when you travel to Cairns in the Tardis. :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sharing Smells

Imagine trying to explain a smell to someone who has never smelled in their life. How would you do it? It’s like... it’s sort of like... well, think of... try to pretend...

Despite pictures and videos and stories and skyping and emails and phone calls and blog posts, sometimes I feel like when I’m describing life in PNG to all of you, I’m describing a smell to someone who has never breathed in that fragrance before.

But, when someone can come share that smell with you, inhale deeply the scent that you desperately want them to understand. Well, perhaps they will have a slightly fuller picture of what you have been living and experiencing.

For three weeks this past May, my aunt Wendy was able to come and breathe in the smells of Papua New Guinea. The Lord had worked timing and circumstances out such that at the time her schedule opened up, the internal audit team coming to Ukarumpa was short a team member. When her skill set as an accountant and auditor exactly met the team’s sudden need, it was evident the Lord was planning a trans-Pacific trip!

She stayed in PNG for three weeks (from mid-May to the beginning of June) where she learned the ins and outs of life on center, visited a local village, travelled down to Lae, and dipped a toe on this side of the ocean. Once the audit was complete, we flew together to Cairns, Australia, where I had my first vacation in about a year and she enjoyed being a tourist in the Land Down Under. Because her schedule with the audit kept her quite busy while in PNG, it was also a chance for us to spend more time together than we had while she was in in Ukarumpa.

Flying to Port Moresby
It was absolutely an incredible blessing to have her here and share with her this land and people I've come to love... including all the smells :)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

An Interlude of Butter

It all started because there was no ice cream in the store. 

Not that I would have bought it if there was (too expensive and too much quantity to satisfy a simple craving). But still, it got me thinking.

And then there was the conversation with my haus meri, Rita (the national woman who comes and assists my housemates and I with housework once a week). We were discussing the current lack of ice cream on center and how we could remedy the situation. Alas, we commiserated, it’s difficult to make homemade ice cream creamy and smooth, without the little ice crystals, when you don’t have an ice cream maker.

And then I remembered this recipe. I had made this version of ice cream once before (sans a few eggs) in vanilla and strawberry flavors, and it was so rich, so creamy, and so decadent that it far outstripped the store version. (That also could have resulted from the fact that it hadn’t been thawed and refrozen who knows how many times).

Next week, we promised Rita, next week when you come, we will have made homemade ice cream for you. So, on Wednesday, Jessie and I embarked on an ice cream making venture: a double batch of mint chocolate chip and cookies ‘n cream. 

It started off benign. We eagerly mixed and heated the egg/sugar/milk mixture (then searched for recipes to use up all the leftover egg whites) and merrily tossed it into the fridge to chill (then frantically sprinted to the post office to catch the van to drive helter-skelter to aviation to serenely wave  ‘welcome!’ as our returning-from-furlough-roommate’s plane landed earlier than expected).

After lunch and dishes, we returned to the ice cream drama: whipping the cream. Except, we had no whipping cream. So, we thought, let’s just whip heavy cream. Except it was the brand that doesn’t whip well.

This one. I can't read the label either.

Because of the Chinese, Indonesian, and Thai products, we can get many different labels! 

So, I thought, since it will take forever anyway, let’s try whipping it in the MagicBullet (one of my absolute favourite kitchen implements, but that’s another blog post). After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

Butter, apparently.

Thanks to the combination of somewhat frozen heavy cream plus the fierce enthusiasm of the blender plus the propensity of this particular brand to not whip meant that within a few moments, beautiful golden lumps separated from the buttermilk. Jessie and I stared in fascination (and slight horror). This was not what our cream was supposed to do.

“Well,” I studied the bowl, “we might as well go all the way.”

 Just a few more moments of whipping, a bit of squeezing through the cheese cloth and a final addition of salt was all the once-intended ice cream needed before it shaped into a gorgeous sunshine pat of butter.  It will be perfect on our homemade bread, we congratulated ourselves.

But, despite our PNG Pioneer Lady interlude, we still had no ice cream.

So we started again, this time with room-temperature cream and a hand-held mixer, whisked it with the egg mixture, tossed it in the ice cube trays (after running next door to get more), and threw it in the freezer. After several hours, quite a few more dishes, and a significant amount of chopping later, we had finished preparing dinner, along with the mint chocolate chip and Oreo cookies mix-ins, blended all our ice cream up once more (no butter this time), and settled the cartons for a final time into our ever-useful freezer.

Mmmmm; rich and creamy!

 So very tasty. Rita calls ice cream "the mother of all foods." :)


And that is how we spent the afternoon making butter… since there was no ice cream in the store.

Yummmm, some of the best ice cream I've ever had!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Land of the Oompa-Loompa?

I’ve met an Oompa-Loompa. Indeed, I’ve even give out candy with them. You don’t believe me? No one believed Willie Wonka either.

“Of course they're real people. They're Oompa-Loompas...Imported direct from Loompaland...And oh what a terrible country it is! Nothing but thick jungles infested by the most dangerous beasts in the world - hornswogglers and snozzwangers and those terrible wicked whangdoodles. A whangdoodle would eat ten Oompa-Loompas for breakfast and come galloping back for a second helping.”
― Willie Wonka, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Of course, my experience occurred in college. Strange things happen in college.

Did I mention that I was an Oompa Loompa too?
So, even though Loompaland seems to resemble Papua New Guinea and Oompa-Loompa sounds deceptively close to Ukarumpa, don’t be fooled—this island I live on is far more eye-opening and amazing than the reported home of mere snozzwangers and whangdoodles!

Ukarumpa (oo-kar-UM-pa) is our primary linguistic center for Papua New Guinea (and in some services, for the Pacific region). It is dedicated to the support of Bible translation, church engagement, and community development around PNG and has quickly become my home base as I travel around the country.

While I can’t provide Everlasting Gobstoppers and dancing orange men, I would like to share with you this 4-min video tour of Ukarumpa that I put together back in May for my friends at Centennial Evangelical Free Church, my sending church. They kindly posted it HERE on Vimeo for me since that would be exhaust my own internet capabilities. Take a look!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

When 'Three' Goes Missing

Imagine the world without the number three. It would be a disaster—three truly is an invaluable number. I mean, without three the famous book or movie trilogies wouldn’t be possible (goodbye Lord of the Rings or Jason Bourne), and how could Earth be the third planet from the sun? Most of our months would have to join February and no longer end with 30+ days, and we would have to start the teenage years at 12 instead of 13.

Our traditional sets of three sizes (small, medium, and large) would cease to exist, and the superlative (a grammar term for comparing three or more objects) would feel lost. And, I ask you, what would we do without the triangle? I know the third time’s the charm and disasters always come in threes (as do wishes), but if we had no three, what would the letter “E” look like backwards? Finally, there are all the groups of friends who only travel in a threesome—Three Stooges; Three Little Pigs; Goldilocks and the Three Bears; Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego... and really, the Trinity has to count for something!

Yes, three really is an important number for the world—and for writing blog posts. In fact, to write a good blog post, I need three ingredients: time, creative energy, and internet access. Because you are a clever reader, you know where this is going—over the past month and a half, at least one (if not all) of these vital three ingredients have gone missing, rendering this blog silent.

For instance, my spare time got zapped, with the arrival of my aunt in mid-May (she was coming as part of an audit team assisting our finance office for three weeks; it was very exciting to have her here—more on that later). In addition, I finished my project in our linguistics office, went to Australia with my aunt for a week-long holiday before she travelled back to the US, and then flew to East New Britain for two weeks where I managed the kitchen for a church engagement training course!

The theme for Banquet was "Around the World in 80 Days."
So I painted a Paris skyline (and a sumo wrestler).
My creative energy, also requiring three components of adequate rest, minimal transition, and low stress (all of which were in short supply these last three weeks), was further exhausted by helping prepare for Banquet (our school’s version of prom) and compiling a massive pile of gifts, notes, and even a video (more on that later) to send back to the US.

Finally, even if those two former ingredients had existed in adequate amounts, I have been out of internet access for the past several weeks, axing any chance for me to share those stories with you.

BUT, not anymore! Now, I am back in Ukarumpa and all three components are rising to acceptable levels such that I can now share with you a bit of what the Lord and I have been doing in Papua New Guinea (PNG) over the past month or so.

After all, there is one place that I would like to no longer see the number three—currently, there are about 300 people groups in PNG that don’t have access to Scripture in their own language.