Monday, September 14, 2009

a few more days...

We are still here - healthy! What a blessing good health is. The cholera continues in Lae, though we do not have any updated information re cases or deaths (though we are sure the numbers continue to go up). Thankfully, as far as we know none of our church members/families have yet been affected...well not directly by cholera, anyway. However, some have had their livelihood affected, as sale of road-side cooked foods is banned, which is a big thing when it is a major source of income, however meager that income may be. Children are still staying away from school, as schools remain closed. There is a lot of fear around. As we dropped some members off in the Biwat Settlement after church on Sunday, I commented that the place looked like a ghost-town. The track going into the settlement which is usually swarming with people walking, sitting, talking, and marketing, was bare. Not a single person in sight. A strange, strange feeling. Others at church are asking all sorts of questions, after having heard things which are not true relating to the disease. At the university here in Lae, a bit of a panic situation broke out as 4 students were sick, and all other students refused to sleep near them, or to use the same toilets as they were using, also demanding that the university be shut down. It turned out not to be cholera, but the fear is there and very real.
Julie (my house help) was at church yesterday, telling how they were told by health workers not to wash or do laundry in the river (as many people/animals contaminate the river). But where else will they wash? With no rainwater tanks, no town water, what option is there? Julie already collects bottles of water from our place to drink and cook with, but not enough to wash with. I encouraged them to get together and at least buy a big drum (pretty cheap) so they can collect rain water off the roof. Even if it still needs to be boiled for drinking, it will work for washing water and themselves. She took some money today to try and figure out what they can do. She is being very vigilant, however, with hand washing and boiling water....so we pray that she and her family may remain cholera free!

Then to some more light-hearted news....this Wednesday is Independence day here in PNG. The older two girls were supposed to be having a special celebratory day tomorrow, but it has been postponed due to the cholera out-break (brings extra people into the school). However, last week Friday at Ashlyn's "school" (which she attends 2 mornings a week, while I run Bible Study and the literacy course), they had a special celebration where the children sang a few songs. It was really cute. Here are some pics:

getting ready to sing...


...and again


Ashlyn and her friend Emily...


....and again!

Then.....I've been meaning to share some funny stories for a few days but keep forgetting....Andrew had to spend a couple of nights in Moresby last week...and came back with some interesting incidents. First, since his meeting finished early, he thought he might try and come back to Lae early so he called the airline and they told him it was too late. When Andrew asked them how early you need to call to change a ticket, he was told at least 1 hour and 30 minutes before the flight you want to go on leaves. He looked at his watch and realised it was still 2 hours before the flight....how is that too late???? What's half an hour here or there in PNG? And then when he was trying to get to sleep that night, he couldn't because of loud construction noise outside of his window (they are extended the hotel). He eventually called the front desk to see when the noise would end, and he was told at 8pm (this was already 10pm). When he told the lady that it was already 10pm she said she would check what they were doing and would call back. She called back a short while later to say that they usually finish at 8pm but were working till 9pm that night!!!! (repeat: It was already 10pm!)

Also, when Andrew tried to book a bus from the motel to the airport for 8:30am the next day, and was told that he couldn't go on at 8:30 as someone had already booked for 8am (and it takes at least an hour for a round trip!). So he told them he would hop on at 8am. He was there waiting at 8am and hopped on the bus. They put someone else's suitcase on the bus, too, and Andrew presumed that it belonged to the man who had booked the bus for 8, thus preventing him from going at 8:30. But as they drove off, and no one else hopped on the bus, Andrew quickly asked the driver whose suitcase it was. They stopped quickly after realising it was not Andrew's and put the suitcase back where they found it. As they drove along to the airport, at about 8:30 the driver suddenly answered a radio call, telling him that the other man was ready now to go to the airport (you know that man who prevented Andrew from going at 8:30, but now was actually waiting to go at 8:30....what's half an hour here or there in PNG???). So the driver told him he would have to wait till he had dropped Andrew off....hopefully he did not end up late for his flight (because then half an hour here or there can matter, not if you are the airline, but if you are a passenger!!)

Oh..and please bear with me for one more story from Andrew's trip to Moresby. The hotel room he was in was rather noisy, so he had a hard time getting to sleep, and so when he was awoken at some unearthly hour (3am???) by the sound of a shower running and someone banging in the room next door, you could say he was a little annoyed. But he tried not to be too annoyed and just lay there patiently waiting for it all to end. But the banging got louder and louder, and the shower just didn't stop. Finally, he could contain himself no longer and politely got up and shut his bathroom door rather loudly (not enough to damage the door, of course), simply trying to remind the man next door that now was not the time to shower and bang away! Much to his surprise he opened his bathroom door and in the sudden quiet noticed that it was his shower that was running. Somehow, (strange things happen in this country!!) his shower had begun running (it was a little broken....), and the poor man next door had been madly banging all along to try and tell Andrew to turn his shower off. Needless to say, Andrew slipped by the poor man's door very quietly in the morning!

See, PNG is fun (some of the time!)....you need to keep laughing anyway!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

some links on cholera

For those interested....here are a couple of links to keep up-to-date with the cholera (and other flu) outbreak in Lae and surrounding regions. For our part we are bleaching all our fruit and vegetables (to kill the germ) before we eat them (unless they are being well cooked) and we are also crazily washing our hands. We always was our hands a lot, but I guess we are now washing them all the time, and really well! At school, the girls are being told to wash their hands often, they are also not allowed to share/swap food with other students. Yesterday we witnessed information pamphlets being handed out on street corners, people stopping every car and person to inform them. I spent half an hour yesterday in Bible Study going over cholera (prevention and treatment) with the ladies - hope it sunk in. As I dropped them off back to the settlement they were all talking about going off and boiling their water (water collected from the rain in old drums, which sits for lots of days in the open air- flies/sun always attacking it, as well as all sorts of people dipping their cup in). We pray they will heed the warnings.

Here are the links:

national

Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without borders)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

cholera in Lae

Lae (and surrounding areas) is now dealing with an outbreak of cholera on top of a dysentery type outbreak in the Menyamya area. A lot of foreign organisations are madly working around the clock especially to contain the cholera outbreak. A number of people have already died. Even our school is on high alert with the canteen already being downgraded to only selling prepackaged foods. Cholera is spread mainly by infected water, food and flies. When contracted it can kill very quickly through rapid dehydration. It can also be treated quickly...if only the people go and seek immedidate help. The settlements and villages where hygiene is so poor (no running water, etc) is a perfect breeding ground for cholera to spread. Medical organisations (and we all are in our own small ways) are trying to spread the word to get people to boil water, wash their hands, cook food well and keep flies off food. An army complex has been set up at the hospital and MSF (doctors without borders) is running the treatment of the cholera there. Cholera has been diagnosed also in the Bumbu settlement which we are working in. Please join us in praying that this Cholera outbreak may be contained, as well as the other mystery illness in the highlands, and that God will bless the hands of those who seek to help in small ways and big to treat these illnesses!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

farewell to Moonbeam

WARNING....this post may upset the especially sensitive, especially where cats are concerned!

I was about to begin the youth gathering in Kamkumung this morning when a very distraught Shiana called me on my mobile. She and Ashlyn had stayed home with Andrew (they sometimes stay home and just play together while Andrew works - admittedly sometimes with a few interruptions!), and Kirilee was playing at a friend's house (friend from school).

And the problem....our cat, Moonbeam, had been run over and killed outright by a car. First I spoke to a crying Shiana and then a crying Ashlyn. Apparently the guards in our compound saw the cat crossing the road, when it was hit by a car and was killed instantly. They quickly grabbed the cat for us (before someone else took it away to eat it....they call that kind of thing chance meat!!) and knocked on our door. Julie (who came to help out for the morning) spoke to the guard and hurried off to get the cat. Shiana and Ashlyn followed her and watched as she picked the cat up and brought it to our house.

Then they went running upstairs to bring the sad news to their Dad, who duly comforted them, and then they called me. When I arrived home a couple of hours later our poor dead cat was laying in a plastic bag in the laundry. Andrew told me (I already suspected from the cat in the bag picture that greeted me in the laundry) that Julie asked if she could bring it home to eat it (she tells me cat meat is sweeter than chicken!). I spoke about it with the girls and we all decided that sure she could take it home. At least that way she would have a good meal from it (it was hardly hurt at all - just hit fair and square on the head), and besides Moonbeam was dead and nothing would change that.

Anyway, that was something different for us....having our domestic pet eaten by someone else....but when you think about it, it would have been kind of selfish for us, in the situation, to simply bury it. Here is a lady who rarely eats meat, who needs all the protein she can get, and then for sentimental reasons we want to "waste" a really good meal for her. Kind of sounds harsh, but then life is harsh over here, and much harsher for her than for us!

The girl's are still sad, especially Shiana. She has been on the verge of tears all day - just managing to hold them back most of the time, but her eyes were welling up all day when she thought about him. She just loved that cat (we all did...he was a nice cat!) and often would have him snuggle in bed with her for a few hours! Just a few nights ago, I took this really cute picture, below, of them together. Andrew and I just loved the way we found them as we got ready for bed. Shiana's arm was around Moonbeam, and then he was "holding her hand". Oh, and BTW - if you are wondering what that pink thing is around Shiana's head....that is a contraption I sewed up. You see, she is wearing this mouth thing (T4K - research it on the internet if you want to know more about it) which is supposed to prevent braces (her teeth were really badly buck teeth, but they are slowly moving backward!). Anyway, the thing is supposed to stay in all night, but she always spits it out, until I sewed this silly thing, which does the trick. Now the T4K stays in all night! When Shiana saw the picture I was posting she was pleased when I hurriedly reassured her that I would explain why she was all "tied up."



So that was our day. Shiana declared it the "saddest day of my life!" and Ashlyn prayed, "I'm sad that Moonbeam died", when she prayed this evening. But then, tomorrow is another day and the morning always looks brighter, even for little kids!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

where does the time go??

It's been a while again, and it seems I just don't know where the time goes....but then everyone feels like that I am sure...except kids (at least our kids don't seem to think that time goes that fast, especially when they are just so desperate to grow up! Why???)

I am trying to remember what we have been doing...

The girls have been doing their usual...school/homework/play...

Andrew has been doing his usual...working in his office/meetings/running around doing errands in town. He often sees interesting things out our office/bedroom window....like the other day when he was looking out the window and watched as someone came screaming down the road before a car rolled up behind the person and presumably hit them with the car (not at high speed) before putting him into the car and then driving off, with heaps of other people running after them!? Who knows what was going on.

I seem to have spent much time behind the computer, apart from the usual Bible Studies, literacy course and Youth fellowship. I am desperately trying to work on finishing up with organising Sunday School things....I've been on the go with it so long that I just want it done!

Last week Julie's (the lady who comes in a few times a week to help me out) daughter was really sick with malaria, to the point that she couldn't walk without her legs shaking in weakness. The sad thing was that, even though at my insistence Julie took a day off work to take her to the clinic (she is always scared to go to a clinic - but I basically gave her some money and told her- in a nice way - that I didn't want to see her back till she had taken Kathryn - the daughter - to the clinic), two days later Kathryn was doing no better, but getting worse, to the point of not be able to walk as I described above. When I asked Julie (when she returned to work two days after taking Kathryn to the clinic) how Kathryn was and what the clinic had said, I was told that Kathryn was terribly sick, but that the nurse at the clinic had given them Amoxicillin - for malaria??? I couldn't believe it. I didn't want to just send her to another clinic as I knew she would be too scared to go....so as I knew that another church member was bringing her daughter to the clinic that morning (for a different ongoing sickness) I called that church member and asked if she would take Julie and Kathryn with her. Of course, they usually hop on a bus and go to the clinic, but I was worried about Kathryn going on the bus in her state. So first I went and picked them all up and then dropped them off, telling them to call me if they needed another ride later on. They managed on their own - they're pretty tough!! I saw the other church member later in the afternoon and asked her if they had to wait for a really long time (there were lots of people there when I dropped them off). I was told that it wasn't too long at all, that they were out by about 1:30pm. As I dropped them off at about 9:30, that is four hours!!! Now, I know that sometimes we, back in the west, wait in emergency rooms for a long time....but for 4 hours to visit a nurse at a clinic in the daytime (and then that is a short wait!). And you have to realise that it is hot and the waiting area is basically outdoors and that there are no chairs to sit on or magazines to read (if you can even read, anyway). And then to think that most of those people waiting there need to catch a bus (no not an airconditioned comfortable bus - a hot, completely squashy, half-broken down, smoking bus) and then maybe even walk for 10-20 minutes or so to actually get to the clinic, often feeling terribly sick! Unbelievable.

Thankfully, however, this time Kathryn got the right medicine and, after her family forced her to take it fully and properly (she hates taking medicine), she is doing much, much better! Praise God.

Oh....and last week the paper reported an interesting incident in Lae, where a worker had been bitten by a dog when walking to work. The man was on private property, but thought the short cut to his place of work was too good an opportunity to miss. Little did he know that "Trouble" (the dog) was patroling the property. When arriving at work, the colleaugues of the man thought the damage inflicted on their mate required compensation, so a group of them made their way to the property. They became angry, and started throwing rocks at the buildings on the property, and inadvertently some landed on buildings of a neighbouring property.

The workers from this property then made their way to the property of the workers who inflicted the damage, along with some machinary to ensure the damage they inflicted was going to be greater than the damage their workplace had experienced. It was estimated they caused around K55 000 in damages.

The next day, the workers from this company reataliated of course, destroying 2 excavators valued at K2.5 million. Quite a number of workers were injured, including two ex-pats. Amazing that the dog who started all the trouble was apparently even named Trouble, and he obviously lived up to his name .....amazing what damage one small dog can cause!

Also, did you know that a mystery illness in the Menyamya area has killed at least 177 people with the death toll rising....and it seems nothing (or at least very little )is being done about it (the road going to the area is in such disrepair that it is almost impassable)? Can you imagine if 177 people had died in a western country? I think it would be making big headlines and that the outcry would be huge and something major would be happening to find out what the problem was.

As always, PNG is full of interesting stories, some that humour us and many that saden us...but we know that our Heavenly Father is always in control - may many more Papua New Guineans come to know this too!