We’re finding that 3 months is the amount of time we can invest in culture and language learning before it’s time for a break. The stress builds up, the motivation wanes and the tiredness takes over. Smart people that we are, we decided that this time we’d do a 5-month stint in the bush 😀

We reasoned though that since Christmas was 2 months into our stint we could take a week off for Christmas… and that went ok 😀

The downside of not going anywhere is, of course, that people don’t see that “we’re on break now”. After all, they usually see us come outside for a bit to talk and hang out, gathering language data (which is relaxing downtime for them) followed by our disappearing into our houses to keep our families running and process said language data. While we are on break they see us coming outside to talk and be polite, followed by our disappearing into our houses… which looks pretty much the same as our being “on duty”.

Candle-lit service, complete with Christmas decorations

It’s no surprise then that when the day for relaxation came we were interrupted a lot. I’m afraid to say that a family brought a sick 2-year-old for us to check on Christmas eve and I vented my frustration to them saying “this is the 4th sick person we’ve seen today. You know you’re supposed to come on Wednesdays, I’m tired of it. Come back on Wednesday”. The message “come back on Wednesday” was the right one, but the frustration coming out wasn’t fair — they didn’t know we’d already seen 3 patients that day. (The child had no concerning symptoms and came back on Wednesday to be examined and we told the parents not to worry).

Some new year’s fire works (courtesy of the Stous family)

We were also treated to a Christmas Eve candlelight service, which it turns out was put on entirely for our benefit. Making conversation one day, Gerdine asked “are you doing the candle service this year?”, making people realise that though the Stous and Hansen families had seen it we hadn’t. They did it especially for us so we could see what they used to do. They don’t do it anymore because they are waiting for us to teach them God’s word so they know how to do it properly.

It was a nice thing to see but came right at our kid’s dinner and bathtime routine, and with fuzzy PNG timekeeping being what it is we arrived too early with hungry, grumpy kids, waited for an hour, went home to eat and as soon as we tucked into the meal, we were told it was time and then everyone had to wait for us. I managed to bag a potential hortatory text with my voice recorder (a speech to convince people to take certain action) which I need 5 of for discourse analysis coming up and that’s hopefully my first.

The Christmas sunglasses were popular… for a day

After that, though, things went pretty well. We were left to ourselves, which was very nice. We had a great Christmas time and ever since Oscar’s been talking about how he would like the next Christmas to happen. The Hansens’ cat gave birth to kittens on our porch and Alice and Millie now love going out to see them, bringing handfuls of cat food for the mum every time they go. Lego has been built, and the girls have been playing tunes on their new xylophones.

The downside of taking time off is that it feels like harder work sometimes than when we’re busy with home school and language study. Looking after our 3 little ones becomes full-time work for both of us, whereas before somehow I had time to do language study… I guess normally Gerdine works super hard 🙂

Lego space shuttle under construction

We were invited for a new year’s day meal, which was really nice, but again hard on our kids. We have about 20 minutes usually before fussy children mean it’s time to go home. When the Stous kids come and they and Oscar can play together (or slide down a mudslide on their bums) it goes up to an hour and a half, but that’s still far, far shorter than the Kovol people expect and would like us to stay. I’d have loved to sit down and chat more, but it’s a constant stream of leading the girls around by the hand followed by calming Oscar down when he slides into a tree and hurts himself 🙂 We end up feeling like we disappoint both our children (who are bored and want to go home and feel neglected) and our Kovol friends (who want to talk to us, but never got to because we were with our kids).

Christmas eve kittens, 6 of them

In other news:

  • Millie learned to walk on her own, so now both our girls are walking around. The new evening routine involves them chasing each other around the house before bedtime.
  • Juli has still not given birth, so Gerdine is still on high alert for midwife duty
  • The doctor got back to us and doesn’t think we missed anything vital with the child that died. The parents also are glad for the medicine and help we did provide, despite its not working out.
  • Our pig is still having problems (his reproductive organ prolapsed and has been dragging on the ground for 2 months now), it might be time to slaughter him soon.
  • We’re really looking forward to having Graham and Carol Townley visit in a few weeks, but they still don’t have their visas! It’s a last-minute dash for them!

All in all, it was a refreshing week off. We’re looking forward to having some visitors soon who will be staying for 2 months to assist us in any way they can. We’re very much looking forward to an extra hand with child care, some maintenance projects being taken off our hands and some company. With that to look forward to, we’re starting up with language learning encouraged and looking forward to this next few months.

Alice mingling at the new year party


Jo Lye · 03/01/2023 at 7:16 pm

It was good to read your prayer letter and be reminded of the Joys, struggles of bush life with small children.

Lois S. · 04/01/2023 at 12:54 am

Thankful for the cute kittens–they remind me of the tabby-striped kittens we would have growing up. I am also thankful for the reassurance from the doctor regarding the child who died. Praying for Juli’s baby, and for the challenges of doing bush work with small children!

Mandy Caley · 04/01/2023 at 7:18 pm

Ah guys- you are doing amazingly well you know- though it may not seem like it to you!? Thanking God for all you’ve done and continue to do! Praying that Townleys get their visa today!

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