PNG report #5

July 11

The electric came back on after having been out all day yesterday (dinner by candlelight wasn’t particularly romantic as it was a necessity!).

A trip to the local market with Martine and one of the house helpers, Ruth, absorbed some of the morning. Lots of fresh veggies and fruit offered for sale. Checking prices and freshness is the same the world over. The PNG currency is the kina which is roughly equivalent to 35 cents US.

A lazy sort of day, and a dry one!, I sat in the sun most the day working on my second little bilum. The local ladies get a kick out of my wearing a lap-lap to be able to make the rope – I need access to my thigh! The pants and jeans just don’t work well.

Miri started her official talks with the nuns and the bishop. Such a down-to-earth kind of guy – very pleasant and respectful of the nuns.

Helicopters were in and out a LOT today from the airport to the nearby oil company site. Or maybe they were flying a lot due to routine check-ups. No one was really sure but everyone agreed it was more than usual.

July 12

Miri and I did a bit of spring cleaning for the nuns by washing their windows. I don’t even wash window in my own home!

Worked still more on the baby bilum. Maria taught me a simple color changing technique that creates a checkerboard look – every time I thought I had it I was wrong. Eventually the two rows were finished – and from a distance don’t look too bad.

Homemade chicken soup for lunch was delicious – along with the fresh bread! A regular American meal of pancakes and eggs for dinner. The two national nuns in the house are not fond of eggs or pancakes, so they sat in the yard and had a picnic of their own – lots of kaukau (sweet potato) and greens of all sorts. It was another dry day – they don’t usually have a chance for a dinner picnic due to the rains that come most afternoons.

We had originally planned to go to Tari today – site of the high school started by the nuns – to celebrate a memorial to Sr. Mel, the nun who started and ran the school for a long time (the anniversary of her death is this week). BUT, there has been a tremendous amount of intimidation by the men who are hired as security guards. They claimed they had not been paid. The government was to pay them but was taking the funds out of the school’s account. The men didn’t show up when a meeting was scheduled to iron out the differences. Some did show up the next day and were paid; the ones who were absent then threatened the current principle (a nun from the Philippines). It all got rather ugly until the remaining guards accepted the pay and settled down. School was set to open, just a week late, and we would be able to go for the memorial.

And THEN the government decided it was the right time to fix the main bridge on the only road to Tari, effectively closing it until it would be too late for us to return to Mendi for our flight out. So, no major trip out of Mendi – a disappointment, but a relief to know that the school would not be closed.

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