The Pilot’s World

cockpitI’m sitting in the cockpit, rapt in anticipation, lost in my total non-pilot-ness.

Gone is my stark, white desk, tucked into a corner of a busy office and suitably sprawled with keyboard, pens, papers and the odd forgotten cup of cold coffee. Instead, I shake my head in awe, staring at the dazzling array of blinking lights, knobs and dials, digital screens and codes that may as well be coordinates to Mars for all I know.

The sky is cool and cloudy, but the morning fog has slunk away with enough bashfulness that our plane can start its day. I wriggle in my seat, check my seat belt and watch as the pilot unhurriedly works through his checklist. He is methodical and decisive as he flicks switches, peruses charts, then finally drops his flight plan into its slot and starts up the engine. I watch the prop spin itself into a blur, and the aircraft slowly eases out onto the runway.

The tarmac of the Hagen Domestic Airport stretches out before us like a wide swath of grey cloth. The morning air is cool but thick with the aftertastes of rubbish, smoke and acrid grease that crawl all over this up-and-coming, wobbly, overcrowded town. This tepid air, this cracking concrete, this maze of streets stained with crimson betel-nut spit and dotted with clumps of carelessly dropped rubbish… it is a strange place that never quite settles in the soul. But now, seated in the plane, the air hums with the hint of something different, something gentler and yet somehow more vivid that is to come.

The world holds it breath, pauses, watches in awe and some jealousy as the engines roars into full power, the wheels begin to lift, and suddenly we leave the ground with an almost audible sucking sound, breaking away from the surface of the globe.

And we’re flying! Climbing higher and higher, turning and angling in a wide, lazy arc until the plane levels out, the world below shrinks away and we burst up into the whimsical world of the clouds.

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The transition is startling, and I cling to the blind faith that there is indeed a grey world below the snowy mountains of crystal vapour. The white billowing folds etch sharply against the shadows of their misty friends, but whenever the little aircraft draws near, they fade and blur into indiscriminate puffs and swirls, as though shy of revealing their true forms.

Here and there, a powerful mountain breaks through the wispy, rolling sea of white, and the solid black peaks stand firm in defiance as we bank and climb to pass them by from a respectful distance. Behind their hoary heads, white streaks of cloud bleach the distant horizon; the dawn has put on fresh face cream but it has not yet soaked into the skin of the sky.

I feel the sun warm on my face; above us, the cloud cover is much less dense and thick. The bubbling foam that flows overhead makes it feel like we’re sailing beneath the surface of the ocean in a winged submarine.

p1070433Then all too soon we are dropping, and I spread my fingers wide against the glass, imagining them trailing down through the dusky cotton as we swirl ever lower into the depths below. The ethereal white fades into hues of green and blue, and we find ourselves gazing down into the bowl of a deep valley, blanketed with a thick cover of green undergrowth.

The airstrip is invisible, sleepily tucked away behind the rounded slopes of the rolls and ridges, until – suddenly – we push through the pass and it slams into view below;  a rough brown smudge, like someone scraped their finger through the green, bubbled frosting on a chocolate cake.

approach-to-kaiamThe base of the bowl seems impossibly deep, and the pilot guides us down in slow, gradually descending circles, as we wind our way around and around the valley and slowly drop into the centre of this giant green bathtub. The trees shake their heads in excitement as we blur by, the jungle rushes up to meet us, and we shoot across the silver curve of a wide river and drop onto the rough gravel and grass of the homemade, handmade airstrip. Touchdown.

The difference from the cold, sharp atmosphere of the Highlands is immediately apparent, as the air wraps humid fingers around my neck, my nose catching with the smell of earth and soil and the tang of rain-fresh mud. The flies drone lazily in the heat, glistening in the damp air like fat black currants with wings. Rippling coloured waves pulse all around us as the thick jungle bends and sways in the breeze, displaying more shades and varieties of green than an artist’s palette.

friendly-faces-at-kaiamThe plane does not come here often, and this airstrip has only been open for mere months. We climb out to greet the gathered community and find ourselves surrounded by a smiling throng of unwashed bodies pressing close. Their white teeth flash in acknowledgement, and handshakes are accompanied by quick, shy glances from the many pairs of liquid brown eyes. But the aircraft is the real novelty here, and eager hands reach out to touch the smooth, metal sides, while the more curious bodies shift around to gaze at the proud nose of the plane which silently peers back with wide glass eyes.

The MAF agent hurries forward, full of importance and responsibility. He proudly flourishes the paperwork and hands it to the pilot. The sheets are blank, for he has not grasped that he must write anything on the crumpled white sheets. Simply producing the necessary documents proves to him that his airstrip is well and healthy and in perfect working order. The pilot sighs, smiles, takes the papers and begins to fill in the empty spaces with the necessary notations.the-pilot

Just another day in his lofty office. Just another adventure soaring among the skies, striding across the mud, speeding a connection from one world to another through the dancing clouds.

Just another ordinary, extraordinary day in the pilot’s world.

 

© Emma McGeorge 2016

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The ‘Roach That Would Not Die

IJ gets stuck into my shoes

Let’s put our head in the sand, and it will all go away…

Well, my sleeping in the hallway has come to an abrupt and determined end, despite having to wear earplugs and endure being woken at various hours of the night by the noisy street. The hallway has actually been brilliant, in that it has hugely boosted the length and quality of my sleep – it’s a bit of a fuss to prepare my “cocoon” each night, lay out a mattress on the floor and then dismantle it all in the morning. But I’ve kept it up for several weeks, not minding that I’ve not been sleeping up on a real bed.

Until last night…
I was quite exhausted that night, and with the street being particularly loud I was grateful to shut myself off into the hallway and fall into a heavy sleep. However, I was rudely awoken at 4:30am by a big, fat, shiny cockroach that was somehow INSIDE THE COVERS AND RUNNING ALL OVER MY BARE SKIN !!!!!! (!!!!!!) !!!!!!
Needless to say, I was out of bed before I was awake, and so was the spiky-legged creepy crawlie!!
It ran around in a panic all over the floor, I ran around in a panic all over the floor, we both ran around in a panic all over the floor… #repeat
After some running back and forth, dodging, feinting, faking a pass etc all around the suddenly abandoned mattress, the clicking, brown insect took refuge behind my slipper, and I sprang into a more sensible action.
I grabbed the big can of bug-killer on my laundry shelf, and began to spray that bug-eyed, feelered, crispy creature like it was a dried up flower needing to soak up moisture.
I sprayed, it dodged, I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed and SPRAYED AND THE COCKROACH WOULD NOT DIE. #repeat
Finally, I realised that the can in my hand was not, in fact, “Mortein’s Deadly Die-Immediately-Bug Spray”, but was actually a very practical (but in this case useless) can of “Mrs Brown’s Shine-N-Glow Furniture Polish”. In desperation, I grabbed the slipper which had only a moment ago been a pink, fluffy sanctuary for the condemned roach, and smacked the slipper down on the now very polished, very shiny, glowing even, giant bug.
End of combat.
But not of the adrenalin rush, and I gave up on sleeping and instead put on my heroic slippers and set about doing chores in the pre-dawn cool of the night, keeping a sharp eye out for any potential cockroach retributions….
When I let Indiana Jones in around his usual time of 5:45am, he helpfully presented me with half a rubbish-pile rat – spine hanging out of the furry, ragged back end, rubbery tail flopping in the breeze.
Somehow, this did not help my already shaken mental state, and I reacted with a muffled scream (it was early morning, after all – and I have neighbors) as I slammed the door shut on IJ’s rather indignant ginger face.
The only reminder of the night’s battles and the morning’s triumph, is the smooth, slippery patch of over-polished floor in my hallway, and a few black rat whiskers adorning my back doorstep.
Oh – and a nearly empty can of furniture polish…
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Finding the Beauty

The collosal rubbish pilePapua New Guinea is a hard place to live. For some, it is truly enjoyable and exciting, but for others it just seems to wear down the soul. It can make a difference as to where one lives, and I guess being in a run-down, overcrowded township is not a situation that soothes me…

I am a person who loves beauty. Beauty #5
I feel it deeply, sense it quietly, thrive on it. The fact that my surroundings are aesthetically pleasing (or not) can hugely impact the way I face a day, because it is actually impacting me on much deeper levels than mere surface dust and bother and chaos.
Beauty #2In many ways, this makes it harder to be in the place that I am living. The rubbish piles, the grubby supermarkets, the mud and rot underfoot at the local market, the clouds of flies that waft with the stenches, the dirty, smelly chickens and pigs, the pushy masses, the open stares and yells, the black, roiling smoke of burning refuse…
It can be so hard to wade through it all, much less to lift my head to see if there are any patches of blue sky on this cloudy day.Beauty #4 - Copy
Beauty #1But there always are – patches of sky, I mean – and not only do I want to find them, I want to share them with you. For me, it comes down to the little things – a weekend trip to somewhere beautiful, painting on multi-coloured toenails, sprinkling my desk with stars, playing with MAF kids, laughing at IJ’s antics, gently holding Monarch butterflies…
I hope you can soak in the wonder and delight with me. And remember to look around you and find the beauty in your place and space, wherever that may be.
Sometimes it can be hard to see the silver linings traced delicately in the heavy clouds, but there is always, always beauty to be found – if only we will look to see.
Trust me, I know.
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Taking the Floor

Spring Cleaning Floors!

Albert working on floors

Ps Albert works on floors

One of the areas in which I’ve been working is the upkeep/cleaning of the Hagen Headquarters facilities. We have 3 lovely staff who work as cleaners, and it has been a pleasure to come alongside them and discuss how we can better care for the MAF facilities, revamping hygiene, stewardship and professionalism, and of course I’ve enjoyed getting to know them better along the way.
Together we have taken new things on board at MAF PNG, and this week I found Pastor Albert (cleaner for MAF for 30 years, but also a very committed pastor of a local church) on his knees scrubbing the kitchen floor. He had already cleared out an old, broken bench plus some cardboard stacked on the side, and has made a difference to the atmosphere and cleanliness of the staff lunch area!
IJ Spring Cleans... Not

How NOT to spring clean

Now, several of the Departments (HR, Reception Desk) are taking the cue, and have begun clearing out old clutter, sorting and filing stacks of paperwork, dusting away cobwebs, and re-organising their spaces to be fresh, clean and much more inviting. Way to go! Here’s hoping the spring cleaning bug continues to spread, and that IJ learns from it too 😉
Participants of a successful 2-hr lesson!

Excited to learn new dance skills

Lights, Camera, Action – Dance Floors!

The Hagen club (a restaurant/bar/gym/tennis courts/squash courts facility!) has an annual ball, to which many of the expat miners, business men, traders etc bring their wives for a social night out. Not a common event in Hagen! They decorate, dress up, hire a band, have a feast… and this year they wanted to add some ballroom dancing to the mix. Siobhain (my fellow MAF-er and of course a close girl friend) is the Club Committee Secretary, so she asked if I’d be keen to help one of the local guys teach some dancing, as I had done the dancing night at the MAF conference earlier this year – she felt something similar would work well for the ball. Thus, I was given the opportunity to attend the Club Ball at no charge, provided I helped with a 2-hour lesson on the Thursday, plus a rehash and extra tuition as needed at the Saturday ball.

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The dance floor in action

So that was my full on exercise for last week! Thursday night was fun, but exhausting, as I pulled out my scuffed, glued-together dancing shoes and helped lead 8 couples through two different styles of dancing (Rumba and Swing). They were all very enthusiastic and had a lot of fun. Most of the time I spent circling and instructing and walking through the steps over and over to demonstrate. On Saturday, I actually danced myself a lot more, as the dancers of Thursday were expected to kick it all off on Saturday and lead the way. We danced for two hours, had a break for dinner, then were back on the floor for another three or so hours (five for the enthusiastic ones!). Exhausting fun 😉
I had decorated my hair with fairy lights, and it seemed like a fun idea, but I didn’t realize quite how, um, obvious it would prove to be 😉 You see, despite the lovely setting and the great band, there were still 3 or 4 power cuts (helloooo PNG!). The first time it happened I was dancing… The lights dropped out, the music stopped, and my hair blazed out from the dance floor like a beacon!! It was hilarious, as no one could see anything except my head!
Ahhh good times, powercuts and all. Several folk have asked for ongoing dance lessons, so a few of us are considering how to make this happen. In the meantime, I think I need some new dancing shoes…
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Of Writers, Hallways and Flies…

The Sleep Problem

IJ makes the bed

Making the bed…

Sleep has become quite the struggle. The noise and disturbances on the street, plus the oppressively loud club music, have made it very difficult to rest – even with earplugs firmly, well, plugged! My house is mere meters from the fence which lines the road. No wonder the noise sounds like it’s inside my house. But with the aid of sleep-deprived desperation plus some imaginative thinking from my mom (Grazie, Mamma!), I have come up with a solution…

I sleep in the hallway 😉

Yes, ’tis true – each night the spare bed mattress stretches out along the bare floor in the hallway, and every door is closed to form a cocoon-like room of peace and quiet. Because the hall is right in the middle of the house, and literally surrounded on all sides by rooms, it is that extra layer further away from the noise. The first night I tried this, I slept the whole night through, no earplugs, no drunken yells crashing into my dreams, no disturbances until my alarm buzzed me awake. Amazing! I tried it a few nights in a row (just to be sure it wasn’t merely exhaustion that made me sleep so soundly) but it has definitely made a world of difference. The relief and refreshing are palpable. And even IJ gets in on making the bed now that it’s at his level.

Granted, it requires a little ritual each night to lay out the mattress, pile on the blankets and pillows, and line all cracks beneath the doors with linen (because who wants the night-roaming cockroaches to find the cozy floor-bed?? No thanks!), and then each morning to remove the linen lining the doors, fold up the blankets and prop the mattress back up by the wall and out of the way… But all this is nothing compared to a good night’s sleep, and my health and happiness levels are already feeling the benefits 🙂

The collosal rubbish pile

My corner house sits beneath the white upper story apartment…

Flies, Flies and Still More Flies
The only issue still plaguing me is the rubbish pile outside, which unfortunately continues to grow. It sits untouched, except for millions of flies. The flies!! These are a real pest, and I’ve resorted to ducking in and out of my door like a ninja, swatting and swerving and trying to make sure they don’t come inside with me! The few who do get in find themselves prey to the mighty hunter, Indiana Jones (aka little orange cat), so they fortunately don’t last long…

 

PSI Conference

Lunch! Emma, Gavin, Aira

Lunch with Gavin and Aira

Last week I flew out of Hagen on Wednesday, ending up in Sydney where I attended the annual PSI (Press Services International) Conference for Young Writers. This was amazing!! And I felt especially grateful to be there, as the trust fund had kindly given me a travel scholarship to cover half my costs. I wandered the day in a grateful daze, pinching myself now and then because I couldn’t believe it was all real. It was an oasis to my soul on so many levels…

Chatting between sessions

Chatting between sessions

It was great to be inspired and challenged in various areas of writing, i.e. talking about the difference between the craft (communication skills, word smithing, critical thinking etc) and the art (creativity, imagination, ideas etc) of writing. There were various workshops throughout the day, plus lots of time to socialise.

The underlying tint to the day was a love for the written word, and a passion to pen as many as we can. And we freely spoke of our desire to find God in our writing and have Him speak to others through the words He gives us. All in all, it was an uplifting and encouraging time and, though I didn’t know most people before I arrived, I felt that there were kindred spirits everywhere.

Receiving an Award for the best of my articles

Best (of my selection) Article Award

After the workshops, we had Award Presentations. All writers receive a “Best Article” award as judged by the panelists. Each article you write is graded and allocated points, and they then take your article with the highest score as your “best” one. Of course I have only submitted 3 in total, being new to the program, but it was cool to see that the favourite was “What the Witch Said”… Long Live Lewis!!

Check out my three articles thus far, HERE

IJ chills on the couch

Just chillin’

How to Relax Like Indiana Jones
So after all the adventures, I am now back into the crazy flow of MAF and PNG! So many things on the go, which I’ll try to write more about next week. Look out for some “IJ Adventures” to come! That cheeky little orange puss is always up to something…

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Holidays & Ginger Cats

It’s been a wonderful 3 weeks of holiday, and I really appreciated a break – life here is tough, that’s the bottom line, and I was quite exhausted and ready to breathe for a while…
Yoga stretches on his favorite pink chair

Yoga stretching on his pink chair

When Mom’s Away, the Cat Will Play…

Before I share bits and pieces of news, I should give you an update on IJ 😉 Mr Indiana Jones had a fine time while I was away, and didn’t even seem to miss me! Apparently all he needs is people around to give him some attention, birds and mice to hunt, and the odd opportunity to sneak into some forbidden place and wreak havoc.
Fortunately he was better behaved than the last time I went away (that time he got wedged behind a cupboard and also broke a kitchen window!), but he has still gotten up to various capers in the last month, including but not limited to: getting himself locked in the laundry, refusing all food except tinned mackerel, watching Michael carefully potting orchids and then just as carefully uprooting them, sneaking into Michael & Nicki’s house and going on a merry romp on EVERY clean surface with his VERY muddy paws (!), throwing up half-digested lizards onto Nicki’s carpet, and sneaking into Sharlene’s house where he hid under the bed and he refused to come out!! Sigh.
However, IJ did score one big brownie point in finally catching the big rat that has been pestering our bins and composts. He kindly brought its half-eaten remains to Nicki, which maybe wasn’t so appreciated, but hopefully this heroic endeavour has redeemed him a little with my long-suffering neighbors…
Aotearoa – Land of the Long White Cloud

The Apron Three

Warning: Sisters Cooking!

My holiday trip was initially to Australia, but due to cheap fares and the fact that Sydney is so close to Auckland, I ended up tacking on a New Zealand leg to my trip! It was wonderful to spend time with my crazy, beautiful Italian-Scottish-South African family, and I felt so cared for in every way. They went out of their way to make my time at home sweet and comforting in every way. It was also very special to celebrate my 30th birthday with them, and to enjoy the memories and experiences we share as a “nomad” multi-cultural family unit 😉 They have been such a good key influence in my life, and I just loved being around them again. God truly blessed me with these special people, and as well as enjoying various adventures with them all, I appreciated the chance for some quiet coffee catch-ups with each one. I also spent time with my dear Nonna (Italian for grandmother), who continues to support me, write to me, and uplift me in prayer every day.
The Ginger Cats - Shumba Mia & Indiana Jones

The Ginger Pusses

I also enjoyed cuddles with my NZ ginger puss, Shumba (an African word for “lion”), who is now 9 years old, but as fluffy and affectionate as ever. She and IJ have quite similar markings, except Shumba is much darker with no white – and IJ is much skinnier, still being half kitten 😉
Aussie Land
After a quiet break in NZ, I headed across the ditch to Sydney where I stayed with my lovely friend, Rachael. She works part-time for Hillsong Church, and we went to several services and a small group – it’s amazing how spiritually uplifting it is to hear preaching and sing worship songs in the language that is familiar to my Western ear. Rachael also treated me to a very fancy afternoon tea for my birthday, as well as a “home facial/pampering session”! She also made sure I left well equipped with plenty of worship music and recorded sermons to listen to. We had so many good talks and laughs and she made me feel so at home…
Stroking Mr Roo
After Sydney I went on to Brisbane, where I stayed with good friends, Karl (an old school friend) and his wife Melody, and their gorgeous children, Maia and Raylan. They took me to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, and it was the most relaxing day trip I’ve been on! We wandered the beautiful natural surroundings, saw all variety of Australian birds and animals, and soaked in the leisurely walk. Then we went up Mt Coot-tha for a delicious cafe lunch overlooking Brisbane. The view was wide open and beckoning, and it was a brilliant sunny day – perfect for my last day!
Prayer Needs
SLEEP – seems a trivial thing to fret over, but I am already tired again after only one week back. There is a club 30m down the road from my house, which pumps window-rattling music all night, every night. There is no such thing as noise control here, and while we are currently trying to negotiate with local council to cut the noise down, in the meantime my compound in particular is suffering. Most nights I have very broken sleep, losing several hours at least, and often I’m forced to remove my earplugs and bear the continual affront of noise as my ears ache from wearing the plugs for so long.The rubbish pile outside my compound
HEALTH – needless to say, this affects my health! But a bigger health problem is the huge rubbish pile across the road from our fence. It is now the size of a small house, and with the rains and the rot, the decaying filth and the decomposing piles, the stench is overpowering. Every now and then the locals set a section on fire, which means thick black smoke, reeking of melting plastic, pours over the fence and into our compound.
Since being back, I have not opened most of my windows! I’m also hanging laundry inside, as putting it outside means that it soaks in the smell and gets covered in flies. These flies are also a health hazard, and they surround our doors in droves, hoping to get in. Sitting outside on a sunny day, opening windows to get a fresh breeze, and putting laundry in the sun are no longer options.
But because I don’t want to end on the exciting picture of a rubbish tip, here is a final picture – my dinner the other night 😉 Thank you again for your support, prayers and love. It means so much to me…
Croc for dinner!
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Lake Kutubu – a hidden paradise

Where'd_the_road_go

Where’d the road go?!!

Last week I was not at my desk on Friday – rather, I was packed into a carload of friends bouncing along the worst roads invented for the fun of mankind, on our way to a weekend trip away. Read on to find out where the road rattled us to….  😉

Lake Kutubu
Lake Kutubu is in the Southern Highlands, nestled amidst high, thick mountains, and it is without doubt THE most beautiful place I have been in PNG. No rubbish, no crowds, no head-pounding noise, no eye-watering dust, no refuse on the streets – no streets! Instead, the soft cool water stretches out as far as the eye can see, dotted with luscious islands of swaying trees, draping vines, and butterflies in wild blues and vivid oranges.

chilling_on_the_water

Chilling on the lake

The Famous Five – aka Sam, Ryan, Anton, Shiv & Emma – decided to go on this adventure before Sam leaves at the end of June (sad face!), and it was a wonderful break to get out of Hagen, stretch our eyes beyond the compound walls, and just have fun together.
We stayed at the rustic Tubo Lodge which sits out on a peninsula, surrounded by the sheer natural beauty of Lake Kutubu. It was a bone-shaking 6-hour drive to get there, but the sweaty, groaning stiffness instantly faded away at the sight of the mirror-like lake awaiting us.The quiet beauty was breathtaking and magical, and we climbed into a dug-out canoe, long and narrow like the tree from which it was carved, and glided across the whispering water to the

Shiv_&_Emma

Shiv & Emma #friends

peninsula.

What an incredible and delightful weekend! We fell asleep to the soft chorus of frogs, woke to the singing birds and quiet ripples of the Lake, took a boat tour around the wild jungle edges and glided through the clouds reflected in the Lake’s shining surface. We ate leisurely meals on the balcony where we could enjoy the panoramic view, played games and danced, swam in the crystal clear waters, explored hidden caves and found long-forgotten skeletons, jumped off cliffs into the welcoming blue, laughed and chased raindrops with our tongues, and tiptoed through the inky night air to watch the fireflies swirling in droves all around us.
touring_the_lake
Beautiful…
God knows how difficult it can be sometimes, amidst the stresses and dust and exhaustion, and He knows the pure refreshing and renewed strength that can come with taking such a beautiful, albeit brief, breath of fresh air. I’m grateful for His blessing us with this time at Lake Kutubu, and my soul is full with soaking in the delicious wonder of His creation…
just_around_the_river_bend
Pictures gratefully borrowed from Shiv, Sam & Ryan
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The Day of “Eeeeeewww”

20160501_115705The day had started off so well. At least, the fist 1o minutes seemed quite nice…
With  a brisk step and a clear mind racing through the day’s task list, I threaded my way through Flight Ops, the MAF hangar, Stores, Engineers offices and finally to Reception to sort out a document that needed correcting. Going back through the open kitchen, I was immediately accosted by a flying cockroach (these things fly?!! I thought they only scuttled like clicking shiny brown squabs…). The evil creature was dipping and dive-bombing on an uncharted course, so that I had to squeal and run blindly through to the other side, much to the amusement of Sam (Swiss IT volunteer) who was walking ahead of me and had stopped to enjoy the show…

Less than an hour later, I was in the meeting room straightening the chairs/tables, when Raymond (engineer) walked in looking for me… because he wanted to show me the giant moth he was holding!! I said no thanks (!), and remarked that I was glad that this moth-which-is-bigger-than-my-whole-hand was dead. He kindly corrected me that it was very much alive.

the beautiful bilum

the beautiful bilum

Two close misses, and I was beginning to feel lucky that it was now after lunch and I had not had anymore spine-tingling encounters. Then came the crux…

Last week I acquired a new bilum (string bag). It’s a lovely little square one with a long strap, woven in chocolate browns, creams and blacks, with highlights of purple and pink. (see “the beautiful bilum”)

But what makes this one a bit special, is that it also has an eye-catching addition – a faux flower blossom tied onto the decorative strings. (see “the beautiful bilum decoration”)

the beautiful bilum decoration

the beautiful bilum decor

I brought this bilum to work today and, when I opened my desk drawer, I saw it and pulled it out to admire it again. I was tracing the unusual pattern and fingering the soft cloth flower petals, when I suddenly spotted a second addition which I had missed in my earlier perusal and delight. (see “the questionable bilum decoration”)

the questionable bilum decoration

the “whaaat??!!” bilum decor

Since then, Doris (my national co-worker) and I have taken turns examining, exclaiming, and generally grossing out. We have also vigorously washed our hands, and I’ve liberally splashed myself and my desk with hand sanitiser. Yes, this item is part of the human anatomy. No, this item no longer resides on said bilum…

I was so disturbed by this, that I almost didn’t freak out when I stumbled over the giant daddy cockroach in the hallway… Almost.

The final straw was to get home to an email from my sister, Tess, who had just had a rather “Eeeeeww” day herself. And she described in great detail her efforts in Science class to dissect a pig’s head, brain and eyeball. Nice.
On that lovely note, I shall leave you with a shiver and a wave – and hope that next week’s stories are a little less shuddery…
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Knitting for Babies

Knitting for Babies (and other non-Emma things)
Greetings Everyone, and warm hugs to you in 2016!
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flowers given to me on the 1 year anniversary of Grandpa’s death

When I left PNG at the end of December 2015, the land was staggering from the dry weight of a severe drought that caused many problems including major food shortages and outbreaks of typhoid. MAF flew hundreds of tons of food relief, and in some areas they are still finding it tough to scrape around for enough food to feed families…

The drought was severe, and the extra dust caused problems like eye/lung irritations, and diseased or bug-ridden crops, as well as just making housecleaning more of a chore than normal. So I was surprised and pleased when I arrived back in Hagen to find the mountains wrapped in a heavy cloak of rain. However, after 10 days straight, I got rather tired of continual rain! I had not seen the sun or even a glimpse of blue skies since I left NZ, and I was starting to long for a colour other than grey. I literally broke out in a huge smile when, on Saturday morning, I opened the curtains to see the flowers shaking their heads out in the glorious golden sunshine. Ahhh, weather, how fickle art thou…
Due to the lack of sun, our MAF housing solar panels couldn’t really heat water effectively, and so cold showers were the norm. That wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t so cold at the moment! (A reminder that Hagen sits at an elevation of around 5,500 feet!). The power has been quite bad lately as well, and the voltage is too low, even with IPS units, to give the boosters enough kick to heat water with electricity. The internet and cellphone networks are having tantrums right now, and sometimes I can’t connect to even get a message! Makes me grateful for those things that I so often take for granted.

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Landslides caused by heavy rain on parched ground

In the colder first few weeks back, I enjoyed cuddling a kitten on the couch, and sharing a hot water bottle and a blanket between us while I read and he purred 😉 IJ is about three times the size he was when I left, though he’s still only 5 months and has a way to go before he’s full sized – he has long legs and rather large ears. A ginger Yoda. He got into all sorts of mischief while I was away, including killing several toilet rolls, wandering happily through a neighbor’s house uninvited, and breaking two of the glass louver window panes in my kitchen! He has become quite skilled at catching both flies and cockroaches, and this is a skill I am happy to encourage 😉
Speaking of bugs, I am in the midst of trying various home remedies to get rid of roaches. There are quite a few bugs in this house (possibly because it is on the ground level), and it’s most disconcerting to open the cutlery drawer and spot a shiny brown cockroach scuttling away over the knives! Yuk!! I am going to see how the baking soda/sugar mix works, but I may have to ask someone to supply me with some of this… And while we’re on my favourite topic (!), I should mention how glad I am to be alive after a giant moth attacked me TWICE in the space of 5 minutes! Number one feared creature lol… Followed by a cockroach crawling right over my hand as I sit here and type!! Argh!! If anyone wants to sympathize with these buggy trials, feel free to shiver along with me 😉
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Christmas parcel from the Duxfields!

One particularly nice surprise, was to come back to several parcels and letters waiting for me. The Ross family from my home church sent a box full of yoghurt mixes and Eco soaps – perfect!! I find both of those so handy, and while one is very expensive to buy here, the other can’t even be found! Thank you Margot and co 🙂 I also received a Christmas package (which had been held up in the mail) from the Duxfield family, who are basically my family 🙂 They sent me a mix of practical and fun gifts, including pink cupcake papers, emery boards, stationery, pretty serviettes, and some lollies 😉 yum! As well as these, I had several letters, including one from my dear Nonna. Peia Ifopo (my young Kiwi pen pal!) sent me an awesome letter from Wellington, and June Borlase (a lovely woman in her 90s) sent me a reminder of her love and prayers. All around, I arrived to find much love and care waiting for me, and I was truly blessed.

(A few people have asked me what they can send, so I will try to compile a little suggestion list. Stay tuned…)
Finally, I suppose I should elucidate on the “knitting for babies” comment 😉 Really, it’s one of those funny-in-hindsight moments that I should submit to a Readers’ Digest magazine or something.
It’s just that, when I arrived in at work this morning, I was surprised to find my keyboard elevated by a hefty item underneath it.
“How exciting!” I thought. “Someone has left a surprise package on my desk!” I lifted the keyboard to find a book chuckling up at me: “The Ultimate Book of Baby Knits”.
“But I don’t have a baby.” I blurted out intelligently, just as our chief pilot walked into the office. He stared in some confusion, as I helpfully continued, “And I can’t even knit!”
Turns out someone had been using the photocopier beside my desk last night and, needing to leave on the last MAF bus home, they had hurriedly stashed the book under my keyboard for retrieval first thing in the morning. It just so happened that I arrived early and found the book first!!

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the puzzling book

Oh well. I’m just relieved that no-one was asking me to knit something, as I’ve never been successful when it comes to threading knitting needles… 😉
Until next week!
Emma
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Christmas Greetings

Christmas Blessings and Greetings to you all,
May you know God’s presence and wonder this Christmas – you may have seen this before, but here is a Christmas story for you. Lest we lose the wonder…
It’s been an exhausting week, as I have frantically been packing, preparing the Christmas events (more about those later) and trying to finish last minute jobs at MAF (ok ok – I was mostly trying to fob those jobs off on other people… and it worked lol).
Family

MAF families

Sharing, Receiving

The MAF Staff Christmas Lunch today was a huge success, because we don’t count things like lost pans and mixed up times with food arrangements, and then losing people, keys and even entire vehicles just when we need them!! It was held in the MAF hangar (the engineers moved all the aircraft outside and set up the area beautifully), and I was the chief organiser for this event, but really, the real heroes were the ladies who rose to the occasion to cater, organise food, supply drinks, serve lunch to over 100 people, and then clean up afterwards.

Serving lunch - Shiv

serving lunch

They were amazing, and laughed and sang and argued and made up and blessed us all with the result of their efforts 🙂

It was exciting to have many families of national staff join us, and I had fun meeting wives, children and siblings of my colleagues. Some families have really been struggling to get enough food due to the recent

Emma, Alwyn - MAF Christmas lunch

Emma & Alwyn serve drinks

drought (though this seems to be over, food takes a while to pick up and is still scarce or overly expensive), and it broke my heart to meet pregnant mothers and small children who are much too thin. I realised how important this lunch was, apart from fellowship and greetings from MAF, even just to give them a decent meal and a kind word. They were all smiles and graciousness, and I was humbled by the quiet strength and dignity of those who are living in difficult circumstances.

Little Drummer Boy… Or Not
Tonight, the few expat staff left in Hagen (many are on holiday) will gather for an evening of Carols by Candlelight. Somehow I have ended up agreeing to play piano for these, even though I can barely manage simple chords – I am much more comfortable behind a full blown drum kit! But the latter doesn’t go down too well as far as “Silent Night” is concerned, so I will do my best to accompany a few songs and hope that the voices do most of the carrying 😉
Tomorrow we will all gather for a shared lunch on my compound, and later that day I hope to visit friends for my last few days before I fly out of PNG.
Garia & Emma

Garia & Emma

PNG Profiles

Instead of a MAFer, I decided to introduce you to Garia, my lovely haus meri (house/cleaning lady). She comes every Friday morning and spends a few hours doing laundry, ironing, dusting, sweeping/mopping floors, and cleaning bathrooms – all while a delighted IJ dances around her feet, fights the iron cord, and tries to get into every cupboard she is wiping out! Garia is also a beautiful Christian woman, and when I was quite ill a few months ago, she quietly worked while I slept. I woke just before she left at lunchtime, just in time to hear her come and place her hand on my closed door, and pray over me for healing and strength. Beautiful.
 
Holidays
I am very excited to be heading home to New Zealand soon!!! It has been a long year, and I have missed my crazy Italian/Scottish family terribly. It will also be nice to spend some time enjoying the things of NZ that I no longer take for granted…
While I am away, the “Weekly Updates” will not be in circulation, but I will likely post on my Kaleidoscope blog, as well as Facebook 😉 And I will still be checking this email address.I’m back in PNG in February, so keep an eye out 😉

IJ helps with packing

IJ helps with packing

Also, for those who have been concerned about my little adventurer, IJ will be happily staying home to play, as my friend Catherine and her husband Luke (MAF pilot) are house-sitting for me while I’m away – hopefully he will give them a pleasant stay, and not push toooo many boundaries…
Christmas Tree #2Thank you all for your support, prayers and encouragement this year. So many times you have been the silver lining on a cloudy day, and I have been reminded over and over of God’s love and care through you. Thank you.
Every blessing to you and yours for a safe and happy Christmas!
May you never lose the wonder…
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