Monday, December 29, 2008

Links to photos

I just thought I'd point out to you, if you haven't already noticed, that in the column on the right there are links to photos. You can click on them and look at more photos that I haven't put up on my blog (and perhaps a few that are on the blog too). I recommend looking at the 'Bunabun People' photos.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas and Boxing Day

On Christmas day in the morning I went to someone’s house for breakfast, followed by a break for church and then we returned to the house. There was a group of eight of us. We each had a stocking to open, plus a couple of presents, which was really nice.

At lunchtime I spoke to my family in Australia via the internet. I have now got Google Talk and Yahoo Messenger set up, so we can make phone calls over the internet and even see each other through our webcams.

In the afternoon, I went to another person’s house for a meal. It was a small group of four people. Between eating the main course and dessert we played a detective board game which was fun.

On Boxing Day, a bunch of singles came to the Guest House (ie my place) for a ‘pot luck’ lunch. Twelve people were there altogether. I was full up after eating the main courses, then I still had dessert to squeeze in! But I managed of course!

We played a game as a big group afterwards and someone offered to help me with the dishes, which was much appreciated. I had a good day.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

I hope you have a great Christmas and thank you for reading my blog. This Christmas will be different for me. Up until yesterday I didn't have any plans, but at the last minute I got some offers. In the morning at 8:30 I will be going to someone's house, then to church at 10am and back to the same house. In the afternoon I am going to another person's house at 2pm.

I have received 2 parcels that I can open tomorrow, but I will have to wait till 29th for the next mail delivery to receive some others that I know have been sent but haven't come yet.

I haven't got any Christmassy pictures from here, so here's a picture of Jyra that I took last year. She must be looking like this just now, missing me at Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I am a nomad

I have moved house already at Ukarumpa! That is the 5th time I have moved in 5 months! I think that makes me a nomad!

On Friday I moved to the managers’ flat at the Guest House. The Guest House is closed for a month, so there are no guests, and there is also no manager here either. I am just living here to make the place look occupied and thus prevent break-ins.

I am in the Guest House by myself until the 19th of January, when I will move out. I hope to be able to share with someone to keep my expenses down.

The best thing about being in the managers’ flat at the Guest House is having a microwave! I didn’t have a microwave in the previous place and I like to cook a lot of meals at once and then reheat them over the next few days so that I don’t have to cook. Before I had to heat them in the oven, but now that I have a microwave, it is much better!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Village dogs

I had a great time befriending the village dogs and puppies when I was in the village.

Our family had a female dog called ‘Banu’ who had four small puppies. Banu grew to love me – whenever I came down the stairs of the house she would come to me with her tail wagging. One day when I went back and forth to the market several times, Banu came with me wherever I went.

Here is a picture of Banu looking lovingly at me.

Me with Banu. Note the paw on me, she is asking for more pats!

Another dog in the village had two puppies born while we were there. The owners asked me to name the puppies, so I called one ‘Jyra’ and the other one ‘Dolly’.

This is me with Dolly on the left and Jyra on the right.

When we were making the sago someone had brought some puppies along too and I was happy to see and cuddle them. Here is a photo of me with two of them.

It's a hard life being a village dog or puppy. Isn't this just the saddest picture? This is one of Banu's puppies.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ukarumpa life

I have been at Ukarumpa for a week and a half now. There’s not a lot of exciting news to report from here at the moment, so I will be continuing to share about my time in the village in future posts.

We have had a few days of orientation and I have had several meals at other people’s houses. There is not a lot of work that I can do yet as I am waiting to have a meeting with a supervisor, and also because of the time of year - my department closes from 24 Dec to 2 Jan.

I am staying in a 3 bedroom unit, sharing with another single, but she will be moving out on 30th December. I would like to keep sharing with another person, either in this unit or another one, so that I can keep expenses down. I need to find someone else to share with myself.

Here is the unit I am staying in – my bedroom window is the small one on the left.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Harvesting cocoa

One day when I was in the village, I went out with our family to the garden to harvest cocoa. Cocoa is one of the cash crops in PNG – the people grow it and sell it to businesses who produce things like chocolate from it.

I had a pretty easy job when we harvested the cocoa. Papa took the cocoa pods down from the tree, our sister Rachel cut them open, and then I dug my fingers into them and pulled the beans out and put them in a big bag. It was really easy, but there was a seemingly never-ending supply of cocoa pods, so after several hours, my skin was beginning to get a bit thin. I was thankful when they insisted that I stop and rest. I think I probably did about 40kg worth of beans.

So next time you each chocolate, you can think of me helping to make it!!

Rachel cutting a pod open:

An open cocoa pod ready for me to remove the beans:

The cocoa beans that I removed (half-way through the day – I pretty much filled the bag all the way to the top!).

Some people also dry the cocoa beans in their village. At one village they had some that had been dried and we were able to eat a bean. It tasted bitter, sweet and alcoholic at the same time! I would describe it as tasting like chocolate wine, if there were such a thing.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The 'Solar'

We had mobile phone reception in the village, so I took my mobile phone with me. I realised that I wouldn’t have electricity to charge it, so I took a solar charger, which we simply referred to as ‘the solar’. It is funny to think that you can be in a village and have mobile phone reception but no electricity!

The solar went out in the sun every day. In the morning it was on a table near the path that goes past the village, then we moved it closer to the house in the afternoon and often put it on the roof of our family’s kitchen house.

The people were always very concerned about it. They were worried about it getting stolen when it was near the path, and then it started to rain and we mentioned that it was still outside, they would panic and run quickly to get it and bring it inside!

People also saw my ‘solar’ as a good way of charging their own phones for free. I didn’t mind doing that, but it was just so hard to get enough charge in the solar to keep my phone charged, never mind charging anyone else’s, so I was only able to help them out a couple of times. If they went to the local Health Centre, which has a generator, they could pay two kina to charge their phones. I didn’t have my normal charger in the village, so I couldn’t use that anyway.

Here’s my solar charging in the sun:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hook fishing

Twice I went fishing with a rod and hook when I was in the village. I used a small rod with a short fishing wire and a hook attached. For bait I put little pieces of shrimp onto the hook, but first I had to remove the tail and skin. My hands got all covered in yucky stuff!!

The river goes into the sea and I could fish either in the river or in the sea, but I preferred the river. To fish, I just stood at the shore and waved the rod around to throw the bait into the water and then waited for a fish to bite.

Sometimes I would get a bite and the bait would be gone, but a fish didn’t come when I pulled the hook out of the water. Other times I didn’t feel anything and the bait disappeared. Occasionally I would catch a little fish! On each of the times I went fishing, I caught two fish. The people were so happy about that and said to me, “You win!”

Here are some kids doing the sort of fishing I did:

The fish I caught:

Me with my dead fish:

Yes, they are ridiculously small and certainly nothing to brag about, but that is the kind of fish they are expecting to catch and they cook them and eat them.

I’m not experienced with cooking fish, so I gave my fish to our foster mum to cook for me. Here is the meal that she brought me with one of my fish on top.

I think the villagers eat them bones and all, but that’s not for me. I just ate the little bit of meat in the middle of the fish and gave the rest to our resident cat!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Oh, mango!!

“Oh, mango!” was a frequent sigh in the village. There were several mango trees in the village and the mangoes were ripe and fell down randomly. Often children would run and get the mango that they heard fall down. One time when I was washing my clothes one fell and hit me on the back! It hurt for a few minutes and I later ate the mango that hit me!

One time we had an outdoor church gathering under mango trees in the neighbouring village, and it was quite amusing to watch the local grown men duck and cover their heads when they heard a mango break off a tree above them.

It was nice having mangoes to eat whenever I wanted to though. Usually I share a third of a mango with my parents in Australia, but in the village I could eat a whole mango all to myself, and I could even eat two a day if I wanted to.

Here are some pictures of the ground covered in mangoes at the neighbouring village.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Making sago

When I was in the village, two days in a row we went to the bush, next to the river, to make sago. Firstly the men cut down a sago tree and then they smashed the inside of it to make a pulp a bit like wood chips or sawdust.

Next it is the women’s work to process it all to make sago flour. Firstly we put the sago pulp into a pot and add water. Then we squeezed the water out of the pulp and put the pulp in another bowl, and keep the water which is now orange from the sago pulp and repeat the process two more times with the same batch of pulp.

Next we poured the water over a piece of hessian and rubbed the hessian to make the sago flour go through to the basin below.

Here I am rubbing the hessian – it is easy work, but your skin starts to wear out after doing lots of it. There was so much pulp from one tree!

We ended up with a basin full of orange water, but the sago flour settles at the bottom of the basin.

They empty the water and allow the flour to dry out. Here is a photo of the completed product that they gave us.

There are so many different ways of cooking sago. You can mix it with banana or with coconut and fry it or boil it or cook it on the fire or make soup out of it. I had a lot of fun experimenting with it and I haven’t mastered cooking it yet. I hope to play with it a bit more and see if I can make anything really wonderful.

The various kinds of cooked sago that I ate were nice. It is a bit gelatinous (or ‘gooey’) and chewy, but it was definitely edible and not repulsive at all.

Here are two things made out of sago that our family gave us. I tried making the kind that is on the right one time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Back from village living

We have left our villages now and are back at POC. I had a great time in the village, I absolutely loved it and would be happy to stay there all the time. There is so much I could tell you about my time in the village that it would make one very long blog post!! So I’ll share a little bit now and add more posts about village living over the next few weeks.

Some of the highlights were: making sago, harvesting cocoa, going for a trip up a mountain, making a bilum and being given a local name – Mogom.

In the mornings, I had a bit of a routine of having breakfast then washing my clothes at the tap, then washing the dishes at the tap too. It was an interesting affair – I often had a crowd of children standing watching me. It didn’t really bother me. Lately I had a little girl about 5 years old helping me, which was really sweet.

Washing clothes:

Washing dishes:

Every day was different, so there was only a regular routine in the morning and later afternoon.

At about 4-5pm we washed in the river which is right next to the sea, with a sand bar in between. It was very public – sometimes there would be a man sitting on the shore nearby doing something, or other times, a group of little children would come with us and play in the water around us. I was fully covered when I bathed, so I didn’t mind it at all. In fact, I can’t really think of anything that bothered me when I was in the village.

Here I am about to bathe, fully covered up.

This picture shows me bathing with a bit of the background of where I was:

And with the kids:

After we bathed, we made our dinner using our kerosene stove (Primus). Then after eating dinner sitting on the verandah, some of our ‘family’ came and sat with us and we talked for a little while or made our bilums and then went to bed.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Last blog post for 5 weeks!!

That’s right, I won’t be on the internet for the next 5 weeks! I will be staying in a village called Mus (if you’re on Google Earth, look for Bunabun, that’s where we will be). We’re right at the coast and we have a creek for bathing in, and a nice tap to get our drinking water from! We still have to boil our drinking water though just to be safe. Every family at POC is at a different village along a 27km stretch of coast, so Sara and I are in this village together, just us. We will have a ‘wasfamili’ (foster family) looking out for us there, and they have two teenage girls, so I think that will be good, hopefully we will be able to spend time with them and develop good friendships with them.

Our wasfamili and the village are so excited about us coming that they made an extension to the house we will be staying in. Originally it was a two bedroom house with a large verandah, but now they have closed in the original verandah and made it into an extra two rooms, and put on a new verandah. So now we have a bit of a mansion!

Here’s a picture of our house before the extensions:

This is our wasfamili:

Here’s the tap where we will get our drinking water:

This is our bathing spot:

Lastly, the beach…

If you are praying for me, please pray for good health and good relationships when I am in the village. Thanks! Will get back in touch in 5 or so weeks times and I should have lots of stories.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Three day hike

I survived our three day hike! We left on Monday and came back today, Wednesday. We stayed overnight in two villages. So what was it like? Well, while hiking my shirt was wet all the time with sweat! We had some beautiful views and walked through a rainforest area. I had bandaids on my feet preventing them from getting blisters.

Some of the tracks were steep and slippery, which was hard work when going uphill, but it was even harder going downhill because there’s more risk of falling. Our local guides always told us “Wokabaut isi isi, nogut yu pundaun” (‘Walk slowly. No good you fall down’). Our group’s tally of falls was: 1st day – 3 falls, 2nd day – no falls, 3rd day – 10 falls! We had a good laugh at ourselves when we fell though! Nobody got hurt either, so that was great.

I had a good time when we were in the villages, talking to the people and showing them some photos that I brought with me. They really loved looking at my photos.

Here’s some pictures of our journey.

Hiking along:

Me with a nice view:

Having a rest at a creek and getting my feet wet:

One of the houses we stayed in:

Me with some kids looking at my photos:

Monday, October 6, 2008

Foster families/Selling at the market

Over the past few weeks we have been spending time with foster families. These are local families who have volunteered to be foster families for the students at POC. In Tok Pisin we call them our ‘wasfamili’.

We have visited them in their village and had dinner with them there and last week we stayed overnight too. I started to learn how to make a ‘bilum’ (a string bag) on that visit. Going to the toilet is an event because the toilet is a little house by itself with a hole in the ground.

On Saturday I went to the town market with my foster mother to sell sweet bananas. We set up in an undercover area where we had a table and a seat. Thankfully we weren’t outside in the sun and sitting on the ground, so we were quite comfortable.

I had a great time at the market. I enjoyed sitting there watching everyone pass by and just observing everything. I was also a bit of a novelty – everyone thought it was amusing to see a white person selling food at the market, but they were happy about it too. I think it was also a selling point!

I was out all day and using Tok Pisin in all my interactions. I didn’t find the day stressful at all. I actually felt happy and at peace afterwards because I hadn’t had any time pressures on me. I don’t like rushing around to fit into a time schedule, I like taking my time, so I think I’m going to appreciate the slow pace of PNG life.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


We have been going on hikes every week and they have been progressively getting harder. Today we went on a big hike all day. We left at 9am and came back at 4:15pm. We had a long break for lunch, plus lots of rest breaks too.

We hike around the top of the mountain and we are blessed with the most beautiful views as you will see in my pictures below.

Next week we have a hike carrying heavy backpacks, and on the week after we have a three day hike, which probably sounds a lot worse than it is. We will only be hiking for about three hours each day and then spending time in a village and sleeping overnight. We’ll have to carry backpacks on the three day hike with all our gear.
Hiking photos:
Me and the view:
Me hiking:
Me and another nice view:
This is me during our lunch break today:

Monday, September 29, 2008

I got sick!!

After dinner on Wednesday night my tummy felt a bit funny and I went to bed with a bucket – ‘just in case’ – but I didn’t really feel like I would vomit at that stage. Well, as I lay in bed, I gradually felt worse and I ended up having three vomiting sessions between 10pm and midnight. Each vomiting session consisted of several vomits. It was really horrible because I had nothing left in my stomach, but my body still wanted to bring something up. My roommate Sharon got up each time and looked after me, which was really nice.

On Thursday morning I had some vegemite on toast for breakfast with some water and about 5 minutes after I finished it, I brought it all back up again! I also had diarrhoea throughout this whole period too. I stayed in bed on Thursday and didn’t eat anything else all day, but I had some sweet drinks and kept them down. I felt a bit weak and miserable most of the day, but by about 6pm I felt a lot better.

I was weak and easily exhausted on Friday, but I was well enough to go to class and enjoy my birthday. On Saturday morning I didn’t feel the greatest, but I managed to struggle through a trip to town. I didn’t really eat much all day until dinner, when I had a small meal. I feel a lot better now, but I think I got hit pretty bad with the virus; others who had it had a quicker recovery.

This virus has affected many of us at POC. It started on Monday last week when several of the kids got sick and were vomiting, then more got sick on Tuesday and a few more on Wednesday. Nearly all the kids got it. Then it started going through the adults beginning on Wednesday. Every day we hear about someone else who has come down with it. Nearly everyone has had it now. Those who haven't are in the minority.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bread and cheese

Last Friday we learnt how to bake bread from scratch. I baked a large loaf and a small loaf and added my personal touches to them (see picture below)! I’m all for simplicity and it seems too much like hard work for me to go to the effort of baking bread in the village, so I’m happy to live without it.

On the other hand, I can’t live without cheese! How do you have cheese in a village where there is no electricity or fridges?...Well, there is this wonderful invention we call ‘boxed cheese’ which doesn’t need to be refrigerated. It is not real cheese though – it is processed cheese and it comes wrapped in foil and in a cardboard box. However it is REALLY expensive! It is about $4 for 250g of cheese.

In fact most Western food is expensive, so you have to make decisions about what you are willing to give up and what you can’t live without. I’m won’t be over-indulging in cheese, that’s for sure! I’ll be making it last as long as I can.

This is the small loaf that I made in our bread baking class. It has the ‘Julie’ touch to it!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Independence Day

Yesterday was Independence day and we attended the local celebrations, which were just a five minute walk away. There was a volleyball competition which had been going on over several days, plus there were many dances and items. There was also a lot of standing around in the hot sun waiting for something to happen!

I’ll let the pictures tell the story now…