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.
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.
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.
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.
The country of Indonesia has one name but many, many different people groups and cultures. Last week a man was found murdered on one of the few roads in our town. He was from another island and worked as a motorcycle taxi driver. No one witnessed the event but the people from the murdered mans home island immediately assumed the perpetrator was a person from the interior of Papua. There have been rumours of revenge killings by the people from the other island. The interior people are of course offended that the assumption was made that it was one of their people. There were various skirmishes following the initial murder where people were running around with weapons and rocks. The police barricaded the road where most of the events occurred and questioned everyone passing on it. That afternoon they also did some shooting on the main street, where it meets the street where everything happened, to discourage those who intended to commit more violence. I went to the big public market two days after and not many people from other islands were selling food. Most of the local people were however still selling. There was a bit of an eerie feeling and a lot of guys just standing around waiting for something to happen. I was able to get what I needed but by the time I left people were packing up and closing their stalls again. This week everything seems back to normal again but the entire event just reminds us that clan blood runs strong.
It has been far too long since I’ve been able to post a blog. It seems as though every time I have time, the internet doesn’t agree.
Hugo went to America last month and was gone for nearly three weeks. He went to MAF headquarters for meetings about new maintenance tracking software that they want to implement. On his way out he stopped by Bandung to visit with the two national guys we have in aviation school there. They were pretty excited about his visit. We were all pretty happy when Hugo returned.
This year they asked my friend T and I to coach the high school volleyball teams. Mikah is on the team so I thought it would be a fun opportunity. The girls had a great run but didn’t quite make the finals of the season-ending tournament. They were a great group of girls and fun to coach!
Our family is part of a mentoring program where once a month we get two Sekolah Papua Harapan kids for the day. The last two times we’ve had them we’ve gone first to the dock to swim and then to the beach. Both times we went with other families also in the program.
Brynne turned 10! Can’t believe my baby is in double digits! We had a fun party for her with all her friends. After decorating cupcakes, they broke into two groups, were each given a bag of props and performed a skit for us with the props.
A couple weeks before her birthday she needed a stubborn baby eye toooth pulled. We are so thankful for our expat dentist and his willingness to help us.
A couple ladies in our church had babies recently. They both had boys just days apart from each other.
In honour of the 11th (?) birthday of their church congregation here on Pos 7, the church that meets across the road at the youth center put on a soccer tournament. Papuans love nothing more than a soccer tournament. Each day around 2:30 they start with the announcements and very loud music and around 4:00 the first game, always ladies first, starts up. They will play random music selections varying from Reggae-style praise-worship to local Dani (interior mountain people) music. We’re “lucky” if they actually play a song in its entirety. This is a great time for folks to gather and watch. Sometimes a guy with a mic will do a mumbly play-by-play of the action keeping those of us working on dinner in our kitchens up to date on what’s happening on the field whether we want to know or not. Some of the local ladies capitalize on the events and sell snacks and drinks. The es loli (ice cream on a stick) guy also makes a consistent appearance. Then there’s the babies. It’s a great time for mama’s to show off their cute little ones. While I dislike the loud music and the congestion on the road, I do appreciate the entertainment this event provides for the people of our hill. Some of them, particularly the smaller kids, rarely go down the hill into town. I am curious how much longer this event will go on for, it’s already been at least two weeks…
School is already on its fourth week. When did that happen? During the second week of school the entire high school hit the beach for a couple nights. Mikah and her class of seniors went in a day earlier to set up camp for the others. The high school was broken up into groups and each group was responsible for a meal. The kids had a great time and managed to avoid getting burnt.
The first sports season of the year is volleyball. They were a bit short on coaches so that means that I’ve become one of the girls team coaches along with a friend. The senior girls, including Mikah, won their first game this past Friday.
I go running around the block every Friday. I often meet ladies on their way to their mountain gardens carrying their net bags and machetes. Their lives are exercise.
There’s a soccer tournament going on across the road from our house. That means every day around 2:30 the loud music starts. It’s a random mix of local music and remixed praise worship which sounds either like rap or reggae. And it’s loud. Like really LOUD…
Three high school students from a technical high school on the other side of the island started their practicum in the hangar last week. Two are learning avionics and one is learning mechanics.