April Update

April 24, 2021

Our primary language helpers (Sophie and Albert) and their kids; from left to right: Margaret, Bertsolyn, Fillidas

Greetings from Madang, Papua New Guinea.

We have now been in this coastal town for two months. It is beautiful, but it is HOT. The weather is a steady 90 degrees for a good part of the day with very high humidity. Add no AC into the mix and lots of walking, and we have burned a lot of calories. We’ve been at it for about two months now, and I’d like to walk you through what our weekdays look like -

Men are required to put in 40 hours a week of language learning, and women who are moms are required to do 25. We fill out timesheets so we can keep an eye on where our time goes. For me, I get up most days at 6:30 and study until 8:30. Nate wakes up when Erin does, feeds her breakfast and lets me study uninterrupted until 8:30 so I can get two hours in before we start our day. Around 9, several of us go to a nearby village that I’ll abbreviate SB. (Or sometimes we walk to village Ka or Sa, but normally it’s SB). Nate, Erin and I walk around and say hi, then go find our friends Sophie and Albert. Sophie and Albert are PNG citizens who live in SB and have agreed to teach Nate and me Pidgin.

Most days we all sit outside in a shelter by their house and chat together, and they correct our Pidgin when we mess up or aren’t sure how to say what we want to say. (English is one of the national languages recognized in PNG, so they often understand what we’re wanting to communicate and can help us).

We ask questions about their family, the village and culture. Nate and I bring notebooks, pens and a digital recorder. Periodically we record them while they’re sharing so we can listen again later, and sometimes we show them pictures of things from America that are similar or different from things they have here. While we sit and talk, Erin walks around and gives high fives and shares a snack, but most often she freaks out about something she sees or hears and stays close to us. From where we sit with our friends, we can see coconut trees, banana plants, papaya trees, the remains of a fire from cooking breakfast, dishes drying on a wooden table, dogs searching for scraps, hens and baby chicks walking around and roosters crowing. My favorite thing to see though is the guria (crowned pigeon). She’s a beautiful blue color and I love when she struts around right beside us. When it’s raining, we just sit and chat. No one really does anything in the rain. The kids like to run around and play tag and laugh when one of them slips and falls in the mud. The moms don’t think it’s funny.

It sounds like kind of a romantic place, free from all the distractions of technology. But I don’t want to misrepresent the hardships the people face. Obviously they don’t have luxuries like air conditioning, showers, microwaves or cars. But beyond that, there’s limited healthcare; there’s no running water, no sewage, very little hand soap, never enough food - and hardly a choice of food - no trash pickup, no vets for the animals, limited doctors for the people, no laundromat, no light switches, no fridge, no stove, no retirement, no pension and very little employment. Mere survival is hard work.

When it’s not raining, sometimes we’ll help them with their work. Recently, Sophie showed me how to fell a tree, chop up firewood, tie it up with banana leaves and carry it on your head back to the house (Yes, all that is women’s work). Albert showed Nate how to plant peanuts, taro, and tapioca, cut down sago (saksak) branches and weave a roof out of the leaves. Sago leaves have lots of thorns in them, and if you’re not experienced, it’s impossible to escape without getting stuck with them. After Nate and Albert finished cutting and carrying the 40 pound load of saksak back to the house on their shoulders, Nate had about 50 thorns stuck in his hands. Albert’s nephew patiently helped Nate pick all of them out.

Erin and I will stay for about an hour and a half before we head home. Nate stays for a couple hours more and either walks 1.5 miles home or catches a public transportation van for 1 kina (30 cents) back to our house. When Erin and I get home, I’ll hang up laundry outside, give Erin a bath and feed her lunch. While she’s watching Daniel Tiger after lunch, I’ll sometimes bake a batch of muffins or get dinner going. During her nap I’ll look at my notes, listen to the recordings from earlier and write flashcards of phrases and grammar points to memorize.

Nate will spend the remainder of the afternoon either at SB or back at home with his headphones plugged in listening to recordings, transcribing and studying. We eat dinner, go burn the trash and take a walk together as a family. Then Erin goes to bed, we do any more studying we need to get in, relax a little and prepare to start another day.

The days are long, but they are full, and there is no doubt in our minds that this is where we belong. Sometimes the heat is too much; sickness takes its toll; occasionally, our stress levels go through the roof; we miss the AC, microwaves, Papa John’s and having a car. Most of all though, we just miss the people we love. But we love the people here, and in a decade when we show you pictures of new believers in Christ from a previously unreached language, we’ll all laugh and cry and wholeheartedly agree that it was worth it.

Lots of Love,
The Clonches

Our flight out of the highlands and toward the coast.

I don't think we'll ever get used to the beauty of this country.

This is how it rains almost every day when it's rainy season.

During the Pacific Campaign in World War 2, PNG fought with the Allies. Many artifacts still remain from this time. Some have been restored and moved to locations where tourists frequent, and others still sit in the middle of villages in the very spots they were abandoned more than 75 years ago.

Top Left: Anti-aircraft machine gun preserved

Top Right: Anti-aircraft machine in a village

Bottom Left: A downed Japanese Bomber on the outskirts of a village

Bottom Right: DemDem. The Japanese brought these snails over with them during the war to eat. They've repopulated quite a bit since then. The people are not fans.

Top Left: PNG friends Kovina and Roswitha taught us women how they make brooms with the "bones" of the coconut trees.

Top Right: Sophie has taught me how to prepare several PNG foods.

Bottom Left: Here, women's work involves cutting down trees and chopping up all the firewood. Sophie taught me how to wrap up bundles of firewood and tie it on your head with banana leaves to carry back to your house.

Bottom Right: Sophie and Albert took us to her parents' village where we helped harvest the yam crop.

Left: Erin's first meri blaus

Top Right: Our class planned a Saturday trip to a nearby beach.

Middle Right: Erin and Fillidas kick a soccer ball back and forth.

Bottom Right: Learning how to swing in a "big kid" swing.

Top Left: Toward the beginning of our time here, the men in our class went on a scavenger hunt. Using public transportation and speaking only in Pidgin, they had to ask locals how to navigate the PMVs and for directions to places and things. One destination had them pay for a motorboat ride to a nearby island.

Bottom Left: Nate records a man explaining the process of constructing a roof.

Right: Nate and Albert wait for a PMV to go to a market in town.

Top Left: Erin and me just cheesin.

Top Right: Riding to SB in the back of a PMV (Public Motor Vehicle).

Bottom: Out for a walk.

Top Left: Anyone interested in buying a pig for 600 kina?

Top Right: Albert leads the way to town.

Bottom Right: Erin plays peekaboo.

The Guria! This is a beautiful blue Victorian Crowned Pidgin that lives in village SB. I love watching it strut around while we're sitting and chatting.

Our class. We still have lots to learn to prepare for allocating into a tribe. Time out in villages is mixed with time to hear from those who've gone before us.

All the new MKs. They attend a childcare program during the week when the adults are in classes.

On Sunday nights, the men take turns teaching through 1 Peter; this is practice for the chronological teaching that will take place in the unreached village where we move.