Saturday, December 26, 2009

Shaking Things Up in Time for Christmas

A couple weeks ago, I was invited to a cookie exchange with eleven other ladies, each of whom would bake and bring twelve dozen cookies. At the risk of acquiring a Santa-belly, I knew it would be nice to spend time with some friends and make some new ones, too.

Though I had to take some liberties with the recipe as not everything is available here, I took these cookies, the recipe for which I found online at

Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

Original Recipe Yield: 78 servings (I must have made them smaller, because I got about 13 dozen from this recipe!)

2 1/2 cups shortening (I substituted 2 ½ c margarine and used no salt)
5 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/3 cup molasses (I substituted ¼ cup brown sugar and 1 1/3 tsp water)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 3/4 cups quick-cooking oats (I used rolled oats)
4 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (which I did not use because I substituted margarine above)

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in molasses and vanilla. Combine the remaining ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture. Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350oF for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are firm. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Unfortunately, it is rainy season and it was, in fact, raining when I came home from the party. I managed, with the help of plastic wrap, to protect the goods from the rain, but I couldn’t protect them from myself. When I was only about eight yards from our door, my foot slid on a metal grate. My feet slipped out from under me, and I flew into the air and fell flat on my back. I promise you, it was just like the cartoons, except I didn’t manage a 360.

I did, however, toss my cookies. All over the lawn.

My husband found me sitting in the wet grass, picking up cookies and extracting blades of green from them before putting them back on the tray. By golly, I was determined, despite my bruised back, that not all one hundred forty-four cookies were going to be lost to the neighborhood dogs.

On Christmas Eve, I went to take some Orange Juice cake to a neighbor (a yummy moist cake recipe! Let me know if you want it). Standing on her porch, I heard a roar. Then the floor on which I was standing began a rolling shake. Finally the dishes in the house started to rattle.

“That was a good one!” my friend said.

It took me a moment to process that this Christmas Eve tremble had been an earthquake. I stopped and concentrated on it and I could still feel the ground lightly tremoring beneath my feet.

Things were just getting shaken up around here. Take that word, “tremoring,” for instance. You see, I have always thought it was a word, but my spell checker is putting a wavy red line under it.

Anyway, turns out it was a 5.4 magnitude quake, the epicenter of which was pretty close to Goroka, PNG.

I had been standing in the kitchen preparing for Christmas all day. We had some friends – three single gals – coming for dinner before the Christmas Eve service. Since we had eaten spaghetti for Thanksgiving, I figured we could have Mexican for Christmas Eve, si? The tortillas had already been rolled and cooked, so I chopped vegetables and made fresh salsa for dinner. In addition to the Orange Juice cake, I also made Puppy Chow (aka, Muddy Buddies) and Mocha Mousse Pie. Since no graham cracker crusts are available here, I had to make the pie crust from crushed up Australian Bush Biscuits and melted margarine. That worked out alright, but then I goofed up the pie recipe and had to improvise. It turned out kind of more like a Mocha Cream pie, but no one complained. (I know what I did, if anyone is interested in a Mocha Cream Pie recipe …)

Paul teases me that he always knows when the holiday season is upon us when the first half-gallon of eggnog comes home from the store (typically during the first week of December.) Well, I have managed to keep off the pounds this season (no, I didn’t eat all 144 cookies) as there is no eggnog to be had. But, then again, it just wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without it, so to the recipe boards I went. I found this delicious concoction …

Eggnog (makes 3 quarts)

12 eggs
1 cup sugar
6 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 Tbl rum flavoring

In a large bowl, beat together eggs and sugar. Beat with mixer on medium speed for 3-4 minutes. Add 2 cups of milk and beat to mix for 30 seconds. Pour mixture into a large saucepan and add the rest of the ingredients, except the rum flavoring. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture starts to steam. DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL!

Remove from heat and stir in rum flavoring. Chill completely in refrigerator and stir before serving. Garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top of each serving, if desired.

You can’t see the blissful expression on my face, but let me just say …. Mmmmmmmmm.

Another of our Christmas traditions, which the kids had asked about, is to have Sausage Balls on Christmas morning. However, someone brought us a wreath of cinnamon rolls (complete with maraschino cherries) on Christmas Eve day and our Christmas day houseguest cooked Papaya Coffee Cake, so we waited until December 26 to have our sausage balls … after all, it was still Christmas in America, right?

Sausage Balls

16 oz hot ground breakfast sausage

12 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 – 2 ½ c Bisquick

4-5 T hot water

Preheat oven to 375oF. Mix all ingredients (you will probably have to knead ingredients together with your hands.) Roll into ¾” balls and bake on ungreased cookie sheet for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm!

OK … time for another personal earthquake. Breakfast sausage is not available here, and neither is Bisquick (and if it was, I don’t think I would want to pay the price for it.) Gotta get creative; time to search the recipe boards again. Fortunately, I had paid the price for shortening after having to substitute for it in my cookie recipe. I figured shortening would last a long time, right?

Bisquick Equivalent (1 cup)

1 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon shortening

Mix dry ingredients together, and then cut the shortening into the mix.

Breakfast Sausage (1 lb)

1 lb mince (ground pork or beef)

2 t salt

1 t sage

1 t fennel seed

½ t cayenne pepper

Dash pepper

Dash garlic powder

1 large egg, beaten

Ahhhh … it took longer to prepare everything, and they were not the golden reddish-brown color that comes from using American breakfast sausage in the roll pack, but, yep. They would do.

I guess we’re getting used to life here. Though, this holiday season, things were a bit shaken up, so to speak, and we were unable to be with our families, we had a very blessed Christmas. I pray that yours was blessed, too, as you celebrated the birth of our Lord.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Purposeful Existence

“Nonu Godinu sinana me ibene ibene ibeibisu, Godinu bukaroma eno wasu, i sinana Godinu kotofu sina.” ~1 Peter 1:25a, Yareba language of Papua New Guinea

“…but the Word of the Lord stands forever.” ~1 Peter 1:25a, English, NIV


Since arriving in Ukarumpa, many people have asked me what I’m “doing.”  By this they generally mean something along the lines of,

“We really need a warm body to fill such-and-such position(s) in our department, and you seem to be qualified!”

Whether or not I am warm may be debatable.  But if you know me, you know that I am not one to sit around very long.  I am trying very hard, though, to take the advice I received months ago: take it easy at first, make sure everyone is happy and settled, and then find a ministry you want to be committed to. 

The general consensus is that this should go on for three to six months, so, I’m “not doing anything” … yet.

But, I have been taking on small, temporary jobs to fill the time between hanging the laundry out to dry, rolling tortillas, and marinating the crocodile.

Before we arrived, I had not heard about the Bible Translation Association (BTA) of Papua New Guinea.  However, the more I learn about it, and the more people I meet who are involved in it, the more excited I am that Papua New Guinea nationals are being called to the task of Bible translation!  According to the BTA website, “The PNG Bible Translation Association (BTA) is a national organization in Papua New Guinea committed to translating the Bible into the languages of the country. It is also involved in literacy -- teaching people to read and write in their own languages.” 

One of the tasks I have agreed to do is to edit for publication the bios of about twenty BTA administrators and translators.  I am having a great time, for it is truly fascinating to read these people’s stories!

Last week, I worked with a team doing a final edit on the brand new Malei New Testament which, until we redlined several dozen pages, was camera-ready.  They plan to publish and dedicate the text in 2010.

Because editing in a foreign language wasn’t challenging enough, I also volunteered to type 1 Peter.  Apparently, older texts such as the Yareba New Testament (published in 1973) are being typed up by volunteers so they can be published online.  I don’t know this language at all, of course, so the way I figure it, between spell -check underlining every word and my mad typing skills, these five chapters will only take what … a year or so?

I consider it an honor and a blessing that I can be involved in these small ways, considering the fact that the reason we are here is to support the cause of Bible Translation in Papua New Guinea.  However, in addition to these logical tasks, I have also agreed to a few things that, at least at first, don’t seem to be quite as pertinent.

I shipped my sewing machine, so in addition to working on a few things of our own (including taking in my only pair of jeans to try and make up for the thirty pounds I seem to have misplaced at POC), I have taken on a few sewing jobs for other people.  Not that big a deal, I know, but it helps those people, right?

And two weeks ago, a plea went out for someone to organize appointments and an “office” location for a visiting veterinarian.  Since all I was doing was sitting around watching soap operas and eating bonbons, I figured I could manage that.  In twenty-four hours, I had two solid days of appointments scheduled.  After going to the clinic to purchase some syringes, I took the doctor to the “exam room” which had been set up in an office behind someone’s house.  I had been told we would just need a table, a good light, and a roof overhead, so an enclosed room – sterile or not – was actually a step up.

We had several appointments that were innocent enough – immunizations, canine manicures, equine oral hygiene … that sort of thing.  But, we also had several spays and neuters scheduled.  The doctor used quite a bit of his sedative on a dog that needed to be put to sleep, so he ended up cancelling all of the spays until he could come back another time (probably January, he says) with an adequate supply.  But, the surgical procedures for the poor little boy doggies would go on.   

And with the words, “Here – hold this,” I would become the surgical nurse.


Anyway, all this to say, I am trying to find my place in this here world.  I know God has me here for a reason, and I am certain that in time He will make it clear to me what He wants me to do here.  Long term, anyway.

In the meantime, let’s just say, I never expected to be able to add to my resume, “pulling dog testicles tight while a vet ties off the blood vessels.”


Did I mention he’s coming back in January? 

I may try to find a job after all.  :)


Monday, November 30, 2009

Cooking Up Whole New Traditions

“If you ever have to support a flagging conversation, introduce the subject of eating.” ~Leigh Hunt

“Whether one eats a cat or not is a personal choice, and I don't want to sway anyone one way or another. But if you do, there is one obvious cooking tip: always remember to remove the bell from the cat's collar before cooking.” ~Mike Royko

Eight dollars a pound.

If you want to have turkey for Christmas here in Ukarumpa, you can order one, but that’s what it’s gonna cost you.

Gone are the days of getting a free turkey when you spend fifty bucks at the grocery store.

Many people have asked about food here, what we can get, what we can’t get. What’s new and different? How expensive are things?

I think just about anywhere you go in the world, you will find new and different culinary tastes and traditions. For example, go to Louisiana and you get hot sauce. Boston, cream pies. Kentucky, fried chicken. California, mixed nuts.

That kind of thing.

Things are like that here in Papua New Guinea, too. Different areas of the country have their own varieties of traditional and available foods (we especially enjoyed snake beans, fresh pineapple, and pomolo during Village Living). And now we are here at this missionary center where, because of the store trying to cater to eighteen different nationalities, foods from all over the world converge. Or, I should say, converge from time to time, for example when an infrequent shipment from America happens to coincide with one of the more frequent shipments from Australia. Black and Gold brand foods are imported from Australia, and Sunny Select from California, so, disregarding Vegemite, we do have many things available to us that we are used to.

There are, of course, some things that are simply not available. And some things that may be available today but you may not find again for four months. Everyone including the POC cook has been waiting for popcorn to arrive in country ever since before we did.

When we were preparing for Village Living, a shopping trip into Madang would take several hours. Not because it was all that far away, but because it just takes that long to shop. You may have to go to six or eight stores to find everything you’re looking for. And even then, you might not find all of it.

Here in Ukarumpa, we don’t have the variety of stores, so either we have it or we don’t. A few days ago, my husband came home with a wide smile plastered across his face. “It’s Christmas!” he announced excitedly as he shoved several bags of rolled oats and popcorn in my direction.

This is the stuff of fairy tales, people.

Many things are comparable in cost, but overall, prepared foods (canned vegetables, Old El Paso taco kits, salad dressing, cake mixes, etc.) are significantly more pricy than you’d find in the states. At the same time, fresh fruits and vegetables at the market, unlike your favorite produce section, are very affordable. Twenty-five cents for a large handful of green beans, sixty cents for five good sized potatoes, forty cents for seven or eight medium sized carrots, twenty-five cents for a large head of leafy lettuce. Basic kinds of meat – the cows, chickens, and pigs – being enrolled in entry level marketing classes led by the turkeys – tend to be expensive.

Many things here must be made from scratch, either because it is not available any other way, or because it is otherwise cost-prohibitive. We have made our own salsa, as well as our tortilla chips. Mmmmmm … the salsa is really more of a pico de gallo, and the chips are made from wheat tortillas rather than corn, but I tell you what: chips and salsa never tasted so good!

And I never would have guessed that a homemade wheat tortilla, topped with refried beans (canned, though I’m sure if you wanted to you could make these from scratch, too), and this very same pico de gallo would be just as good as any taco, without the cost of meat. Try it sometime!

One day Paul got a good deal on some meat, so we planned to eat that for dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans. Just your good ol’ basic meal plan, right? Yes, until you find out that this particular meat used to be inside the tail of a crocodile. Evan didn’t seem to mind. Seriously, it wasn’t bad. It tasted like chicken. Tough, chewy chicken, perhaps, but chicken nonetheless.

Thanksgiving day was a normal work and school day here, but of course we Americans have traditions to uphold. Our (also American) next door neighbors, Wayne and Maggie, invited us over for spaghetti, garlic bread, salad, and steamed vegetables. We took carrot cake for dessert, which, of course, fell in the middle because of the high altitude. Now if that isn’t a traditional Thanksgiving menu, I don’t know what is! (Remember, eight dollars a pound, people.)

The food was scrumptious, the company fabulous. The kids watched the Peanuts Christmas special, and the adults talked and laughed.

And, though we missed our families, we have no regrets.

Just new traditions.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009



By our son (age 7)

Trees, trees, and more trees -

They swing with the breeze

With ease.

Loved Ones

By our son (age 7)

The ocean is blue.

The sky is, too.

Some fish are blue.

My eyes are, too.

And I am blue

‘Cause I miss you.


Twenty-four Papua New Guineans

And I –

Sweat pouring forth from the sun

Up high –

All planting yams – I’m sure quite

A sight.

Then from the radio sitting

Close by

Michael Jackson puts a gleam in

My eye

Singing, “It doesn’t matter if you’re black

Or white.”

Sweat Sonnet

I go to get water and from all my pores

I feel drippy, sticky stuff begin to pour.

Working in the garden I start to sweat

And when I am finished, all my clothes are wet.

A quick trip to market, a wokabout,

The building of a haus win makes me shout.

I can walk to the beach or to the river

To cool off or bathe, but I will not shiver

For before I return I am again

Covered with sweat from toes to chin.

I can taste it on my lip, running down,

And hear it as it plops onto the ground,

But the worst of all, I think, really must be

Feeling it dribble down the, um, “backside” of me.


Before you move to a village

You must be very wary

For if your beard grows fast

It can be very scary

When you’re snagging all the spider webs

‘Cause your face is so hairy.


Sand flies, mosquitoes, and fleas.

Won’t you stop biting me, please?

When I no longer scratch,

I just get a new batch

Of sand flies, mosquitoes, and fleas.


Sofa, freezer, Smudge the cat,

The game “Zooreka,” a welcome mat,

McDonald’s fries and autumn leaves,

Weather prime for longer sleeves,

Stove and toilet, Frigidaire,

Oven, car, table, and chairs,

Washer and dryer for my clothes,

Nice soft tissues for my nose,

Air conditioning, my own room,

Fabric softener, Starbucks at noon,

Running water, electricity,

Showers, friends, and family.

Becoming Culturally Well-Versed

We have encountered many new foods here in Papua New Guinea. Some are quite delicious while others are, well, not so much. Though we rarely cooked kaukau or yams for ourselves, we’ve eaten plenty.

I am certain that persons from other cultures, should they spend any amount of time faced with burgers, pizza, tacos, and pasta, could write similar verses about their encounters with our food. Yes, including French fries. :)

Anyway, we enjoyed this poem in particular, not as an insult to PNG food, but because it is always possible to have too much of even a good thing!

In order to understand it best, you will need to know a little bit of Tok Pisin. Translation will follow. And yes, every fourth line rhymes. :)

Kaikai Tumas






Snek Bin












Kaikai Tumas = Eating Too Much

Muli = generic term for various citrus fruit

Melon = generic term for various melons

Ananas = Banana

Pomolo = a sweet citrus fruit that is kind of like a cross between an orange and a grapefruit

Pis = Fish

Snek Bin = “snake bean” – a cucumber-looking bean that can be two feet long or more –

very delicious!

Kakaruk = Chicken

Popo = Papaya

Pitpit = a stalk vegetable that, when growing, looks like corn, but tastes totally different

Kumu = generic word for garden greens

Marita = a kerneled seed pod from a tree that is used to make sauces; comes in red and yellow

Laulau = a tree fruit, some of which taste similar to an apple

Aibika = a green that tends to be on the bitter side

Yam = a dense, starchy cousin to our yams

Tulip = a green that is not on the bitter side

Kaukau = a dense, not-so-sweet PNG sweet potato

Traut = this word has nothing to do with fish; instead it is the Tok Pisin word for vomit :)

Almost every evening of our village time, one or both of us would sit with our wasfamili (and sometimes with others, as well) and “story.” This “shooting the breeze” could last well into the night, especially if we’d made tea. One thing that is ingrained in PNG culture is the value of relationships, and this is regularly demonstrated by the time spent storying with one another. A Papua New Guinean would never turn someone away for that would send the message that the person was not important or the relationship was not worth investing in.

However, occasionally, culturally appropriate or not, we would catch one of them yawning. :)


I make some tea, the sun goes down.

Soon at your house I will be found.

You cannot just turn me away

So we talk and drink ‘til the break of day.

And no one gets much sleep at night,

For want of trying to be polite.

We are missionaries serving God and the task of Bible translation by serving the missionary community in Papua New Guinea through Personnel Administration and MK Education. We thank you for your prayers!

For the Bibleless Peoples of the World ...

(Updated 13 April 2013)