Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Life in the Village of Segar

A detailed write-up of our time in the village is below, but we have included two videos for you to watch. The first is called Segar Village Tour. It gives you a look at our day-to-day life in the village. The second is called POC Highlights and gives you a glimpse of our entire 14-week training, including our time in the village.

First Day
We arrived at the village of Segar just after lunchtime on Friday, March 23. After we finished putting all of our boxes upstairs into the house, school let out. Before we knew it, we had more than 50 school children swarming our front yard to come look at the 'white people'. It was a bit overwhelming. Before we knew it, Jacob was up on the balcony of our house looking down on all the kids and putting on a little show and making them all laugh. Later when the father of our host family came home, he asked us if we wanted to go down to the creek to bathe. We told him we did, figuring that it would be a good chance to see where the bathing area was. We walked across the road and started heading down the mountain toward the creek. As soon as we started walking, it started pouring down rain. Now we had just recently finished a three-day hike where we had walked up and down steep muddy slopes for eight hours a day. We felt ready to handle a short hike to the creek. Adam was carrying Asher as we went. But within his first ten steps, Adam slipped so hard on the wet ground that he fell on his back and dropped Asher at the same time. So we gave Asher to a boy about ten years old to carry for us. He carried Asher with no problems whatsoever and we walked the 15 minutes to the creek in the pouring rain. We bathed quickly and came back up the mountain. Upon returning to the village, we resisted the temptation to stay inside the house unpacking all of our things and instead we stayed downstairs and talked with our new friends in the village. Martha then made dinner and we went upstairs right after dark and had a good night's sleep.

Daily Routine
Each morning when we woke up we would gather everything we needed to make breakfast and put it in a large red bin and carry it all downstairs. Typical breakfasts were oatmeal, cereal, and eggs and spam. We usually heated water the night before and put it in a thermos so we could make coffee for Martha and Milo (sort of like hot chocolate) for Adam right when we woke up. After breakfast, we tried to do a short devotional together. Then Martha and Jacob would do school while Adam would talk with all of the visitors that usually came to see us. It was rare to have a morning without visitors around most of the time. They really enjoyed looking at our pictures from America and hearing stories about life there. Many asked me to tell them about what happened on 9/11, and we were surprised to find out that most of the people had never heard of Los Angeles. We were also surprised when people kept asking asking whether Jacob and Asher were male or female (a common question in Papua New Guinea because males and females both have short, black, curly hair). Other things we did in the morning was take the ashes from the previous day down to the liklik haus (outhouse) and dump them in the hole in the ground to help ensure the aroma didn't become too unpleasant. We also would turn our eggs every morning to help preserve them. Martha would also typically go down to the creek to wash the clothes and bathe (the two activities are done one after the other to avoid two trips down to the creek). Adam and the kids typically bathed up at the house in a tub of water because Adam would itch terribly if he bathed in the creek water, and the kids never wanted to go down to the creek to bathe. Needless to say the the difficulty of obtaining water and bathing in a small tub made bathing a rare commodity in our household. Around lunchtime we would start preparing lunch, often with an audience. We tried to keep lunch fairly simple like Ramen noodles or peanut butter and crackers. But we would also make homemade bread once a week and homemade tortillas once a week. Any meals that needed to be cooked were cooked over an open fire. A couple of times a week Adam would chop firewood and go down to the spring, fill up a 20 liter container of water, put it in a backpack, and haul it back up the hill. Of course, when it rained we could just fill up buckets with rain water, which saved Adam from having to go down to the spring. We began to really appreciate and welcome rain! After lunch, we would try to get Asher to nap, which was difficult to do with all of the people that were always hanging around under our house and all the kids from the village making noise. In the afternoon we would work on the assignments that we had been given to complete or we would just talk with everyone who had come to see us. Around five o'clock we started getting dinner ready. Our main staples were pasta, rice, and canned pork (like Spam). But we also had the occasional treat like tacos with ground beef, tomato, and avocado or fried cook bananas (a less sweet banana used for cooking). For dessert, we made instant custard once a week, and Adam even made fudge over an open fire on four different occasions. After dinner, we would clean all of our dishes, haul everything back upstairs, and sit down and talk with the people that were hanging around. After talking for a while, people would usually say something like, "Do you want to go upstairs and rest?" which was their way of excusing themselves from the conversation. We would gladly say that we were indeed tired and then we would go upstairs. Before bed time we would read together as a family. This was our favorite time of the day. We started with a book called "When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit", which is about a family that fled Germany during World War II and had to adjust to a new life in France. It was a great story for the kids to learn about and think about the transition that we were going through. After we finished that book we read "Little House on the Prairie," which we all thoroughly enjoyed. After reading, we all brushed our teeth and went to bed. Right before bed Martha would journal and Adam would read (Huckleberry Finn and then Gulliver's Travels) and then we would go to sleep. We were typically in bed and often asleep before nine o'clock, exhausted from the day's activities.

Local Produce
We were able to get some produce from the local market that happened every Saturday, but mostly people brought us produce from their gardens as gifts. We would typically reciprocate such gifts with gifts of salt, sugar, tea, jam, peanut butter, and matches, which the people received very happily. We were brought a wide variety of produce including oranges, bananas, cook bananas, tomatoes, avocados, peanuts (sweeter and softer than American peanuts), pumpkin, corn, green onions, kaukau (similar to sweet potato), taro, and mon (a small, hard tree fruit with little flavor), dry coconuts (which are scraped and used to add grease and flavor to meals), green coconuts (which are used to drink and eat the meat inside), and delicious pineapple.

Because of the young ages of our children we were not able to be very adventurous during our time in the village. For the most part, our entire 35 days were spent within a 1 mile radius of our house. One of our early highlights was showing the Jesus Film in Tok Pisin. We had about 50 people show up to watch the film, which required the use of a generator to power the projector, DVD player, and sound equipment. Soon after beginning the film, it began to rain and we had to move everyone underneath our house. It was cramped but everyone was able to see. People were quite responsive to the film and the next day one of the teenagers in our village asked me if the things in the film really happened. I was glad to tell her that they did. Adam was able to take a day trip to a waterfall that was about a 3 hour hike away, and on the last day Adam had the opportunity to kill a chicken with his bare hands by chopping it karate style on the back. The father of our host family cooked the chicken with curry and served it to us for dinner. Adam also enjoyed the opportunity to learn just a little of the Gavak language to practice his language learning skills. He discovered the two words used for 'white man'. When he heard others talking in Gavak about the "white man", Adam was able to respond, "What are you talking about, black man?" which was a perfectly acceptable response and always elicited laughter. Martha enjoyed cooking with the women of the village, especially teaching them how to make bread. Martha and Adam both had a chance to play some volleyball, and the locals were impressed with their abilities. Jacob excelled in learning Tok Pisin and made a wonderful friend named Condy in the village. Bella overcame her shyness and started venturing out to other homes in our village on her own. Asher amazed us all with his understanding of Tok Pisin and with saying an occasional word or phrase in Tok Pisin or Gavak that we hadn't taught him. It was wonderful to see all of our kids interacting with and playing with Papua New Guinean kids in the village. Other than that, we simply enjoyed getting to know people in the village and finding out more about their lives.

One of the biggest challenges was our housing situation. In order to get inside the house, you had to climb up onto a small landing about 3 feet off the ground and then climb a steep ladder to get to the porch outside the front door. From there you had to step over a short wall about 2 feet high to get into the house. Asher was not able to climb over this short wall by the door so he had to be lifted in and out, which usually required one of us to climb up the steep ladder to get him. We also had to carry all of our cooking supplies up and down the ladder to the cooking area below each day because it was not safe to leave them out at night for fear that they might get stolen. We didn't have anything stolen, and people were wonderful to us, but you have to be careful with your items in Papua New Guinea. People won't generally set out to steal anything, but sometimes if they see something laying around with nobody watching it, they can't resist the temptation to take it. Our house was also old, dirty, and falling apart. We broke two doors and many other smaller pieces of the house. The father of our host family is getting ready to build a new house, so we didn't feel too embarrassed about things breaking. We attributed it mostly to the age of the house. Not having any light inside the house was also a challenge, but it did force us to spend most of our time outside and interacting with people, which was good for building relationships and practicing Tok Pisin. Adam's allergic reaction to the creek water made bathing quite difficult, and when we ran out of rain water it was quite difficult to haul water up the incredibly steep trail from the spring. It was difficult for Martha to haul all of our dirty clothes down to the creek, wash them by hand, and haul them all bak. We actually found it much more difficult to not have running water than to not have electricity. It was also difficult to be surrounded by people all of the time and have very little time to ourselves as a family. It would not be uncommon to have as many as twenty people below our house at once during the day. Sometimes they would talk with us, which was nice, but often they just stared at us, which was uncomfortable. They would also often talk to each other in Gavak even though they knew Tok Pisin, which was discouraging because one of our primary reasons for being in the village was to practice Tok Pisin. Finally, Asher was a constant challenge because he has now reached the terrible twos and was almost always whining or crying about something. Each challenge, however, prepared us for future village living stints as we now have a better idea of what village living is like, and what it will take for us to create a more sustainable village living environment for ourselves in the future.

Coming Back to POC
On Thursday, April 26 about 10:30 a.m. our Pacific Orientation Course (POC) staff came to pick us up. Despite all of the challenges of village life and our desire to return to a cleaner environment with electricity and running water, we were sad to leave to leave the people in the village. We had formed some very good relationships with people, and it was hard to say goodbye. Coming back to life at POC was somewhat disorienting. When we saw our room that we had left 35 days earlier it looked very strange and foreign. And it actually took us about 24 hours before we remembered that we could turn the lights on. We had become so used to life without lights that we had forgotten that they were there. Overall, our time in the village was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we will never forget. It was one of the most challenging things we have done in our lives, and there were many moments of deep frustration. At the same time, it was a wonderful experience that enriched our lives through the relationships we developed and the sense of accomplishment we gained from learning to do things that we had never done before. We thank God for the opportunity to live in Segar for five weeks, and we look forward to what God has in store for the future.

A Pastor With No Bible

During our five weeks of living in the village of Segar, we were surprised to find out that the father of our host family, who is a pastor in the local church, does not have a Bible in his first or second languages.

On our first Sunday in the village of Segar in the province of Madang, we attended the local Christian Mission Fellowship church, which is loosely affiliated with the Papua New Guinea Assemblies of God. Our host father, Boney Mukip, is one of the pastors of the church, and he was preaching that morning. Pastor Boney’s first language is Gavak, but he is bilingual and preaches mostly in his second language of Tok Pisin because some of the people who attend the church do not speak Gavak.

I was surprised, however, to discover that anytime he quoted the Bible, he did so in English. Now there is a certain prestige and richness to the English language that attracts many, especially Papua New Guinean pastors, to read the Bible, at times, in English. However, I noticed that Pastor Boney never read the Bible in Tok Pisin, even though that was the language he was using to preach. Now I knew that there was no translation of the Bible in his mother tongue of Gavak, but I assumed that Pastor Boney would have a copy of the Scriptures in Tok Pisin because they are widely available (although expensive). But after a couple of weeks, I discovered that Pastor Boney did not have a copy of the Tok Pisin Bible, and that the English Bible he was using was given to him by a Bible school teacher years ago. It was so old and beat up that it was in pieces. He had to glue it back together himself and set it out in the sun to dry!

For us in America, it is hard to imagine that something as basic as a Bible would be a luxury for a pastor. But in Papua New Guinea, the need for Bibles is great just like the need for translating the Bible into a language people really understand.

How Was The Village?
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a movie is worth ten thousand. There is so much to share about our five weeks in the village of Segar that we cannot do it in a one page newsletter. Instead we have posted two videos online for you to watch The first is called Segar Village Tour, which gives an interesting look at our daily life in the village. The second video is called POC Highlights and shares some of the best moments from our time at the Pacific Orientation Course (POC), including our five weeks in the village. Finally, we are posting a detailed write-up on our blog entitled Life in the Village of Segar. We invite you to watch the videos and read the blog to really get an idea for what our five weeks in a remote village without electricity or running water was like.

How Are The Kids?
The kids are doing well. We were amazed with how well they picked up Tok Pisin, especially Jacob. At first the kids were understandably a little shy, especially when everyone wanted to hold Asher and touch Bella’s hair. But as the kids began to know some of the people in the village, especially some of the other kids, they began to play with them, talk with them, and visit them at their houses. The kids stayed healthy for the most part, with just some minor illnesses here or there. We cooked most of our own meals, but that didn’t stop the kids from happily accepting and eating food from other people in the village. Although they were glad to come back to POC and see some of their friends, the kids were also sad to leave some of the new friends they made in Segar.

What Are You Doing Now?
On May 1 we moved to Ukarumpa, which is near Kainantu in the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea. Ukarumpa is the main translation center where we will probably be working when we are not in a village. Adam is currently helping to mentor translators from the Enga language for a Translators Training Course. Please pray for God’s wisdom and guidance during this time as there is good potential for Adam to continue working with the Enga on a long-term basis. Thank you for your prayers and support!