03 December, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different

This photo was taken at our house some time ago. Shortly after we moved in, I think it was. This is just inside or front door, and this is a happy photo. If you see this near your front door in Ukarumpa, it probably means that a bunch of your friends are over at your house. In this case, it looks like maybe 30 people at our house.

This is one of the greatest things about living in a close community where your friends are all within walking distance. Sure, living in Ukarumpa does have its drawbacks, and sure, sometimes living there can be a pain, but there are some really good things about it as well. I guess a lot of how people feel about living there depends on them. Like so many things in life, you get out of it what you put into it, and in Ukarumpa you'll usually get a pretty good return on any effort you put into living there.

Some are probably asking, "Why does everybody take their shoes off when they come in?" It's because the roads in Ukarumpa aren't paved--they are dirt roads and int he wet season they can be quite muddy, so when you go into somebody's home, many people feel that it's polite to remove their shoes so that they don't track mud or dirt all over the place.

I'm looking forward to getting back to Ukarumpa--we leave Melbourne on the 15th, fly to Cairns and then are in Cairns until the 19th, when we fly back to Ukarumpa. Naturally, all of these plans could change if we don't get Levi's PNG visa paperwork all sorted out in time!

27 November, 2008

Blog Policy Change, Thanksgiving Down Unda

Well, it's that time of year again in the USA--Thanksgiving Day! This year Clare decided to tackle a full Thanksgiving Dinner all by herself while I watched over Levi. We managed to find a turkey at a nearby store and Clare downloaded a number of traditional Thanksgiving recipes, like green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, cornbread, gravy, and of, course, the turkey. We celebrated with our hosts the Knuckeys, and Clare's parents. A good time was had by all.

Recently an old friend of mine wrote and asked me why he couldn't comment on my blog--this blog isn't totally my own; it's part of a small project on the part of some of my bosses at Wycliffe who are interested in putting more information about daily life with Wycliffe in PNG on the internet. At first we had decided not to allow comments, as we can't control what people write, but now we've decided to give it a go and see what happens.

As we say in the old country, "Em tasol"! (That's it!)

25 November, 2008

Clare's folks, New American Passport Holder

I may have forgotten to mention this, but Clare's parents are here for 3 weeks to see us and to get to know their first grandchild.

Incidentally, it's because Levi is the first grandchild on both sides of our family that he has 2 middle names. Because he is the first one, we chose to honour our dads by using both of their first names as his middle names. Hence, Levi, (his own name), Robert, (Clare's dad) Willem, (my dad) Koens. Levi Willem Robert was another option, but then there was the risk of him being nicknamed "Billy Bob" and I just couldn't handle that. Here's Levi with Clare's Mum. We haven't settled on whether she is to be called "Granny" or "Nana", but it'll be a while before Levi can speak, so I reckon we have time to think about it.

On a related subject, we took Levi into Melbourne today to the American Consulate. We were all ready with as much proof as we could find that I had spent over 4 years in the US over the age of 14, but in the end all I had to do was sign an affidavit that I had previously written describing where I was born, how many years I spent in the US before going to South America, where I lived in South America and how long I was there, where I lived in the US when I returned from South America, etc., etc. I was very glad that they accepted my affidavit, as I had a difficult time proving that I had actually lived in the US, even though I spent 10 years there before going to PNG.

Anyway, bottom line is that Levi was approved for his US passport and Social Security number. I have to admit that a part of me hated plugging my son into a government system at such a young age, but there you have it. It's certainly much easier to travel with passports and visa stamps and all that jazz. We finally gave up on trying to do the passport photo ourselves and had it done in a pharmacy not far from the US Consulate--naturally Levi was asleep when it was photo time, so we had to figure out how to wake him up, get him to open his eyes and look at the camera. I'm not sure how many photos the camera man ended up taking, but it was probably over 20. Wonder of wonders, we finally did get a pretty good one, if maybe a little bit grumpy looking. I'm glad that the cameraman had such a patient attitude about it all.

We also plan to get him his UK passport. I figure it's a good idea to get them both and thus try to give him as many options as possible for the future. Who knows what the future may hold for him?

So that was OUR day! The folks at the US Consulate were really nice, even though I had my usual trouble with the metal detector which resulted in me having to go through over and over again before I finally found a small pocket knife in my change pocket that I had completely forgotten about. (Unfortunately the net effect was that it looked as though I had tried repeatedly to sneak it in!) Thankfully the guard was very understanding and didn't give me a hard time. I refrained from telling her a story about my trip to the US consulate in Lima, Peru when I was 16 which resulted in me having to shed 6 knives (nothing illegal) at the metal detector....

24 November, 2008

Long Time No See!

Well! It's been an awful long time since I posted anything here. Having a baby around takes up a lot of time and effort. Now that Clare and Levi have been home for a while, we've been establishing new routines and getting a handle on all the new things in our lives, like nappies (or "diapers" depending on where you're from), prams, (or "strollers" or "pushers", take your pick), car seats, (or "baby capsules"), etc., etc. We love our little boy! Especially as he seems to be so easy at this point--mostly he just eats, sleeps, and makes dirty nappies. If he's fussy, it usually means that he is hungry. Anyway, all that to say that we've been busy learning all about our baby and how to take care of him and that has been taking up a lot of time, sometimes at odd hours of the night.

Tomorrow we take a trip down to the US Consulate to see about getting a US passport for Levi. By US law he has to be sighted by somebody at the embassy before they will let him have a passport. Hopefully one of the 50-100 attempts at passport photos that we have taken will be acceptable. It's just difficult to get a 2 week old baby to look straight ahead, (or look straight up if you have him lying on the floor), with his eyes open, both ears visible, no parents' hands in sight, on a flat, white background with no shadows.

In the near future we will also be applying for a UK passport for Levi, but it sounds like that one will be much easier to get.

Once we have one of the passports, we will be applying for a PNG visa--this is the part that might be the most difficult, as the PNG visa office is often overworked and sometimes visa applications take an unavoidably long time to process.

And by the way, who turned off the heat here in Melbourne? I'm freezing!

15 November, 2008

Finally Home from the Hospital!

YAAAAY! My wife and son are finally home from the hospital! I thought we would never get out of there--apparently there were several other women and babies being discharged at the same time, so it took us over an hour to get permission to leave. This photo is of Clare lying on the sofa with Levi watching TV. It looks like Levi has already figured out that there is nothing on worth watching.

It's so good to have them back! By the end of their time in hospital, I was starting to really miss them, even though I was spending much of every day at the hospital with them.

I installed a baby seat in The Mighty Holden pick-up. That was a trick! I had to remove the whole back seat to find a place to mount one of the straps. I was warned that some hospitals here won't let you take your baby until they see receipts from a professional workshop for having your baby's car seat installed, but thankfully the Mercy Hospital wasn't that way. Many thanks to the folks who loaned us the car seat!

Levi is cute, I think I'll tell Clare that we can keep him.

12 November, 2008

Levi Robert Willem Koens

On 11th November, (local time) at 1:49 a.m., our son Levi Robert Willem was born. At 7lbs 10oz, he was about 1 lb over his projected birth weight. He was 20 inches long. Clare and he are both doing well, resting comfortably at the hospital.

American father, English mother, born in Australia and moving to PNG at the age of 1 month--yup, he's definitely an MK. He's going to have more difficulty than average when asked where he's from! I guess he'll get to choose the place he likes best.

Between hundreds of emails, trips back and forth to the hospital, etc., etc., I don't really feel like I have the time to write any more right now--hopefully I'll get a chance to add to the blog later today. Maybe in about 12 hours or so?

Thanks to those who were praying.

Oh, and contrary to popular prophesy, he was not born with a bandana on and with a wrench in his mouth! :)

04 November, 2008

Election Day USA and the Dog

This is our dog in Ukarumpa. His name is Guinny. I only put this photo here because I didn't have another one I wanted to put up today and because we miss him. He's a good dog, especially now that he pretty much no longer chews up things that are important. I'm sure that he would like kangaroos if he were here to see them and eat them.

Today is Election Day in the USA, and so naturally, since I am a citizen of that country I feel compelled to at least mention it. I admit regretfully that I haven't been able to vote in the last couple of presidential elections--usually my voting disctrict gets my presidential ballot to me in PNG sometime in April after the election, by which time even the recounts are usually finished.

Politics are a little bit of a sticky thing in Ukarumpa. Most citizens of the USA who go there, (and this happened to me), eventually find themselves in a situation where they feel as though they are at odds with citizens of other countries who also live in Ukarumpa. The Wycliffe Centre at Ukarumpa is an international community with Wycliffe members from 15-20 different countries. Within the main body of Wycliffe at Ukarumpa, there are sub-groups of American, Australian, Dutch, English, Canadian, German, Swiss, Japanese, Korean, Swedish, Finnish and New Zealand people, just to name a few. Obviously we don't all agree on politics, and I have found that people from different countries will often have very different ideas on the role and form of government. Some people love to talk about politics and love to critique the politics of other nations.

(I should also add at this point, that I really like the international aspect of living in Ukarumpa. It can be a really good place to live and work--like most things in life, it is what you make of it.)

When I first arrived in Ukarumpa, I engaged a few non-Americans in these types of political discussions, but soon found myself embroiled in long and sometimes heated conversations that I was only marginally interested in. After a while I ceased talking about politics with non-US citizens altogether, as I felt the topic was too divisive. Now, in the interests of "...living at peace with all men...", I make it my habit to keep political discussions to a minimum. I'll happily explain the way the US system of government is designed to work and what some of it's current challenges are, and I will also happily listen to others describe how their country is supposed to work and how they feel about it, but as soon as somebody starts asking me to explain why America did this or why America doesn't do that, I start looking for a way out of the conversation.

This is one of those areas where I take Romans 12:18 to heart--"Insofar as it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with all men." (mostly KJV, I think). When I used to get into these discussions, I used to find myself avoiding people or treating them differently because I couldn't get around our political differences. But over time I learned that relationships with people are more important than political rhetoric, and being vocal about my political views was something that I learned I was happy to sacrifice to live at peace.

And that's pretty much all I've got to say about the election.

30 October, 2008

In Which Kangaroos Figure Prominently

Wow! It's been 5 days since I last posted on this blog! I was shocked when I looked at a calendar and relaised that it had been so long. We've been keeping busy and so I'd lost track of the time.
Here's a photo I took of Clare when we were out exploring the Wilds of Australia. Yesterday we took a short trip to the Sugarloaf Reservoir. As it was the middle of the day on a weekday, we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. It's pretty country out there, lots of rolling hills, evergreen and I think gum and eucalyptus trees, (I'm not a botanist), and short grass growing everywhere. And kangaroo sign EVERYWHERE. Either kangaroos cover a lot of territory in a short time or the place is simply overrun with them. The other day we saw dozens of them in another little fenced-in park we visited. Certainly not endangered, are kangaroos.
Yesterday we also took a trip out to the headquarters of Wycliffe Australia at Kangaroo Ground, (there's that word again!), and had a look around. We enjoyed the opportunity we had to catch up with some of our PNG friends who are there now, like Faye Canavan, Jim Savage (leading a WA construction team from the US), and others. One man we spent quite a bit of time talking to was our old friend David Wake, who is involved in all sorts of things for Wycliffe Australia, mainly along the lines of recruitment and training. I think "mobilisation" is the term we're usin these days. Here's a link to one of the exciting things he was telling us about. http://www.endsoftheearth.com.au/index.html It's about a program called Go MAD Oz 2009, which sounds like loads of fun.
Tuesday night I went to the movies with Knuckey and a couple of his mates. It was the first time I have been to a movie theatre/cinema in Australia. It was just like any other movie theatre I've been to in the US or in the UK--a big room with a sloping floor, lots of seats and a big screen at one end. I like going to the movies--it's something we can't do in PNG, (no theatres/cinemas), so when we are away from there I like to try to get in a movie or two. Simple pleasures, I know. Clare went to another theater/cinema with Alison to see chick flick. I am so thankful that my wife doesn't insist on me going to romantic comedies with her! And also thankful that she is okay with me going to guy movies.
No kangaroos in either of the movies we saw.

25 October, 2008

Unexpected Encounter Whilst Shopping

Yesterday Clare and I went shopping for baby stuff at the Greensborough Shopping Centre. Nice place, maybe a little bit of an overload for people like us who have gotten used to having only one or two brands to choose from rather than 20, but hey, we're adapting.

So there we were, sort of window shopping in this mall when all of a sudden I heard somebody call my name. I turned around and saw one of our fellow missionaries from Ukarumpa! He and his wife had left a few months ago on a combination furlough/have a baby trip and I had completely forgotten that they were in Melbourne. So we had a good chat with them and got all caught up on their news and them on ours, you know how it goes.

Anyway, as often happens when missionaries bump into each other in some other place, the question came up, "So when are you guys planning to go back to PNG?" At that question, our friend's face clouded over and he said, "Well, we were planning to be back in January, but because of the sudden loss of strength of the Aussie Dollar, we now have to raise 30% more financial support in order for that to happen."

When we are in PNG, I often forget how far-reaching the effects of world financial troubles are. Sure, I notice that the price of supplies or spare parts from Australia or from the US is suddenly higher or lower than it was last month, but it isn't until I talk to somebody whose support is suddenly cut by 30% (through no fault of his own) that it really hits home.

So we're remembering our Australian missionary friends in prayer these days as they are all feeling the effects of the sudden devaluation of their currency. Over the last few years it's been the American missionaries who have been feeling the effects of the devaluation of the US Dollar, so we have some idea of what the Aussies are going through now. The value will probably come back up at some point, but when is anybody's guess.

In other news, we got the baby mittens we were looking for. I didn't know this, but apparently newborn babys need mittens to keep them from scratching their faces and hurting themselves. We also started investigating what is available (and what we think we might need) to childproof our house in Ukarumpa. I was in favor of building a padded room that we could just put the baby in, but I'm sure Clare wouldn't go for that. :)

23 October, 2008

Pre-Natal Parenting Class

Yesterday (Wednesday) we went to the Mercy Hospital for Women where we are planning to have our baby. On Tuesday we drove there on a recon mission so that we would know how to get there and what the parking situation might be like. While there we asked about the hospital's somewhat enigmatically named "Labour Overview and Tour" (made me wonder if maybe we were going to have a tour of labour--maybe even ride in little carts shaped like babies through a gigantic birth canal with lots of confusing lights and sounds to end with being picked up and slapped on the bottom by a giant mechanical doctor), and found that the next such class was scheduled for the next day and the next class after that wasn't scheduled until sometime after our baby's due date.

So we signed up and found ourselves in a class with another couple of about the same age and condition as ourselves. Like us, (unusually), they also had just come in from overseas, but they had come from much farther away and we still showing obvious effects of jet-lag, poor things.

The class was interesting and informative, but I found the video to be extremely emotional. It was an American produced video with lots of touching scenes of expectant parents holding each other, supportive fathers massaging their wives' backs, babies being born etc., all to very stirring background music. I had a hard time not weeping, then despised myself for weeping at the recorded images of other people having babies. I'm not afraid of my feelings, (not by a long shot), but I'm sure that there won't be a choir singing in the background when our baby is born--not to suggest that the birth of our own won't be an amazing and beautiful thing. Ask me more about this after he/she is born.
The photo is of the midwife who conducted the class explaining how to use the bed in the labour room. The midwife was a very nice lady who had spent some time in PNG in the '70's, so when we learned that, we immediately felt as though we had a connection with her.
The class went on for about 2 hours--I admit that I was never a good classroom student, so my mind wandered from time to time, but overall it was a good experience. Clare found it to be very helpful, especially the tour of one of the birthing rooms and the maternity ward. I was glad to learn about where to park the car, how to get the doors open if we arrive at night, etc., etc. All the little details that will make life so much easier when the time comes.
On a related note, I had noticed that the car we've been driving had a very rough idle that seemed to be getting worse and I had nightmares of trying to drive to the hospital in a car that wouldn't idle but would only run full speed or not at all, (trust me--I've done this and it's not as fun as it sounds), so on the way home from the hospital we found a car parts place and bought some fuel injector cleaner. It must be good stuff--I put it into the tank before we left the car parts place and by the time we got home the engine was running noticably better. When we drove to Bible study later that night it was running even better, so I have high hopes of having it purring like a kitten by the time Baby is born. Phew!

21 October, 2008

Baby Clothes, Missions Prayer Meeting

One of the nice things about living in Ukarumpa is how supportive the community there can be. When our fellow missionaries heard that we were expecting a baby, we were suddenly showered with no end of baby clothes and baby equipment. Eventually we had to even start turning people down when they would call with the offer of another crib or playpen or high chair. We constantly marvel at the generosity of those we work with. This photo (taken a few weeks ago), shows about half of the baby clothes we have been given so far.

This evening was Missions Prayer Night at our hosts' house. Several young people from the Knuckeys' church showed up and we spent some time with them explaining who we are and what we do in Ukarumpa, as well as talking about missions in general. We were asked to talk about how people at home can best support missionaries, so we talked about prayer support, moral support and financial support.

Prayer support is exactly what it sounds like--spend time praying for your missionaries. We often underestimate the importance of prayer.

Moral support is one that doesn't get talked about very often, but is one that I think will soon be getting more attention as it gets easier and easier to communicate with missionaries in the field. Moral support as we described it tonight is mainly just communicating with your missionaries, letting them know that you prayed for them or sending them an encouraging e-mail from time to time, or even just spending a few minutes chatting with them on-line if you can. We also talked about care packages from home and how it's not as important what's in the package as it is to just send one so that your missionaries know that you care about them.

Financial support is also an easily explained one--missionaries with Wycliffe (as well as with many other organisations) don't get a wage--our daily living costs are covered by financial gifts from friends, family and churches in our home countries.

Clare and I appreciated the opportunity we had to chat with the folks who came to the prayer meeting. It was good getting to know them a bit and to spend time in prayer with them for other missionaries as well as being prayed for by them.

Huh! It occurs to me that this post is all about the Body of Christ in action.

20 October, 2008

First Doctor Visit

So! Today we finally had our first doctor visit here in Australia! Dr. W seems to be a very busy man indeed--while we were sitting in his very busy waiting room he had to deliver a baby next door, which put all of his morning appointments off by a bit. Seems he was dashing back and forth between delivering the baby and examining other patients!

Anyway, we had a short chat with him and found that he had spent time in both England and the US and that the church he belongs to has a church plant in Mt. Hagen, PNG, which is a few hours away from us by road. He seemed pleased with his examination of Clare--everything seems to be on track and looking and sounding good, so Clare and I are both happy about that.

Next week we go back for the results of some blood work and also for a sonogram, so that'll be fun.

17 October, 2008

Kangaroo BBQ

So, today being Friday and all and because we haven't done much in the way of just pure socialising, the Knuckeysand us decided to have a barbeque. The girls sent us off for the meat while they took care of other things.

Once we got to the store we noticed that marinated kangaroo fillets were actually cheaper than beef, so we decided to give them a try. We also got some kangaroo kebabs. Here you can see if all sizzling nicely on the grill.

It was really good. I think kangaroo may be the perfect BBQ meat because it doesn't seem too sensitive to the amount of time it spends on the grill. Sometimes, 1 or 2 minutes is all that seperates a really nice beef steak from a merely mediocre or even awful one, but kangaroo doesn't seem to be that way. It has a somewhat stronger flavour than beef, but I like it. I'll definitely eat it again sometime.

While we were cooking, Damien (Knuckey) and I reflected on how declaring a BBQ gets the entire household mobilised--decide to cook meat over fire outdoors and suddenly everybody is involved. The men gather around the flames and the meat and swap opinions on how the meat should be prepared and cooked, the women gather inside and chop up veggies for the salad. I said it must be some sort of primal instinct. And what better way to socialise than to roast and eat meat? Or veggie burger patties if you prefer. At any rate, a good time was had by all.

For those of you following the Tale of the Moto Guzzi, I believe it is done now. I may take it for another test ride tomorrow.

16 October, 2008

Bump Photo

Ah, here she is--the amazing Clare. Some have complained about not getting enough photos of her in our newsletter, especially now that she is pregnant, so I decided to pre-empt any complaints I might get along those lines here in the blog.

I took this photo just a few days before we left for Australia. This is at about 34 weeks pregnant.

Today we went shopping again, this time for food and for more maternity stuff. The sheer volume and variety of maternity STUFF that exists boggles my mind. How did Eve cope? How did Sarah or Rebecca manage? It's shocking the amount of equipment that is needed to have babies these days.

It always takes me a couple of hours worth of driving time to get used to driving in Australia, England or the US after being in PNG for a while. I'm happy to report that my confidence for driving in the Melbourne area is increasing rapidly. I still need to get some pointers on the proper interpretation of green arrow signals, though. Today we sat at an intersection through 2 green lights waiting for a green arrow signal so that we could turn left but the signal never came. Finally the cars waiting behind us started driving around us and I realised that I was doing something wrong. Clare gently suggested to me today that maybe I enter car parks/parking lots all wrong, so I guess I'll need to examine that aspect of my driving habits. I'm not convinced that I am doing it wrong--maybe I'll have a chat with Knuckey about it.

Speaking of our illustrious host, he got a new battery for his Moto Guzzi today and I filled it with electrolyte and installed it. I haven't tried it out yet, I decided to put it on the trickle charger over night and try it out tomorrow. I'm hoping that he will be able to ride this thing to work next week.

Yesterday somebody asked me if I'd take a look at a Vespa. Typically, I hate working on scooters, as they tend to be covered with all kinds of body work that gets in the way and sometimes you have to do strange things like, remove the entire exhaust system to fix a flat in the rear tire, (Honda Elite). Evil stuff, really. But if this guy is serious, sure, I'll take a look at his Vespa. I helped rebuild/restore a Lambretta once, surely a Vespa can't be to different.

Tomorrow I think I'll start looking into motorcycle junkyards and maybe for a source of Toyota Land Cruiser pick-up doors for one of the vehicles in Ukarumpa.

15 October, 2008

Car and Bike Show, Kinglake Park, Bible Study

So today Knuckey and I went to a car show that his church put on in the evening. This very nice example of an Indian Chief was there, as well as lots of old cars. I couldn't help chuckling at one nice 1973 Lincoln Continental Mk IV, as just a few years ago, (before I went to PNG), I was driving one very much like it back and forth to work in TN and I had only paid $260 for it. I guess I must be getting old, because that car really didn't look very old to me. Anyway...

Afterwards we met Clare and Knuckey's wife Ali at their Bible study. I was struck once again, (as I often am when meeting with other Christians around the world) at how easily we were able to fit in, in spite of our different backgrounds and our different expectations of life, etc., we share a common bond in Christ.

Earlier in the day I had a chance to take Knuckey's Moto Guzzi on a long ride through the Kinglake national park. Good motocycle roads there. I was testing his bike's battery charging system and I am more convinced than ever that it needs a new battery. I checked the charging system with a meter earlier int he day and found that the charging system seems to be up to snuff, it's just the batteyr that doesn't seem to be holding a charge. I wonder if the fact that his bike calls for an 18 amp hour battery and yet has been fitted with a 14 amp hour battery might be making a difference? I recommended that he go back to the original size battery, anyway. Apparently the bike's original battery lasted 10 years (!!) but the one in it now lasted maybe 6 months before it started to give him trouble.

14 October, 2008

Still adjusting

Well! Being here in Melbourne and getting into new routines has seriously thrown my normal routines into confusion. But that's okay, I'll adapt.

Yesterday I started taking a look at Knuckey's Moto Guzzi in the morning to see if I could figure out what is wrong with it. Once I got it started it worked fine, but this morning it wouldn't start again--looks like the battery isn't holding a charge. It was fun to ride on paved roads again at speeds higher than I can normally get up to in PNG.

In the afternoon Clare and I went on a shopping trip--we saw that newborn baby nappies/diapers were on sale, so we bought a load of those since we didn't have the space to bring all of our washable ones with us from PNG. Int he background of the photo above you can see the little pick-up truck that we've been given to use while we are here. Another case of God providing for our needs when we simply step out of His way--I was originally planning to buy a cheap car to use while we were here and I was starting to get a little stressed about the logistics of registration and insurance for non-residents in Australia, so one evening I made a concious decision not to worry about it anymore and turned the whole problem over to the Lord. I continued keeping an eye open for a vehicle to use, but stopped relying on my own strength to make it all happen. It's difficult for me to explain what I mean by this, but when I truly give a problem over to the Lord, I am able to stop worrying about it, secure in the knowledge that He, being infinite and all-powerful will be able to work it all out for me. Often times, the hardest part for me is just letting go of the problem, but once I do, He never lets me down. This time, a couple of days after I chose to turn it over to Him, we were offered a car that is absolutely perfect for us--it runs good, being a double cab 4 door, it has enough space for us and for the Baby, and it has enough dents and dings on it that we don't have to worry too much about it. God is good to us.

In other news, Clare and I are happily taking advantage of the opportunities we have here that we don't have when we are in PNG, and one of those is high-speed internet with (more or less) unlimited downloads!

11 October, 2008

"Home" for a few weeks

We've made it safely to Melbourne! Today was our last flight for a while, and I am glad of that. Airplane seats are mainly designed for very average sized (or even somewhat smaller than average sized) people, and I am bigger than average. I always find airplane seats to be cramped and uncomfortable. Lately they've been getting worse as the airlines attempt to upgrade their seats to more ergonomically comfy designs. The better they get for average sized people, the worse they get for me. Anyway all that to say that I am tired of flying for a while.

My good mate Damien Knuckey met us at the airport--some of you may remember that Knuckey was my best man at our wedding. He and his wife, Ali, have graciously given us a place to stay here in Melbourne. Their place is great! Clare and I are very comfy here.

You know, now that we are here, suddenly the imminent arrival of Baby is much more real to both of us. Months of careful planning went into getting us here at this time and we've been so caught up in the planning that now, when all we really have to do is wait, we can take a moment to realise why we are really here. I guess we should probably start thinking a little harder about possible names for Baby...

Clare and I spent a little time this evening praying and thanking the Lord for bringing us safely to this point. God has been so good to us.

Yesterday I fully intended to post something here, but I was wiped out from travelling and the heat in Cairns, so I fell asleep much earlier than I normally do and never got to post. Today I would rather have had a photo of Damien and Ali to put up, but we got in late from the airport and didn't get a chance to snap a photo. I'll try to get one tomorrow. For now, if you're not from Australia, you can use the map above to see that today we travelled from Cairns, (way up north) to Melbourne, (way down south).

Well, it's late and I should sleep. Tomorrow being Sunday, I probably won't post anything here.

09 October, 2008

First stop in Australia: CAIRNS

SO! Here we are in Cains, once again! The photo is of some of our fellow passengers standing around outside the plane after we've landed. At the point that this photo was taken we were all getting our luggage sorted out and are about to head into the terminal.
Clare and I are only here for a couple of nights before we catch another flight for Melbourne. Thanks so mauch to those of you who have been praying for us. Thanks also to those friends of ours who came out to the runway to see us off as we were leaving Ukarumpa.
Really short one today--travelling in the tropics can take a lot out of you.

08 October, 2008

T-minus 10 hours 30 minutes

So tomorrow morning we embark on our epic journey to await the arrival of Baby Koens! Today's photo is the view out of the left side of a Beechcraft King Air B200, which is the biggest and fastest airplane in the small fleet of airplanes and helicopters that Wycliffe uses in PNG. Most of our airplanes are Cessna 206's, but we also have one Britten-Norman Islander, (the rare turbo-prop variant), the aforementioned Beechcraft King Air, and a couple of Bell helicopters, (1 Long Ranger and 1 Jet Ranger, I believe). These planes are used primarily to transport translators in and out of remote villages, but when not busy being used that way, they are available for commercial work. Proceeds from commercial work are plowed back into the aviation department or are used to further the work of Bible translation in other parts of the PNG Branch of Wycliffe.

Tomorrow we get picked up at our house by the Aviation bus at 8:30, driven to the runway, check ourselves and our baggage in, and will hopefully be off the ground by 10:00. As I am writing this at 11:30 p.m., that makes less than 11 hours to go!

On our way to Australia, we'll stop in PNG's capital city of Port Moresby, where we will go through the usual exit paperwork rituals, then off again for our first stop in Australia, the city of Cairns in Northern Queensland. After 2 nights in Cairns, we're planning to hop onto a commercial flight to Melbourne, where we will be met by some Aussie friends of ours who have graciaously invited us to stay with them while we are in Australia.

I started packing today. I think I spent about 3 hours packing some clothes and various other sundries into an old German army surplus back-pack. After I did that, I went down to the workshop and made sure that there weren't any loose ends there that I needed to take care of before I left. Later I went and picked up the nice lady who is going to be staying at our house while we are gone and brought her to the hosue so that Clare and I could show her around the place and let her get aquainted with our dog. For security reasons, it's highly desirable to have somebody stay in your house if at all possible while you are gone somewhere.

Later some friends came by to say good-bye--one family will be leaving for a year's furlough while we are gone, so we won't be seeing them for a long time. That's probably one of the biggest downsides of this line of work--good friends are always leavingand going to be gone for at least a year. Sometimes they go and for various reasons they never come back. That can be hard.

Well, as it's late and we are travelling far tomorrow, I think I need to turn in. I may not get to post anything for the next couple of days--we'll see what happens!

07 October, 2008

Oops! Forgetion and What It's All About

On Saturday I signed off with a jaunty "See you Monday!" And on Monday I experienced an incident of forgetion and completely forgot to write to my blog! Ah well, as my friend Doyle says all the time, "I'm new here myself."....
So it occurs to me that "Those Who Came In Late", (to quote from the Phantom), might appreciate a bit more info about why Clare and I are living and working in Papua New Guinea, when we could be living and working in the US or the UK where we could be making money and living "the good life". So why would we choose instead to leave our comfy lifestyles in our home countries and go to a place far, far away from our families and friends, far, far away from the nearest McDonald's, the nearest movie theatre, the nearest take away pizza? Why would we go to a young country like PNG, where the culture is very different from our own, which is still deciding how much emphasis to put on infrastrucure like roads and bridges, and which is still sorting out how to fund things we might take for granted in other countries, like an empowered police force?
It's easy really. It's all about the Bible. We believe that the Bible is the Word of God. We believe that it is as relevant today as it was when it was written. And we want anyone who desires to do so to be able to read and study God's Word in his own language.
Imagine recieving an important message--a message containing information that could change your life, but unfortunately written in a language that you couldn't read or understand. How frustrating would that be? Obviously most people would take that message and begin looking for somebody to help them translate it. This is what Wycliffe Bible Translators does. Wycliffe is not a church planting organisation, nor do members of Wycliffe go around trying to cram anything down anybody's throat. Rather, Wycliffe makes its resources available to translate the Bible for language groups that have expressed an interest in having the Word of God in their own language.
Today's photo is of a group of Angaatha men (edit--I mispelled this language name--it should have been Angaataha, but could also have been Langimar, Angataha, Angaatiya, Angaatiha--AK) who have just recieved the New Testament in their own language. Members of Wycliffe Bible Translators lived among them for many years, learning their language and culture, helping the Angaathas come up with an alphabet that suited the particular needs of their langauge, teaching the Angaathas to read and write in their own langauge, testing their own understanding of the language by translating various health booklets with the help of Angaatha co-translators, test translating various short stories from the Bible and on and on, over hundreds of steps finally culminating in a complete New Testament that can be read and understood by anybody who speaks Angaatha! It's an amazing thing to see people reading God's Word in their own language for the first time--many times they are already familiar with various passages in Melanesian Pidgin or in simple English, but it's not unusual to see people overcome with emotion when they see for the first time that God truly speaks their own heart langauge.
So where do we fit into this picture? Well, imagine that you are Joe Translator and you are working in a little village deep in the bush. Imagine that although there are dirt roads and trails in your immediate area, there are no roads connecting your area to any other part of the country and that the only way that you can get in and out of the area is by small plane. It just so happens that the nearest airstrip is 30 km away, but through the generosity of one of your financial partners back home, you have a small ATV that you use to get around on. You are very thankful for this ATV--what used to be a 2 day hike to the next village is now reduced to a couple of hours of riding time, and when one of your national co-translators is sick and needs to get to the nearest clinic or aid post, you can give him a ride. On the way home, you can pick up supplies of food and fuel at a little tradestore. All in all, the ATV has made your life so much easier and your time is now spent so much more efficiently. It used to be that you would hike 2 days to another village to work with some local translators only to find that they were called away unexpectedly and no one knows when they will be back, so you ended up with 4 days of hiking for nothing. Now, with the ATV, you spend a couple of hours riding to the other village and if nobody is there to work with you, you can ride back home and try again tomorrow.
Now imagine that your super-duper, ultra handy-dandy ATV broke down. Now what? You're not a mechanic, in fact you don't know the first thing about engines. Nobody in the village knows anything about them either. The nearest local mechanic is hundreds of km away and you're not sure that you trust him after he burned up your new generator last year. What do you do? Is this the end?
This is where I step in to the story. When Joe Translator's motorcycle, ATV, generator or other small engine powered equipment breaks down, I'm here to fix it for him. I'm also here to help advise him on what to buy when he needs a new one--which products are long lasting and repairable, which ones are easy to break and impossible to find parts for. If Joe's ATV is too much of a hassle to fit on the plane when it breaks down, he can choose instead to fly me out to his place to work on it in situ. Right now, I am personally responsible for the maintennce and repair needs of around 100 motorcycles and ATV's and any number of chainsaws, lawnmowers, generators, pumps, etc. The skills I have are very much in demand here, where there are very few local mechanics.
Joe Translator doesn't spend all of his time in the village. Several times a year he comes out of the bush to the Wycliffe translation centre at Ukarumpa. He may spend a couple of months at a time there, doing whatever translation work he can't do in the village. While he is in Ukarumpa, his kids go to school at the Ukarumpa International School--this is where Clare works. She started out teaching on the primary campus, but her most recent job there was as the vice principal, a position that she handled very well and seemed to enjoy. Now that she is pregnant, she will stop teaching for a while, but eventually she will probably start working there again.
So that's basically what it's all about. :)

05 October, 2008

Relaxing Saturday

Today was Saturday. In fact it is the last Saturday that we will be in Ukarumpa for several weeks. In less than a week we are off to Australia, which means that our baby is due in just over a month, yikes! I guess we should start thinking about names...

So yesterday I mentioned that I was hoping to go down to the shop to work on some of my own projects today. I was happy to have a chance to do that today--Clare was gone to an all-day birthday celebration with a close friend of hers, so I was able to stay at the shop for most of the day. Today's photo is of one of my past projects--it was basically built up out of a pile of mismatched prts that had accumulated around the shop. It's really not that useful here, but it was fun to build. Some of my projects are more useful than others, but they all have one thing in common--they are all chances for me to create things from what we have laying around. I love doing it, especially when the result is something useful. Or something cool.

Today I just checked out a couple of engines that I recently got in from the US--they are used motorcycle engines that I got really cheap because their condition was unknown. I was very pleased with what I found inside them--I have high hopes for these engines for future projects, and it's nice to know that I'm not going ot have to completely rebuild them before I use them.

I think I'm making a decision right now not to add to this blog on Sundays. So, see you again on Monday!

03 October, 2008

Double (good) whammy, (almost)

For those of you who don't know, a double whammy is when anything big happens in a pair. For example, if your house caught fire and then a tornado blew it away, that would be a double whammy. I guess "double whammies" are usually bad, but today I use the expression in a good way, sort of.
The first good thing, (definitely good), is the good news about the workshop guard dog. I really didn't know if he was going to make it, but poor old Lobo actually got up and walked today! He looks pretty rough in this photo, but that's mainly because he is all wet from being washed with the sprayer we use to wash cars. He loves the sprayer and ordinarily he runs and barks and plays with it, but this time he just sat still and let us wash him. A couple of hours later he started walking around and he pretty much stayed on all fours for the rest of the day. Needless to say, all the guys were happy to see him up and around again. His hind legs are still a bit unsteady, but the fact that he is walking at all is an improvement. I'm more and more certain that he must have eaten a cane toad.
Th other good thing is that that stocktake is finally over, (sort of). At the end of the day the auditor came down from the finance department and picked out a handful of stock items to do random checks on. I ended up leaving before her final verdict was in, so that's why I'm not 100% certain if we are actually done with stock take or not. I sure hope that we are, though.
Other good news: Clare is over her illness! Today she was able to eat and keep it all down, so that's a huge improvement.
This evening we had a little get-together where we said good-bye to one of our own who is leaving early to go back to the US. She's a teacher at the primary school--she is leaving earlier than planned because of family problems that are causing her much stress. It's sad that we have to lose her, as she is a well-loved member of the community, but living here can be stressful enough without extra stress coming from home. When one of us is really hurting or needs help, often times a trip back home is required as we simply don't have the resources or the personnel here to deal with big issues. So, a sad time this evening, but a good time of fellowship as well. She leaves here knowing that the rest of us love and care for her and want her to come back when she is able to.
So tomorrow is Saturday! I'm hoping to get a chance to go down to the shop and work on one of my projects, but we'll see what really ends uphappening. I try never to plan too hard for Saturdays.
More later, Andrew

02 October, 2008

supper invite!

Tonight we got an invite to our good friend Donna's house for a Morrocan supper. Donna's a good cook who enjoys having her friends over from time to time and feeding them exotic food from around the world. I really don't know how she does it. Here's a photo of my lovely wife Clare, our friend Dan and the aforementioned Donna. Another thing I really don't know about Donna is where she gets all her Japanese house decorations. I know she gets a lot of stuff at second-hand shops in town.

A word about second-hand shops in PNG: you never know what you are going to find in them. They sell mainly used clothing from Australia and New Zealand, (I buy most of my clothes at second-hand shops), but they usually also have a delightfully random assortment of garage sale items as well and it is astomishing some of the stuff that turns up in these places. One of the MK's here even came back with a bowling ball once. I usually find obscure old sci-fi or fantasy books, which is great because other than Christian book stores, I don't think I've ever seen a book store in PNG. I got a very nice laptop computer bag once for $3. Sometimes people will go to a second-hand shop looking for old leather jackets that they end up making into motorcycle seat covers. Good stuff. Perhaps the greatest thing about second-hand stores is the prices--Donna is always on the look-out for silver stuff--once she got a nice silver teapot for about US $1.50, and has found other silver cups and sugar bowls, etc. Why silver gets sent to PNG with shipments of used clothes is beyond me. I once found a set of 2 silver cups, in a velvet presentation case and engraved as a reward for a tennis doubles championship for US $4. I think the thing that surprised me most about second-hand shopping was the time I bought a set of 6 mis-matched heavy silver forks for $2 and when I got them home I was cleaning them up and found that one of them had my initials stamped in the back! They had obviously been stamped there by somebody after the fork left the factory, which is a little bit weird, but how much stranger that that very fork should eventually find its way into a second-hand shop in PNG where it was bought by an American missionary with the same initials?

Anyway, supper was marvelous. That's one of the things I really like about living here in this community--none of your friends are very far away and it's easy to get people to come over for supper if you want to. I'd say that we get invited out or inivte others over to our place almost once a week, sometimes more often. Afterwards we hung out and socialised for a few hours--there was one couple there who I don't usually spend much time with, so I appreciated getting a chance to chat with them for a while.

Clare was feeling much better today, so that's a relief. Our paralysed dog at the work shop is still paralyzed, but was a bit more active today. Our stocktake is going well, hopefully we'll be done with it around noon tomorrow. I know that my Papua New Guinean co-workers are eager to be done with stocktake, and who can blame them? It can be really tedious. But from where I stand it looks to me like the guys have done a terrific job. Normally, stocktake is a terrifically mind-numbing and frustrating experience, but this time there seems to have been significantly less stress than normal. Maybe we're just getting a better handle on the process, now.

Well, it's just about midnight here, so I'm gonna call it a night.

01 October, 2008

dog paralysis

Here's a photo of me with a bird on my head. Thankfully it didn't leave anything behind when it left. I was walking around in this rainforest habitat in the city of Lae when this dove flew over and landed on my head. He stayed there for a good 10 minutes while I walked around as if this sort of thing happens to me all the time. This photo was taken a couple of years ago. I only put it in here because it's a funny picture and now I know how to put photos in my blog, so that's exciting.
So Monday we came in to work and found the that the workshop guard dog was paralyzed in the hind legs. That was a real surprise, because I had seen him on Saturday and he was fine. We're not sure what has happened to him, but we suspect that he may have eaten a cane toad. Cane toads are these really big, fat toads that apparently like to live in sugar cane fields. Apparently if a dog eats one, the toxin in the skin will paralyze the dog's hind legs. Anyway, we have cane toads here and naturally they like to congregate under security lights at night and eat the bugs that fly around bumping into the light because they get confused and think they've found the moon or something.
Okay, so now we've got this pathetic dog, (his name is Lobo), who can't do his job guarding the shop and who now requires that we hand feed and water him. The question is, how long do we do this? If he were acting really sick, it would be easy to justify putting him out of his misery, but the problem is that he doesn't act sick at all--he just can't walk. His spirit is definitely willing, but his flesh just isn't cooperating. I guess we'll keep nursing him along for a few more days and see if he improves--today he managed to drag himself several yards, which is certainly better than he could do on Monday. So maybe there is hope for him yet?
We kept working on stocktake today--it looks like it will take us the rest of the week to get it all nailed down, but I have to say that it is really going pretty well, overall--I'm sure it was far more stressful last time we did it. Whenever we do stocktake, (which for me involves lots of time in the office in front of a computer inputting numbers), I realise that my normal job takes a lot out of me--during a normal week, I often come home tired and a little achey in a few joints from a long day and I just want to relax and vegitate for a while, but during the week of stocktake I find myself coming home with energy to spare.
Clare is still not feeling so hot, poor thing. If she's still unable to keep food down tomorrow she'll call the clinic again and see what they have to say.

30 September, 2008

Branch Strategy Workshop and Stock Take

So this is it! My very own blog. Today I didn't get to work out in the shop. This morning was the second and last morning of what we call Branch Strategy Workshop. Over the past several months, all of us who work with Wycliffe in Papua New Guinea have been meeting together in small groups to discuss the future of the Papua New Guinea Branch of Wycliffe Bible Translators. I admit that at first I was skeptical of the whole idea of Branch Strategy Workshops, but now having experienced it, I think it was a brilliant idea--if nothing else, at least now everybody is aware of the challenges that we face as an organisation and what some of the possible solutions to those challenges may be. I actually enjoyed the strategy workshop much more than I thought I would.

Last night Clare was sick--34 weeks pregnant and she's never really gotten over morning sickness, but this was worse than "normal". She was sick again during the day. This is our first experience with having a child, so niether of us is really certain what to expect. Today in the afternoon, she went to the clinic just to make sure that things were okay. The doctor told her that there has been some sort of intestinal bug going around and that she is probably fine. I was relieved to hear that--I'm really not much of a worrier, but this is my wife and baby that we were talking about and so I admit that I was a little bit concerned. I felt a need to talk to somebody about my fears, so I got ahold of my friend Chad who has 2 kids and he told me that there was most likely nothing to worry about. He was right in the end.

After the Branch Strategy Workshop I went home to lunch and then to work in the afternoon, but at the shop we are in the midst of stock take/inventory, so I spent the afternoon entering numbers in the computer--sort of like this: "our records show tha we have 22 of part number 42-0025. Aka counted 12 in location 9B4 and Sep counted 10 in location 10E2, so yeah, we have 22" Gripping stuff, really. (Yeah, right! It's really pretty mind-numbing, but it is a break from the routine, so that's one good thing about it.) It's the business side of what we do--as a workshop, we repair cars, motorcycles, small engines of all shapes, sizes, descriptions,. and conditions--we also fabricate special parts and and do lots of welding repairs. We also stock parts for the more common local vehicles, (Toyota Hiluxes, Hiaces, Dynas, Mitsubishi L300s, that kind of thing), which we sell to the public as a service to the local community.

Anyway, every 6 months we have to count everything that we have in stock so that we can keep the finance guys happy. The only problem is that all of us who work in the Ukarumpa Auto Shop are real "hands on" kinds of guys who don't do so well with office work, so while we may be able to rebuild your Toyota Land Cruiser or Honda XR250 in our sleep, some times we struggle with basic office tasks, like navigating an Excel spreadsheet. So every 6 months we have to step out of our "comfort zones" (I detest that term), count fiddly bits and then poke and prod the computers until all the numbers get juggled into information that makes sense. I guess that makes it sound like we aren't quite honest with the numbers, but we are, really.

In other news, our preparation for travelling to Australia is moving right along. As a developing nation, Papua New Guinea faces some real challenges when it comes to medical emergencies, so Wycliffe policy is that we leave the country when it is time to have a baby. Our local clinic and hospitals aren't equipped to deal with some of the complications that can arise during childbirth, and leaving the country also helps to keep us from taxing an already burdened local medical system. So most Wycliffe members who are having babies go to Australia to have them. We chose to go to Melbourne for 3 reasons--1.) we were offered a place to stay with friends, (saves money on hotel costs for 8 weeks!), 2.) in order for the baby to get his/her US citizenship he/she needs to be "sighted" by somebody from the US Embassy, and 3.) I honestly don't know what I would do with myself in Cairns, (which is where most Wycliffe members from PNG go to have babies), for 8 weeks, but in Melbourne I might be able to help out at Wycliffe Australia. Plus I might get the opportunity to develop contacts at motorcycle junkyards, which could come in handy in the future when we need second-hand parts, (which we often do).

Going to Australia to have a baby is a bit more complicated than just hopping on a plane. There are medical visas to be obtained, arrangements to be made with doctors and hospitals, etc. Thankfully my wife is really good at that sort of thing! I'll give more details about that another day. I think I'm done for today...