Apologies for lack of contact - There has been no internet connection for the whole of the province in 5 days!
Tuesday 10th March 2009
No water again today - although we did manage a quick shower when it came on momentarily - for about 20 mins. We have to take every opportunity we get! So we're still living on rain water. Last night it rained so heavily, that I stood holding out a very large bucket which filled in a matter of seconds. Seconds though it may have been I returned successful from my water filling venture absolutely soaking wet.
We honestly expected to wake up to a flood this morning (monsoon the paper says), the rain was so heavy and persistent all through the night, but it drains away incredibly quickly, though leaves it somewhat squelchy underfoot. Alison hates the mud between her toes, so has taken to the height of Papua New Guinean fashion, wearing her socks, trainers with skirt. I know now what attracted me to her - her lack of vanity.
It was also incredibly windy last night and we wandered whether it was anything to do with the cyclone in N.Aus. We felt earth tremors this morning - though nothing to fear.
Yesterday on a visit to the 'old' market, I bought a cassowary headdress and Alison took a photo (which should appear on the blog) of me wearing the headdress along with the vendor wearing his. This attracted a crowd of about 25 people who thought it most amusing - particularly when I switched it to around my waist like an 'arse-grass' (grass skirt).
We eventually managed to get on the internet at the cyber café (a room with 3 laptops and not a coffee in sight) after 25 mins of two men attempting to dial up the server. When it finally connected it was so slow, we needed cups of coffee in between clicking on any link we chose. We managed to check our emails and Alison managed to put a message on the blog message board and I managed to check the bank balance - all of which took half an hour each and 20 Kina (c£5)
We also visited Telekom - which was unaccountably closed the day before - to apply for a telephone line to be connected to the house. We may get it connected in time to send you all e-mails to let you know we're due home in a week or two!!
Alison is creating some good meals - e.g. pumpkin soup. I've been demoted back down to dishwashing and making copious amounts of tea - as well as water collector and toilet filler (sound familiar Barry?). Alison even managed to bake a carrot and pineapple cake - which is pretty remarkable given the conditions (using a saucepan as a bowl, a peeler as a grater, a fish slice as a masher etc).
Thankfully so far we've only seen half/dead cockroaches in the house, so the 'traps' we've put down are effective. The other volunteers here though talk of problems they're having with all sorts of pests - notably rats. Yuk - I'm not sure I can deal with them.
Our house is getting nicer. Mike made a hat and bag stand with a 6 foot piece of bamboo, a jewellery holder with an 18 inch piece of bamboo. He has taken the piece-meal pieces of lino up and so we now have wooden floorboards - very trendy and we have cleaned - continuously & scrupulously.
We awake every morning (sometimes in the very early hours of the morning) to a cacophony of noise - the cockerel crows, the pigs snort - right underneath our bedroom, the dogs bark - along with the whole neighbourhood of dogs, the chickens squawk, the ducks hiss and quack, the kids scream and the water pipes gurgle - seemingly into life but they're just having us on and building up false hopes. Alison's first comment of the morning is 'See if the water's on Mikey.' Followed by 'Can I have a cup of tea?'
Hopefully we'll have caught up with putting the last set of photos on the blog (mainly to do with the Women's World Day of Prayer . I uploaded them twice without success the other day. Oh for broadband.
Wednesday 11th March
Still no water!
This morning we went to the Catholic church as we heard that there was to be traditional costume and dancing to celebrate the inauguration of the new bishop. On arrival we could see the women dressed in the arse-grass and feathered headdresses - very colourful. We watched while they danced and chanted, banging the kundu drums and swinging their breasts.
A large congregation gathered which we decided to join - to our peril - the service lasted 4½ hours and we couldn't escape! It was quite a contrast - the pomp and circumstance and regalia of the catholic church married with the traditional dance of the women, though it was funny to see the arch-bishop, bishops, priests and other church officials in white cassocks splattered with mud (for it was very muddy) and wearing trainers/boots underneath. Also see some of them processing in their baseball caps (blog photos).
Monday 16th March
We made our first supporting visit to a secondary school today. It was the first time VSO had been there as it is such a long way and a hazardous journey through rivers, muddy trenches, landslides, etc. It was up mountains and down valleys - awe inspiring stuff. It took us about 2 ½ hours and they were really amazed to see us but very welcoming. It has no resources, no power - electrical or solar, no piped water but a mountain stream. The community were building a library out of bush materials and were hard at work laying a bamboo floor. We did three lesson observations and then took a staff meeting. The teachers are trying to implement a new curriculum but without any training. There were humbly grateful for any help. We're also supporting the Headteacher - Site Leader they say - to implement reforms. He appeared very anxious and daunted although he is doing a brilliant job. There are 102 students at the school and 53 haven't paid their fees so are due to be suspended on Friday. It is very difficult to hear this and not get involved, but it's the system.
Wednesday 18th March
Another hairy journey, holding on tight! This time to a large secondary school which was chalk & cheese from Monday's experience. This school had proper staffroom facilities - with a desk for every teacher, a library - with turnstile gate, computerised loans, a polished floor, plenty of tables and chairs, but very few decent books!
Update 19th March
- still no water, though plenty of rain!
Lots of love
Mike and Alison