Monday, July 15, 2013

SOS! A BLT needed in the EHP of PNG ASAP

“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.” ~Doug Larson

“I think we love bacon because it has all the qualities of an amazing sensory experience. When we cook it, the sizzling sound is so appetizing, the aroma is maddening, the crunch of the texture is so gratifying and the taste delivers every time.” ~Alexandra Guarnaschelli

I fell in love at the bowling alley.

I was attracted immediately to the scent.  The object of my affections was firm, toned, yet soft.  Perfectly tanned on the outside, and oh so hot … sizzling even.

It was the best BLT of my life.

My friend Lynette and I went back to the bowling alley in Friedberg, Germany numerous times over the next year or so, normally before heading to the racquetball court, and always ordering bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches.  She remembers, too.  I asked her a few months ago when we were home on furlough and bacon had come back into my life.  In the last four months of 2012, around the same time I was brainwashing … I mean, sharing the joy of BLTs with my son, I posted three different pictures of bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches on Facebook.

My family thought I was crazy.  But I’m pretty sure BLTs are going to be on the heavenly buffet menu.   Or maybe we’ll have a Jetsons-esque celestial Food-a-Rac-a-Cycle.  Or maybe I’ll actually enjoy cooking.   

Any of those would be fine with me.

I know there are people out there who have proudly put themselves out there in the world of social media as a “Fan of Bacon” (you know who you are), and last year when we were in the US, we saw that bacon seemed to be taking over the world in some rather disturbing ways.

I’ve always considered sausage the quintessential breakfast meat (excuse me while I duck projectiles from the bacon-lovers), but I have come to realise that bacon has its place.

Unfortunately that place is not here in PNG.

To be honest, we can’t get “ground breakfast sausage” here either (think chub packs of Jimmy Dean) but it is easier to make than bacon.  Add an egg and a few spices to ground beef (here called “mince”) or ground pork (harder but not impossible to come by) and voila! 

But, bacon?

No.  There is just no way that I have found to make homemade bacon.  Maybe if I could start with a pig and a lot of salt …

I tried a few different things during our first term to simulate the cured pork product, but nothing thrilled us.  When we returned from furlough we found that the mission store was now carrying imitation bacon bits. They are not expensive, surprisingly, and decent for the occasional salad or baked potato, but made with textured vegetable protein (i.e., soy), there are definite drawbacks.   

Pretty soon, however, a friend introduced us to “Tasty Pork,” (a product of Denmark, and even has its own facebook page!)

Now, having given this spamish product a fair chance, I have to agree with our friend that Tasty Pork is a pretty good substitution! And thus the idea was born that while we couldn’t have a true BLT here (I did manage to find one in Australia last month - don't tell my son) we could try a TPLT instead.

No keyless entry for this bad boy.

Remember Spam?  Yeah.

The thinner the slices, the crispier it fries up.

It even sizzles and pops, just like bacon!
The finished product.

Evan gives it a thumbs-up!

So, there you have it.  If you're one of the two people who felt sorry for me when I whined about not having bacon, your days of obligatory compassion are over!

We Americans can make a satisfying BLT using Danish Spam in the highlands of New Guinea.

At least until the store runs out of Tasty Pork.  :)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Present (i.e. “gift”)

A few minutes ago I returned from a birthday party where the birthday girl, who turned fifty this week, received a few presents.

But it was the present I noticed as I walked to, and then again from, her party that caught my attention.  Curiously, the gift was marked by the sounds of intense crying coming from a modest little house on the north side of the road.

You see, the mother of one of my Papua New Guinean co-workers died yesterday morning and, true to cultural form, once the body was brought to her son’s house this evening the mourners also arrived.  And so began the haus krai (crying house).

Walking home after the party, the haunting groans and wailing still emanating from the house, as they likely will throughout the night and into tomorrow, my husband and I discussed the merits of such a tradition.  “I couldn’t make myself cry like that,” he said. 

I agreed.  “It just seems so forced,” was my observation.  “I’m not saying it’s wrong, or that it’s not healthy, but ...”

“Well, sure.  In our culture we stifle our emotion.” He paused to consider.  “But really, I guess the haus krai is not for the attending mourners.  It’s for the bereaved.”

I had a sudden realisation.  It’s a gift to them,” I said.

As westerners, I don’t think we typically mourn very well.  Why is it that we prefer to suppress our feelings than wear them for all to see?  Why is it we’d rather hide our tears than share them?  Why is it so difficult for us to accept the gifts of genuine empathy and compassion?

Just as I discovered a few years ago at another haus krai I attended, though for me it is still somewhat awkward, in some ways this practice goes a long way toward fulfilling the Biblical mandate to “rejoice with those who rejoice [and] mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)


Tears can be a beautiful, and healing, gift.

“[The God of all healing counsel] comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” ~2 Corinthians 1:3-4, The Message

Five Minute Friday
This post written as part of Lisa-Jo Baker's Five Minute Friday challenge.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Courage to Change the Things She Can

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.  Amen.”  ~commonly called “The Serenity Prayer” by Reinhold Niebuhr

There are so many people, deaf or otherwise abled, who are so talented but overlooked or not given a chance to even get their foot in the door.” ~Marlee Matlin

For me, it was the wallpaper.

Not our wallpaper,
but you get the point.
When I was growing up, my mother had a framed cross-stitch of the first sentence of the “Serenity Prayer” hanging in our foyer bathroom.  As the family story goes, I emerged from the loo one morning and made a joke that the yellow wallpaper in that room was so hideous, it must be the reason that she put the saying there. 

It was the “thing we could not change.”

(Though, I must admit, a few years later they found the courage to change it after all.)

I was reminded of this story on a recent Sunday morning when we said the Serenity Prayer in church.  I was sitting across from a charming blonde named Nathalie, trying to remember whether there was an ASL sign for “serenity.” It was one of those panic moments I have experienced several times since I agreed to use my very rusty sign language skills to interpret for her.

Serenity … serenity … what does that even MEAN?!

I quickly decided to sign “peace.”

(I looked it up later and turns out, it was the right choice.  Whew!)

After the service was over, and I had apologized (again) for my many errors, and she had said thank you (again) for trying, and I realized that whatever I had done or not done had not scarred her for life, another woman approached Nathalie from the side and got her attention.

“I saw you on TV,” she said, her eyes wide and her mouth practicing greatly exaggerated enunciation.  Nathalie smiled and nodded her head.

“Why was she on TV?” asked another.   I didn’t know, so I signed the question to Nathalie.

“Because of a book,” she replied modestly. 

Nathalie's greenhouse close to where we live - full of Hoyas!
Born deaf in Sweden, Nathalie first visited PNG in 2005 as part of an around-the-world trip.  As a botanist fascinated by the genus Hoya, she was delighted to discover that the tropical PNG forests hold at least 70 species of the wax plant, some 90% of which have not been recorded outside the island.  As she traveled and met people, she quickly also became passionate about the needs of the deaf community in Papua New Guinea and began to involve them in her research whenever possible.  She returned in 2010 to begin a five-year dual research project.

While much of the modern world has come to understand the realities of deafness, it is still not uncommon in more remote areas for people to assume that deaf individuals are mentally disabled or even cursed with spirits.

The reality is, if a child grows up not being exposed to language, he will not acquire language.  And many parents of deaf children in third world or developing countries cannot figure out how to communicate with their children.  Therefore, though deafness does not affect intelligence, people who don’t know any differently often assume the child must be incapable of learning, functioning, or relating normally.

The child, therefore, grows up in a silent world and may not even know his own name; the deaf are often marginalised through no fault of their own.

That much I knew.

Then she said something that rocked my sense of stability.

Sometimes they even kill deaf children.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that must happen, but I didn’t think that it would be true here, or that it happened still.

But it does make sense.  Papua New Guineans are deeply spiritual.  The lines between the natural and the supernatural are much more blurred than they are for many westerners.  Everything affects everything else on a spiritual level.  Spirits are mystical entities that often must be appeased or pacified, sometimes by ritual.   

And sometimes that ritual is violent.

Sorcery is also prominent.  Deafness, mental illness, or disability can be viewed as the result of a curse.

And sometimes, perhaps, they just don't know what else to do with them.

Nathalie speaks thirteen (thirteen!) different languages.  The list includes six written languages and seven different sign languages including Swedish, German, Latvian (Latvian?!), Papua New Guinean, Japanese, UK, Australian, and American Sign Language (ASL, which is where she and I can connect.)  And yes, you read that right … though the US, UK, and Australia all speak the same verbal language (ok, mostly), their sign languages are all strikingly different. 

Though many people are surprised to hear it, there is no universal sign language.  Just like spoken languages, sign languages have developed independently around the world, over centuries of time.

In her work with the PNG deaf population, Nathalie and her husband, Foreting, have joined on as consultants and translators with a team of deaf Papua New Guineans who are working on a book that will teach PNG Sign Language to parents of deaf children.  The book will help them understand what deafness is, what it isn’t, and how they can help their children communicate and thrive while helping the surrounding community accept them as significant members of society.

Her work with this book is what landed her on that television spot.

In one village Nathalie and Foreting visited on their travels, some mothers said to them, "Thank you for coming and showing us that we don't need to kill our children again!"

The women's reaction gave them goosebumps, she admitted to me.  "We are so thankful God has used us and our deafness."

But her research and work has also taken on additional significance since she came to know Christ here in Papua New Guinea.  This quote comes from a newspaper article she co-wrote with Tim Scott:

“Nathalie and her deaf Papua New Guinean husband, Foreting, also want to help meet the deaf community’s spiritual needs.  People who are deaf often come to church with their families but don’t understand what is being spoken.  One of the most frequent questions asked of Nathalie is, ‘Please, ‘you who can sign our language,’ can you tell us who is God and why people are going to his house every week?’” 

What could be a better lead-in than that?

God has given Nathalie both serenity and courage.

Serenity to accept her deafness with grace and surrender, but without any hint of martyrdom.

Courage to do what she can to better the lives of deaf people across Papua New Guinea.

And that, without a doubt, is far more important than any wallpaper ... no matter how hideous it may be.

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)