Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Great Bucket Adventure (or 48 Hours Before Village Departure)

Have you ever thought about the wonders of a Bucket?

Buckets are the translator’s best friend. Buckets are not only versatile, but they are ant-proof, water-proof, rat-proof, cockroach-proof and have handles! Buckets in boats can mean the difference between a ruined milky slush and milk powder for your breakfast. They are the protectors of the Pillow, the Hand-Written Translation Data, and the Electronics from the inevitable downpours and crashing waves that are drawn toward cargo like moths to a flame. Yes, buckets are indeed treasured like gold, and it is a rare and precious gift when you are given a hand-me-down bucket.

So, imagine our delight when our store advertised these magnificent 5 gallon buckets for sale! What elegance! What usefulness! And so, four of us on the team immediately each bought a bucket, thrilled with the possibilities for our trip.

Don't they look lovely?

Until it came time to put the lid on.

It wouldn’t. My friends and I began emailing each other... “Is your bucket lid going on? Is there a trick to it...?”

We pried and smashed and twisted and tore, but the lids wouldn’t seal (and then when one finally did, it wouldn’t come off). We emailed the store about the buckets, asking for help, and found out that even online reviewers were having trouble. Some suggested a rubber mallet. Another woman said as long as her husband was around to open and close it, it worked great.

We emailed the store back. Do you sell rubber mallets...or husbands?

Earlier this weekend, one of our guy friends came by to offer his assistance with “anything blokey” that we needed done around the house before we left for the village. We handed him a bucket. “We’ll give you cheesecake in exchange for you opening and closing those buckets,” we told him. Poor guy. At least he burned off all the cheesecake calories.

By the time you read this, the buckets will have been opened and yesterday’s frenzy of packing will have faded beneath the clouds, and I’ll be tucked into a life vest and strapped into a Kodiak, flying across Papua New Guinea to the province of New Ireland. My team and I will spend the next three weeks heading out to a remote island to work with the Tiang and Tigak language groups in workshops on Sunday School book production, Sunday School teacher training, and hymn recording. (I actually worked with both these people groups last June in a similar type workshop.) As with all village trips, I’m excited to see what the Lord has in store for the weeks ahead...

Here I am working with the Tiang last year

But first, I had to get through the Village Prep (cue Lord of the Rings theme music).

Hopefully, I started weeks ahead of time, dehydrating fruit, vegetables and meat, making granola (a bigger experiment than you might realize...as I can’t eat oats and nuts and seeds are prohibitively expensive in large quantities), getting the all important chocolate, and planning meals. If all went well, then my team and I would have already planned our classes and purchased the necessary supplies for the workshop (or sent our list ahead to the centre managers for shopping once we arrive). Supposing I was on top of everything, I’d spend the week before heading out finishing up those last details, so that I’d only have to pack it all in bags the day or two before...

Dehydrated pineapple and polenta along with some creative granola!

Of course, there’s about as much likelihood of that happening as for us to get a blizzard and for penguins to show up at my door.

So instead (and especially when you have such an unexpectedly chaotic week like we’ve had) village prep often gets crammed into those last few precious days, and you feel a bit like Noah’s wife must have when she started to feel it sprinkle. What is involved in this undertaking, you ask?


First, there’s trying to get the house ready for departure—and for us, this has included trying to order a new screen door from the US (which has become akin to the task of Frodo hiking up Mt. Doom...). We put up arc mesh over the plate glass window (and try not to fall off the ladder into the security plants all set to impale us with their toxic spines) and check the alarms (and make sure the neighbors have keys and codes) and leave instructions for our employees on where to find their tools and tea supplies (which were bought in bulk and stored in ant-proof, rat-proof, water-proof, raskol-proof containers).

Success! The arc mesh is in place!
We gather emergency numbers from everywhere and give our emergency numbers to everyone and log our travel plans with a dozen different offices and try to figure out why the sat phone isn’t working  (or the radio). We spend hours and hours installing long swatches of chicken wire to try to fix the fence so the dogs won’t escape (since the electric fencer exploded in a cloud of sparks during the last major thunderstorm), attempt to figure out why the one dog is suddenly deciding to throw up, and try to find enough entrepreneurial children to walk and feed our critters. We hand off duties and keys up at the Pony Club, transferring medicines and giving last-minute advice (praying no more medical emergencies will arise).

I know he looks innocent, but this is the face of a mastermind escape artist...

We send last minute prayer updates to supporters, try to write emails to preempt any possible problem that might occur over the next three weeks, attempt to put on an out-of-office reply that won’t spam the world, and try to make sure all bills are paid before we depart for a Land of No Internet.  We buy extra credit for our digimodem, plan for power surges and breaking generators, and try to guesstimate how much fuel we might want to bring. We charge up all our batteries, dry out all our silica gel, load up on water safety gear (and try to decide if shark bags are really worth it?), and bag up all the trash in the house to be picked up the following day.

We leave the kitchen spotless (dishes left out could fall in an earthquake) and clean out the fridge (including the heap of garden produce brought the day before by a village friend), foisting leftover curry on friends and offering cabbages as housewarming gifts. We finish the last loads of laundry and pray it will all dry in time (mold, anyone?).

Thank goodness it was nice and windy!

And then it’s time to pack.

Into the heap go everything from hammer and nails to tarps and headlamps, mosquito nets, medical books and solar panels, pens and notepaper and Bibles (in various languages) and the air mattress and sewing kit and enough medicines to treat an entire army. We ask ourselves, how much toilet paper will we use? How much money will we need? What kind of clothes are most appropriate (will sleeveless in this part of the country be scandalous?). There’s the mosquito repellant and sunscreen and backpack and hostess gifts and laundry powder and clothesline and pillow and knife and maps and enough IDs to let you into a whole host of countries.

The Great Packing Pile is starting on my bed.

And then, all it goes, into double and triple garbage bags and ziploc bags and dry bags and then again into backpacks and pelican case and buckets and boxes (not too big, since smaller boxes are more easily carried by hand or packed into the cargo bay of the Kodiaks) and taped up with the CLEAR packing tape, not the BROWN which is less waterproof, and it finally gets all lugged over the scale where we hope and pray it is still within the range of those few kilos of cargo that we booked months ago for the flight.

Will it all fit?

Finally we pile it all by the front door and set our alarm so we’ll be ready to go when the aviation bus appears at our door at 5:30 am--complete with all our buckets.

Don't forget to keep checking my blog for more stories about my adventures in Gulf Province! I look forward to talking with you all again in a few weeks.