As the final part of my MAF Orientation, I spent a week in the mountainous village of Tekin, one of the most beautiful places I have seen in PNG. Every direction boasts lush green forest and purple mountains rising up to greet the soft clouds. Tekin is nestled in a valley bowl, so the plane flies overhead, drops into the valley and circles in a wide arc along the mountain range, then banks right and comes in to land on a “D-grade” (aka scary!) strip that is 530m long with a 9% slope. I think the trees and I were eyeballing each other!
Thrilling flight aside, I had a real glimpse of how professional and competent MAF is, and also how remote and cut-off Tekin is. There is no road going in or out of this steep valley. Aircraft are literally a lifeline for Tekin.
Yet its isolation has not held Tekin back, and it is the first bush village I have experienced that has an entire school! This is due to Glenda Giles, a Kiwi missionary from Invercargill, who has served in Papua New Guinea for over 40 years. Glenda has started a number of mountain schools in PNG, and her love for the students and her passion to bring them a good education is inspiring.
Dallas Patten (new MAF pilot) and I spent 6 days in Tekin, but we would have liked to stay longer! The local pastor was very gracious and caring, and he had assigned a young woman to act as a guide and language assistant for us. So Betsu spent the week with us, taking us on walks around the village and gardens, gently correcting our Tok Pisin, letting us try a number of local foods like taro and kaukau (sweet potato), and even teaching us how to make our own bilums (woven string bags!!
A group of high school girls spend some time with us also, chatting, sharing hot drinks, going on hikes or “wokabouts” and generally improving the fluency of our Tok Pisin and the scope of our knowledge of PNG.
I feel truly blessed to have had this experience, and hope to give you a glimpse here. And now, it is onward and upward as I officially step into Headquarters (HQ) at MAF PNG…