Here’s a conversation that I had with an elderly man last week. He belongs to a dialect right next to the language group we’re living in right now. My friend translated my pidgin (the trade language) into this older fellow’s language for me, because the guy didn’t understand pidgin well.
Elderly man: “That group you’re staying with right now already has two missionary families living in it. You should come live with US, learn OUR language, and teach US God’s talk. I’ll give your family ground, we’ll feed you, and we’ll look after you. You need to come stay with us.”
Seth: “Actually, I’m not in this area permanently. I’m just living here right now as I learn Tok Pisin. I’ll be leaving again in just a few weeks.”
Elderly man: “I’ve been to one of the churches near here and they only teach from Pidgin or English Bibles. They told me that if I don’t believe God’s talk then I’m going to the place of fire. I don’t understand God’s talk though. This is really weighing on me….If you don’t come live with us…then…then I’m going to cut off my finger.”
[I had more or less dismissed the comment, thinking it was a weird idiom I hadn’t heard before, but then my friend touched my arm and whispered, “Seth, this guy’s serious.” And he was right; the guy was red-eyed and sweating. Apparently, this is an actual practice around here, and is meant as an expression of deepest grief, like, if your child died, or something.]
Seth: “…..Um…..Please don’t do that….Here’s the thing, I’ve already been talking with some missionaries in another area that have just started trying to learn another group’s language. The people there don’t have any access to God’s talk, and we’re kind of already committed to helping them.”
Elderly man: “OK, then send someone else to us. Get another missionary to come from America, or England, or wherever, so we can hear God’s talk in our language.”
Seth: “Um….I’m kind of not really in charge of other people…”
Elderly man: “After you leave here, you’ll talk to people though, right? You’ll tell them what I just told you? We need someone to come here!”
Seth: “Yeah, I can do that. I’ll do that, and you try to keep all your fingers on.”
Elderly man: “Do you promise? You need to promise.”
Seth: “Yeah, I promise.”
So, personally, I thought that was a pretty awkward conversation. (Especially, since I had to have it three separate times, because he never fully accepted my answers.) He did bring up some valid points though. There really are an amazing number of languages in Papua New Guinea without a clear Gospel available. And there really aren’t nearly enough feet on the ground to even come close to handling the need. So, here’s the solution I’ve come up with to address this issue:
What if a few of you who read this little blog post go to your local church next Sunday and say something like, “I love you guys. You’re awesome. It’s a joy and a privilege to worship and serve God alongside you, and I’m going to stay right here with you…..IF someone here will cut off their finger.”
If there is such a dire need for you to stay in your fellowship of believers that someone will actually sacrifice a digit to keep you there, then by all means stay where you are. But if not, well, I know a guy over here that would do it in a heartbeat, if it meant you would come and share what you have with his people.
Food for thought, anyway.
I know it makes us sound super lame-sauce to admit it, but we hit the hay around 9:30 PM this last New Year’s Eve. Though, with two toddlers in the house, and a baby on the way, I feel like it’s not asking for too much to be exempt from the whole staying up until midnight thing. Honestly, at this stage in life, I can’t really think of a better way to welcome in the New Year than by snuggling up with my pillow in blissful sleep. Papua New Guinea, on the other hand, had “narapela tingting long dispela” (another thought concerning this).
Like I said, we were out cold around 9:30 PM. Well, around 10:00 PM we woke with a start to the sound of nearby explosions. Considering we’re pretty well out in the boonies, this was kind of unexpected. After a couple of resounding “BOOM”s, and muttering a few exclamations of consternation, we realized it was merely some very large fireworks, and not really something to worry about.
Of course, when I say “we” realized this, I am referring strictly to Rochelle and myself. About the same time I rested my head back down on my pillow, I heard Manny’s terrified screams from his bedroom, “MOMMM! GAAGGGY!” (Yes, he’s 3 years old, and he still can’t say my name right.) When I got to his bedroom he was pretty shaken up: “Doze guyz ar shuting gunz!”
It took a little while, but eventually I was able to explain the situation, calm his nerves, and get him to lay back down. Now, it was time for bed. Again. This time, I was able to sleep for two whole hours before being awakened again at 12:00 AM by mortar fire – this time accompanied by cheering, and joined soon after by more terrified screams: “GAGGY! GAGGY!” A little while later, as I finished comforting Manny, we were serenaded by a drunken off-beat medley being hammered out on a pot by a passing liquored-up local. When I got back to bed, I gave Rochelle a sleepy kiss. “Happy New Year, honey.”
PNG, however, not being exactly what you might call a “time-oriented society,” apparently hadn’t come to a full consensus on whether or not the New Year had actually started. I say this because, at 1:00 AM, the mountains erupted again in raucous explosions, followed shortly after by more screams from the bedroom down the hall. By my reckoning, 2015 wasn’t really putting its best foot forward.
When I got up the next morning, I made my coffee and stepped out onto my front porch. It had rained in the early morning, so a mist was now rising as the sun warmed up the earth. It gave a slightly picturesque aspect to the scene of the drunken brawl that was going on in the road directly across from my house. Nothing expresses “Happy New Year” quite as well as rolling around in the mud trying to beat a fellow senseless. (And, apparently, this is a commonly held sentiment, because I was able to see two more altercations of the same kind before 10:00 AM.)
Another local tradition (a new one, I’ve been told) is to grab handfuls of mud and run about smearing it all over any and every passerby you happen to come into contact with. I only observed three ways of opting out of this revelry: You could run like a scared rabbit (the perpetrators being insanely fit, 16-19 year old males, this option gave about a 50% success rate), you could irately wield a large, threatening stick like a Samurai warrior (though this seemed to provoke confrontation), or you could hide in your home like a big sissy. (Option 3 suited me perfectly.) Needless to say, language learning on New Year’s included more review on the computer and less visiting around.
Nice to meet you, 2015. You need to work on your first impressions.
A week before Christmas, and all through the Guest House Everything was packed up, every toy, shoe, and blouse The family was scrambling to box up their food stuff And hoping and praying that they’d all packed enough…
Well, we did it: this last Wednesday we started our Bush Orientation. We packed all of our gear (one Action Packer, three duffle bags, and a laptop), boxed up six weeks’ worth of groceries, loaded everything into the back of a pickup, and headed up into the mountains!
The place we’re doing our Bush Orientation is in kind of unique position, as far as NTM works go, because of their proximity to a road and a town, so getting here was a little easier than it would be for many other locations. Rochelle and the boys hopped on a little Cessna and flew on ahead to a small airstrip near our location, while Seth and one of the missionaries that we’re staying with drove behind in the pickup and met up with them at the house. (With a ½ hour flight vs. a 5 hour car ride, it was a no-brainer to send the kiddos and their pregnant Momma via the air.)
Though the national people here have better access to a few more modern conveniences than many other PNG communities do, they were still cut off from access to the Gospel in their mother-tongue before the missionaries we’re staying with came and began working among them. It’s such a privilege for our family to be able to be here, living alongside these two awesome missionary families as we continue our Tok Pisin studies. What a great way for us to get a taste of what day-to-day life looks like for tribal church planters!
We’re still getting settled right now, trying to give the Fam at least some semblance of stability for this last bit of the Christmas season. So far, the boys are doing well. (Thank you for your prayers!) They are having fun playing with the other missionary kids and seem to really enjoy this new set-up we’re in. I think our neighbors’ swing-set and pet rabbit have helped with this considerably!
Anyway, that’s what’s been going on the last couple of days for us over here in PNG. Thanks for keeping up with our family. Hope you have a very merry next couple of days as you get ready to celebrate our Savior’s coming to earth!
I woke up at 3:30 AM this morning. I didn’t WANT to wake up at 3:30, I just did. I opened my eyes, laid staring at our ceiling for twenty minutes, willing myself to fall back asleep (to no avail), eventually gave up on nourishing my body with rest, and got up to start my day. This is becoming something of a regular occurrence of late, and it has me slightly concerned.
I know a few people back home, mostly farmers, who insist that a good day’s work should start somewhere between 4:30 – 5:30 AM, but I’ve always struggled to agree with this sentiment (mostly, I think, because it sounds like just the sort of delusional, crazy thing a person would say after being deprived of sleep for a significant length of time). After moving here to Papua New Guinea though, I seem to be getting pushed in that direction whether I like it or not.
Here are a few of the contributing factors that I’m blaming:
Wildlife: Back home, in the beautiful foothills of the Adirondacks, when nighttime came it was generally recognized by nature as a time for sleep. A gentle breeze would rustle the leaves, peeper toads and crickets would sing a quiet lullaby – it was peaceful.
Here in PNG though, we’ve replaced those little nighttime breezes with sporadic, unannounced, gale-force rainstorms that habitually blow our curtains off our windows and beat down on our tin roof in a deafening roar. And instead of a peeper toad serenade, we are regularly accosted by a slew of monster toads belching war cries comparable to what you might hear from a chain-smoking opera ensemble. (Tucker has woken up in the middle of the night on several occasions, crying, “Todes! Todes! Todes!”)
People: Again, back home, we lived amongst a pretty peaceful lot. Loud things happened during the day, and quiet things happened at night. Apparently, that isn’t a universal concept. I’ve lost track of the number of times we’ve been woken up by our neighbors carrying on with their raucous night-life activities, which consist mainly of singing, fighting, and beating their wives. (There is a local home brew that contributes to this quite a bit, especially on the weekend following payday.)
Stress: There is no shortage of thoughts to occupy this tribal missionary’s mind when he is supposed to be sleeping: “Where are we going to allocate when we finish learning Tok Pisin?” “How much will it cost to build a bush house in a helicopter-only location, and where are we going to get that kind of money?” “What in the WORLD is crawling up my back right now?!”
Or, there is always the old “really weird dream that puts you on edge and won’t let you fall back asleep” standby. That was my method of choice tonight. We are planning on meeting with some potential coworkers in a week or two. Apparently, this idea prompted my subconscious to propose that during this meeting it will come out that the wife of this other couple used to be involved in a gold mine operation here in PNG until the partnership went sour and she blew up the whole thing using dynamite and popcorn. Also, the soup I will make for supper will be too brothy, and I will forget to wear pants.
So, there you have it. One more little glimpse into our lives over here in PNG. But, hey, I can’t really complain too much. That picture up top is the view I had off of my back porch at 5:30 this morning!
Since arriving here in Papua New Guinea 3 months ago, I’ve lost around 10-15 pounds. And, really, “lost” is the best way to describe the occurrence, since I haven’t taken any conscious, proactive steps towards skinniness. There I was, just going about my normal life, when one day, I looked in the mirror and noticed that, where there used to be a nondescript veneer of blubber, there was now a faint outline of an abdominal muscle. (I didn’t know I still had one of those!) I’ve even had to add another notch to my belt because I couldn’t cinch it tight anymore!
I’ve worked on losing weight in the past and it certainly never went like this before! In fact, I would usually experience the opposite results: intentional exercise and dietary adjustment with no real improvement. So, what magical thing had happened here? And how could I share this newfound weight-loss secret with others?
As I reflected on my situation, here’s what I came up with. I call it “The Tropical Diet.”
Contract diarrhea every couple of weeks. Around here there are several options for doing this. You can eat unwashed vegetables, drink unfiltered water, or just contract a virus/parasite from one of your neighbors in a nearby village. (I have several friends who have taken to embracing this one aspect of The Tropical Diet for months at a time!) The important thing is to choose an intestinal malady that’s right for you.
Banish all fast food chains (and restaurants in general) from the country. This one might seem a little tricky, but I’m sure it’s possible, because I’m living in a country that seems to have done it. If you’d like to strictly follow our specific model, then you would be allowed to keep one Chinese food place and a couple resorts with middle-of-the-road diner-esque menus. But you have to make sure that at least half of the normal ingredients of whatever you order have been altered in some way (sharp cheddar on your pizza, meatloaf in place of a burger…etc.). Oh, and you have to carpool every time you go.
Pay the cashier exorbitantly more than what you normally would for all of your favorite things. Sometimes it’s difficult to know just how much extra you should be paying for each item, so you might find it helpful to use this guide: Consider the joy you feel as you anticipate buying the specific food item. Now increase the cost exponentially based on the amount of happiness you presume it will give you. For example: all meat should cost 3x what you are paying now, sweetened breakfast cereal should average around 5x-6x the going rate, dairy products should cost enough to make you stop and reconsider the purchase every time, and chocolate… well, for chocolate, you just tell the clerk to charge your credit card until it won’t work anymore. (You’ll be amazed how quickly your diet changes!)
Live amongst brutally honest, physically fit, skinny people. Have you ever heard the saying, “If you want to feel skinny, hang around with people fatter than you?” Well, the converse of that statement is also true. Here in PNG, all the guys are more or less ripped. And they (and their wives) consider it nothing more than a basic observation to point out that you are not. In fact, one of the first words I learned after coming here was “traipela man,” which means, “huge guy.” You will find this to be a helpful motivator in sticking to the other points, since it’s hard to forget your diet when you’re regularly being reminded, “Yeah, you’re really fat.”
So, there you have it: The Tropical Diet – guaranteed to significantly lower your body mass index in a few short months. And, for those of you interested in faster results, there is “The Tropical Diet 2.0.” (It’s basically the same as The Tropical Diet, but you add a bought or two of malaria. I haven’t tried it yet, but I have a few friends who have, and they say it works wonders!)
One of my fellow missionaries here in the Madang region happens to be pretty good at a few slight-of-hand “parlor tricks.” You know, the kind where you make a coin disappear and then reappear out of thin air?
Well, I’ve always thought those types of things were pretty cool, so the other day while we were both out in a nearby village visiting with a small cluster of guys in the shade, I said, “Hey Noe (He’s Hispanic. You pronounce his name like “Joey,” but with an “N.”), why don’t you show these guys one of your tricks?” (He had just finished telling the guys a few moderately lame riddles, so I thought this might help liven things up a little.)
It took a little prodding from the rest of the group, but he finally agreed to do a couple. He took a coin out of his bag, showed it to the group, did a few stretches to limber up, and then showed everyone that the coin had vanished from his hands. He continued talking for a little bit, but was then overcome with a coughing fit, which culminated with him hacking out his 20 Toa coin (though his hands had never gone anywhere near his mouth).
I hadn’t seen him do this one before, so I was fairly impressed – especially because I had been trying to watch carefully. When the coin launched out into the dirt, I let out a laugh of surprise…and I was the only one who did. I looked around and saw that the other 8 guys were all sitting rigid and silent, looking back and forth between Noe and the coin.
Seeing that it was a tough crowd, Noe picked up the coin and tried again. This time, he vanished the coin and proceeded to pull it out of one of the guys’ ears. Now the group was shifting awkwardly.
“Want me to pull it out of your ear next?” he asked a guy sitting near the front of the group. The young man slowly reached over and grasped the handle of his machete. “No thanks.” He said.
“Hmm.” I thought. “This isn’t going quite like I thought it would…”
And then it occurred to me: Even though we had told them over and over that what Noe was doing was just playing around, they weren’t believing us. Their worldview was too strong in this area for them to think outside of their culture’s predetermined boundaries. Noe wasn’t an amateur illusionist, he was a kukarai.
From what I’ve been able to figure out, a kukarai is what we in the West would probably refer to as a “witch doctor.” They are kind of a big deal around here. A kukarai claims to have great power in the spiritual realm and makes his living performing rituals to heal sickness, curse enemies, and bless gardens. One of the more common manifestations of a kukarai’s power is his ability to “pull” disease or sorcery from another person’s body without breaking the skin (often the disease will have the form of a rusted nail or a piece of bone, or something).
As far as these guys were concerned, my friend had just proven that he had direct access to the underworld, and all powers therein. (And THAT’S the reputation that we’re over here trying to get, right?) Great.
So, it was a bit of a bust on the “positive testimony” front, but it was a good experience for us to get an idea of just how entrenched our friends are in their current thinking, and how what’s “no big deal” to us can, in fact, be a VERY big deal to them.
[Don’t worry though, in the end, Noe was able to diffuse the tension by assuring the group that he “wasn’t going to eat any of them.”]
I have cool parents, so while we were growing up, my brothers and I were allowed to have, by most people’s standards, a fairly wide variety of pets. We always had the normal cat and dog combo going on like everyone else, but we were also able to play host to a partially domesticated chipmunk, rats, hamsters, fish, ferrets, and chickens (those last two didn’t always do so well together). All in all, I thought our collection was pretty cool. That is, until I moved to PNG and met the Lockwood boys!
Our neighbors here on the mission center have four boys, ranging from 3-11 years old. As a family, they have more or less opened their doors to the fauna of Papua New Guinea. In the short two months that we have lived next to them we have seen them acquire a kookaburra, a cuscus, a turtle, a rabbit, a fruit bat, and a baby salt water crocodile. And, just yesterday, I saw one of them walking around with some new, big baby bird that they had gotten from a neighbor (word has gotten out among the locals that there is a market for baby animals with this family)!
Given, the casualty rate is pretty high with most of the animals that they take in, so it’s not like their house is overflowing with animals all the time (though it often seems like it!). For example, the boys were telling me a few weeks ago about a pet cockatoo that they used to have that got eaten by one of their cats. Then they mentioned off-hand that this was the same cat that had jumped over the guard dog fence and gotten killed. Life just isn’t as cushy for pets over here as it is in America. (But the alternate fate of these animals is getting eaten by the people who bring them to the Lockwoods, so it’s still a better option for them.)
Andrew Lockwood, the nine year old, actually has a blog that he updates occasionally about his experiences with different animals here in PNG called http://bitscratchedstung.blogspot.com/. How cool is that?!
Right now, we’re moving around too much to think about getting a pet, and the boys are still a bit young, but we’re sure looking forward to letting them experience nature at least a little bit like our neighbors’ kids are!
There are several scary things that exist over here in PNG: death adders (aptly named), bird eating spiders (as big as dinner plates), cerebral malaria (malaria in your brain), sharks, crocodiles, fire ants…but none of those compare to what we just experienced.
That’s right. We just went through our first language evaluation.
We had steeled ourselves against the time that we would finally meet our language consultant, preparing ourselves mentally for our first encounter with this horrible creature, no doubt some inhuman mixture of Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Boogie Man. (Or, so we supposed, based on the level of dread we were feeling.) It turned out he was just a really nice NTM guy from the Island of New Ireland, so that was a pleasant surprise.
The test, as well, turned out not to be nearly as bad as we had thought it would be. Actually, I would go so far as to say that the whole thing was very encouraging! Before we started, our consultant explained that our evaluation was much more of a “course check” than a “test.”
We were asked to each say 10 sentences using nouns that we saw around us, translate into English stories that our language helpers told us in Tok Pisin, describe Fourth of July celebrations in the U.S. to our language helpers, and retell to our helpers a short drama that our consultant acted out (among a few other things). All in all, it was a mostly painless ordeal.
When all was said and done (well, I guess just said, really), he went over our strengths and weaknesses with us and gave some very helpful pointers on how we might improve our methods and grow our vocabulary.
He said that, discounting the time I told my helper that I ate my family’s stomach for lunch, we were both doing very well. I am now officially out of “Basic” level and have entered into the realm of “Progressing-low!” Rochelle, because she is a total brain, has been pegged at “Progressing-mid.” (And she got there with about 1/3 of the study time that I had!)
For those of you wondering what those rankings translate into: We both do well composing regular sentences, but we need to work on stringing those sentences together (and, obviously, on beefing up our vocabulary).
Thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement as we’ve been working at this language! Please keep them coming!
Each week we try to take part in a few CEs (culture events), which can be anything from building a fire, working in a garden, visiting with a neighbor, or watching someone cook something. In this instance, Seth helped one of our friends dig out his well, since it had dried up. We try to chronicle each event with lots of pictures (like the one above).
After taking part in the CE, we try to get a recording of a national citizen describing the event. Then we transcribe the audio from that recording, using the PNG alphabet (English characters, but with phonetically based spelling and pronunciation). Here’s a sample from Seth’s well digging event:
“Namba wan taim ol wara bilong mipla long dring em bagarup. Nau miplela olgeta save go insait lo get lo Nu Traibs Mison lo banis. Nau mipela stap kisim wara lo dring. I go I kam I go I kam na em I no gutpela tumas lo mipela karim evipela samting I go I kam. Nau Mesan em tingting o Malai em alrait mi got sampela tim ol kam stap lo haus blo mi nau mipela amamas lo helpim yupela long clinim hol wara long yupela I dring. Alrait nau al yu kam sindaun painim toktok onetime mipela nau bungim tingting wantaim mi nau mi amamas nau mi makim wan glap go digim ol wara nau olrait mi na Jon, Tela mipela stat digim na Jeremi na BJ tu. Mipela digim digim na mipela bungim ol wara. Olraight nau Mesan em wantaim sampela man ol wokim haus bilong ol wara long karamapim ol wara. Mipela tok karamapim bilong ol wara. Haus bilong ol wara. Olrait nau mipela karim haus kam na lainim sampela brik lo arere nau wokim olsem baks na putim haus I go antap long brik. Olrait nau mipela karamapim ol wara. Nau yumi digim ken bilong em ol wara em drai taim san em kamap hat long tumas na em drai em. Olrait nau yumi digim ken nau yumi bungim ol wara nau yumi digim digim nau em naispela ol wara em bai kamap nau bihain em no ken pinis. Em bai stap oltaim oltaim. Em tasol.”
Then we sit with our headphones on and listen, listen, listen! (As we listen, we try to familiarize ourselves with the patterns of speech and intonation, as well as isolate the verbs, nouns, adjectives, time words, and whatever other “grammery” things we can find.)
And then we head out to find another CE to take part in! (Easy-peasy, eh?)
One of the questions that we kept hearing as we were raising our support was “What do they eat in Papua New Guinea?” Having never actually been to PNG before, we had to answer out of second-hand knowledge, and usually we would just say, “Sweet potatoes.”
Well, now that we’ve been able to be here for a couple of weeks, we can give you a more in depth response: The people here in PNG eat…sweet potatoes.
OK, so they do eat more than that, but honestly, from what we’ve been able to see, the range of food that the locals are eating is quite a bit smaller than the normal American palette would be used to.
Most meals consist of a mixture of a few vegetables from their garden (EVERYONE has a garden.) and maybe some rice. If things are going really well, then they might have a can of tuna to toss into the mix. Spices are rarely used, except for the occasional bouillon cube (spices cost money, and money isn’t exactly plentiful), and if meat is a part of the meal, then it’s a pretty special thing.
Coconuts are also a fairly staple food item, and we’ve discovered that there are two main types: kulau and dry coconut. Kulau are young coconuts (pictured above) that haven’t really developed a lot of meat yet. They are used as a sort of Gatorade (lots of good electrolytes in one of those suckers!), and contain about a liter of water apiece. They are especially good when you’re feeling hot and dehydrated!
Dry coconuts are more what you might think of as a “typical” coconut. Again, they are actually pretty nutritious. We’ve eaten a few as more of a snack, but we’re looking forward to experimenting more with them to see how we can use them in meals!
It has definitely been a bit of an adjustment trying to figure out our diet since we arrived. You can get most “American” foods over here, but you’ll often be paying through the nose, since they have all been imported mainly for the expatriate community. Tomato sauce, pasta, meat, dairy, eggs, and grains are all on the pricier side, so we’ve been trying to embrace a more simplistic menu. We’ve been having fun with it (and we’re certainly not starving!), but it has sometimes been tricky to come up with meals that fill the big 3 family qualifiers: incorporates local veggies, uses reasonably priced ingredients, and tastes good.
But, hey, they grow their coffee right here in country, and it’s awesome, so everything important has been taken care of, right?