Hugo’s Last Day…

I just realized that this post never “posted” when I made it while we were still in Papua…  So here it is just a bit later than intended…

Hugo had his last official day of work with MAF here in Papua.  Usually when pilots have their last flight with a program the tradition is to douse them with water upon exiting the plane after said final flight.  Hugo was the Maintenance Operations Manager, not a pilot.  However, at some point he’d been checked out to do run-ups on the planes.  This is done after an engine is rinsed with water to heat the engine up therefore drying any water that might still be inside.  When doing this Hugo would “drive” the plane around a little bit.  So after his last run-up on his last day, the guys were ready with water and hoses…  I had an idea I might get soaked too, and it happened…

The dousing was followed by lots of photos and then rootbeer floats and fried foods in the hangar.  A fun way to end a final day of work here!

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Over Easter we took the opportunity to make one last trip to Wamena.  An MAF family that is on furlough graciously allowed us the use of their beautiful home.  This home is not on the MAF base there but kind of “out in the country”.  Because of this, it was very quiet which is something we very much enjoyed.  Our home in Sentani has roads on three sides making it a rather noisy place to live.  We enjoyed our time in Wamena:

No sweating – Wamena is at 6,000 ft elevation  (I think…)

Time just relaxing in a chair reading a book and drinking coffee

Time with friends.

Beautiful nature.  One day we joined some of the other expats who live there on a hike up a hill to a place called White Sands.  On another day Hugo and I joined a friend on a bike ride to the hydro electric dam that powers the city.

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We are now a month and a half away from our departure date.  It is indeed a rather surreal feeling.  Papua and its people have firmly entrenched themselves in our hearts.

We are in a season of lasts.  A few weeks ago we had our last kids vs parents basketball games.  Always a good time.  We all got trounced by our kids, so proud!

In March Mikah turned 18, when did that happen, seriously???  We celebrated with some of her friends by going to her favourite restaurant in Jayapura.  The staff there even sang happy birthday to her and presented her with a very large piece of chocolate cake and some fruit platters.  Yum!

Recently we had some of my Sekolah Papua Harapan teacher friends over for dinner.  Most weeks I meet with them to do some English fun, as they call it.  It was fun to have them over for dinner and play a rousing game of Apples to Apples.

Hugo has been working on finishing up projects that he’d really like completed before we depart along with some national training particularly in the avionics department.  He has been enjoying this time of being able to focus on completing these goals without the added stress of being the Maintenance Operations Manager.  He has passed that hat off to the new guy and is helping him getting settled into the role.

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OE-Outdoor Education

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It was that time of year again when the entire high school descends onto an interior village for nearly two weeks.  This time they went to a village a few hours drive away from the beautiful mountain city of Wamena.  During the next 11 days each group went into an additional outlying village as well.  There many of them had the experience of sleeping in a traditional honai.  Or not sleeping…  🙂  During their time the kids installed water tanks, a very long water pipe from a bubbling stream to a village, did kids club, HIV/AIDS awareness presentations, hiked, worked on gardens, cooked food for each other, cleaned load upon load of dishes, were taught each day by a missionary and had just plain fun!  At the end each of the girls in the high school received a traditional net bag called a noken.  Quite an honour as it takes quite some time to make each bag.

It is a privilege to be invited into a village and be for a time with the local people and see up close how they live and work.  I’m grateful that my children could have this opportunity to be challenged in this unique way.  My prayer is that they came home from this experience with more than just the mud on their clothes and shoes and the photographs they took.


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Water Madness…

There are many things that happen here that make ones blood boil.  The latest “thing” is water related.  A number of years ago an expat set up a water system for the local people living in the community below us.  There were no fees involved for the people, just that they needed to maintain it.  Then one day a family living on the stream feeding into the water system cut the pipe, installed their own pipe and started charging the people in the community a monthly fee for water.  The head of the community then went and helpfully arranged that people could pay yearly instead of monthly.  Unfortunately, not everyone saves up the monthly amount so that when it comes time to pay, they don’t have the funds.  And this isn’t because they are foolish with their money, it’s because they don’t have much.  It is infuriating that people can do things like cut pipes and charge people and no one does anything about it, simply because said people own the land the water runs through.  So last month my helper hadn’t paid her yearly fee so her water was cut off.  She then went to the pastor of the local church and asked if she could use his water for washing dishes, clothes, and babies.  He was fine with that.  Then the head of the community went to my helper and said that if she didn’t pay, he was going to go to the pastor of the church and tell him to stop letting her use his water.  Seriously???  My helper is a single mom of 2 young girls living with her younger sister (who just moved from the interior and is going to enter middle school soon) and their elderly widowed mother.  As far as I know, one of the jobs of the church is to help people such as these, but not here apparently….  I helped her out and her water is on again.

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It’s been over a month since my last update.  School has started up again and has been in session for about a month already.  The first three weeks saw me teaching world geography to two high school classes.  That was a fun challenge.  I learned even more about Europe, the place of my heritage!  Hugo has passed on the hat of Maintenance Operations Manager to the guy who will be replacing him.  He is now working hard on getting things inputted so they can implement the new maintenance tracking software they’ve procured.  He’s also working on some training in the avionics department.

It is now basketball season and the oldest four are all on teams.  Marc is very excited to be able to have the same experience that his older siblings have had for a few years already, playing games on Friday afternoons while parents and students cheer on.  This past week Mikah and Christiaan had away games in another city.  They played in the waning light of the day, on a bumpy outdoor court with white rims, .  In fact, when the girls played second, they turned on the flood lights.  The referee was a lackadaisical fellow in jeans and a t-shirt who needed to borrow a whistle from Christiaan’s coach, and barely moved six feet up and down the side lines during the game.  In spite of the interesting refereeing, both our teams were victorious.

Early on in January a girl from our church had her birthday.  Her mother decided to throw her a party.  Birthday parties here are a different affair than they are in Canada.  All the Sunday School aged kids in the church gathered at the front of their small home along with the neighbourhood children.  They had set up as many plastic chairs as the mom could borrow from neighbours.  She had been cooking all day long.  The Sunday School teachers led the “service” with prayer, a little speech on obeying your parents, and some singing.  Then the birthday girl was encouraged to speak a few words to her mother.  After much prompting she quietly stammered out a few words of thanks to her mom for all she had done for her.  Then she cut the cake (after we all sang the cutting the cake song) and fed her mother a bite.  Then the children all received a goodie bag and could eat bakso that the mom had made.  Bakso is a kind of meat substitute (I think-made from tapioca and bone marrow?).  They make it into balls and you can eat it in a soup or with ketjap manis (sweet soya sauce).  The adults were invited inside the tiny home to eat plates of rice with a beef soup; it was rather tasty.  My heart goes out to this mother and daughter as they eke out a life for themselves in a place where widows have the toughest lot of all.

Turns out Brynne needed her eyes checked as she was having trouble seeing the board in school.  One wet Monday morning we ventured out on my motorcycle to the hospital in the next town over.  I had tried calling the hospital to see if the eye doctor would be in or not but no one answered the phone so we took a chance.  We arrived at 7:45 and after wandering around a bit, a sympathetic soul told us what to do.  We needed to push a button for the eye clinic on a computer in the registration area and it spit out a ticket with B24 on it. Yikes, there were 23 people ahead of us.  1.5 hours later we were able to register and pay.  Then we went to the eye clinic and showed them our receipt and proceeded to wait another 1.5 hours.  Those of us waiting were a mixed bunch of people.  A man with his young daughter, a poor Papuan woman who had an eye disease in one eye, older folks wearing dark glasses, a mom with two young children who she struggled to keep entertained, a well-dressed young woman, an elderly couple with their unbelievably cute granddaughter in tow, and Brynne and I, the only westerners in the building.  Finally a nurse called us and they did a check of Brynne’s eyes with the machine with the picture in it (not sure what you call it) after which we waited another 15 minutes and then a different nurse in a different room did the eye chart test which Brynne struggled with.  We then went back to the waiting room.  Brynne had brought her lunch so she had something to eat.  I did not.  After waiting for another 2 hours and watching patient after patient file in and out of the doctors office, we were finally called.  The result, Brynne needs glasses.  The next day we went to the local optician and within and hour she had herself a spiffy new set of Disney frames.  At least that part went quickly….

One of the girls working in the MAF hangar moved to our base in Wamena and we had a little good-bye party for her.  She’s a lovely young Papuan girl and we will miss her here in Sentani but we are excited for the learning opportunities for her in Wamena.

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It’s been a fun and busy Christmas season again.  Christmas day found us having a delicious brunch with lovely friends and Christmas Eve we had a church service in our house again.  It’s just so much more gezelig than in our church building.  A representative from each family lit a candle and after the sermon the Sunday school kids sang a song.  Afterwards we ate a meal together for which my contribution was some roast chickens.

Christmas day we visited the home of R’s neighbour and she was there was well.  R’s daughter celebrated Christmas with relatives on the other side of the island.  This is the local tradition here, to visit people in their homes on Christmas day and eat some food together.  The neighbour, Y, has some older children and her two oldest daughters were there was well, one from her police posting on another island.  Then we enjoyed a yummy Christmas dinner with some good Canadian friends.

A few days later we went to a place called the Blue River.  It’s a 1.5-2 hour drive into the jungle.  The water near the small water fall is truly blue.  The fun there is to jump off the “cliff” into the water.  Not my thing, but various members of our family enjoyed jumping.  There were a number of other families there as well and everyone enjoyed playing together.

New Years eve found us on the MAF base enjoying yummy snacks (we provided oliebollen and bitterballen) and lighting off fireworks.  Towards midnight we headed up our hill and found a spot with a view and enjoyed the non-stop fireworks.  I think it went on for about 4 hours, a couple hours before midnight and a couple hours after midnight.  Unbelievable!!  We were all woken up at 7:00 am sharp when someone decided to light off some very large fireworks right by our home.  Thank-you.

Knowing this is our last Christmas season here in Papua, we have been savouring each and every moment.  Except maybe the Christmas booths with their loud music…  Even though they are actually quite creative and pretty…

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A very blessed New Year to you all from our family!

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Adventures in Sinimburu…

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Last weekend Hugo, Marc, Brynne and I went for a 5 night visit to the remote village of Sinimburu.  Located in the south, below the mountain range that stretches across the middle of Papua, it is a very flat, hot, densely forested part of Papua.  We flew over miles and miles of jungle until we came to a river snaking it’s way through and on one of the bends of this river, the village of Sinimburu is located.  This is the area of the famed Korowai tribe, the tree house people.  They are a stubborn, semi-nomadic lot.  The government encouraged them to make their village (even giving each home a small solar panel) but many prefer to live in their traditional tree houses in the jungle.  While there we stayed with the missionaries working there, the DeVries family.  The only feasible ways for them to get in and out of their village is by floatplane or helicopter. They prefer to use the floatplane as it carries a lot more loading than the helicopter can.

On one of our days we trekked through the dense jungle to one such home.  It was an interesting experience.  One is required to climb up a large notched pole to reach the “front door”.  The house had a slat floor with many rather large openings.  Stepping cautiously was important.  They also had pet baby pigs inside and the skulls of pigs they’d eaten hang in clumps from the roof.  There were about three different cooking spots in this particular house.  When we were there, two of them were being used to make sago for us to try.  Sago is their staple food.  It is a very glutinous, rather tasteless starch made from the inside of a sago palm.  Some tribes make it into papeda, a glue-like consistency that you must swallow whole as it is  not chew-able.  We also tried our hand at pounding the sago and then saw how they filter it with water to get the “flour” out.  The people who live in the home we visited were happy to sell us a mouth harp, bow and arrows, traditional axe and a pipe.  And we were happy to get “real” artifacts rather than those for sale in the tourist shops.

Another highlight of our time was going to church with the people.  Before the service one of the men announced that we were not just outsiders visiting, but that we were of the same church as them (this is a reformed church), therefore one with them.  That was very moving to me, to worship together with these new believers in one of the most remote places in the world.  The songs we sang t had verses in Indonesian and in their own language.

Each day from 4:00-6:00 Maaike DeVries runs a clinic on her front porch.  She has trained some of the local people to be health workers so that when their family is in the city, the health work can continue.  She has devised a system that the local people can make sense of as many of them do not read or write.  Each person gets a card (a re purposed piece of cardboard box) and they use little drawings to tell which medicine is being taken and how much of the pill is needed and for how long.  Some people tuck their cards in the walls of the DeVries home instead of taking them home.  There’s no need, they will just come every day at 4:00.  It is a great social time and the ladies love to hang out and talk on the right hand side and the men do so on the left hand side.  The DeVries’ have fabricated a homemade Sorry board game and the people love to play it.  It helps them with their counting which is of benefit to them as there is no school in the village.

I could write much more about our time there but I will keep it succinct.  We had an amazing time with the DeVries family, seeing up close and personal how their family lives in the jungle and how they work for and with the people.  I observed that they make very intentional choices on how they will do things to best keep the people independent instead of dependent on them.  The most important thing that one can do for such a people still being pulled to the old dark ways is to show them the light of Christ.  And this is precisely what the DeVries family is doing in their little corner of the jungles of Papua.


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Tis the season….

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Yes, it is the season of concerts and Christmas parties etc…  The elementary school had a Christmas concert.  We are now at the point where we only have one child in elementary school, Brynne!  The middle school and high school had their Christmas band concert.  So fun to see Aidan play the trumpet and Marc the guitar.

On December 4th we had our annual MAF Christmas party.  It is organized by our national employees.  They cleared out the hangar and decorated it nicely.  It was a nice evening, not going long as so many of the events usually do.  Our regional director and his wife, with the help of their daughter and neice, told the Christmas story using a traditional felt board.  The kids also sang two songs and put candles around the tree.  At the end we all enjoyed a meal together.

On December 5th we celebrated Sinterklaas with most of the Dutchies that live in town and even some from out of town.  We enjoyed some homemade Dutch goodies, including poffertjes made by Hugo, and we did a fun dice game with gifts.  It was unbearably hot so we didn’t make anyone dress up as Sinterklaas and Swaarte Piet.

On the following Sunday we were invited to a Christmas service for people from the Halmahera region of Indonesia.  This group meets monthly and takes turns hosting.  This month was the turn of a family in our church and it was their Christmas service so they invited us to join in.  Hugo was asked to light one of the candles during the service.  An honour.  Then of course we enjoyed the yummy food afterwards.


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Our lives are humming along at an incredible pace.  It feels like life is going so much faster than it did when we were younger…  There is no end of things to do and take care of.  Broken airplanes, car repairs, school events requiring parent assistance, sick teachers requiring subs, the price of dairy products, the relentless heat, children ill with mysterious viruses, difficulty in obtaining spare parts for said broken airplanes, power outages, and being far away from family (just to name a few…) all play havoc on our ability to keep focus on why we are here.

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Recently we had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with our MAF family here in Sentani.  A few days later we had my English students over for dinner.  They are all teachers at Sekolah Papua Harapan.  Such a great group of fabulous teachers!

We’ve also had the opportunity to go to the waterfall with our SPH students and to the beach with friends.

Last Tuesday Marc celebrated his 12th birthday.  He had some of his buddies over to hang out and we all enjoyed Marc’s dinner choice of burgers and fries.

Hugo’s been busy in the hangar with a bunch of broken airplanes.  I know that doesn’t sound very technical but they’ve had some rather major and unexpected repairs come up.  He is also working on getting ready for the installation of new maintenance tracking software.  Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is a really big deal.


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