Wednesday, April 6, 2011

11 days out of touch and off the grid- Part 2

The people here are amazing! Here we are a strange family with three little pikininnies (children) and they are so warm and welcoming. Of course we didn’t speak pidgin but a smile and friendly gesturing goes a long way. We had to be careful because some of our common gestures from back home are more friendly then we intend them to be. Winks and raised eyebrows to the wrong person could create quite a scandal.
Our pile of supplies quickly disappeared as some men took it upon themselves to carry our gear to the house which was a few hundred feet from the airstrip. Our flying link to the outside world (ie. Our last chance to chicken out) left and would return for us in 10 or 11 days.

Blessedly we had as fellow travelers Pastor Yambe Seki who was coming for the Middle Ramu District Assembly and Thompson who was from Dusin. Both of them speak very good English, but they had other things to attend to and the point of this trip was not to have personal translators to hold our hands. The idea was to jump into the deep end and figure it out as we go. This isn’t as scary as it sounds since the Nazarene church has been in this area for some time. Still I now know what it’s like to be in the minority. Between our pale complexions and Lexi and Ethan’s blond hair and blue eyes, there was no way we were going to just blend in. Besides there are also very few places where I am the tallest person around.

(This is Pastor Dixon on the left.  He hosted us while at Dusin and basically made sure we didn't die by doing something dumb....)

One of the hardest things to get used to here is always having an audience for everything we do. It’s not rude to stare at someone in this culture if you are interested and there is no concept of personal space. Our house seems to be the accepted hangout for the local kids. The house has a large front porch with windows that look directly into the kitchen. It’s not unusual to have a dozen or more kids staring at you as you’re eating or doing the dishes. I’m just glad the bathroom is at the back of the house with a window eight feet off the ground.

It’s a challenge to get acclimated to this way of living. This trip is mainly about getting to know these wonderful people, learning the language and recuperating from many months of preparation, travel and emotional goodbyes. The driven, goal oriented life that I’m used to doesn’t exist here. I took off my watch a few days ago and only occasionally think about the time. What’s important here are the relationships between people and the basics of life. We see adults head down the mountain at daybreak to tend there gardens but there seems to be plenty of time to sit and just be. Everywhere you see people greeting each other, shaking hands and talking. Except for the clothes they are wearing and a small bag called a bilum, they don’t have much. Yet they seem happy.

We must look like space aliens to them with our digital cameras, ipods, flashlights and a different change of cloths everyday. It’s hard to take pictures of people being “natural” because every time I take out my camera they crowd around me to see the screen on the back. One more example that there’s no such thing as personal space here.

Joani posted a lot more pictures on her face book page so if you haven't sent a friend request yet, she can be found as Joani Goossens.

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