Monday, October 12, 2009

Three Day Hike Update

Okay, I don’t even have enough time to come up with a catchy title to this blog. Why, you ask? Because in the six days since we returned from the three day hike, I have opted not to write, and now I have exactly two hours and seven minutes to write this blog and get it sent off before all my internet contact with the outside world ceases for five weeks. That’s thirty-five days. Eight hundred forty hours. Fifty thousand - … sorry.

You get the point.

Yes, we are leaving for the Village Living phase of our training on Friday, October 9. It is doubtful that I will be able to post anything between now and November 17, but I promise to do some updates when we return. It is my plan to keep detailed notes … on paper, no less … so that the essays come forth naturally, complete with snazzy titles.

If I can read my handwriting, that is.

In the village, we will have a house to ourselves (maybe my mom will even include the picture of it here, if I ask real nice … Mom?) and our very own toilet. We will be living, storying, eating, and working with the people and learning their customs and lifestyle on a very intimate basis. Our village wasfamili will be looking out for us and teaching us many things, and we will be students, learning all they offer, practicing our Tok Pisin, and sharing the love of Christ with them at every opportunity. Thank you for praying for us during these weeks!

But, anyway, back to the point of this blog. I promised I would update you on the Three-Day Hike. First, I shall say that everyone who started it completed it. That, I would say, is a success.

However, at the last minute three people who were going to go didn’t actually get to due to various illnesses. And, no, as much as I coughed and hacked and wiped my nose, I didn’t get a medical pass.

I had to hike.

But, it was not as bad as I anticipated. In fact, it was a very good time. Let me tell you about it. That is why you’re reading this, isn’t it? Even if my writing seems to be a bit stream-of-consciousness at the moment. I wonder how the Braves are doing, and French fries sound really good right now.

On Monday morning, September 28, we found out that our two groups of seven had become one group of nine. (In addition to the three sickies, two of our national guides were released as well because we only had one group instead of two.) Two national guides (one man and one woman), six hikers, and one literacy teacher, and our outdoor activities coordinator-turned-construction foreman, loaded into the Hilux and set out for the town of Bang (rhymes with “gong”). Our task of the day, once we successfully got through several rivers and bested a road that can only barely be called that, was to build an office for the translation team in Bang. The office was to have one room that they could lock securely, and one room that had only half-walls and was open to the outside. It was a successful day, with all but two half-wall panels being constructed.

That night we split up and went with various village families for dinner and a place to stay. Our family was very talkative and we were up talking (storying) until nearly eleven o’clock. Morning came very early.

When it was time to leave, the translators’ dog, Buddy, accompanied us. We tried many times to shoo him back home, and they called him back many times before assuring us that he would surely return on his own.

He never did.

Over the next two days, that silly dog followed us wherever we went. It was interesting, though, for he seemed to appoint himself our guardian, even when it meant a 3AM trip to the liklik haus.

We had to hike through some of the same rivers our truck had crossed the day before. At first everyone tried to hold up their skirts (women) or shorts (men), but the first river convinced us that it was pointless, as the water was more than two feet deep in places. After that, we plodded through several more rivers, fighting only the current, and not caring about our clothes.

In the deeper rivers, we watched Buddy be carried downstream before he emerged on the other side and quickly caught up with us.

We hiked about five kilometers up and then about three down and two more on relatively flat terrain. The up part was a very challenging hike, but I did better than I’d feared. Maybe it was all relative, though, as Paul was not feeling very well. For once, I wasn’t the only one always having to stop for a rest.

When we arrived in the village where we would spend the next night, we were warmly welcomed. Everyone was very friendly, even when Buddy stole half a coconut and began to eat the meat out of it. After a few minutes, some of us gals decided to bathe, since, well, that’s what you want to do after sweating for several hours. Some local women took us to the appropriate bathing area of the nearby river. It is normal for women and children to go to the river together, and we had quite an audience as we tried to clean ourselves discretely. (We had been taught how to bathe semi-clothed.) At one point a pre-teen boy showed up on the other side of the river, then turned back toward the houses and hollered out, we presume, something along the lines of “Hey everyone! Come see the whiteskins bathing in the river!” Several other boys – and one adult man – came quickly, and were just as quickly shooed away by the horrified ladies who had accompanied us to the water. At that point, we were grateful for their presence.

The village prepared quite a feast for us – local vegetables and even a chicken, killed, plucked, and cooked fresh just for us. I do believe that is the first time I have witnessed this process. I think I would be okay if it were the last, but somehow I doubt it will be.

After dinner we were privileged to witness some interesting cultural scenarios, with one person growing very agitated and demanding. It was especially interesting to see that how the villagers related to one another was so very similar to some of the movies we had watched earlier in the course. Once that had all settled down, and we had storied for an hour or so more, we convinced them that we needed to bed down for the night as we had another day of hiking ahead of us.

Instead of allocating us to various homes, they had prepared a Haus Win (Wind House) – a covered, raised platform with two sides having half walls, and two sides having no walls – for us to sleep in for the night. As we hung our mosquito nets, many villagers stood and watched, while others hastily constructed a coconut frond wall on the third side. The fourth side, beside the guys, was left open.

The next morning we walked about four kilometers from this village to the coast and then another three kilometers along the coastline to Bom, the village closest to where we would be picked up. One of our party was struggling with a migraine, but, amazingly, he insisted on continuing, even though at times he was walking with his eyes closed, trusting his wife to guide him. It was a good thing this happened on the beach day instead of the five-kilometers-of-vertical-climb day. Finally, we arrived at Bom about three hours before our ride was to pick us up. We ate lunch and then some people slept on the beach while others of us played in the ocean. Yes, we were told, there are sharks.

Fortunately, we didn’t see any.

After a last thirty minute walk to the road, our vehicle arrived, followed by the vehicle of the translator who had come to claim his crazy dog. When he emerged from the cab of his truck holding a rope, we all got a good laugh.

Sore, aching muscles not withstanding, the three-day hike was a good experience. It accomplished its purposes, giving us plenty of opportunities for service, cultural learning, physical conditioning, and language practice.

Oh, and it gave Buddy a good workout, too.

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)