"Trial" village stay

At the conclusion of our orientation, our entire team was sent to a village for a "trial" stay.  We were split among seven homes, mostly two to a home.  Leah, my roommate during orientation, was teamed with me here as well since we would be venturing to our three-week village stay together.

The preparation for this was quite enjoyable, in my opinion.  Up until this point, we've been taught all the basics of Tok Pisin--what we needed to get by.  Now our task was to use it--and only Tok Pisin--for 2 days and 2 nights.  After our language learning, we had been introduced to a few critical cultural differences.  One afternoon our team was split to discuss gender-specific topics.  As women, we learned how to properly bathe in the river--very important, although for me and Leah it was only necessary for three occasions.  We women were also instructed to never step over anything--especially food and people; doing so would make it "unclean."  This particular lesson was more difficult to apply than one might imagine.  You have to completely retrain your mind in how you walk about.  It's like being taught as a kid not to walk between people while they're talking, only in PNG, as a woman, NEVER step over anything, EVER.  Because there is rarely a village with a table and the majority of meals are served on the floor in cramped spaces, this seemed almost impossible at times.

Each pair of us took along a bucket full of food to give to our host families and personal necessities for the weekend (mosquito net, homemade cinnamon rolls, toilet paper, cups, bowls, spoons, etc.).  One "necessity" however was left out: toilet paper.  Now it's difficult enough learning to use the liklik haus (outhouse), then the toilet paper gets forgotten.  Thankfully I had tissues.  Leah was additionally prepared for liklik haus visits during the night, as she had a headlamp.  Very thankful for that.  Moving right along...

Wasfamili bilong mi na Leah (my and Leah's host family) had onepela pikinini (one child).  Her name was Olian and she was eleven months old.  She was so precious, but terrified of waitskins (literally, white-skinned people).  When I first tried to hold her, she cried.  Although she would play with you, she would be at least 5 feet away.  Our waspapa na wasmama (host father and mother) would keep repeating to Olian "Em susa bilong yu" (that's your sister).  She would get this confused look on her face--haha, it was priceless! Our first night in the village was quiet with little activity.  We saw a few of our teammates walk by on their way to waswas (swim/bathe).

Later on, Leah and I went, too, after gathering our supplies and donning our laplaps (large pieces of cloth used primarily to cover up, but a book of "100 Ways To Use A Laplap" could be written).  It's crazy to think about how much stuff we use for a task as simple as bathing! I was a little nervous at first, being very cautious on our long trek to the river.  We passed a couple of kids who were goofing around.  Now, the general rule when going to waswas is that a group calls out to the other prior to turning the last corner.  The women's end of the river happens to be just after that last turn.  There was a close call when a group of guys came, not properly announcing their presence.  Hence, the laplap is never removed.  While bathing, the young girls would just stare at us waitskins.  After so many minutes, we started playing around, splashing them and laughing.  Good times.

binatang bilong sak sak
Leah and I somewhat helped prepare kaikai (food/eat) for the evening.  All we did was butcher cooking bananas na kaukau (sweet potatoes).  There was more to our meal than that.  We had chicken and rice cooked in coconut milk (yum!).  Everything was great, but the meal of all meals was the next evening.  My brata (brother)/teammate Jason and his waspapa  passed by me and Leah during the day and said they were going to get binatang bilong sak sak (sago grubs!-literally bug of the sago tree) for evening kaikai.  MI AMAMAS!!! (I'm happy!) [Sidenote: one of the little things I asked God for prior to departure was the opportunity to eat the infamous grubs of PNG.  We read about them in one of our prep books and I had heard about them from various missionaries.  Prior to this amazing treat I would point to every binatang I saw and ask "Em kaikai?" (Is that food?).  Seriously.  I just wanted to eat PNG bugs.]  Two of our wasfamilis  were related, so we all got together to kaikai and stori (talk about whatever, not necessarily tell "stories").  I was so excited to be eating grubs! Our wasfamilis were laughing at me continually.  The wasmamas (host mothers) kept bringing me more and more grubs! They tasted sooooo good!

Following our kaikai, our stori-ing time began, then shifted into a mini-church service with singing, then the leader asked each of us waitskins to share our testimonies.  At first I thought that it would literally be all of us, but instead he chose a few of us.  I had a Tok Pisin vocabulary of ~60 words.  This was very challenging! But they all seemed to appreciate what I tried to say.  While the rest of those sharing continued, I decided to try to interact with Olian some more.  She was learning to wakabout (adapted from the Australian "walk about"), so I held out my hand--and she took it! My waspapa and wasmama were so surprised and just grinned as they watched me wakabout with Olian.  I will treasure that moment when she first trusted a waitskin.

Leah, wasmama, waspapa, Olian, me
Once the children all showed that they needed to go to bed,  we got our dishes and started on our walk back to our respective houses.  My wasmama was talking to me and Leah and as we both best understood her Tok Pisin, she explained that she and our waspapa decided they were changing Olian's name to "Amy" and when they had another daughter they would name her "Leah."  Talk about humbling! It was crazy...here's this kid who is terrified of us, yet they were changing her name to mine.  Unbelievable that I have a namesake.

That's enough for now.  More to come soon....