Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Joys of Crowbars, Toilet Paper Tubes and Some Sticks

The past several days, I’ve been helping one of my friends destroy her new house. Screwdrivers, saws, crowbars, sledgehammers and a crew of eager teenage boys have resulted in a wonderful cacophony of demolition as we tore out several unnecessary walls to allow the newly-enlarged living room be capable of hosting my friend’s famous “more the merrier” parties.

Starting destruction...hehehe
It has been glorious—not only because the physical labour and quick visual progress is far more satisfying than slowly emptying my Inbox or trying to finalize travel plans for my trip back to the US, but because it signals a gift that is rare and thus extremely precious to a missionary:


In the past 24 months, I have moved at least 24 times (not including simple overnights), often changing climates, teams, diets, sleep patterns, work assignments, houses, beds, and even methods of bathing. While living out of a suitcase has the advantage that I keep my personal possessions to a minimum, it also can be rather exhausting, especially when I go at it alone. So, when this past January, I was finally offered a room of my own without an immediate eviction date, I was ecstatic. And to signal the change from hobo to house-dweller, I began my own decorating transformation in order to create a room that could be a beautiful sanctuary when I returned from the village to Ukarumpa.

But, decorating here is not quite as simple as wandering into your local craft store or ordering some curtains off the internet. Paint prices are astronomical (not to mention the colour in the can has a 50% chance of being different from the colour on the label), furniture must be built by hand, and the bolts of fabric are far from desirable.

Never fear! Desperation is like jet fuel to creativity, especially when there are second hand stores (with beautiful fabric made into ugly dresses and skirts just begging to be torn apart), sticks from the trees in your yard, and a collection of toilet paper tubes!

First, the bed nook:
Thanks to a second-hand store supplying 8 shirts and a duvet cover, I could make coordinating pillows and trim for the bedspread, over which I hung some curtains donated by a friend leaving finish. The blanket is a gift from my aunt—and that delightful wall-hanging is made up entirely of toilet paper tubes!

Window treatment and reading area: On the other side of the room, a few more donated lacy curtains, a skirt, two shirts, and a sheet from the second-hand store, and a brilliant internet pattern that guided me through turning a set of mini-blinds into a Roman shade completed the window treatment. Another second-hand dress and shirt covered the original rocking chair and pillow to match, while I used some decorative paper to spruce up the cabinet. (The other knickknacks and vase were scavenged from various “going finish” sales as people sold their cargo before leaving PNG to return to their home countries.)

Oh, and the valance rod? That's a long stick too.

Mirror and Jewellery Hanger: The mirror was beat-up and ugly, but thanks to some sticks and some twine, I whipped together a quick frame that matched my recently-created wall jewellery hanger. Putting on earrings is the main way that I “dress up” here in PNG—it’s subtle enough that it doesn’t draw attention to itself and different enough from normal, everyday wear that I feel special!


Finally, the rugs: Back in March when I realized that I’d be spending a week sitting in meetings for our biennial conference, I knew that I needed a craft to keep my hands busy—and I needed a rug for my room. Using this clever, no-sew rag rug pattern and strips from about 20 shirts, dresses, and skirts, I tackled this project, which I just finally finished a few days ago!

Here I am, hanging out at Conference with my rug and a dear friend :)
And look at the finished product. Hooray!!!
Although it may seem odd to you that a blog about my decorating triumphs sits next to Bible translation stories, for me, laying that rug down in my room for the first time holds far more significance than merely adding a splash of colour. Similarly, when my friend finally sat down in her new kitchen and began culling through her cutlery (after 10 years of living in group housing, being shuttled from place to place, and hording a motley collection of spoons because she never knew if they next house she moved to would have enough), the moment was rather symbolic. It reminds us that beauty is not frivolous, that constancy is possible, and that this place is a home (my home) rather than merely a hotel.

I even had enough scraps left over to make a mini rug
And if it means that we get to knock down walls with sledgehammers in the process, well, that’s even better!