Years in the making, we are finally in Papua New Guinea! We have been here a week and the family seems to be adjusting well. Evan’s already been to the auto shop several days this week (working on his own projects). I have been to the local market with a friend, the store a couple of times (talk about sticker shock! – more about that later), and we have visited many friends and been around the center looking at available houses. The boys sure enjoyed that, since they got to ride on the four-wheeler.
As perhaps all of you know, we spent 4 days in Fiji, enroute to PNG. It was a time to relax, decompress, and get ready for the next stage in our life. From the moment we landed we were so glad to have made that decision.
The Fijian people were so wonderful and friendly. They also helped us a lot with the children, as they were all very keen on kids. Liam and Julien soon became favorites of the hotel staff, and we were able to share with several people where we were going after Fiji and why.
We got to go snorkeling, I went horseback riding on the beach while the Evan and boys napped one day, and we spent a lot of time just walking the beach or playing the pool. Flights all went well and had no problems with security or customs. In fact we were sped through some lines and helped onto planes because we had children (once we were outside of the US). While our experience with state-side TSA was not horrible this time, they could definitely take a few pointers from Fijian and New Guinean customs and airport officials.
There was a little bit of a scary time in the MAF flight to Ukarumpa as we hit a tiny patch of turbulence, Both the boys had some trouble with their ears just on that flight. Especially since we had to descend so quickly to land in Ukarumpa. But the pilot Christopher was great. Evan went through POC with him.
It was funny when before we took-off and addressed those who had not flown into Ukarumpa before and told us that because it was an electronic plane, there would be a nice lady saying slightly disturbing things and alarms that would go off as we landed in Ukarumpa, but that it was okay because that was just what you had to do to land there.
It was fun arriving because we could look out the window and see a group waiting for us behind the little fence. Clare and Andrew (Andrew worked with Evan when was in PNG before – when he would come to work in the auto shop for his vacation away from managing maintenance in Madang at POC) and their kids were there of course (they were the family that volunteered to take us around to get us oriented and of course they have been waiting for us to arrive since Evan left in 2005) and also Tony Hinton, the manager for the autoshop.
We have had some great meals with some our friends from training and some new friends. Also Liam and Levi (Clare and Andrew’s son) have become great buddies. They are always sad when they have to part ways. But I keep reminding Liam that we live here now and we will see Levi lots. Both the boys seem to be adjusting well. They love being able to be outside so much; though it has been raining a fair bit lately. Evan has been working on unloading some of our crates, also reassembling his motorcycle.
Liam has been thrilled to be on the four-wheeler again. He is very proud to have his own helmet. We went to the store and a few mornings ago Clare took me to the market. It was nice to walk around and get a sense of what we can buy and how much it is. I bought two kinds of potatoes (about 1/2 lb. piles each I would guess), carrots, cabbage, an avacado, bok choy, fresh ginger, a pineapple, two homemade donuts and a muffin for about $8 US. It is all brought in by Nationals from their gardens. Totally organic…so you do end up with veggies you probably wouldn’t see in regular stores, due to their shape or size, but it is all lovely. You do have to buy more frequently because it goes off faster. I did learn a tip about how to keep carrots fresh.
Though you do find that some things are only for special occasions. A pie tin full of berries, which looked to be about a lb. or so was 5 kina or $2.50 US…not too much, but when you consider you can get 2 lbs of potatoes for $.50 and how much you can spend at the store on top of it you can’t always buy that sort of thing.
A couple of days ago I got a lesson in how to make yogurt. Everyone makes it here. The store doesn’t even stock it because no one buy it, the price is so high.
Speaking of prices. Here are some examples from the list of items I bought the other day at the store to give you an idea of our cost of living and how we have to budget…all I can say is Thank God for the market and ladies to help me learn how to make yogurt (We were told in neighboring Kinatu a single serving yogurt was $14) and other things.
Minced garlic flakes: $6.15
Colby Cheese 500 grams: $10.15
Powdered milk 1 kilo: $10.10
Some things are comparable to the states, some things are expensive but doable and some things are things we will probably never buy here…ice cream for example is $30 for a liter.
Yesterday we went to church. We were introduced among the new people who had arrived recently. Announcements sometimes take a long time here (like it did this week) as they introduce everyone who has arrived during the week, including anyone who is just visiting. Then they say who is leaving (either on furlough, or permanently) and then they make some general announcements typical of churches, like where the offering is going that week, Sunday school meetings and such.
It was nice having a little bit of something familiar (the songs and a little of the routine) but it was different too, most people don’t wear shoes in buildings,
I drove the four-wheeler for the first time here today. It is a little strange to get starred at by everyone you pass (particularly the men). I think they were just confused to see the woman driving and not the man who was sitting behind.
There is a waterslide here. Made from the conveyor belt used to bring luggage out of a plane I think. It is pretty awesome. Haven’t tried it yet…but the teens were having fun when we visited, there was even a couple of national boys about 8 years old going down.
Today we are going to look at one house, maybe more. We have been asked, and have decided that we will be forgoing the August training down in Madang, and waiting until the next session in January. It will help the Auto Shop tremendously to have Evan there (they already have a job lined up for him on Thursday) and it will give us some time to get some other things sorted here. I will be sending a message with a friends hus meri (housekeeper) that I want to hire a particular woman named Sandra from Ukarumpa village. I hope we are a good fit. She was recommended to us by another family. She speaks both English and tok pisin and her tok ples (the language of her village). So she can give me some lessons. Also, she is experienced at child minding, so maybe I will be able to sneak in some “me time”
Amongst the washing, cooking and cleaning…everything takes longer here, but in a way I am glad of it (at least at the moment) because it gives me things to do. Now that we are staying longer than August we will be unpacking some more things. But we don’t want unpack too much as there are no trailers and the few trucks are small…moving is a pain unless everything is still in crates it go shipped here in.
Anyway, got to go as this post is in danger of never ending…and we have some appointments.
Hopefully the next update will sooner than later.