Wednesday and Thursday’s flights went without a hitch meaning all the groceries for both our family and the Stous family for the next 3 months were moved in. A day later our family made it in. A crowd of Kovol friends greeted us of course and we were able to let them know how glad we were to be back.

Alice and Millie waiting for their flight

Arrival back in the bush is always busy. Before we left for break the helicopter coming in to bring us out was filled with supplies, more supplies came the day before us and we had even more supplies with us in the helicopter we came in on. That all needs unpacking and putting away. Our children are excited to be back and are becoming more and more able to entertain themselves, but they still need quite a bit of attention.
Our house needs some attention; it’s dusty and mouldy and there are rat droppings all over. The top priority though is cleaning and priming the water filter, forcing filtered water through it in reverse to remove all the air bubbles to enable it to filter. We need our filter up and running straight away before our water bottles run out.

That’s enough to keep us very busy, but we need to juggle those tasks with the crowd of people outside who have arrived just to see us. We sat outside and talked for a bit, but not nearly as much as we think we’re expected to. Fortunately, I think people are used to us by now and they’ve gotten used to us “hiding in our house”. I had a good time sitting on the grass scraping the rust off my Kovol language skills and telling stories about our time out in Goroka. I told them about the heavy rains in Goroka that caused some flooding and about the times I used Kovol language accidentally while I was in town. I’m able to sit for as long as my internal guilt at not helping my family unpack allows before heading off. Of course, I help unpack for as long as I can hold off the guilt of not sitting with our Kovol friends!

Oscar re-acquaints himself with his books

We were able to spend the weekend cleaning the house and arranging our now overflowing pantry. Right now we without doubt have more food and supplies in the house than we have ever had before. It’s a good thing that we managed to catch the 2 rats (in traps) that had been nibbling on our biscuits and bedding in our linen while we were gone! One of the girl’s foam mattresses now has a spot where a rat has chewed a big hole in it, but hey that’s life.

With supplies squared away, mouldy bedding washed and grime-caked flyscreens cleaned we were ready to start with the normal routine again on Monday. Monday was a grass-cutting day. The bit of land that the Kovol people gave us is an area that they had agreed would become community land that they could put some kind of government service on, in the future. If the government ever decided to build an aid post for the area, our plot of land is where it would go. There’s still space for an aid post if one ever comes, as we have quite a large area to ourselves just outside the village. Such a large area does get overgrown with grass without ongoing cutting.

Our freshly mown lawn

So it was that on Monday about 50-75 people came armed with machetes and made quick work of the long grass. I cut a bit of grass myself, but we usually end up being busy with the task of helping to feed everyone and selling things. We provided rice, tinned tuna, water to cook with and our pots and pans to cook a big meal for everyone. With the number of people that came it’s certainly not all you can eat for everyone, but at least everyone gets a bit.

Gerdine helps with peeling
The first pot is hung up for cooking
Dishing up

I’m looking to pull some people aside to start asking them interview questions about concepts around personal vs communal property for our culture file. The interviews about personal and communal property got me back into the swing of culture and language study. Asking questions like “The chainsaw we have isn’t ours. Our 3 families all put some money in and we’re joint owners. We did that. Do you guys do things like that?”. The questions have the aim of getting them to talk about a topic to see what comes up. The result after doing the same interview 3 times over (46 minutes of audio recordings to go over and listen to afterwards!) is that communal property isn’t that common. Footballs and football kits are communal items and so are government giveaways that might give people machetes and axes to keep the trails clear but it isn’t the norm to gather money as an entire community to purchase things.

Dishing out the food is a task that we always need to be in charge of because it’s very important that everyone gets the right amount and no one else wants to be responsible for that 🙂 The meal marks the end of the grass-cutting day. All the work is done, people are fed and it’s time to head home. Not before I’m asked to give a public speech on what’s going on with the fuel crisis though. I’d already been asked 3 times about a rumour going around that Papua New Guinea is at war with someone and that’s why there is no fuel. I had to stand up and explain how a banking dispute has led to a fuel provider not having access to foreign currency to purchase crude oil for the refinery in the capital. Doing my best to explain. I also need to make sure to be clear that there is no fighting, petrol and diesel supplies are pretty good so they won’t be affected too much travelling to town. I also need to reassure them that their currency, the Kina, is a good currency and I’m not talking about changing it into dollars because it’s become worthless and so they don’t need to worry about it. Foreign currency exchange is for big international companies and they don’t need to worry about it.
It felt a lot like one of our language evaluations where consultants give you a random complex topic to explain!

Culture interviewing

A great, if tiring, start to getting back into language study. I was able today to process the audio interviews I captured on communal property and wrote a summary for it in our culture paper. That leaves another 35 out of 111 total categories left to finish. If I can keep my pace up I’m hoping I might be able to do that by the end of July. If I can finish those up and I can also go up another speaking level I might be able to finish culture and language study around then! It’s quite an ambitious goal.

It’s good to come back and feel like a part of the community here. I’ve lost count but I must have been here for over 10 grass-cutting days now. I was pleased to see how well I settled back into speaking a language I hadn’t spoken for 5 weeks and the routine feels very familiar. Before our break, it felt oppressive and grinding, but now it feels familiar and healthy. Gerdine is back to juggling language learning, teaching Oscar school and caring for Alice and Millie and she’s noticing the extra strain and tiredness that comes with that. It’s encouraging to be able to take it on after a good long break where we were able to be refreshed though.


Wim Evers · 26/03/2024 at 10:13 pm

Thanks! Good to read you are back and back in your study. I was amazed by the rat story. Ugh! You are really a good couple to be there. We think of you and pray for you. Blessings, Wim (for Henny too).

Carol · 27/03/2024 at 6:34 am

Well done Guys. Glad you caught the pesky rodents. Glad you’re getting settled in so well. Praying for you.

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