PNG report #2

July 7

Staying in the mission compound with Srs. Martine and Doris from Oldenburg and Srs. Monica and Maria, two of the national sisters from the Franciscan Sisters of Mary (founded with help by the Oldenburg nuns). Great women!

Had a big thunderstorm today. It is awesome the way the clouds tumble around the mountain tops. The rain has been like clockwork every day. Damp and chilly in the mornings and evenings, but gloriously sunny and warm during the late morning through midday. Umbrellas are carried by all the adults for either the sun or the rain. The kids don’t mind either.

Yesterday’s mass was a true celebration! It was concelebrated by four priests plus the bishop. There were three processions: at the beginning with native dressed women dancers (similar to our welcome committee), before the gospel with a liturgical dance group and the bible being carried in a special string bag between poles, and at the offertory with another liturgical dance and a lot of women who carried in fresh produce. The whole church sang, some songs I knew and others in pidgin. The mass was all in pidgin English. Love the “big name Pappa” (praise God), “yumi pre” (let us pray pronounced ‘you me pray’) and “pikinini belong Pappa” (Son of God). Miri and I were welcomed and introduced individually at the beginning of mass, along with the visiting priests and Capuchin novitiates. At the end of mass the Mamas group presented leis and string bags to the guys but had overlooked Miri and I and aplogized profusely – I think they plan on making it up to us later this week. The mass itself lasted a good two hours and nary a baby cried – and there were lots of them present. Then a half hour of fellowship outside on the grass shaking everyone’s hand and hugging and greeting. Everyone is so very friendly and welcoming!

Had a walkabout with two of the native nuns, Srs Tekla and Christina. Visited all the sites in the mission compound and learned about a lot of the native plants, including one which gives off a reddish orange dye/paint.

This morning Miri and I went along with a Swiss nun to the local hospital where she has some patients. She was bringing them some fresh vegetables to help them get better quicker. The hospital serves one meal a day, the patient has to supply their own plates, etc. and bedding. It was really depressing – not sure how people actually get better there, but at least there was some care available. I’ll have to let my daughter-in-law nurse know she is needed!

This afternoon one of the young women who helps the nuns, Roslyn, taught me how to do the stitch required for making a string bag. I’m getting the hang of it. Tomorrow they will show me how to start a bag – will be making a small one – and then how to end it when I get to that point. Pretty neat! One woman brought her dress made from the technique – very impressive! And much slower a process than knitting. They don’t have knitting needles (and therefore don’t knit) and only have access to some crochet hooks so just a few of them know that technique.

Tonight Sr. Maria, one of my housemates, taught me to ‘make rope’ for the string bags. Traditionally the bags (bilums) were made with locally harvested bark and spun/twisted into cordage. Now, the rope is made from commercially made and purchased polyester yarns. Several advantages to this: a variety of colors to work with (which makes for an amazing display of designs they are now making), easier to keep clean, less chance for the material to decay and fall apart. The yarn is broken off into various lengths, unplyed into 2 strands (4 ply becomes two 2 ply strands) and then replyed by hand on the thigh. (I’ve gotten the hang of it, but my thigh gets pretty red by the end of each session!)

Maria and I laughed into the night, telling stories about our respective homes and lives and sharing cultural differences (e.g. the practice of bride price still in effect). She is the second grade teacher in the mission school and is just a delight. The kids react to her as though she was the Pied Piper.

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