For the past two weeks, we have been in full swing of training! The focus these weeks was to observe the culture of the people in Madang, where we are based, as well as to learn practical methods to learn language. Which is why I titled this “Getting out of the Banis” because banis means fence in Tok Pisin. We have been out of our fence a LOT the last two weeks! We wrote papers on our cultural observations almost every time we went out. We began classes every morning at 8. Our classes met outside since it is always sunny and hot, and out there we can get a breeze from the ocean. We had a guest church planter come and give us a two day intensive course on how to do CLA (culture and language acquisition).
On Monday (August 3), we met all the nationals working on our base. They are so friendly and are eager to help us all learn language. This is something that has really impressed me- the nationals working with us really have a heart for teaching us about their language and culture. Those who are believers have truly caught the vision of seeing the new missionaries get to the tribes and share the word of God with the people of Papua New Guinea. And the first step towards getting to the tribes is learning the national culture and language. Some of them were living in tribes and became believers because of New Tribes Missionaries learning their language and presenting the gospel to them, so they are eager to help us learn quickly.
Some HIGHLIGHTS this week:
- Jacob got his Papua New Guinea driver’s license! Now that was a funny process- here they drive on the left side of the road. He had to adjust to that and to shifting gears with his left hand. On another note, driving around the country is extremely limited. You cannot drive far as there are no roads connecting the major cities here in PNG!
- Part of being a full time missionary is planning food for your family for about a month at a time. When you are in the bush, you can really only get a supply drop once a month, maybe even longer. So here in Madang, they have us practicing planning food for longer periods of time. They are training us to plan food two weeks at a time. On Thursday we did our first major grocery shop in town. Our orientation leaders showed us all the different grocery stores, butcher shops, pharmacies, etc. we could go to, as well as the open air market where we get all our produce. The fresh fruit and veggies have been a MAJOR highlight so far!
- A helicopter landed right on our base to pick up some supplies and fuel. SO awesome!
- Jacob and the guys went on a scavenger hunt in the area looking for Krangket island. The key was they had no English help- they could only speak in Pidgin. Our language helper (a national guy named Joshua), went with them to make sure they didn’t die, but couldn’t help them at all with language. They ended up finding the island, but brought back some pretty funny stories of all their blunders 🙂
- On Friday, August 7, we women got a cooking class from Joshua’s wife, Amelia. (Side note, Joshua and Amelia are a married couple who grew up in a tribe that our orientation leaders worked in. They became Christians through the teaching from the missionaries). It was a simple, typical soup they eat. The ingredients were bananas (unripe so they are more like potatoes), kaukau (tastes like a cross between a sweet potato and a regular potato), greens (the leaves from a summer squash plant and another green plant), and coconut milk- made from an actual coconut. We all ate together that night and listened to Joshua & Amelia’s testimonies- which were an incredible reminder of why we are doing this and how powerful the word of God is in changing lives.
- One afternoon we got to meet with the pastor of the local church we are going to and he was able to tell us more of his story, how we can reach this community more effectively, and how not to make major cultural blunders. It was really helpful to hear!
- We have been walking around to the villages by our base, meeting our neighbors and beginning relationships with the local people. This has been so exciting. People, especially the kids, LOVE when we come into the village and welcome us to their homes. We have been really limited in what we can say because we don’t have a lot of language ability yet, but we are making the initial steps towards asking them to help us learn their language and culture. We have started to use the language learning techniques we aquired in class to more proactively learn their language as we visit with them. New Tribes full time missionaries are expected to be actively learning language and culture 40 hours a week, so we shoot to be with the villagers about 4-6 hours a day, and then the rest of the day is processing the information we learned and practice, practice, practice!!
- Jacob was invited by some local villagers on a Bandakoot hunt! They hiked through the jungle to a field that was a few acres large. There they set the field on fire and lined up waiting for the small, possum like creatures to run out of the grass so they could kill them. This was the highlight of Jacob’s time here so far!
- One of the new missionaries is a guy who grew up here in PNG as a missionary kid, so he knows the country really well. He took us to this island just off the coast of Madang called Top Island. It was the most stunning, amazing place I have ever been! We just hopped on a boat, headed to the island, and spent the day on a perfect, white sand, tropical beach. It was INCREDIBLE.
Some LESSONS learned this week:
- After having been in town a few times, we met together as a team and worked out a dress code. For guys, it’s not much different than what you would wear in America, but for women it is MUCH different. The big thing here is that your thighs, or even the outline of your upper thighs should never be showing. All the women wear “mari” blouses- basically a simple, long, baggy, flowy shirt that hides everything. It’s really important to look like they do so that you are not viewed as such an outsider. By simply dressing like them, we show that we are invested in relationships with them.
- Burning trash is the only way to get rid of it. There are little pockets of smoke everywhere and it is potent smelling since most of the trash is plastic. I can’t stand the smell, but I am trying really hard to get used to it….
- There are so.many.bats. And they are huge. AND they fly around during the day. It’s quite disturbing…
- Malaria meds do crazy things to you in your sleep. It’s no joke- one night I woke up in the middle of the night and was CONVINCED that Jacob was a native man sleeping in my bed! Haha!
- Saturday morning we walked to a market right down the street from our base. This experience was my first time of real culture shock here. There were probably one hundred people crammed into this small, fenced-in plot of land. We were shoulder to shoulder with people walking through the different rows of produce. It was loud, smelly, hot, and people were staring and pointing at us the whole time. Babies here are not in diapers so if they go to the bathroom…well you get the idea. SO needless to say it was definitely overwhelming and something we talked a lot about later in terms of processing culture shock.
- As Jacob was walking through the tall grass on the bandakoot hunt, the guys told them to look out for a snake they call “pyton”, which are incredibly poisonous. AKA you have about 45 minutes to live. Good thing I didn’t know that before he went on the hunt…..
- Managing culture shock (it really hasn’t been hindering) but just getting used to the environment and change.
- Dealing with the stresses and frustrations of culture and language learning.
- That we would find language helpers in the villages who would be willing to partner more directly with us to learn the language.
We are so SO thankful for all you have done back home to support and encourage us! We miss you dearly!
I made a video of the past two weeks…annnnd internet is too slow to handle uploading it Keep an eye out because maybe I’ll get it up one of these days 🙂