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EXPERIENCING THE CULTURE




I went on my first life-flight yesterday and I was incredibly fascinated by the whole event. From getting a call on a lazy Sunday afternoon, to delivering the woman in need of help to the haus-sick (hospital). There’s a different kind of adrenaline rush when taking off in a small plane. To be exact, it’s a C-206 amphibian which means it lands on water and land.

As we approached the village, I was struck by the beauty of not only the Ariel view of Papua New Guinea, but the small village itself. These people are resourceful in using tons of wood and straw of some sort (or so it looked) in making their huts to live in. It’s crazy to me to believe that people in the world still live in these types of environments and know no different..

The second we landed on the water near their village, a dozen handmade dugout canoes paddled towards us to check out what was going on. Naked boys, smiling girls and skeptical spectators occupied each one that came right up to the float plane and touched the floats in awe. 

Mark (the main pilot and head of Samaritan Aviation) had to ask the people a few times to not touch the plane. We waited for a minute until the canoe with the laboring lady paddled up and we helped her in to the plane. Another lady from the village accompanied her as a midwife perhaps. 

The lady in need of help’s name was Wendy and she had been in labor for a week with her 5th child. She knew something was wrong and finally sought out help. There are aid posts set up along the Sepik river and in other parts of the Sepik region that villagers will walk miles and hours to, in quest for help.

The day before last, we had a man with a snake bite who had been bleeding for a few days. They say he should have been dead already, but he wasn’t. In fact, we received word today that he’s recovering. When they get a call for a snake bite, it’s usually not any ol’ snake. It’s usually a very poisonous one if not the most poisonous one here in PNG. The man was very “out of it” as he sat in the plane trying to break loose and jump out..

I met a sweet German nurse named Freddie who has been here since 2015 and is finally returning home in a month. The poor thing had extreme motion sickness on the two flights we took her on.. I’ll let you do that math..

Yesterday also, we went to Mark’s son’s soccer game. The rules here are a little different where it’s 5 on 5 and there has to be at least 2 girls on each team. This encourages girls to get involved with sports! The boundary lines are made with oil, so leave your matches at home kids!

In America, it’s normal to cheer on your kid or applaud them when they do something well or score. In PNG, if you do so it’s considered prideful and could lead to a harmful confrontation. Kirsten, Mark’s wife told me a story where a man cut off a boy’s hand after a soccer game because of the cheering and he needed to be taught a lesson.. Thanks to the Palm family, it’s becoming more and more westernized where the by-standers will cheer every now and then. 

The other team didn’t show up and Drake’s team was almost packed up before they got word that the other team was on their way and that they’d play in an hour. That’s the other hard part about these “organized” teams here is that coaches, players and teams sometimes just don’t show up. 

This morning we walked next door to the Christian Brethren of PNG and attended their church service in their chapel. I couldn’t understand a lot, but could also understand enough. Tok-Pisin is fairly easy to pick up as it derives from dirty sailor talk so a lot of words are either English, or pronounced differently. Example: Pineapple is said Pinapol

I really love worship in different languages and cultures. It seems so stripped from what the modern church has made it to be today. Pure and simple. Two words our American Culture has strayed very far from. The worship in other languages makes me tear up every time. It knocks me off of my feet on so many levels to be reminded that people all the way across the world are worshiping the same God I am, in their own context. In this small, yellow, dirty chapel on Wewak hill in Papua New Guinea. 

I’ve been a little unsettled with all of the down time we have. Some days we are packed to the brim, other days we are inside all day waiting for a call. It’s frustrating, but it’s so nice. I knew once I got here I was going to face silence.. The whirlwind of fundraising, graduating and arranging details was quite the ordeal and obviously why I came here with a cold. But I’ve finally gotten over that.

My second trip to the market is tomorrow morning. The first time I was so overwhelmed at all of the people, the smells, the rows and rows of people selling the same thing. The “grocery store” here is very similar to an out door farmers market except, everyone is sitting on the ground, food on a blanket, selling the same exact thing. I could probably count on 2 hands the items you can buy at market. No meat.

You never buy more than you can carry in one arm otherwise rascals will cut your purse across your body and take it. Or your grocery bag. You always lock your door the second you put your groceries in because people come up and try to take them straight out of your car. 

I’m not sure if I said this in my last blog or not, but women are not allowed to go anywhere or do anything alone. It’s rather frustrating for someone like me who is used to getting lost, exploring and doing her own thing. We must always be accompanied by a man or someone who speaks the language fluently. This limits us a lot as we have to spend all day on base if there are no calls! Aghhhh I can see the ocean from my house!! 

I have been dawn patrolling about every other morning though. The water is so warm it’s absolutely ridiculous. Picture Hawaii times 10. It’s the only exercise I get otherwise so I jump on it every chance I can!

Two days ago, we took surfboards to the kids that live on the military base called Moem barracks. It’s the go-to and closest surf spot. Mark had been doing ding repairs on the boards for the kids so when we went to drop them off, they were stoked to have them back! Thanks to my friend’s uncle who donated fins, leashes and leash ties, we were able to hook them up with new stuff! 

They were absolutely so happy! When we turned down their street, kids came out of no where just sprinting after the car, arms flailing with excitement because they knew what was coming. 

It was truly humbling to see how stoked they were to receive these boards. It was like Christmas morning for them. 

Be praying for my patience. It’s rough, humbling and a good lesson I need to learn to not jam pack myself with things to do when I can just relax. 

Be praying for the patients in the Haus-sik that the Lord would bring healing. 

Be praying for Samaritan Aviation that they receive the funding they need to fuel their planes to keep saving lives in Papua New Guinea. We couldn’t take a lady back to her village due to not having enough fuel. It’s heart breaking. 

Every time we put a patient in our plane, we pray for them. Every time we leave to pick a patient up in a village, we pray for them. Every time we visit a patient in the haus-sik we pray for them.

God is doing amazing things through Samaritan Aviation here and I can’t wait to share more.

For now,

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© 2020 by Catherine McGrath