I’ve decided to choose random photos that fascinate me and depict different aspects of life and culture here.
Take this blood stain on my side of the bed. It’s small and near my shoulders or head. What does it represent? Hmmm??? Bed bugs? Nope. Mosquitos….yes. We are blessed. We have screens on our windows. Most Papua people do not. Yet random mosquitos still enter our home. Every time I see blood like this I wonder when I will get malaria next. Even though we live in a country with a high prevalence of malaria, we have rarely had it. Our diet, our resources, our knowledge and our prevention all contribute to this fact. Blessed. Reminded by blood in the bed.
Beetle nut juice. On the road, and the pavement where people walk. More offensively when it’s on my car. The juice is most fascinating when it is being spit out of people’s mouths. A bright red spew of juice, that still catches me off guard. Chewed socially and an important part of Papua culture (as it is to 10-20% of our world’s population). It is known to cause oral and esophageal cancer, along with tooth decay. Dipped in lime powder it has addictive power and is at the heart of this place called home. The other day in the market I counted over 60 different people selling this small nut. In little piles. Waiting for someone to buy from them. I’m grieved the most when I see young children chewing.
Hello Kitty. Welcome to Asian culture. I remember as a little girl admiring the Hello Kitty stores in the mall, but not having enough spending money to splurge on such non necessary items. Now I am surrounded by Hello Kitty and have no desire to own anything with her pink tail tail sign of a kitty smile. However, if I did, I could own Hello Kitty curtains and for sure a tough Hello Kitty Truck. Now that takes a real man to drive a pink Hello Kitty Truck.
Worms. Yep. If you live in Papua, you have worms. It’s a fact of life. The picture below are grubs that people here enjoy eating. Alive. And fried. The fact that we have worms tends to really disgust newcomers, but for most of us we just accept it. Part of my job is to help people figure out what medicine they need when they have tummy troubles. The most common causes are bacterial infections (from unclean food or water), worms and/or amoeba. I was laughing with my psychology friend the other day, because she had to learn hundreds of words to describe emotions or feelings. I’ve had to learn many words to describe poo. So if you call me with tummy issues I’ll be asking you: How often are you stooling a day? Does it float? Is it foamy? Are you constipated at all? Does it smell like rotten eggs? Are you belching a lot? Do you go after every meal? Are you cramping? Do you have a fever? Any mucous or blood? Are these questions making you uncomfortable? Are you ready for me to move onto another subject or picture? Ok, I will. Don’t forget to trim your nails and wash your hands and take your worm meds every 3-6 months if you live in Papua.
The market. Never a trip that doesn’t leave some image in my mind. Never for the faint hearted, and yet so full of wonderful people. At the end of the day its the relationships and beautiful products that get me going back week after week. People working out of shacks and they accept it as normal and fine. One day, when the market is just a memory in my mind, I won’t remember the horrible smells and the garbage piles and the drunk men and the mud. No. I’ll remember my friends. I’ll remember all the colors and sounds and sites that are beyond description and the heart beat of culture represented there. And I’ll always remember my wheelbarrow man. Who I am sure is my market angel in disguise.
Rambutan. The soft pokey red fruit. Peeled open is a white fleshy edible fruit with a hard woody seed in the middle. It’s rambutan season now. I am realizing that rambutan is much more than a fruit to be eaten. It is a fruit to be gathered with neighbors…..all standing under the trees with long bamboo poles waiting for it to fall. Or brave souls climbing high to pick it out of the tall trees. Then the fruit is gathered up and shared amongst all gathered. It is a fruit to be shared as I find bags filled with rambutan hung on my gate or bowls in the kitchen filled. The signs of rambutan season is all around with open shells laying on the ground. Strewn here and there on our little jungle path trails. Telling the memory of more than fruit eaten, but also memories shared.
Missionaries. Oh all pictures pale in comparison to this one. I wish that I could transport you into the room when these moments happen. Of young people being dedicated to serve in remote far flung unreached regions of Papua. The tears. The commitment. The faith. The prayers. It makes malaria, worms, and mountains of issues seem very worth every obstacle.
Housemaids. I’ve just lost mine to another job opportunity. She was with us for one and a half years. We had laughed and cried together. She had seen me at my best and she had seen me when I didn’t want to be seen (ever had one of those days?). She could anticipate me and read my face or my mood or something. I’ve always had a house helper ever since arriving in Papua. I’m going to take a break. For a few weeks or months. I might last a few days. Ha. The houses here don’t stay clean for even 24 hours before the dust and dirt pour in. Yet my family has changed greatly, so I want to find out what my true needs are now. I have ladies waiting to work. I have learned much from being in this position. Recently, I have been pondering that I can now relate to woman in the Bible who had maid servants. It sheds a whole new light on those scriptures and stories…..because it is way more complicated, deep, frustrating, engaging, endearing, helpful and sometimes not so helpful than what initially meets the eye. I know that I have been changed by the women who have helped carry my family here and I hope we have helped empower them.
Funk. Recently I have grappled through a season of being frustrated and weary with church and not understanding it at the heart level, times six years. I quickly recognized it as Satan trying to discourage me. Friends began to pray. I’m so thankful for those friends. Nothing has really changed except my own heart and courage and strength again. One thing that has really inspired me to have a better attitude is our own two boys that are still in the nest. Mr. 12 and Mr. 14. They never complain about sitting in a service that they don’t fully understand. They just go. And I must admit that I stand amazed at their attitude and God helping them to be content in this season.
Thank you friends for reading and praying. You are such an encouragement to us! We are excited to see what the Lord has in store in the next few weeks. Please remember to continue to pray.