Saturday, April 13, 2013

Week in Review: April 7-13

This time last week, we and another family were on a joint vacation, of sorts, in Lae.  While not a beautiful city by any stretch of the imagination, the port town is surrounded by lovely mountains.  It also boasts a few restaurants, and the guest house has a swimming pool, and those amenities coupled with the need to get outside the fence periodically are adequate to grant Lae status as an in-country vacation destination.

Though only about 80 miles as the crow flies, it takes a good three hours to drive the circuitous and potholed two-lane “highway” from our center to Lae.  We arrived just before noon on Friday and had lunch at the “elite” Yacht Club before stopping to get in a first round of shopping.  Among the bargains (it’s all a matter of perspective, I know) snagged were 500g packages of penne pasta for less than $2 each, 40oz creamy peanut butter for $15, 35g of Italian seasoning for $8.50, and 10.5oz cans of cream of chicken soup for $2 each. 

The real bargain of the day, though, was 1.25oz packs of country gravy mix for about 75 cents each.  Gold!

Traveling home on Monday, the car loaded significantly heavier than when we went down (including two 20kg bags of laundry detergent and a 25kg bag of milk powder), we came, too suddenly, upon a place in the road where the pavement had crumbled away.  As the rear tires dropped off the asphalt to the dirt and gravel several inches below, the spare tire hinged to the bottom of the van was dislodged. We were quite the circus attraction as we stopped in the road and the men worked to reattach the spare and its support frame while the women held the cargo to keep it from falling out of the open rear hatch, the only way to access the bolt mechanism.  By the time we were finished, we had garnered quite an audience.  You never quite know what to expect if you have vehicle trouble here, but fortunately the repair was minor, and none of our curious (and probably interminably bored) gawkers seemed to have any bad intentions.  We toodled toward home with a friendly wave and had no further incidents.

Wednesday saw the beginning of Term 4 at school.  Andie is especially excited by the upcoming Grade 8 play, an annual tradition she’s been looking forward to for well over a year.  Evan is thrilled because his best friend has returned from furlough in Australia and his teacher has put them at the same table group in class.  The primary campus Principal, Rachel, is relieved because the new Grade 3 teacher has arrived and she no longer has to do classroom duty in addition to running the school.  I, myself, am not so lucky, with the expected computer teacher held up in Finland with visa issues.  If all goes well, she will land in PNG in a few weeks, but until then I will continue teaching six classes of Microsoft Publisher when I am not playing Vice Principal. 

Paul started a new job recently as the Director’s Assistant for Personnel.  The position has all sorts of unexpected twists, and this week, in between learning how to handle a resignation and applying for an Australian travel authorization for someone involved in a medical evacuation, he got to have lunch with the US Ambassador and his entourage.  Be impressed.

One of the periodic entertainment venues here is a Friday evening adult-only coffee shop.  Paul and I were going to go with friends, but the men in both homes pooped out on us and stayed home to veg.  Though equally tired, my friend Pamela and I went anyway and spent nearly three hours talking, playing Sequence, and staring at each other with nothing much to say.  The mochaccinos helped somewhat, though I think we still sat around not talking and just looking tired as much as we did anything else, but it was worth it.  We left early so I could go home and make the cupcakes for Andie’s birthday party.

As the cupcakes were baking, Paul and I watched the season 3 finale of Downton Abbey.  As Matthew was driving home from the hospital and we began smelling slightly-overdone chocolate cake, we quickly came to two disturbing conclusions: 

1. We’re going to have to wait at least a year to see the next season of Downton Abbey; and
2. Our oven, lacking any capacity for temperature regulation, is not fit for baking. 

The oven got too hot, they cooked too quickly, and not one, not two … but all twenty-four cupcakes disintegrated on their way to the cooling racks.

This morning I turned the fancy cake into a trifle served in cheap plastic cups.  As if 14-year-olds cared.

The birthday party was held at our local water park … a long trench dug in the earth and lined with thick black plastic sheeting.  Hoses positioned at the top eventually fill up the “pool” at the bottom and help keep the tropical sun from heating the slide beyond usability.  We didn’t have that problem today, as it was cloudy and the rain came on and off through the afternoon.  But, fortunately, there were periods of dry that allowed me to get some great pictures of Andie and twelve of her classmates as they threw themselves down the hill. 

Also, at the scheduled food time, the clouds crossed their legs and allowed the kids to eat their trifles without getting soggy. 

After snacks, I decided I would try the slide too.  I have always thought it looked fun (and now that it is new and improved, and there is no chance of flying off the end into a veritable gravel pit, it is more attractive.)  But, despite appearances, I’m not a spring chicken, and though I really enjoyed it while it lasted, I’m being punished now.

But the highlight of the day had to be watching this precious group of students interact.  Four of Andie’s classmates did not make it, but the thirteen who did laughed, played, high-fived, and thoroughly enjoyed being together. 

They’ve grown up a lot since we did fractions, probability, and principles of flight together, but they still have a very special place in my heart.

1 comment :

  1. You have such an engaging way of writing! It's such a powerful picture of your life in PNG. I greatly admire your attitude and servant's heart! You are living a fascinating and grace-filled life! So glad you share your world with us!


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(Updated 13 April 2013)