Getting used to living out of a suitcase is part of missionary life. We have our plans, but there are lots of ways those plans fall down! This week we’ve had to postpone our flight back into Kovol two times; each time we were in the midst of packing and being ready to go!
The plan had been 1. Hansen family fly in on Wednesday, 2. We fly in on a 2nd flight on Wednesday, 3. Philip’s Dad flies in for a visit on Thursday.
The first postponement was a medical one. Poor Alice caught cellulitis (a bacterial infection that spreads under the skin) in her right leg. She had a sore there previously and it looked like something nasty got in there. The redness grew to cover thigh to shin, wrapping most of the way around and came with a high fever of 40°C. We were very concerned and started her on antibiotics – still having a bottle mixed up from when Millie had a bacterial infection 2 weeks ago.
We are so glad to have a doctor serving us in our mission. We emailed him a description and what we’d done and he responded 3 hours later saying we should start a 2nd antibiotic as well. It’s nice to be well looked after!
The problem with our plans was that it takes 48 hours or so for the antibiotics to start working and we were supposed to fly into Kovol before then. It would be foolish to fly in not knowing whether the treatment was effective or not because if it wasn’t, we’d be on an emergency flight out a few days later! We really needed to wait at least another day until we could confirm the medicine was working.
It just so happened that we had a 2nd flight booked for the day after to go into Kovol. Philip’s dad was due to visit for an extended long weekend and he had a flight in booked for Thursday rather than Wednesday. He was gracious enough to swap flights with us and we had our extra 24 hours. Now we could wake up on Wednesday, 48 hours after starting antibiotics and check to see if the fever had gone and the rash was receding and then we could make an informed decision on whether to fly on Thursday or not.
A little shuffling of our suitcases later, a little rearranging of what food to eat and what to store, some phone calls to NTM Aviation and Tribal Supply on what supplies needed to go where and when and we were set.
Wednesday rolled around and Alice was doing much better. The fever was gone and she was herself again. We had had two days of our poor little one whimpering and cuddling with us all day, now she was the loud gung ho twin ready to lead Millie into trouble again 🙂
Philip and Natalie hopped on the helicopter on Wednesday for the first flight and they went…. but they didn’t get to land in Kovol. The cloud cover made it impossible for the helicopter to get there and they had to return to Goroka. Both flights on Wednesday needed to be cancelled; now the flights would happen on Thursday and Friday.
After providing some lunch for Philip and Natalie (they had packed even more than we had!) and chatting it through we decided that the new plan was to get all the passengers in on Thursday, and Friday’s flight would bring the food and supplies.
After some more phone calls to NTMA (NTM Aviation) and Tribal Supply about what should go when, we were set.
We spent the day finishing our packing. For a helicopter flight, we need to know exactly how many kgs we are, which means packing everything, including toothbrushes and pyjamas, weighing it and then unpacking the essentials again. Our estimate turns out to be pretty good as we’re 8kg under our estimate and the plan of having Philip’s dad jump on our flight with us should work because we’re within the weight limit. So we’re still planning to fly on Thursday.
Thursday rolls around and the helicopter is busy with its first flight of the day into Dinangat, another tribal area. The Kovol flights being moved back a day now means the pilot has to squeeze more into his day. We just so appreciate the organisation and flexibility NTMA routinely show in rearranging their schedule. It’s no easy task to keep track of what each aircraft is doing (sometimes with connections between them), who’s going where, factoring in maintenance time for the aircraft, being available for emergencies and, on top of all that, rescheduling bad weather days at the last minute! The number of variables the flight coordinator keeps track of is impressive!
As the helicopter is about its business though, a maintenance issue comes up that means it has to return to Goroka. Our flights (and other flights) need to be postponed till that is fixed so now it’s looking like we’re in Goroka till Monday.
So now we need to unpack a bit more, go food shopping so we can go to at least Monday and wait for news. It’s disappointing to not get back into Kovol, but as selfish as it sounds we’re glad the Hansen family also couldn’t get in so Oscar keeps his playmates with him over the weekend 😀
NTMA are very apologetic – but we’re so appreciative of them. Without them, we quite literally can’t be in Kovol and they’re heading into the work day with further disruption to the schedule that they are adapting to at the last minute. Wow, working at NTMA must feel like being in a continual crisis with all the weather disruption here in PNG! We praise God for these co-workers of ours.
We also praise God that a 2nd helicopter has been bought and is on the way to PNG. It really boggles the mind that 3 helicopters have been purchased for NTM PNG through the generous donations of supporters. That’s just incredible and we praise God the 2nd helicopter is due to arrive in a few months which will really help keep the schedule ticking.
So it looks like we’ve added a long weekend to our break. It’s definitely time to get back into Kovol and crack on with language learning, but I’m sure we can benefit too from a few more naps before then!