Sunday, February 10, 2013

New Year's Morning

An excerpt from my journal, reflecting on the new year, when I was living in an Adzera village this past January, preparing for a church leaders’ conference, which I’ve blogged about here and here.

Steel wool fireworks are pretty amazing!
A single file (like ants, I thought), we pattered through the bush, the bare feet of children noiseless on the mud. The beam of my torch (flashlight) seemed to catch at the ankles of the girl in front of me, and her shadow darted before her, trying to escape. The New Year’s celebrations continued on behind me—they would go on for hours yet, but it was quite late (or early?), and we had sung our sung and shook dozens of hands and spun the steel wool until sparks spattered off in a wheel of fire, nearly landing on the damp kunai (grass) roofs of the village houses.

Now, the nine of us snaked our way to the river to head back to a nearby village where our beds waited. River crossing at night is not much different from the day, I thought. It’s still too murky to see anything. I stepped gingerly, like a cat, down the mud-slick banks and now into the current, high from the morning rain. I bunched my skirt above my knees and the water drove the silty earth into my sandals. Across the ripples, my light broke, flickered, and the bite of the cold water woke me from any remaining sleepiness. Step, plant, brace; step, plant, brace, and the water shoved at my balance like an eager crowd. The other side now, and I rang out my skirt, fingering stones from beneath my sandal straps. Time to walk again. No stars tonight, but the clouds can’t seem to decide to rain.

Celebrating the turn of a calendar, the counting of days, hours, seconds until the long hand ticks vertical and a ball drops somewhere across the ocean, seems odd in a Papua New Guinean village. We get up when the sun rises, eat the belo (noon) meal at 3 pm, and talk about going to the garden tomorrow (meaning, next week). Church “begins” at the fourth bell, but we sit another half hour before the singing starts (it was overcast that morning). In the US, we watch smiling anchors chatter about the 7 am news, and our Outlook calendars pop up with notifications. We live for the weekend and have clocks in each room; our wrists are tanned with watch lines, and every interviewee knows if “she’s not 5 min early, she’s late!”
A mother starting breakfast in the village

But I sit here, the first of January 2013, and listen to the village wake up and stretch, begin scraping coconuts like every morning, and I can’t even remember what day of the week it is. Could it be Wednesday? No, I count back and remember church was two days ago. It must be Tuesday. Not that it matters—bananas cook the same either day.

I wonder if this is as close as I will get to live on this earth without time? Lord—is this what it’s like for you, where a day is as a 1000 years and 1000 years as one day?

A pig finds a discarded piece of dry coconut and eleven others converge, screaming in protest and jealousy. The hyacinth unfolds its petals, and the cicadas continue their everlasting thrum.