21 December, 2011

Merry Christmas!

So about a week or two ago we had a couple of inches of snow at our place in Tennessee, which was nice for Levi to see, since it was his first snowfall. Since we seem to live mostly in our car, I decided to just decorate that instead of a house. That's a real wreath on the grille, made out of branches of real trees.

There were lots of Christmas decorations going up in that area, (the Stoney Creek area outside of Elizabethton, TN, if you are familiar with that part of the USA), but I think my favorite was this shockingly blue tree:

The photo really doesn't do it justice. The look was heightened by the fact that there were no other exterior lights and the curtains were drawn in the house behind the tree.

We are back in Waxhaw again now. Between my last post and this one we were back in TN, where I made another trip to the motorcycle junkyard and picked up another load of useful parts to ship to PNG. I also met up with a couple of old friends who each gave me loads of parts that they had been squirrelling away for me, good stuff. Then we crammed all of this stuff into the Mighty Explorer, (glad I installed those air adjustable rear shocks-we really needed them in order to handle the load), cleaned the house we had been staying in, and headed south again. We're here in Waxhaw for a few days, then will head to FL on Christmas Eve. While here, we'll drop off all of the motorcycle parts to be shipped to PNG, so we shouldn't be so heavily loaded for the trip to FL.

It's good to be in Waxhaw, TN was good, but I'm glad to be back in a place where we have good internet access (rather than having to drive 15 miles to a McDonald's parking lot to use the Wifi) and a reliable cell phone connection.

We're all looking forward to Christmas and I think we're all starting to look forward to getting back to PNG!

05 December, 2011


Okay, so today we piled into the Family Ford and pointed the grille, (now festively decorated with a Christmas wreath in good Tennessee mountain tradition), towards Waxhaw, North Carolina. Waxhaw is where the JAARS Center is. For those who don't know, JAARS, (used to be an acronym for Jungle Aviation And Radio Service, now "JAARS" just short for "JAARS" I guess), anyway, JAARS specialises in technical support services for missionaries serving overseas. JAARS provides aviation services, communications services, computer support services, land transportation support services, etc., etc., lots of stuff. Among the things they help us out with is shipping items overseas from the US. We are here this time to get a small crate loaded up to go to PNG, mostly loaded with used motorcycle parts, but also some other bits and bobs that we have picked up here and would like to have in PNG.

Anyway, the contained is being sealed tomorrow afternoon, so we have to get our crate all packed up and turn in the manifest and other paperwork. It should get to PNG sometime in February or March, maybe April. I can't complain about how long it takes, my first shipment to PNG took nearly 10 months, (long story) and the worst I ever heard about was a poor missionary in Peru whose crate arrived 11 YEARS (!) after he had made arrangements to ship it from the US.

We'l only be in Waxhaw for a couple of days, then back to TN for a couple more weeks and then back to FL!

24 November, 2011

very quick update

We made it safely to the US, beat the old Explorer into shape and made it safely to Tennessee. We're living in a house with no phone, no TV and no internet, so we only check e-mail every couple of days when we come into town and use the Chick-Fil-A WiFi.

My airplane seat was wretched in 100 ways.

The seats in the Explorer are comfy, the whole car is comfy and nice to drive, especially after I fixed the front sway bar. The rear springs seem a little tired, I am planning to install a set of adjustable air shocks so that it can better deal with missionary-family-on-furlough loads.

More next time!

31 October, 2011

Westward, ho!

Tomorrow we fly! London to Tampa, about an 8 hour flight in a Boeing 777. I think this might be my first flight in the Triple 7, not sure.

8 hours of pure misery. Horrible seats, screaming baby and wailing little boy, too much luggage, trying to avoid overpriced "help" in Tampa airport, etc. I like travelling, I even like airplanes, it's just airliner seats that I loathe and despise.

All in all, I think I'd much rather travel by airship. That'd be cool. What a relaxing way to travel that would be! (Most of the time--I'm sure that things can get pretty hairy in an airship, too.) But how cool would it be to be living on a big airship for a few weeks while you travel from place to place around the world? Maybe have a hammock to sleep in, maybe a comfy chair to lounge around in, maybe an observation deck to stroll around. Ah, bliss!

Once or twice in my life I've had the opportunity to fly first class or "business plus" class for free. Man, that was nice. But to fly anywhere now is so expensive even for cattle class that upgrading to anything better is pretty much out of the question.

Ah, but I'm complaining. I'll stop.

It'll be good to see Mom and Dad Koens again! They haven't met Heidi yet, so naturally they are looking forward to that! Levi is excited about going to see them, too. Tonight when I tucked him in to bed he said, "I want to go to Oma-n-Opa's house NOW! I don't want to go to bed!"

So, while in FL, I need to beat our car into shape and then hit the road, north to North Carolina and Tennessee!

25 October, 2011

St. Saviour's, Brooklands, we must be south again

Scotland was great! I really liked it--it seemed really cold at first, but while helping my new friend Adrian clean up the grounds outside his late 17th century castle/manor (it doesn't really fit into either of those categories in my mind), I got used to the cold and wet and eventually found myself working outside in my t-shirt and jeans, in weather that would normally have me dressing in many layers.

I was pleased to be offered the chance to eat haggis, since I generally like to sample the local cuisine wherever we go. I liked it, and would happily eat it again.

We hung around up North (it's always capitalised on the motorway signs i.e. "this way to The North"), for a week or so, staying in Scotland for 3 days, then in a place near Keswick for a few more days, from where we visited friends of ours working with Operation Mobilisastion in Carlisle, (I also took the time to visit Carlisle Castle--which is a "real" castle, and worth a visit if you are in the area and are into history and castles, as I am). We drove up into Scotland a second time to meet up with some friends for the day, visited the Castlerigg standing stones, visited the Keswick Illusions Museum, where we took this photo:

Naturally, Levi didn't quite understand what was going on, and the camera angle isn't 100% perfect, so the effect is a little bit spoiled, but you get the idea.

After all that we took the longest road trip we have yet done in the UK, and drove all the way down to Guildford, (south of London, The South), where we have friends and where we were scheduled to speak at St.Saviour's, the church where we were married. That was a long drive, as both kids were really unhappy, Heidi screaming for a lot of it and Levi crying inexplicably. Poor kids, they must be really sick of constantly moving around, and who can blame them?

So this last Sunday we spoke 3 times at St. Saviour's, (both of the morning services and the evening one) and also made ourselves available for a special seminar on Bible translation that was put on after the evening service. It was the first time that we've had four things at one church in one day. All went fairly well. We are used to using a lectern/podium, so when we were given a hand-held microphone that threw us for a loop as we suddenly had to figure out how to shuffle our presentation notes and the microphone around. But like I said, all went well, we got the message out about who we are and what God has us doing in PNG.

Today we spent most of the day with Clare's folks who drove down from north of London yesterday to visit us. We went to the Brooklands Museum, where I got to see all kinds of cool stuff, mostly pre-war racing cars and bikes, but also some airplanes, including a replica of a WWI Vickers Vimy bi-plane bomber that over the last 15 years or so has flown California to Ireland, UK to Australia, and UK to South Africa, all at the blazing speed of 75 mph, and remember that the Vimy is an open cockpit aircraft. It sounded like a fantastic adventure and one I would love to have been a part of. Maybe one day Levi and I will drive the Land Rover back to the UK or the US from PNG. That would be a similar kind of adventure.

10 October, 2011

On the Road Again....

Yep! It's that time again! Time to load up the Mighty (Battered) Demio and move house again. It's pretty easy this time, as Levi is staying the weekend with Granny and Grandad, so we can use his seat as a place to put stuff.

And so, we bid a fond farewell to the "Moffat B" flat here at the Wycliffe Centre, oganising our goods and chattel into our various suitcases and army duffel bags, (and one big, old wooden chest!) cramming them all in, and heading out first to the petrol station to fill up the tank and the tires, and then to Clare's parents' place in Barnet. Once there, we plan to off-load a lot of the cargo from the holds of the good ship Demio, pick up our cabin boy, (Levi), and point our bow to the north.

We have several places to visit, but will eventually end up in Scotland before we turn south again.

3 weeks left in the UK!

08 October, 2011

Stop! Heidi Time!

Okay, so I wasn't sure about a daughter at first--I know that I didn't have a say in the matter, and I know that we couldn't exactly send her back, so obviously I knew as soon as she was born that we were now the parents of a girl, but still, at first I was surprised and asked myself the question, "what in the world are we going to do with a DAUGHTER?!" All of this ran through my head in just an instant. In mere nanoseconds I went from "Oh, no! A girl!" to full acceptance. And then to fatherly love and wondering how in the world I could ever have thought anything other than "Hooray! It's a girl!" All in the twinkling of an eye.

Anyway, here's a couple of photos of Heidi with Daddy. These have been shown in other places, I know, but there are those who will see them here who won't see them on FB or in our newsletters:

She's still pretty nocturnal and keeps Clare up a lot at night. Levi is getting into the spirit by showing up in bed next to me every morning around 4:00 a.m., I'm not sure what that's about, as I don't usually wake up except to help him get under a blanket, at which point I fall asleep again until he decides to start singing sometime later.

In other news, we are leaving Horsleys Green in a few days! Yes, we are getting ready to do a big UK road trip up north all the way to Scotland, then back south all the way to Guildford, then back north a little ways to Barnet, and then off to the US on the 31st!

I won't deny that this time in the UK has been hard for me--it's hard for me not to have any tools, no access to a workshop, and nothing interesting to work on. We lacked funds to buy interesting projects or tools to work on interesting projects, I had the wrong kind of visa to be able to work with the maintenance guys here at HG, and we don't have a place to store anything that would have been interesting to work on when we leave, (I'm thinking of an old car or a motorcycle).

I am looking forward to our road trip, however. We have several friends to see along the way, so that will be great.

27 September, 2011

How to make an American

Okay, so as with our first child, we decided to get both US and UK citizenship for our daughter. I feel that this gives our kids as many options as possible for the future, plus it means a lot less hassle when we travel to the US or to the UK as they each have a legal right to live in either country without needing a visa.

Here's how it went this time, and this is copied from an e-mail I sent to a friend of mine about it:

We went into London to get Heidi's US passport and citizenship. We bought an all day pass for the underground so that when we were done at the Embassy we could on and do other things.
So our appointment at the US Embassy was for 8:30 a.m. (!) which meant that we had to get up around 5:00 so that Dad Noble could take us to the train station and we took a train into London. I asked Clare why we were doing it this way, she said that just driving into London you have to pay a 10 pound "congestion charge" and then you'd still never find a place to park. Fancy that! Just to drive into London will cost you $15-16! Anyway, I agreed to ride in on the train, even though train tickets cost $21. Each. So...can't drive to London because it will cost us $15 to do so, (plus fuel and parking--bringing the total up to maybe $30), so we'll take a train, which will cost us $42. On the other hand, we did have all day passes for the Underground, so we could concievably have travelled all over London until midnight, or at least until the trains stopped for the day. So ultimately it probably was a good deal.

Anyway, back to the Embassy--we got there in time for our appointment, but naturally we had trouble at the guard shack--before we left the house, I purposely removed any pocket knives that I was carrying, (it's an MK thing to carry multiple pocket knives--they are just so useful!). However, I left my Swiss Tool on my belt and there was another little Swiss Army knife (a little one--only half-a-dozen tools in it--the "Tinker" model for those who know about such things), in the ruler pocket on my carpenter's jeans that I forgot about. No big deal, I've been to US Embassies in other countries before, you always have to leave stuff like that at the guard shack, no problem.

Except this time it was a problem. I went through the usual rigamarole, emptied my pockets, took of my belt, dumped my biker wallet and chain, my camera and my small LED torch, (another thing I always carry), a handful of UK coins (and a few of the big old PNG Kina coins that I usually keep in my pocket to give to interested people) and my Swiss Tool and Swiss Army Knife--both 100% UK and USA legal to carry in your pocket--into the tray. I was perfectly happy to leave any or all of this stuff with the guards in the guard shack, subject to their discretion.

Suddenly there was a problem. The guards--all of whom were armed with real weapons as I recall--picked up my little Swiss Army knife and inspected it carefully. Finally one of them held it up and said to me:
"Sir, you'll have to dispose of this outside before we can let you in."
"Excuse me?"
"You can't bring a knife into the embassy."
"I don't want to bring it into the embassy, I want to leave it here with my camera and stuff."
"Sorry sir, can't do that. Nothing with a blade." (Also bear in mind that these guys had already decided that my Swiss Tool was perfectly okay, even though it technically has locking blades, which are a big no-no in the UK, though on a Swiss Tool they are completely legal, I know because I've looked into it, and Swiss Tools identical to mine are available for legal sale to the public within the UK at most camping equipment stores.)
"You've GOT to be kidding me."
I picked up the Swiss Tool and held it side by side with the little Tinker--"Explain to me why this Swiss Tool is okay, but the little tiny Tinker isn't."
The guard looked at the Swiss Tool. "Oh. Can't bring that in either."
"Ummm..." So now I'm wondering what I'm supposed to do--am I supposed to go outside and dump these things in the trash? Was I supposed to go away and come back some other day when I wasn't carrying anything in my pockets? What exactly were they expecting from me at this point? I had no clue, other than that they were apparently expecting me to go all Matrix on them with a 3 inch long Swiss Army knife blade.
"Ummmm..." I'm looking around helplessly. Suddenly, after what felt to me like several decades, one of the guards remembered to help me:
"Sir, there's a chemist's up the road a little ways where you can pay to store these items."
"Huh? Where is it?"
So they gave me directions, and I couldn't see the place from where we were, which gave me a Bad Feeling. But I was out of options, so off I went to try to find it. Clare went on to the appointment without me, (I was really wondering how THAT was going to work--I had visions of her sitting in an office with my passport trying to prove that yes, her husband really was an American. Or at least, he claimed to be an American and had a US passport, though yes, he had actually spent almost 1/2 of his life to date outside the USA.) So she went on ahead, (she had already passed through the metal detector anyway), and I hoofed it for the chemist's.

Thankfully I managed to find the place with no trouble, though if I hadn't been looking for it, I never would have seen it. As I walked in, I passed an Indian fella sitting at a little desk. I started to pass another one, but he stopped me and asked what I needed.

"I'm going into the US Embassy and I need to store some items before I go in there."
"Yes sir, I can help you." A soft spoken man, with what I think of as a typical Indian accent.
"Okay, umm..." (I've never done this before, why does everybody simply expect me to know what's next today?)
"Will your items fit into this bag, sir?" he holds up a small grey poly bag.
"Yep. No problem." I held up a Swiss Tool in its sheath and a small Swiss Army knife.
He puts the knives in the bag, then asks me what they are so that he can write it on the label.
"2 Swiss Army knives."
Hesitation. He'd gotten as far as writing "2 x " Surely he's heard of a Swiss Army knife? He pulls the Swiss Tool out of its sheath, sees "SWISS TOOL" engraved on it.
"There you go!" I said, "1 Swiss Tool and 1 Swiss army knife." no problem, right?
More hesitation. Finally he writes "Swish" So now the label says "2 x Swish" his pen is still hovering over the label. It seems clear to me that he is unwilling to write "army" or "knife".
"Okay, how about '2 x Swish tools'?" I prompt.
Finally he finishes the label, now it says (sic) "2 x Swish Tolls".
"That will be 3 pounds, sir, sign here and pay at the counter."
I look up and suddenly realise that the place is full of Americans all dumping stuff before going into the US Embassy. People storing cameras, laptops, etc., etc. There's a list of prohibited items going around and another Indian guy advising people as to what is and what isn't allowed in the US Embassy. I hear American accents all around me and I realise that this place is doing a land office business storing things for Americans for a few hours each. I don't see anybody else dropping off Swish Tolls, though. Honestly, I was in a bit of a hurry, so somebody could have been dropping off a bazooka or a Sherman tank and I might not have noticed it.
So I paid at the counter, got a claim ticket and fast walked back to the Embassy. This time I made it through the guard shack without incident, and casually mentioned to the guards that the chemist's shop seemed to be doing a big business in storing stuff for Americans, "Yes, sir, they do, sir."

I followed the arrows to "Citizen services" hoping to eventually bump into Clare and Heidi. The arrows directed me halfway around the main building on the outside, then finally into a huge set of doors. I should mention at this point that the US Embassy in London must have been a very modern and imposing building back in the 1960's. There is lots of metal that isn't quite brass or copper coloured, and for some reason it feels to me like it should be in an Asimov book. Anyway, it looks rather dated and shabby now. I let myself in and found myself standing in front of a huge desk and once again I was unsure where to go next. A lady at the desk asked,
"Can I help you. sir?" (I think she was an American, can't remember for sure right now.)
"Well, I'm looking for my wife and small baby...." I would have said more, but there was no need.
"They're waiting for you up those stairs, sir."

I followed the stairs up to a large waiting room and found Clare sitting in the middle of the room. Apparently they tell everybody that their appointment is at 8:30, so though it was around 9:00 now, she still hadn't been called, though she had, apparently, been assigned a case number. I mentioned to her that the lady at the desk had told me where to find her, she told me that she had told the lady at the desk to be looking for "a Large American who might come in looking for his wife and small baby" and had asked her to tell me where they were.

Okay, so eventually our number was called, we went to one of the several windows where they were serving people and completed Step One of getting Heidi's US citizenship, then were told to go back and take a seat.

After a while we got called to another window, talked to another person, who directed us to another window, where I had to pay $100, then go back and take a seat. Guess that was Step 2.

After a while we got called to another window, talked to yet another person, who quizzed me on what I had written on my sworn affidavit concerning all the places I had lived both in the US and abroad, names of elementary schools I went to, states I lived in, etc., all stuff that I did when Levi was born and foolishly forgot to re-study before going in this time. At any rate, my answers to the pop quiz about my life were good enough, she decided that I was an American after all, so she sent me to another window, where I had to pay another $100, and then had to take another seat.

After a while, we got called up again, were warmly congratulated for succeeding in getting Heidi her US citizenship and passport approval, and were finally told that we could leave.

I admit that I was, perhaps foolishly, surprised that I had to go through all the same rigamarole for Heidi as I did for Levi in Australia--I guess I really thought that once I had proven my citizenship and succeeded in passing that on to one child, that I should be able to do the same again with no hassle for a second child, but no. I suppose it is possible that I could end up succeeding in proving that I am a citizen for some of my kids but not for others.

So after that we hopped back on the Underground, (after first going to the Chemist's to pick up my 100% UK legal 2 x Swish Tolls), and headed off to Greenwich. Yes, the same Greenwich that is the home of Greenwich Mean Time. We wanted to see the Cutty Sark, the last of the Tea Clippers, but it was closed for renovation, (they even had the masts off of her!), so instead we went to the National Maritime Museum, which at least was free. It wasn't spectacularly interesting, though it did have a lot of interesting old personal artifacts. They had the uniform that Admiral Nelson was wearing when he died on display there, (he was a little guy!) and they had an old record breaking speedboat there, the Miss Britain III, which set a 111 mph world speed record in 1935 that stood for 50 years or something. It was a cool looking boat, all polished alumin(i)um. I got some good photos of it:

Before we went there, we had lunch at a nice pub, "The Spanish Galleon" named after a Spanish galleon that was captured in the early 1600's and brought back to Greenwich--(it was one of the few pubs we've been to on this trip), wandered around Greenwich a bit more, then headed back to Clare's folks' place.

So that's what we've been up to!

13 September, 2011

10 years and one day ago

10 years and one day ago, I was in Tennessee. I had already quit my job in preparation for going to PNG in January, (2002). I was awake, but still in bed when my Mom called and left a message on my machine. She told me that an airliner had crashed into one of the twin towers and that some people were wondering if it had really been an accident or not. I turned on my TV, and a few minutes later, the second plane hit, and all doubts about whether or not the first had been an accident vanished.

I had been living in that house for 7 or 8 years and so had accumulated a fair amount of stuff in that time. I dug out every TV I could find, (this came to a total of 3 or 4 TV's) even a little Sony Watchman that somebody had given me, and tuned in all of the major networks at once. I also turned on two radios to different stations and then watched and listened in shock as the story unfolded, watched in horror as people chose to leap to their deaths live on TV rather than burn to death, and continued to watch long after the towers eventually fell.

I shifted my attention to whichever TV was showing scenes of Ground Zero rather than some idiotic talking head spouting gibberish. I believe it may have been the only time that any news event has ever reduced me to tears. I was on my knees in my living room, crying my eyes out and not even certain what I was feeling.

If war had been declared the next day, I would have joined up. I was 28 years old and felt that I had something to contribute. Emotions were running high all over the country and everybody was banding together against a perceived threat. I even sent out an e-mail to my supporters telling them what I was thinking, and got e-mails in return encouraging me to follow where God was leading.

Eventually, things calmed down and life went on into a new kind of normal. When I left for PNG the following January, there were still National Guard units stationed at the airports, guys with rifles who watched me (and anybody else who was travelling) carefully from the time I arrived to the time I left--it was a lot like what I experienced in South America in the 1980's, actually. I had a 21 hour layover in Singapore and I was afraid to leave the airport, as I didn't have a boarding pass for my next flight and when I had left the US they weren't letting people into the airports without boarding passes. So I slept on a bench in the observation lounge at the Singapore Airport.

During my language and culture training in PNG, Spetember 11 was all anybody wanted to talk about, and I sat around many a smoky cook fire under many a thatched roof hut, talking long into the night with the young men of various villages about the motivations for the attacks.

There was a theory in my village was that I was a refugee from America, who was fleeing the war after the Philistines had attacked my country.

Anyway, that's where I was 10 yeas ago!

30 August, 2011

and speaking of MK's, here's a new one...

And she's only an hour old or so in this photo! Yes, our second child has finally been born. Heidi Lorraine Koens. She was born at 1:20 p.m. today at the birthing centre just a few miles from where we are here at Horsely's Green (England, for those who came in late). She weighed 7 lbs. 14 oz. and was 22 inches long. The delivery was long and difficult, but without complications, other than the fact that Heidi was facing the wrong direction. Her umbilical cord was wrapped twice around her neck, but as it was the longest umbilical cord the midwives had seen in a long time, (over 3 feet long), there was minimal danger to her on delivery.

I may talk more about this another day--right now I am beat and am going to bed.

23 August, 2011

For Those Who Came In Late...Part IV

"Okay, so what about your kids? How do you justify taking them overseas and effectively denying them the opportunities that other kids in your home countries have?"

Ah, good question. So far, we've got one little boy, Levi, and one baby due any day now, (we don't know if it's a boy or a girl yet). Children of missionaries are usually referred to as "MK's", (Missionary Kids). I know a lot about MK's, because I am one, (or "was one" if you prefer--though once you've got it, the MK title usually sticks with you for life, sort of like OBE, or Ph.D. "Andrew Koens, MK".)

Back to the question--let's examine what life is like for an MK. Naturally, what an MK gets out of his experiences depends largely on what he puts in to it and on what kind of person he is, (I hope you'll forgive me for not saying "his/her" or "he/she"--I have a limited amount of patience for that kind of silliness in writing, and I expect my readers will know what I mean). So!

Many PNG MK's will admit that they don't have access to the following:

--amusement parks,
--video game arcades,
--movie theaters/cinemas,
--sporting events,
--satellite TV,
--cheap high speed internet,
--fast food chains,
--the latest fashions in clothing and hairstyles,
--the latest music,
--a chance to get a paying job,
--fast cars/bikes,
--etc., the list could go on and on.

But most of those MK's will also tell you that they've never missed any of these things, (oh sure, you get the odd one who hates his life and is determined to be miserable), but as I've already said, what you get out of being an MK depends a lot on what you put in to being an MK. Besides the usual things that are common to all MK's around the world, like learning to eat strange food, learning to wear strange clothing or learning local language and customs back-to-front until they become second nature, most of the MK's I know in Ukarumpa are pretty creative in one way or another:

--some build their own go-carts from bits of broken motorcycles,
--others make their own clothing or jewelry,
--an extraordinary number of them are talented musicians.
--some write,
--some paint,
--some take advantage of the high school workshop to become decent carpenters or metal workers,
--some will participate in the weekly soccer game.
--some will get into rugby.
--some are pretty good photographers, (and PNG presents the skilled photographer with no end of interesting subject matter to shoot).
--Some PNG MK's will get ahold of some old car and will learn how to keep it running on next to no money.
--Many ride motorcycles, some will organise motorcycle trips to the cities of Lae, Madang, or Mt. Hagen (I've been involved in a number of these). Some get involved in local off-road motorcycle racing or trail riding.

(PNG MK Palmer B., out having fun on his bike)

--Some get into horse riding and will even get involved in small scale horsemanship competitions.
--There are opportunities for those who are interested in acting, (I've been in several community theater productions myself).
--there are several talent shows each year,
--the topography around Ukarumpa is good for paragliding, so some will get into that,
--many will come up with creative ways to make money like making ginger beer or rhubarb beer (non-alcoholic), baking cookies, running a small scale dairy, providing needed services like cleaning out water storage tanks or cleaning hot water system solar panels, car washes, babysitting or dog sitting, to name a few.
--some will travel out to a translator's language group and will help out with cooking or babysitting while the translators are busy teaching a course in the village
--many will learn a sense of responsibility quite early in their lives,
--most will develop meaningful and lasting relationships not only with Papua New Guineans, but also with their MK peers, who come to PNG from all over the world,
--most, after leaving PNG, are likely to travel to other parts of the world as time and money permit--the wanderlust never quite leaves them,
--many will end up with a deeper appreciation of their home countries; both for what those countries have to offer, and for the problems that face those countries.
--most will end up with a global world view, a better then average understanding and appreciation of different cultures and how cultures can impact relationships between people,
--and again, this list could go on and on.

This is not to suggest that an MK's home-country peers are in any way inferior, or are not capable of all the same things that an MK may be capable of. Far be it from me to suggest that. It's just MK's live so much of this stuff first hand. Their knowledge is based on life experience, and the nature of their lives often demands that they learn things that "normal" kids simply don't need to. The reverse is also true and there are lots of funny stories out there about MK's who went back to their home countries and couldn't figure out how to get a driver's license or open a bank account, as they'd just never had to do that before, or were used to doing that kind of thing in a very different way, (most end up landing on their feet, though).

The parents aren't left out, either. In addition to the many things I've learned about and from PNG and PNGians, I've also learned a ton of stuff about and from my fellow missionaries. Strange non-PNG food that I have learned to like are Vegemite (Australia), and salmiakki (Finland--though this one wasn't too big of a stretch for me because I already liked dutch dubbel zout), and pickled kumquats (China--okay, nobody taught me to like these--I found them in a local store and bought them on a whim--I loved 'em!). Some of my best friends now are Australians, Kiwis (New Zealanders for those who don't know), and Finns, (and of course, Papua New Guineans!). Over the years I have worked closely with Koreans, Germans, Dutch, Japanese, Swedes, and others and have gained an appreciation for each of their different approaches to the work we're all involved in.

So you see, I don't look at the mission field as a place that lacks opportunities for kids; I look at it as a place that offers a whole different set of opportunities. Speaking to my own experiences, I've never once regretted the fact that I grew up in Peru and didn't have the same opportunities my peers in the US had. I treasure the upbringing I had, and I wouldn't trade it for anything! As a kid, I loved being an MK.

And it's still true today, though slightly different--as a kid I loved experiencing a life that was different from anything my American peers were experiencing. As an adult, I love being involved in the work in PNG. Even though there are some aspects my job that frustrate me nearly to tears from time to time, I still plan to keep doing it for as long as we can. I look back on all the jobs I had before, and although I did love one or two of them, none of them can hold a candle to the one I have now. Yes, there are some things I would dearly love to change about my work, (for example, I'd love to have at least three guys doing my job, as there is more than enough work for three men), but the satisfaction of knowing that I am supporting something worthwhile, something of potentially eternal significance and not just fixing toys for people who have too much money, is priceless to me.

End of Part IV

17 August, 2011

For Those Who Came In Late...part III

"Okay," I hear you saying again, "now we know LOADS about YOU. What about the better half of this team? What about Clare?"

When Clare arrived in PNG in May of 2005, I had already been there for nearly 3.5 years. Clare came to PNG to teach in the Ukarumpa International School, Primary Campus. I met her in the first week that she was in Ukarumpa, and while I won't say that it was love at first sight, there did seem to be a mutual attraction from early on. Eventually (Dec. 2005-Jan. 2006) we started dating and in July of 2006 I had the opportunity to meet her parents in Australia. Once I obtained her parents' blessing, (which was important to me), I asked Clare to marry me. We were married in England in Feb. 2007.

(The happy couple in Feb. 2007)

Before we were married, Clare taught the year 2/second grade class. After we were married, she became the vice principal/deputy head of the primary campus. In early 2008 she became pregnant with our first child, Levi, who was born in November of that year. She continued to work at the school until early October, when we left for Australia, where Levi was born. I have already described the other reasons why earlier in this blog, (check the archives back in 2008), but after losing a couple of babies born in our clinic back in the 1980's--babies that would have been saved in countries where more health care options were available--our organisation made it a policy that expectant mothers were required to go to Australia or to their home countries to give birth.

Returning to PNG after Levi was born, I went back to work as usual (but with fewer late evenings at the shop) and Clare started doing part time school work from home during Levi's nap times and in the evenings. She specialised in researching and ordering supplies for the school through the internet. She also did short term teaching jobs, like teaching a beginning music class.

Clare continues to be active in the school, though less so now with an active toddler! She is involved in recruiting new teachers for the school from other countries.

(active toddler Levizilla, recently spotted rampaging through the small English village of Bekonscot...)

I am very thankful for my wife and family. Being single in Ukarumpa wasn't bad at all (most of the time), but I am glad that part of my life is behind me now. Clare capably handles all the things that I find tiresome about the missionary life, like finances, travel arrangements, and--while on furlough--speaking engagements, and she does it happily.

(Clare happy in Ukarumpa)

End of Part III

12 August, 2011

For Those Who Came In Late... Part II

"Okay great," I hear you say, "so now we have some idea of how you got to where you are, but we're still fuzzy on what you actually DO. From your blog it looks like you just live in the middle of nowhere and play around big army trucks and build motorcycles." (Hopefully my blog is a little more informative than that.)

But the question is a good one. What do we do in Ukarumpa, and why do we do it?

In simplest terms, I fix machines, primarily machines used by people who are translating the Bible in Papua New Guinea. There is a lot of Bible translation work to be done in Papua New Guinea Out of around 800 seperate languages on the Papua New Guinea side of the island, (yes, around 800, I don't think that anyone knows the exact number, as a lot of language survey work is still being done), anyway, out of those 800, there are some which will very likely never have the Bible in their own language, as they are dying out for various reasons. I could be wrong, but I think that translation work is currently being done in about 200 languages (by Wycliffe and other organisations combined), and there are still at least 300 languages where no translation work has even started yet.

Once upon a time, Bible translators working in remote locations needed very few machines. Usually all they needed was a way to get out to the place where they were working, and it usually took them 20-30 years to translate the New Testament. In many places, translators were (and still are) responsible for keeping local airstrips open, which mean that large, heavy duty lawnmowers were needed. In some countries, translators got involved in community development projects, (at the request of the people they were working with and with the blessing of the local government), and so other machines were needed, like pumps, chainsaws, small tractors, etc. Sometimes, a translator would come into an area where the people already had a few machines, and would often help the people to keep them running, (that is to say, he would ask people like me to come help him to keep them running!).

Then in the 1980's, computers came along and greatly sped up the work. Now, instead of writing all the information out on 3"x5" cards and keeping it all in shoe boxes, information could be stored on discs and accessed quickly and easily. At first, computers were kept in central locations within the countries where translators worked, as they were too fragile to travel into remote areas and too difficult to keep running in areas that had no electricity.

As time went on, computers became smaller and more portable and translators began to carry computers with them out to their language areas. Naturally, as there was no electricity to be had in many of these areas, small generators were needed. When utility ATV's were invented in the late 1980's, some translators started using them to get around on the trails in the rugged, roadless terrain where they were working. Some translators had already been using dirtbikes to get around, (I know one translator in PNG--recently retired--who wore out several bikes in the 50 years that he worked in PNG, starting with BSA and Matchless bikes before he got his first Honda in the early 1970's). All of these machines greatly sped up the work of Bible translation; the time it took to translate the New Testament was virtually cut in half.

But unfortunately, these machines also all required maintenance and repairs from time to time. And unfortunately for them, most translators are not good mechanics. Some of them are, but most of them have devoted their efforts to being good translators, (which requires a good chunk of brain wattage, by the way), and simply don't have the time to be constantly fiddling with broken machines.

So that's where I come in. Joe Translator brings his broken or ailing machines to me, (or he transports me to his language area by road, air, or sea), and I do what is needed to keep everything running.

(a big Honda engine off of a large, heavy duty airstrip mower all apart on one of my workbenches. This one died from improper maintenance, but I was able to rebuild it. It worked well for several more years after this photo was taken.)

The obvious question that you should be asking right about now is: "why are YOU needed? Why can't JT just bring his machines to a local mechanic?" And that is a very logical question. The simple fact of the matter is that, in PNG anyway, there are very few good mechanics. It's not uncommon to see machines that are only a few years old already dead and decayed because nobody knew how to fix them. Good mechanics are few and far between in Papua New Guinea, and replacement parts for any machine are also very hard to come by.

So my job now becomes a little more complex than simply removing broken parts and installing new ones. I may find myself working on a Japanese motorcycle one day, a chinese throw-away generator the next day, a heavy duty German diesel engine on a pump the next day, an antique British diesel generator the next, a Swedish chainsaw later that day, an Indian copy of something British a week later, a Turkish or Egyptian copy of a Japanese generator after that, etc. You just never know what is going to get dragged into my shop, and getting parts for them can be a real challenge. Thankfully, we have decent internet access in Ukarumpa, so I am able to find a lot of things online. We have contacts in the US and in Australia who are able to buy parts on our behalf and ship them to us, which makes life a lot easier than it could be.

Sorry, I guess maybe I'm rambling a bit--I like my job and I like the unique challenges it presents me with (most of the time!) and it's easy for me to get lost in the minutiae when talking about it.

(in Bougainville with a translator and his at-that-time-future-son-in-law. We are figuring out why there was suddenly smoke rolling out from under the hood and are rigging up a new wire to replace a burned one.)

End of Part II.

11 August, 2011

For Those Who Came In Late... Part I

Every now and then I find it beneficial to remind people who we are and what we are doing. This is especially true while we are on furlough and more people are visiting my blog!

To borrow a phrase from the old Phantom comic strip whenever the writer wanted to remind people of Phantom's history: For Those Who Came In Late...

My name is easily found here on this blog, so we won't waste time on that.

I first felt called into missions when I was 10 years old. At that time, my parents had just moved the family to Peru, where my Dad was working as an aircraft mechanic for a small missions organisation based in Florida and working exclusively in South America. At that time, I knew that I wanted to use whatever God had given me in the same way that my Dad was doing, supporting missions in a very practical way.

As time went on, I discovered that I, too was mechanically inclined, as they say, and I eventually became a motorcycle and small engines mechanic, though I was never afraid to work on any other machine when I needed to. In high school, still in Peru, I learned how to use a lathe, how to weld, how to design and build my own parts from scratch when necessary, sometimes making changes along the way in an effort to make a machine work better for a specific purpose.

(me, my friend Richard, my brother Peter, Peru, 1990)

After high school, I returned to the US with a plan to get whatever schooling I needed to get as fast as I could in order to return to Peru within 4 years tops. Through the generosity of a family friend, I was able to attend a year of Bible school, but my grades weren't the best, and my very kind, very generous friend very justly decided that her money was not being invested wisely and decided not to help me anymore.

I left school and went through a period where I drifted from job to job, apparently aimlessly. In the back of my mind, I still had a burning desire to get back into missions and to use my skills to support the work of other missionaries. I even knew that I wanted to work for Wycliffe Bible Translators, as the goal of translating the Bible was one that I could support without reservation. But I wasn't sure how to get the training I needed, and I wasn't even sure what kind of needs there were. I remembered mechanics in Peru who were good at fixing everything, working on a 4x4 one day and a refrigerator the next, but I had no idea where to go to get general Mr. Fixit training.

I began to despair. I began to believe that I would never get the chance to go back to the mission field, and that the Lord must have some other life for me, something undoubtedly humdrum and boring. I knew that I could get a loan for school if I needed it, (and I would have), but I just didn't know where to begin, and I was very much opposed to being in debt.

In the meantime, I was drifting from job to job; I had a 40 mile rural paper route, I worked in a nursing home doing linens-type laundry and waxing and buffing floors, I worked in construction for a brick mason, I worked in a small print shop, I worked in a huge warehouse, and finally I got a job at a motorcycle shop where I had been trying for years to get in. During all this drifting time, I did the odd motorcycle or car repair job on the side, while also repairing and maintaining my own old clunkers, (I used to brag that I had never spent more than $400 on a car). What I didn't realise was that I was slowly getting the education I had been looking for.

About a year after I got on at the motorcycle shop, I attended a Wycliffe Associates Banquet with my brother and a friend of ours. We were all interested in missions, but at this point in my life, I had resigned myself to the apparent fact that I would never be a missionary myself and had started to ask God to give me a "pet" missionary to support, one who was doing the kind of work I wanted to do so badly. At the time, I was 24, maybe 25 years old.

While we were seated at our table, my brother noticed a piece of paper laying out that had a list of job that Wycliffe was looking for people to fill. "Hey, look at this," he said to me, "they need motorcycle mechanics." "Yeah, right!" I said. I didn't believe him, I thought he was just messing around with me. "No, really," he insisted, "Look!" So I looked and sure enough, "motorcycle mechanic" was on the list.

I could hardly wait for the banquet speaker to finish his presentation. As soon as it looked like he was done, I got up and made a bee-line for him, and asked him what I had to do to get into Wycliffe. He agreed to send me a preliminary questionnaire, and the rest, as they say, is history, though it took me a few more years of applications, training, etc., before I was actually assigned to PNG.

End of part I

(Andrew in PNG, the early years!)

23 July, 2011

Tourist Visa Forces Lifestyle Mod

Okay, so here I am in the UK. Because I'm an American here on a tourist visa, I am not allowed to work for money, and even volunteer work could put me at risk of being told to go away, and furthermore could make life difficult for anybody who decided to employ me.

So I'm here, and some days I get a little bored. I'm a mechanic. Not just a mechanic who fixes thing for pay or for a good cause, I fix things because I have an innate need to fix things (cue the superhero theme background music). I fix things not too put food on the table, not to pad my wallet, not in hope of recognition or fame, but because I must. Keep your vile monies! I MUST FIX MACHINES!

So I was wandering around the place where we are staying, having run out of little mechanical things to fix around the house, and I came across a small pile of dilapidated bicycle parts. After a bit of a rummage, I realised that there were a lot of interesting parts around, and that with a little work, a ridable bicycle could probably be built. I started with this old Peugeot Esprit road bike frame, which I liked because it was huge and because it reminded me of an early 1900's bicycle:

And this old Puch ladies bike. It had obviously been sitting outside unused for many years--there was a lot of rust, (the chain had a big spot that was rusted solid, for example), but there were some things I really liked about it, like the three speed rear hub and the drum brakes:
"Wait a minute!" I hear you saying, "Three speed hub and drum brakes?? Don't those date back to the early Iron Age?" Well, yes, such technology is more or less obsolescent, but it has two redeeming features: 1.) internal gear hubs and drum brakes are quite reliable, and 2.) they require very little maintenance.

Normally, I hate working on bicycles, because they tend to be loaded down with all kinds of fiddly little bits that are fragile and always seem to be in constant need of adjustment. I find bicycle caliper rim brakes to be a pain, and deraileurs to be a serious headache. In fact, these things have probably historically been among the biggest barriers to me ever owning a bicycle, (the fact that Ukarumpa is all steep hills doesn't help either).

So here was my chance to build up a bike that had none of the things I hate most about bicycles; how could I not build it? Naturally I didn't have any tools with me, but in the saddle bags of one of the dead bikes in the junkyard, I found a 10-way combination wrench/spanner, and that was enough to get me started. Over the next few days I collected a number of other tools, mostly really cheap junk, but hey, I don't know yet where to get good tools, and I'm not exactly swimming in cash.

So the Peugeot frame ended up with the wheels, control cables and levers from the Puch, as well as the handlebar grips. Other bits and pieces come from other bikes. The Puch also happened to have an old Brooks B66 leather cruiser saddle on it, (to buy it new would cost $150-$200 USD), so I snagged that as well. It was a bit moldy from sitting out in the weather for so many years, but it's still more comfy than what was on the Peugeot frame.

I knew I wanted a simple bike, and I knew that I wanted a sitting-up riding position, so with these goals in mind, I removed the mudguards/fenders, lights, luggage carrier, and brake calipers and those horrible deraileurs and all their associated controls from the Peugeot frame, and installed the drum brake wheels (which appear to have stainless steel rims!) and the Brooks saddle. The drive chain came off of one of the other bikes out in the junkyard. I couldn't figure out how to get the handlebars off, (the bolt that holds the stem in place is rusted up tight and I can't get it to move with the tools I have), so I just flipped them over and made do. I stuck the handlebar grips from the Puch onto the ends of the bars.

None of the tires in the junkyard were any good. The local supermarket had 20", 24", and 26" tires/tyres, but the Puch rims are 27", so I ended up having to order some new tyres on-line. The supplier accidentally sent me 26" tires, so while waiting for him to get his muddle sorted out, I went ahead and put a rotten old set of tyres on with new tubes, (mistake).

I wanted to be able to ride at night, so I put a headlight and tail light on it. I happened to have a rear wheel mounted dynamo/generator as well as a front wheel mounted generator/dynamo, so I went ahead and installed both of them, the rear one powers the rear light, the front one powers the headlight. Simple and reliable, no fragile wires running all over the frame.

Here's what it looks like today. I was out riding it last night and again today, but while I was stopped and talking to somebody, the rotten rear tire let go and the tube blew out, (sounded like a pistol shot, which oddly enough made me miss the days when I used to be able to go out and shoot in the backyard in Tennessee), so the rear tyre is flat in this photo:

So now I'm gaining a bit of a reputation as a bicycle mechanic, but the truth is that I'm pretty much only interested in building things that are simple and reliable, which means that deraileurs anyway are pretty much out. I might be able to do something with rim brake calipers, but ugh! I still don't like them.

So I guess I'm a bit of a bicycle rider now. Worse things could have happened to me, I suppose. I haven't ridden very far yet, mainly because I didn't trust my tires, but once my new tyres and tubes get here and are installed, I look forward to riding farther.

I'm thinking of brush painting my bike all black to enhance it's "I found this in my great-grandad's barn" look.

08 July, 2011

An Unexpected Move & How to be Large and Drive a Microcar

So, our first place here at the Wycliffe Centre at Horsely's Green was alright, we got the lights sorted out, we were adjusting to the weird fold out sofa bed, etc., the only fly in our ointment was the living room furniture--it was apparently designed for normal people rather than large men and heavily pregnant women, so we asked the housing folks if there was any chance of getting a either a.) a different bed so that we could use the fold-out one as a sofa in the living room, or b.) a larger and more comfy sofa. The next thing we knew, we were being moved out of the Fraser A flat and into the Moffat B flat! Moffat B is a bigger flat and is more comfy in some ways, though it lacks the high-ceilinged charm of the old flat. Anyway, we're happy.

In other news, here's an illustration of how to Be Large and Drive a Microcar. Yes, according to Wikipedia, the Mazda Demio is considered a micro-car, so that explains why I have to drive with the sunroof open so that I don't bump my head on the roof. Truthfully, I only bumped my head on the roof for the first couple of days, then I found a knob on the side of the seat that adjusted the seat height. Naturally, I adjusted the seat height all the way down and got myself some headroom, though I lost some legroom. To compensate for the loss of legroom, I switched to driving MK style, (a style I prefer anyway), barefoot, right big toe controlling the throttle. NOW we're getting somewhere! I admit it, I am becoming a little fond of the old Demio. It is surprising how much stuff can be crammed into this car, though the rear suspension becomes overwhelmed fairly quickly and then the car feels all squirrelly on the motorway.

This is only the second car I have ever had that had a sunroof, and the first one I ever had we bought just the day before we left the US a couple of weeks ago, (there just happens to be one on the old Explorer we bought). Sunroofs are great!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the reports from Ukarumpa continue to be encouraging! It seems as if maybe the local criminal element really has experienced a change of heart. We have seen photos of huge amounts of food that have been given to our co-workers there as an expression of apology for the past several years of stealing. Here's hoping that we can go into the future as good neighbors in the Aiyura Valley, with a mutual respect and understanding for each other.

02 July, 2011

Back in the Green and Pleasant Land

So we landed in England a few days ago. Our flight from the US was delayed by two or three hours as the plane was struck by lightning on its way to the US and needed to be carefully inspected before it could be cleared to fly back to the UK. So we had some extra time to say our tearful good-byes to my folks before leaving.

Anyway, we landed at Gatwick and were met by Clare's parents, who were excited to see us, especially Levi, who they haven't seen since they met us in Australia in October of 2010 for a short holiday.

Jet lag wasn't quite as bad this time, it's only a 5 hour time difference from the Eastern US.

For the first couple of days we stayed with Clare's folks in their house. Dad gave us a car to use for the time we are in the UK:

After leaving the in-laws, we moved to the Wycliffe UK headquarters at Horsley's Green near High Wycombe. Here's what the front of our flat looks like:

History buff that I am, I asked about the history of this building and was told that it was one of several originally built here in 1940 as a place for Londoners to send their children to during the Blitz, (like some of you, I immediately thought of the Pevensey kids from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe!) After the war it was turned into a what would probably be called a "juvenile detention center" in the US (!) so the place has had a colorful history even before Wycliffe acquired it.

Our flat is old, but reasonably comfortable. I like the high ceilings and I was pleased to see how many radiators there are scattered around the place, as we will still be here when it starts to turn cold outside. There seems to be a problem with the wiring as only one of the lights works, but when we told the maintenance people about it, they immediately came over and started working on it. Unfortunately, even though they were here until after 10 pm they weren't able to fix it, though lots of progress was made determining where the problem ISN'T! :) Anyway, they got us some nice lamps to use in the meantime, so all's well.

We have lots to do here in the UK, including having a baby! I think that I am actually glad that my visa won't allow me to do any work here, (including volunteer work).

Meanwhile, back in Ukarumpa, we are getting some very encouraging reports about the security situation there--apparently a group of people who have been directly responsible for much of the criminal activity in our area have decided to turn from their old ways. They have issued a very impressive apology to those who they have wronged, including a huge gift of garden food! Perhaps the tide has turned and we are at the beginning of a time of greater peace? Only time will tell, but the outlook seems promising to me right now.

28 June, 2011

Strider Lives! And Meet The New Guy.

So! Strider the Ranger is alive and kicking and better than ever. Well, at least better than he has been since I first met him in 2006. I got the new transmission installed, put the exhaust all back together, put new fuel in the tank, brought the tires back up to the proper pressure, etc. and took him for a spin to Wal-Mart and back, (I didn't dare drive any farther because my registration expired 3.5 years ago).

Anyway, Strider lives, but is still too small for our family. So I will probably end up selling him, but probably not until we come back to the US in the fall. Dad had a nice aluminum cap from back when he had a Ranger and so I put that on the back of Strider, thinking maybe the cap might boost his value a bit on the used car market. I really liked this truck. I admit that at first I wasn't too thrilled about the small wheels, but at one point I experimentally put a set of tall tires on there, (ones that came from the old police car I junked out back in 2006), and they felt really scary to me because I was used to the better acceleration of the smaller ones, so I switched back. I do like the offset better than the stock rims. They are wide. Wide enough that I think that they might be messing with the front suspension geometry.

So now meet the New Guy. New Guy is a 1996 Ford Explorer 4x4. Originally a top spec Explorer, New Guy is showing a few signs of wear and tear, but appears to be a basically sound old car. Certainly better than the other similarly priced Explorer we looked at, which was only a 2 wheel drive and which had a "CHECK ENGINE" light that stayed on all the time. New Guy has lots of things that normal people care about, like power windows and door locks and ABS, air conditioning and dual front air bags. Things that I quite literally couldn't care less about, but there you have it, it's hard to get simple cars anymore! I do like the sunroof, though.

You might be wondering why I chose to get a 4x4 SUV. Well, we were originally looking for an RV, simply because an RV would allow us to live life more or less normally while travelling. I realised one day while driving here in FL with a very gumpy toddler screaming in the back seat that travelling with kids could well end up being very difficult, so I was hoping to find a cheap RV that would allow Clare and the kids to live life in the back, watching TV, eating snacks, etc. while I got on with the business of driving us from FL to MI and back again. Unfortunately, most of the RV that we looked at in our price range, ($1,000-$2500, and there were a surprising number in that range), were in pretty rough shape. All of them were advertised as "running" and yet, none of the owners were able to get them started, mainly because nobody wanted to spend the money on a new battery to get them started. So, because I didn't have time to do a lot of fixing up on an RV, I reluctantly let them all go and decided to get an Explorer instead.

Why an Explorer and not a Blazer or a a similar Japanese car? Well, I do all my own work on our cars and I'm most familiar with Fords and Very Olde Land Rovers. I was impressed with the Ranger (Strider) that I drove all over the East Coast in 2006, so I decided to get something of similar vintage and technology so that I wouldn't have to spend a lot of time learning how to work on it. Besides, Explorers are well supported in the aftermarket.

While I did not initially go out looking for a 4x4, I was happy when this one came up for sale, as we'll be doing a lot of driving over the winter and some of that in places where having 4x4 in the winter is a good thing, (like TN, for example).

Haven't decided on a name for New Guy yet. Clare says that all the baddies on TV drive black SUV's. I told her that we can drive around pretending to be baddies.

10 June, 2011

Strider will live again!

So here's the car I used last time I was in the US, about 4 years ago. It's a 1994 Ford Ranger, (which I naturally named Strider, which is probably not a very original name for a Ranger, but there you have it--I did do my fair share of "striding" though--over I drove over 12,000 miles in various cars the last time I was in the US, which is quite a bit of driving over a 6 month period) :

Anyway, on my last scheduled road trip last furlough, the transmission died. Apparently there is an oil line inside the tranny that is plugged at one end by a plastic plug and after a few years that plug shrinks and falls out, which causes the rest of the trans to not get enough lube and to eventually die a dry, horrible death due to lack of lubrication. I believe this is what happened to Strider's tranny. My Dad loaned me his truck instead for that trip and I left Strider parked at my folks' house in FL, thinking that Dad might replace the trans and get some use out of the truck as he had decided to sell his.

Well, Dad had a hard time figuring out what transmission Strider actually needed, and one thing after another pushed the old truck out of his mind. Finally, 4 years passed and Clare and I were due for another trip back to the US. We got to my folks' house and found that Strider had been parked under a tree int he back yard for a few years. I was afraid that the engine might be locked up with rust, but after putting in a new battery and putting an old ratchet handle across the contacts ont he solenoid, (the solenoid has gone bad), Strider's engine started right up and sounded good. At that point I decided to go ahead and replace the transmission with a new (remanufactured) transmission. So today Dad and I moved it across the yard, (Mom helped by pulling the truck with Dad's car while Dad and I pushed), and Levi sat in the passenger seat next to Oma, cheering everybody on.

So here's what it looks like now:

So what's a little mold and a few cobwebs?! New tranny and a visit to the carwash and he'll be good as new. Of course, this car really isn't very useful for a family with a toddler and an infant on the way, so we'll probably put it up for sale in a few weeks, or maybe try to trade it for an Explorer or something.

04 June, 2011

More on Maui

Because Maui was such a photogenic place, (and because blogging is so EASY from the US), I decided to put up a few more photos from our time there. Above is Levi at his favorite place in Maui, a huge playground called Giggle Hill.

Below is Clare and Levi and our friend Rebecca (who lives in Maui and who we stayed with while we were there--thanks Rebecca!). Also Some Dude (holding the masculine pink flotation device) who wouldn't get out of the shot.

Wind surfers at Kanaha Beach. There were dozens of wind and kite surfers there that day:

It was really windy at Ho'okipa Beach when we went there:

More later....

03 June, 2011

Safely in Florida!

For those of you who have been following our travels, we have now finally made it safely to Florida. Yes, after 7 different airplanes in 10 days, we've finally made it. My parents were there ot meet us at the airport in orlando and from there they drove us across the state to where they live. It's great to see them again, and of course they are ecstatic to see Levi (their only grandchild at this point), and he is also thrilled to see them!

It's normal for people returning to the US from a developing nation to experience some culture shock, and we are all going through a little of that. Here's some of the things that have been a little bit of a culture shock to me--funny things mostly:

--I feel like there is waaaay too much packaging on everything.
--TV is full of more inane idiots than ever.
--Just being here turns on a materialism switch in my brain; I caught myself looking at $400 watches on the web today. I think looking at $20,000 watches in the airline catalogs was probably part of what made me willing to look at stuff in the $350-$400 range. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that won't happen! LOL!
--The highways are super clean, they look almost sterile.
--Americans are just so incredibly FRIENDLY! It takes a little getting used to. I keep having to remind myself that they aren't doing it because they want something from me, it's just the way they are.

Some changes I have seen: big signs in airports, warning you not to take photos. I have seen this before, but never in the US, only in countries, where the government went overboard to protect little things like military trucks or helicopters, stuff that would be easy to get info on from a thousand other sources.

Anyway, more later....

29 May, 2011

Oh, and one more thing:

Saw a Japanese movie called Space Battleship Yamato on the plane. The ship is made out of the wreck of the WWII Japanese battleship Yamato, which I think is a pretty cool premise. I think the starship Yamato now has my vote as the number one coolest starship ever.

hahahahaha! I'm not used to being able to blog so fast, it usually takes me an hour or so per blog posting.

Furlough, Maui and Star Trek

So we're on our way back "home" to have another baby and to spend some time with our friends, family and financial partners. I say "home" in quotes because I don't currently feel like any one particular place is home these days, I have family connections in FL,TN, and MI, and close friends in SC, NC, ID, OH, CA, WA, MN, and more (if you are a close friend of mine and don't see your state listed, don't feel bad). We also have family and friends in the UK, (admittedly Clare has more close friends in the Uk than I do, fair enough, it's her home country after all).

Anyway, we found that for us the cheapest way back to the US was to go through HI. Since we have friends in Hawaii, we decided to take advantage of their offer of a free place to stay in Maui. Here's a view from her back porch, partway up the side of a dead volcano:

So Maui has been great! I haven't seen a bit of it, but after the flurry of our last couple of weeks in Ukarumpa, getting the house sorted out for our renter, gettign as much work as possible done at the shop, etc., it feels great to rest for a while.

So, flipping through the channels for a while at the house we are staying with, I stumbled upon maybe the best thing I could have found for me right now, an all-day Star Trek marathon! Clare and Levi are out with our friend Rebecca at a local aquarium, so I have the TV to myself for now.

More later.

04 April, 2011

Andrew Koens, Pneumonia Survivor

Ugh. I have pneumonia again. In my mind, pneumonia is something that people get in places where it gets cold, how in the world I've gotten it twice here in PNG, where the coldest temperatures I usually experience are in the low 70's (Fahrenheit) is a little bit beyond me. Nevertheless, back in 2004 I got it and now again in 2011.

It's rare for me to get sick--I was looking at my file at the clinic while I was down there today and it looks like it's only 3 or 4 hand-written pages long for a 9 year time span. I think the first entry was my pneumonia case of 2004, then a couple of foot/ankle related injuries/pains over the years and now pneumonia again.

Overall, I'm very thankful for my generally good health and for the generally good health of my family. I have noticed, over the years, that I tend to get sick during times when I am under a lot of stress of one kind or another. Right now we are making furlough plans, (furlough is always a big stress for me), and I am more or less swamped at work, and Levi has been keeping us up at night with night terrors, (hoping he gets through this stage soon!), and we've been having our biannual SIL PNG branch conference, where we've been discussing a lot of possible changes to our little piece of the organisation (some I agree with and am in favor of, others I am much opposed to) so I guess I am under a bit of stress right now. I always seem to get sick right at the time when I need to take a break.

In other news, my '85 Honda XR600 is running again! Like a Phoenix rising fromt he ashes, Brutus rides again! Only now he's more "brutey" than ever, while at the same time being easier to start than ever. Man, it's good to be back on two wheels again.

I bought Brutus from a Swedish missionary family who had gone back to Sweden. He had been thoroughly used and abused by their oldest son and all of his careless friends and was in pretty rough shape when I made the offer to buy him. I got him cheap and have been modifying him ever since. At one point, not long after I got him, I was working on somebody else's XL600 which needed a new cylinder head. I order a good used one from a place in New Zealand and although the seller assured me that thehead he was selling me was the right one, when it arrived it turned out to be a later style head that wouldn't work with the XL carburetors. The owner fo the XL was really wanting his bike fixed, so I ended up taking the cylinder head from Brutus and putting it on the other guy's bike, then I went through all the trouble of modifying Brutus to use to newer style head--that was the beginning of my modifications!

For those who are interested, here's a list of Brutus' current list of mods: (keep in mind that these mods have happened over a space of 6 or 7 years)

--early 1980's Yamaha DT 125 headlight shell with a 100 watt yellow fog light in it
--custom 36 inch wide handlebars, (I widened them myself from 32 inches to 36--much more comfy for me now!)
--I rebuilt the seat with a XR's Only Australia seat cover and new, very hard foam--believe it or not, this is actually much more comfortable on long trips than the ultra soft foam that was on there before. I won't go on a long bike trip with a soft seat--a soft seat will wear you out in a couple of hours.
--later style XR wheels--I got them off of a dead XR250L, but they are the same as later style XR250/400/600p wheels, except that the rear one has a rubber mounted sprocket. I rebuilt these wheels with new bearings, new stainless spokes and straight rims salvaged from other wheels, (thankfully I just happened to have a good 32 spoke rim off of an '89 CR250 in the shop that I was able to use).
--XR250L rear swing arm and disc brake. This was a huge improvement--the original XR600 rear wheel had a woefully inadequate (microscopic) rear brake--it actually used the same size brake shoes as the old Honda 70 mini bikes. The new rear disc is almost too powerful--it requires a lot more finesse to use it, but it is so much more effective. The swingarm required extensive modifications to make it fit. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't modify the swingarm, but would instead reposition the upper rear shcok mount, which would have been so much easier and would have been the work of only a couple hours instead of the days I spent modifying the swing arm. The XR250L had the rear shock positioned centrally, the old XR600 had it's shock mounted to one side. In retrospect, it would have been much better to move the 600 shcok to one side, I'm not sure what I was thinking.
--the engine is a real hodge-podge. The bottom end is all original 1985 XR600, but with all new bearings and a new output shaft. I can't remember for sure, but I think I rebuilt the crankshaft, too. I had re-wound part of the original stator when I first got the bike, but it had only lasted about 4 years before it burned up again, so now I have a 200W Ricky Stator unit in there, running through 2 legs of a 3 phase heavy duty regulator/rectifier out of a Ducati streetbike. The cylinder is a 1989 Honda NX650 cylinder I got in Cairns, Aus. last time I was there--I paid too much for it, especially as I had to resleeve it anyway to work with my piston. The piston is a thing of beauty, a nicely forged and machined original Honda HRC race part that I got new off of eBay for a song some time ago. It's the 628cc big bore piston with an 11:1 compression ratio. Normally, an 11:1 XR600 is a real pain to start, but thankfully eBay came to my rescue again and I was able to get a later model XR650L cylinder head with the later style automatic decompressor and anti-kickback device. The head had been portd by XR's Only in the US, and I installed new stainless steel valves in it. it already had a set of high performance springs in it when I got it.
--exhaust is an FMF Powerbomb header with an ancient SuperTrapp muffler on it. Sounds good, seems to work pretty well.

No photo today--I waited 20 minutes for one to upload, then tried again but it was going even slower so I finally gave up. The interweb is far too slow today for photos.

02 January, 2011

The Midnight Ride

Ah, the Midnight Motorcycle Ride! Every year, on New Year's Eve, Ukarumpa motorcycle riders get together for a 45 minute ride around Ukarumpa starting at 11:30 and going to 12:15. The tradition of missionary kids riding motorcycles around Ukarumpa has waxed and waned over the years, but for the past 9 or 10 years it has been a consistent annual event. We close down public access to the roads in Ukarumpa so as to cut down on the amount of potential traffic. We make an effort to make the ride as safe as possible for both the riders and the spectators, as many people will line the roads in some areas to see us ride by as midnight approaches.

Over the last 2 or three years the Ride has been organised by me on my own, but for the first several years that I was here, I organised it as a part of my role as the Vice President of the Ukarumpa Motorcycle Club, which is a club that was created to help organise the shool-aged bike riders. Today's photo is from a few years ago when I was still the Vice Prez. Some of the kids really look forward to the Midnight Ride and will spend the last few days of December in a flurry of activity trying to get their working bikes ready and trying to resurrect as many "dead" bikes as possible in time for the ride so that as many people as possible can participate.

The New Year's Eve Midnight Ride is a tradition that has been observed by Wycliffe missionary kids all around the world for many years. No one knows who started it or when the first Midnight Ride happened, though the earliest ones I know of happened back in the 1960's, both here among Wycliffe members in PNG and among Wycliffe members in Peru.

This year's ride was really dry and dusty, some years we have had rain and mud the whole time, other times we have fog, and sometimes the weather is clear and the roads are perfect. Participation varies from year to year, this year we had about 10 guys at the start with another 4 or 5 joining in later, some years we have had as many as 25 or 30, with mix of vehicles including little dirt bikes, big dirt bikes, old race bikes, 3 wheelers, 4 wheelers, a golf cart, and this year included a chinese made, 3 wheeled light duty truck at the beginning.

If you come to PNG and end up living in Ukarumpa, you too can become a part of the tradition. It's fun, it gives the kids a chance to do something they ordinarily can't, (this is the only time of the year that unregisterable bikes--like old race bikes--are allowed on the roads), and it's a fun way to ring in the new year.