January Update

January 16, 2021

So much has happened since we wrote our last newsletter that I had to go back and read our previous update to see the last things we wrote about.

Let me update you on our change of plans first since our last newsletter, and then I’ll write about what our last month here has looked like.

We were supposed to be moving to the coastal city of Madang mid-January, however, it looks like that will now be late-February. Every year one of the New Tribes doctors here gives the new missionaries a two week medical course at the Lapilo base. (This is the base where we currently live.) Typically that’s toward the end of the first year. However, due to a few covid-related issues, they’re moving that training up to the first week in February. So we’ll stay here for that and then we’ll fly to Madang afterward to continue our language and culture study.

In our last update we mentioned that we were just about to start our official language study. So far it’s been going well! We have two national teachers: Aute (OW-tay) and Suke (SUE-kay). Both of these men have been excellent teachers. The first week they took us to the different villages and communities nearby, including theirs, and introduced us to many people and cultural norms.

Typically we will have a classroom day that’s fairly structured, and then the next day a culture event. A culture event is an everyday event in the lives of the people. For example, on a classroom day, Aute and Suke taught us about gardens and markets (using mostly Pidgin but occasionally some English); gave us the names for the produce they grow and talked to us about how they tend their gardens. Then the next day they took us to a village to watch women work in their gardens and explain in Pidgin what they’re doing and why.

During some afternoons we will each have an hour with a native speaker who answers our questions and teaches us more Pidgin. We pay them a fair wage for their help. Our language helper’s name is Wendy. She’s been very kind and patient and has been a real help to us in our studies.

[As a side note, we were told at the beginning from the leaders on base how to show kindness and appreciation when a PNG citizen comes to your house. Just a couple things so you can get a better picture: the locals here do not have running water, electricity or many of the basic comfort items that Westerners are used to. No electricity means no refrigeration so a glass of cold water is valued; that’s something that they don’t always get to enjoy. When Wendy comes over, we sit on the couch, and we drink cold cranberry juice, one of both of our favorites.]

That has been our last month: class, culture events, language sessions and getting to know the people on base. We’ve met a lot of missionaries here so far, and it’s been fun to get to know some of them. Erin is all settled and enjoying her new home. She has two little friends who live a couple houses down from us, with whom she loves to spend time. When she’s not spending time with them, you can typically find her walking around the base and collecting rocks from the gravel road. Nate and I are doing well too and feel like we’ve settled into a good routine. Of course we miss home sometimes, but Papua New Guinea is ever so slowly starting to feel like home to us. The other day it took me a minute to remember what side of the road Americans drive on (It is on the right, isn’t it?).

Here are some pictures from this past month-

The people bathe and wash their clothes in the river.

Banana tree. A huge unblossomed flower hangs below bunches of bananas.

Coffee tree. When the cherries turn red they are ready to be picked.

A new kind of spider: the yellow spiny orbweaver (not dangerous)

A man captured a night owl and brought it to the market to show off.

Aute leads the way to a village with his bush knife hanging from his head.


Sweet kids

Talking to a local woman and her daughter

Nate showing some kids a hand game

Teaching the kids how to play duck duck goose

The local women taught us ladies how they make bilums (the string bags that men, women and kids wear)

Nate talks to Max about him showing us around his village.

On the way to a village. We drove partway, then crossed a pretty large river, then hiked the rest of the way.

Crossing a river to get to a village. The current can get pretty strong.

Watching a village prepare a celebration mumu that consisted of pig, chicken, bananas and potatoes all cooked together underground with hot stones.

The men peel bananas for the mumu.

Nate weaving part of a basket from tree rope.

For one of our culture events, Aute and Suke showed us how they create the sides of their houses. Nate is cracking the pitpit (bamboo). Once the pitpit is split, you open it up and flatten it out before weaving (see next picture).

Nate takes a turn weaving the pitpit for the thatched siding.

Erin and Nate sharing a smoothie on a hot day.

Erin’s BFF, Dawna.

Rocks and puddles