Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sherlock Holmes and My Life

“My dear fellow, life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations and leading to the most outre results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable. …Depend upon it, there is nothing so unnatural as the commonplace.”
--Sherlock Holmes (as transcribed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Especially when that commonplace is in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Although I got back from the village and the Markham Tokples Scripture Conference on Saturday, 12 January, you may have noticed that I’ve been a bit slow in returning to my usual blogging habits. That is because this crazy wonderful commonplace life in Papua New Guinea can be rather insane at times. To catch you up to speed, I thought a one-sentence-one-photo journal might help; later, I’ll flesh things out with some marvelous stories!

First there was life in the village where I helped some friends learn Tok Pisin, hung out with a marvelous family, and developed some great relationships, and ate lots of cooking bananas.

Cooking bananas is a staple food in the Markham Valley; they taste kind of like potatotes!

And participated in the Markham Tokples Scripture Conference! It was the first time in the Markham history that an event of its kind took place, and I have lots of stories about it to share with you!

We held the sessions under a mango tree (and under a tarp when it was raining...which it did daily!)
It's like Find Waldo, except Find Catherine! Some of the ladies and I were planning a skit.
Eventually, we travelled back to Ukarumpa, where I welcomed my roommate’s visiting brother, unpacked, started catching up on all 450 emails, wandered around like a zombie (returning from the village always takes some recovery time…please keep all knives and important decisions away from me), attended meetings and debriefs related to the conference, wrote reports, put out fires (not literally), hosted friends for dinner, created a conference slideshow, played Mafia-on-steroids with friends, and taught horseback riding lessons.

This is what we look like when we come back from the village...

The next week, I began by supervising workmen who attempted to fix our sauna’s chimney (so our house wouldn’t fill with smoke) and unclog a pipe (so our sinks would drain). I also did laundry, ran errands, cleaned the house…and did other various and sundry things that make up the foundation of daily life in PNG.
My house (which is much prettier than a picture of a backed-up sink)
On Tuesday, I cloistered with other families in a furlough/home assignment workshop (to tell me what to expect and plan for when I return to the US in August…which really only resulted in me starting an ever-growing list.)

Perhaps this guy is going on furlough too?

On Wednesday, I spent 12 hours driving to and from Lae (with numerous stops in between) to look at potential horses for sale (and was charged by a bull).

We actually didn't find any horses for sale at this time, but we took lots of photos of cows...

On Thursday, I went to a local village to sleep overnight and celebrate a belated Christmas with my friends Nick and Kandi (of course, this “quick” visit still meant hiking up and down a mountain—both there and back—in the rain and mud).

Inside a Highlands house with Kandi

Here Jessie and I are hiking up and down a mountain on our way back to Ukarumpa.

On Friday afternoon, 10 minutes after returning from the village, I alas had to deal with a horse medical emergency which resulted in the horse needing to be put down (she had been sick for some time). Then I went to Hamburger Night at the Teen Centre where I ate hot, crispy chips (French fries) made by our local teens as a fundraiser. That evening, my roommate and I thought we would relax by watching a movie…alas, we chose Shackleton, which, although it’s a great story, is filled with exhausting and frigid trekking, trekking, trekking…which isn’t particularly relaxing when you spent most of your past couple of days also trekking, trekking, trekking…


On Saturday, I attended more meetings and did labor at the horse paddocks.

I teach weekly riding lessons to both kids and adults in our Ukarumpa Pony Club

By now it was Sunday and I was exhausted, so I took a “mental health day,” which included naps, books, movies, and good food.

Emmy, our cat, joined me happily

Monday and Tuesday were consumed with spent writing, writing, writing as I wrote articles for our communications department, and then Wednesday was spent on the oh-most-joyous task of TAXES (both for PNG and US)!

Two countries = double the tax fun!

And that, I think, brings us to now. Yes, I think I have to agree with Sherlock Holmes, when he says, “My dear fellow, life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent….” At least, my life certainly is!