Mar 22, 2010

Leo Leaving for Nigeria

When I talked to Leo earlier this morning (1:30am for me, 10:30am yesterday for him) he was packing for his trip. I thought I was going to be able to avoid the feelings of resentment I get when he leaves the country this time. I mean, I'm not even home to see him! But, I was wrong. I'm already feeling resentful. I have really enjoyed speaking to him EVERY SINGLE DAY from here. When he is in Nigeria, that communication slows down to bursts and spurts via email, and virtually no voice communication at all. So...I am already feeling the "loss" of his leaving.

The good news is that the next time he returns home, he has just a few days to prepare for my coming home as well. So, we are both looking forward to the end of April/first of May with extremely eager anticipation!

Sunday Service

After a bit of a rough week, I accepted an invitation to join a friend in attending a church service in PNG. Explaining the experience to you will be a bit difficult, but I'll do my best.

Grace picked me up at my apartment at 9:45am or so. We took a drive along roads I had not traveled before to one of the local villages, a seaside village called Vabukori. The day was hot, but the views were lovely. When we arrived at the village, we stopped and picked up the woman who invited us to the service, a wonderfully sweet woman name Emily. As we drove up to the church, I realized we were the only ones who actually drove to the service; all the others walked there from the surrounding village.

Before we even got out of the vehicle, I heard the most wondrous music. There were no instruments at all and I later realized that instruments would actually detract from the sounds, not add to them. Now comes the difficult part. How in the world do I describe this music!?!

Leo laughs at my fascination with John Wayne movies, and in particular, my all-time favorite flick called "Donovan's Reef". The setting for the movie is Hawaii, and in it, when the locals sing in their native tongue, well, that music is the closest thing I can equate to what I heard yesterday. However, there were some major differences.

The Building

Before I get to the music, however, perhaps I should describe the church. In the PNG churches I have attended, as you walk in the back door, men move to sit on the left side of the church, and women on the right. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, I think, since I saw some exceptions far to the left and far to the right in this church. Still, the seating has a great deal to do with the music, as I'll describe later. This church was an open affair built on the ground and supported by large timber framing. Above, the largest timbers spanned from the edges to the center of the round assembly area. In the center was a huge iron circle that brought the timbers together in a central hub. Wooden slats were laid across the spokes of the "wheel" which resulted in a beautiful overhead structure that appeared both strong and traditional in appearance.

The People

The church is one called a "United" church and seems to be a spin-off from the Methodist traditions. The area to the front left was occupied by the male deacons, facing the congregation much like a choir does, and the area to the front right held the female deacons. The men wore white business shirts and ties, and white wrap-around skirts that hit mid-calf. Most of the deacons, and members of the congregation, wore some kind of thongs ("flip-flops") or other open-toed footwear. The female deacons were dressed in white as well, although I think they wore one-piece dresses, as opposed to skirts and tops.

When we walked in to the church, the music was in full swing although the service had not yet started. I searched for a choir director before realizing that the songs were just started by a single member in the church and picked up by the others. Now I'm going to attempt to describe the music.

The Music

During the service, I only heard 3 songs that were recognizable. First, the doxology was sung at the beginning of the service. The harmonizations were a bit different than our renditions, however, giving the song a distinctly Polynesian sound. Near the end of the service another such single verse song was sung, although I can't quite put my finger on the song title just now. And somewhere toward the end of the sermon, the visiting pastor had the congregation sing "Work for the Night is Coming" (I think) in Motu, the language of these people.

The songs were generally started by a female deacon or congregation member. The congregation sang loudly, but in a controlled manner. After the first few words, however, the fun really began. All of the songs were sung in parts; I could sometimes pick out something close to our four-part harmonies, but often, could detect even more layers in the music. The really amazing thing, however, was the fact that much of the music was also separated into men's and women's parts that were separated by more than these "parts". Often, the mens voices set out a deep base, occasionally sounding like drum beats, while the women answered the call in mostly low-to-medium tones with a few women taking the higher voices. Because of the location of the congregation, this call-and-answer resulted in the music moving from the left-to-right sides of the church in waves. Because of the divisions into parts, and the synchronized but separate startings and stoppings in the music, the songs had a level of complexity that is hard to describe, although I had the feeling that if I knew the words, I would actually be able to pick from a number of places to join in. I noticed that most of the congregation participated in the singing, so although it sounded like a choir, a much wider participation was involved. It was, in a word, INCREDIBLE.

Final Notes

Although I could go on-and-on about this, my posting is already too long so I'll try to bring it to an end. The service was conducted almost entirely in Motu. However, during the opening comments, although I was never formally introduced to the congregation, my presence was commented on and I was welcomed (in English) to the service and provided with a heartfelt welcome, a wish for enjoyment during my time in PNG, and a message of fellowship to my church at home. It was surprising, a bit embarrassing, but one of the sweetest welcomes I have ever received anywhere! The Motu language spoken actually surprised me. Not at all like the pidgin widely spoken here, Motu seems a bit more lyrical, sounding more like Hawaiian (to my untrained ear) than anything else I've heard so far, and not much at all like the Asian or English languages. Although I could understand only the occasional English word during the sermon, the visiting pastor was extremely engaging, a wonderful story-teller, actor, and strong speaker. He had the congregation on the edge of their seats for much of the sermon, and I could tell by their responses that he was a master at delivering a message to them. It was really wonderful, and I'll never forget the experience. I truly hope to go back one day, although we've already made plans to visit 2 more churches in the coming weeks.

Further Resources

Mar 19, 2010

Plans for the Week

Tomorrow is a big day as our Joint Venture will officially be signed into existence. We have a tight schedule following the signing of the document with only 15 days to prepare support documentation and another 15 days to review. Add to this the fact that I am flying up to Kutubu on Monday and staying until Wednesday or Thursday, and you can see that my schedule is really being squeezed. Still, it's quite an adventure and we are progressing in a nice, orderly, and FORWARD direction. So far, so good.

Community Project

We finally finished the puzzle yesterday. It was a real challenge, especially considering the fact that we were limited on space. But the really cool thing is that somewhere between 12 and 15 people had a hand in putting it together, some of them with little or no English skills at all. It was a real Community Project.

At home in Port Lavaca, especially when Leo is in Nigeria, my brother-in-law Jess and I work puzzles together, a LOT. We usually work at his kitchen table. He knows that when I get working on my computer I sometimes go for such a long time, actually TOO long, without stopping. So, to encourage me to take a break now and then, he always has a puzzle waiting on me to work on with him. It is a good time for us to visit and for me to get my mind off my work. When I was in Brisbane last week, I brought 2 puzzles back with me for the same give me a break from my work now and then. [Especially since I am often a bit "isolated" from interactions here.]

I had no idea how popular the puzzle would be here. Nearly everyone who comes through the door takes a shot at working on it. It also seems to be a great way to talk and enjoy each other's company. My husband will be the first to tell you what a "loner" I can be, sometimes to the point of seeming anti-social. The puzzle activity seems to help even me be at least slightly entertaining for guests that come to visit. I will definitely bring more when I come back in June, and can't wait to break this one up and pass it on for someone else to enjoy!

Mar 18, 2010

My Teacher

This is my friend, and in many ways my teacher, Hadassah. She lives 2 doors down and is about the same age as my granddaughter Madison. She comes to see me after the bus drops her off, making sure to ask if I am busy before coming in. Then, depending on my workload, we usually try to make time for a few card games, work on the puzzle, color, draw, poke around online, and other such fun activities. She also sometimes brushes my hair, tries out my makeup (I don't have much of a selection) and she asks questions and tells me things I need to know. I also assume the whole neighborhood knows all about me from her, but that's okay as well. Hadassah and I are friends.

Afternoon Meeting

The afternoon meeting went well and I am starting to get a real feel for the details of the business I am participating in. I built a new website for one of the entities and uploaded it yesterday, but won't share the link until I get real information posted on Friday. It's a simple one, but I think it will meet our needs.

A traffic incident and a pedestrian injury (I was not involved) ruined the rest of my day since it involved my car and driver. I believe my wanderings about town have come to an end. I was a bit depressed, but friends' reassurances and updates later in the evening helped out.

Busy days ahead as I split my days into sections of 6 hour increments to tackle my 3 commitments: school, ExxonMobil, and my new business venture. Every day is the one I hope will have my EM laptop and my textbooks arriving. They are in country now, but have yet to be delivered. I have a lot to do before leaving for Kutubu on Monday, and returning here Wednesday. My final decision about whether to return to PNG in June will take place when I get home in May and can sit down to discuss with my company players (husband Leo and daughter Rebecca), but my current feeling is that this is the place where I am supposed to be at this point in my life. If things hold like this for the next 7 weeks, I will be chomping at the bit to get back here in June.

Mar 17, 2010

Leo Out With the Girls

I just talked to Leo on Skype...he's sitting at Texas Roadhouse in LaPorte waiting on Rachael, Lee and the five grandkids as well as Michelle to show up for a family get-together. Chuck [Michelle's mate] wasn't able to come, but Leo went by his place and visited for half an hour before heading to Roadhouse. I thought it would make me sad to hear about it all, but it didn't. Of course I wish I could be there too, but I'm expecting them to have a LOT of fun with "Pawpaw Leo" this evening.

Leo almost blew it for me when he asked what appetizers he should order for the kids. On some days, thoughts of warm rolls and loaded potato skins might reduce me to tears, but today, I'm cooking a batch of fresh pineapple jam, so I was able to ignore the jab. :-)

Morning Sweep

I've taken a clue from my neighbor and start each morning by sweeping out the ground floor of my apartment. Sweeping is done with a broom, but not the kind I'm used to. I was given a bundle of stiff dried grasses (similar to some I have as decoration in my home) tied with a rubber band. At first, I tried to use it like my broom at home, but that was totally ineffective. By watching my neighbor (a sweet woman who speaks no English), I've got a bit of technique figured out.

First, you bend at the waist until your hands can lay flat on the floor. (Yes, as big and old as I am, this is something I can still accomplish!) Next, you take the bundle and sweep ACROSS the floor with the ends of the reeds angled only slightly down, as opposed to the way we sweep at home with the ends almost straight DOWN on the floor. Then, you move toward the door as you go, taking the dirt out onto the porch, then off into the gravel or grass.

I woke up this morning to find multiple lines of tiny ants all across my kitchen, and concentrated around my rubbish bin (read "trash can" in Port Lavaca). After a quick pass with my broom, I was able to direct the little critters right out the door. You've heard of "herding cats", right? Well, this is definitely herding ants! But don't knock can be done.


Yes, it's true. After many years of off-and-on postings at I have found that users are re-directed to advertisements after only a few minutes at the site. I am hoping I have much better luck with this one. So, welcome to my site, and join me on my adventures, occasionally exotic, but often mundane.