16 December, 2012

Car Accessorizing, PNG/Andrew Style

      So everywhere you go on this terrestrial sphere, you'll find people who lavish care and attention on their cars.  One of the most common ways that you can tell a person likes his or her car is by whether or not  they choose to accessorise it.  Accessories can be as simple as the classic flower bud vase that used to be popular in old VW's, to million dollar paint schemes and custom made wheels.  Extremely popular accessories would include fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror, steering wheel covers, and bumper stickers. 

     In addition, each country and culture has it's own spin on what it considers to be "cool".  A taxi driver in Peru, for example, might have a seat cover made out of large wooden beads and a statue of the virgin Mary on the dash board.  Another in India might have a small representation of his favorite deity.  In the Southwestern USA, you might find miniature Native American dreamcatchers hanging from rear view mirrors.  In upper east Tennessee it's popular for kids to hang the tassle from their high school graduation caps there. 

      In PNG you'll often find cable ties attached to the windscreen wipers to make the wipers look like huge eyelashes.  Sometimes you'll see a set of deer antlers, (sometimes complete with skull), lashed to the bull bar with sturdy rubber straps.  I've also seen bull horns mounted this way.

       And sometimes, if you are lucky, you might see this:

    Yep!  Those are dead birds.  Not to worry, they have been carefully dried out so that they don't attract any vermin, and they should stay well preserved for quite a long time.  Lovely plumage, to be sure.

          And then there's me.  I did a little accessorising myself over the weekend--our shop rescue truck is down, so I decided to optimise my Land Rover for light rescue duty, (pulling people out of ditches, hauling small trailers, that sort of thing.)  So to that end, I installed a trailer hitch and the biggest clevis I've ever seen:

I made the mount for the ball and the attach point for the clevis out of pieces of scrap I found around the shop.  Don't worry about the 2 little bolts holding the trailer hitch on, there are much bigger bolts underneath, where you can't see them.  I also added a rear view mirror, since all the ones that were on there have been stolen over the years.  The new one is a motorcycle mirror that was given to me by a friend in Tennessee, (along with a bunch of other odd parts).  Here it is:

In this photo you can also see a couple of my other efforts at accessorsing--namely my custom built grille and the OOOOOOGAH horn that was given to me years ago by a friend who left.  One day I would still like to put a set of the early style narrow headlights in behind that grille.  That would be cool. I've got the parts, I just need to do it...

While I was under there working on the trailer hitch, I discovered that one of the U-bolts that holds the spring on on the right side was missing, (I assume it must have broken and pieces fell out), so I replaced it with an old one that I had.  I was puzzled as to why the U-bolt had broken, it was a new a couple of years ago, and from a reputable company.  In contrast, the one I put back in had been on there with an older set of springs I for many many years.  I plan to keep an eye on all the other new ones to see if they start breaking, too.

06 December, 2012

Bush Truckers!

       So early this week a guy came into the shop and asked about hiring us to haul a small excavator with our 6x6 5 ton truck (M813A1 for those who care).  I gave him an estimate of what it would cost, he was quite happy with the price, even paid 100% up front.

Loaded up: I was impressed with the loading ramp they had built--looks like somebody's been measuring our truck's deck height!  all photos courtesy of Marty.
       Now at this point some of you might (logically) be asking why a bunch of missionaries with a truck would be charging at all.  That's a fair question.  The reason is because if we didn't, we wouldn't be able to do it at all.  So we charge enough to cover our costs, but then we have to be careful not to undercut our competition, because we aren't here to steal anybody else's business.  So whatever we take in that is over and above our operating costs gets plowed back into other areas where we don't charge enough.  A real business would be interested in turning a profit, as part of a non-profit organisation, we are usually content to simply stay out of debt.  In the case of our off-road trucking service, there is nobody else locally who can carry loads as heavy as we can on rough dirt roads.  If there were competition, we'd probably have to raise our rates to keep from undercutting them (convoluted, I know).

       Anyway, back to my story:  I'm the shop manager this week, as the incoming manager doesn't get here until sometime next week and the outgoing manager's last day was last week.  So I took the job and took Marty and Evan with me, as there is a good chance that either one of them could end up doing these trips in the future and I knew that the experience would be good for them.

       It was a short haul, a little under 3 hours total time.  It was pretty straightforward, a beautiful day, nice and dry, the roads were all there, no big washouts, only a couple of bridges to deal with, and those were short and in reasonably good shape.

Me saying, "DON'T LET THAT BUCKET HIT THE RADIATOR!"  We ended up chaining the bucket to the bumper and putting a chunk of 6x6 timber between it and the grille.  The chain came loose while we were driving, but the timber and the very sturdy steel grille did a good job of preventing any real damage.  When we got back, I touched up the paint on the grille.  Notice some of the kids wearing winter coats?  It was a warm, beautiful day, but style so often trumps comfort.  These coats probably came from one of PNG's excellent second-hand clothes stores, and most likely came from New Zealand or Australia. 

Photos like this make me realise just how Mighty my beard has become.  The morning glance in the bathroom mirror doesn't do it justice.  Ned Kelly, eat your heart out.

No matter where you go in PNG, natural beauty abounds.

04 November, 2012

Power grid maintenance

         So under the category of "Things I Don't Do Everyday":  Last Saturday I got asked to help repair/upgrade the big power cables that carry electricity into Ukarumpa from Yonki Dam.  The old cables had some kind of an issue I don't fully understand, (although my electrician friend did try to explain it to me), but part of the way that it manifested itself was by making the power pole that I am leaning against in the photo electrically "hot".  That is to say, a barefoot guy who put a hand against that pole was at risk of getting a 240 volt shock (not to worry, all the power was off when this photo was taken).

         Anyway, it was a big job.  Took us all day, I was there almost exactly 10 hours, making sure that the generator was set up not to start automatically, helping to mount the conduit for the cables, running back and forth to get tools out of the shop, helping to move 500 lbs. cable/conduit assemblies, helping to bend heavy gauge copper cable in the generator shed, (the green building to the right of the photo has one of our big back-up generators in it), that kind of thing.

         This photo impresses me with the amount of green and yellow in it.  Oh yeah, my beard is really big and bushy again now; that's me on the ladder.

17 October, 2012

One Good Thing About the Bridge Being Closed

       One good thing was that I got to drive the truck!  All the kids from Ukarumpa International School (Secondary Campus) were coming back from their annual high school retreat, ("Encounter" for those of you who have been here and experienced it), and since the bridge was closed we needed a large vehicle to carry all their bags and stuff back.  Some of the more adventurous boys asked if they could ride in the back.

15 October, 2012

Things That Make Me Go "Ugh!"

        So if you are following things that are happening in this area in other blogs, you may already be familiar with the Saga of the Kingston Bridge in Kainantu, and can go look at other stuff.  For the rest of you:

        What we locally refer to as the "Kingston Bridge" is a WWII style Bailey Bridge.  Nothing wrong with that, Bailey bridges are a good design; strong and fairly easily built,  They were designed to be erected while under fire in battlefield situations, but they were never really intended to be permanent structures.  According to at least one reliable source in the Aiyura Valley, the Kingston Bridge has been there since 1962, if not earlier.  I can tell you that int he 10 years that I have lived here, it has received very little maintenance, (cleaning, painting, that sort of thing), and as a result it is well and truly rusting away.  In many places you can use a stick to poke holes through what were once thick steel beams and girders.  Here's a typical example:

      So what, right?  So there's an old bridge that should be replaced, big deal, right?  Yeah, actually it is kind of a big deal, as this bridge is part of the only way in and out for some major organisations in the Aiyura Valley, including, but not limited to: the National Agricultural Research Institute, Aiyura National High School, the Coffee Reasearch Institute, the Summer Institute of Linguistics main translation centre at Ukarumpa,  and Colbrans Coffeelands, just to name a few.  All of these organisations rely heavily on the Kingston Bridge, and in fact several of them need there to be a good bridge in place in order to get heavy trucks in and out of the area.

        We have tried to come up with various solutions to the bridge problem, including the idea of building a ford, but local landowners are very careful with their land and have proven to be difficult to work with.  They are also part of the reason why a new bridge has not been built yet.

       So instead we and/or the local Works Department keep patching up this bridge, hoping that one day a way will be found to put in a new bridge. Recently, the local Works Department completed some major repairs on the bridge, but now, a week later, it is already starting to deteriorate again.  So that makes me go "Ugh!  The bridge!"

        In other news, I am taking on more and more managerial duties at the workshop.  Part of me doesn't mind too much, as management needs to happen and I don't have a problem making decisions when they need to be made, but part of me hates it, because there's still nobody else here to do the work I came here to do, (motorcycles/small engines), and so while I am being assistant manager of the workshop, motorcycle and small engine jobs pile up.  Also being a mangerial assistant means that I get lots more phone calls and have to deal with the public more often than I used to, which means lots of interruptions during the day, which means that a 20 minute job can end up taking 3 or 4 hours.  So that makes me go, "ugh. Management."

        Ugh. Can I end this on a brighter note?  Hmmmm.  Heidi's 8th tooth is finally coming in!  After months of having only 7 teeth,  the missing number 8 is finally showing up, so that's nice.  Oh, I've lost 75 lbs. now since January, that's nice, too.  My goal is to lose at least 100 lbs., possibly more, we'll see how it goes.  I owe a lot of credit to my lovely wife, who has managed to come up with a PNG adaptation of the South Beach diet.  Thanks, dear!

05 July, 2012

My SECOND Wreck recovery Call-Out

    So Tony was out again, this time for a week while he gets training for another position that he'll be taking up in January.  Two big things happened while he was gone:

    1.) The Kingston Bridge in Kainantu sustained heavy damage when a couple of big trucks loaded with green coffee beans crossed it.  As I understand it, the first truck crossed over and the bridge made alarming noises.  The second truck crossed over and 3 or 4 of the load bearing I-beams underneath the bridge (already very heavily rusted), snapped.  The third truck decided not to try his luck, he turned around and went back home.  This bridge is vitally important, not only to our organisation, but also to half-a dozen other organisations of national significance, which all happen to be located in the Aiyura Valley.  If this bridge goes down, then there is no really practicable way to get in and out of the valley, certainly not by road anyway.  So naturally representatives of some of these organisations all showed up the next morning to take a look at the bridge and decide what to do.  We took a trip to the Department of Public Works in Kainantu and asked if they had any of the parts needed to fix the bridge.  The best that we could find was a collection of 7 bent and rusty I-beams buried in somebody's garden near the Work Department!  So we took those back to our workshop and straightened them out.  Just after we had started straightening the first one:

   2.) happened.  We got a call that one of our employees had been in a bad accident about 60 km away, and had rolled one of our rental fleet vehicles.  I feel I should explain at this point that we keep a small fleet of vehicles, 2 four door Ford Ranger pick-up trucks, 2 or 3 Toyota Hiace vans/busses, and a Toyota Land Cruiser SUV for use by members and employees of our organisation.  This cuts down on the number of people who feel that they need to own cars and thus lightens our workshop work load somewhat.  Well, Evan and I loaded up the rescue truck, (a well-worn Toyota Land Cruiser pick-up truck/ute) and the crash trailer and headed out again.  Here's what we found:

       It's too bad!  That was a sweet little truck.  Only 33,000 km on it.  (For those of you scratching your heads and saying "That don't look like no Ford Ranger!" You're right!  I don't think Rangers like this one have ever been available in the US, and probably not the UK either, though I'm less certain about that.  It has a 12 valve, 4 cylinder turbo-diesel in it--with factory intercooler, 5 speed manual trans, and a limited slip diff in the rear end.  Good stuff.)  It does actually still run, in fact we drove it up on to the trailer, though we had to change one of the front wheels first as one of the tires had popped off of the rim.

        It's a bit hard to say what happened, let's just call it "driver fatigue".  He and his two passengers walked away with minor bruises, (proving that it IS still possible to survive a major accident in a car without air bags--who knew?!) .  One of the passengers claims that the car rolled 3 times, I'm just not sure.  I'm pretty sure it's totalled, though we're still waiting for the insurance company to tell us so.

       We got the initial call around 3:30 p.m. and didn't get back until midnight.  It was no picnic driving up the Kassam Pass with that truck and trailer dragging us down, let me tell you.  At one point we actually ran out of steam and stalled on an unpaved section and the weight of the trailer and wreck started to pull us backwards--a passing police officer hollered for us to bail out, but I got it into 4x4 low range and managed to get under weigh again.  Needless to say, I left it 4x4 low all the way to the top of the Pass after that, even though it meant that the drive train wound up and popped alarmingly every now and then.  I suppose I could have unlocked the front hubs, but I think the extra pulling traction was probably an asset.  We only had to go 60 km from home, but on the way back we were averaging about 15 kph, uphill and down, as the Land Cruiser brakes aren't quite up to the task of handling the extra 2.5-3 tons of weight that we were towing.  (Good news is that as a result of this trip, we're now looking into maybe getting a better truck to use for the rescue vehicle!  We were already starting to look into it, but this has made us even MORE interested in replacing it.)

      Anyway, we made it back alive, then had to leave the wreck and trailer with some friends in Kainantu because there was a big hole in the Kingston Bridge and we didn't want to try to get the trailer over it. 

       For the next couple of days, the Kingston Bridge was Priority One, and so we sent out a crew of guys to work with the Department of Works to replace the broken I-beams in the bridge, some of which were so rusty that they fell apart under their own weight when we removed them. 

       For all of the work we did on it, the bridge is still falling down because the bank on one end is washing away, so this was only a temporary fix.  While it was being repaired, we saw people from the Department of Works surveying the site in preparation for a new bridge, though a lot of work needs to be done to repair the bank before construction can begin.

       But for now, the Bridge is open and even the big holes that were in it for years are fixed now! 

17 June, 2012

My First Wreck Recovery

      So my department head, Tony, is off for a few days of well-deserved vacation.   A perfect time for my first rescue/wrecked vehicle recovery--not the first time I've been involved in a rescue, but the first one that was all my show that involved a wreck recovery.

      Yeah, I'll tell you all about it.  Didn't bring a camera though--it was dark and rainy--wait, I'm getting ahead of myself...

       On my way home from work on Friday, The director of Wycliffe's PNG Branch, (think my boss's boss's boss), flagged me down, aske me who was on call the weekend, (it was me) and said "I don't have much info yet, but a member of our community has been in an accident in a rental vehicle between here and Goroka.  The vehicle is not drivable, can you go recover it?"  Naturally I said yes.

       I didn't want to go alone, so I got ahold of my co-worker Evan and we picked up the AutoShop rescue truck and the crash trailer and headed out.  The wrecked truck was at a church, not far from the Trumpet School.  I knew where the Trumpet School was, but I wasn't sure where the church was.    Anyway, we found the wreck site without too much trouble, (there was still broken glass on the road), but there was no way to get in to the churchyard without turning around, so we went on down the road a little ways to the Trumpet School, where I pulled in to turn around--the Trumpet School has a nice big, flat yard with good access from the road.  We pulled in, turned, and got stuck.  It was hard at one end, where we pulled in, but got progressively softer and muddier as we turned.

        Well, we weren't going to get the truck out with the massive crash  trailer on it, so we unhooked it, got the truck out, (that was a chore), then had to figure out how to get the trailer out.  We had a small electric winch in the truck, thankfully Tony had had the foresight some time ago to put recievers for it at each end of the truck, so we connected it to the truck and ran the hook out to the trailer, but when we hit the switch, (the switch is a lousy piece of junk), it just pulled the truck across the slippery ground to the trailer.  So then we chained the truck to a tree, ran the winch cable out to the trailer and dragged it back.  In the process we bent the extendable wheel under the tongue of the trailer, (that wheel didn't fit properly and was a headache to use, but bending it only made things worse).

       Okay, so now it was REALLY dark out.  We got the truck up near the road, (got the front wheels onto something hard), and then used the winch again to pull the trailer to the truck.  Without the extendable wheel, we couldn't lift the tongue up to the hitch.  We used the winch, but, (wouldn't you know it?) the winch reciever is placed so that when the winch is installed, it blocks the way to the trailer ball, so we could get to within an inch or two of our goal and no farther.  The tongue weight of the trailer is too much for Evan and I to lift, so we spent a hour or two trying to figure out various way to lift it.  We got the jack out of the truck, but it was junk and would only go up about 1.5 inches.  After a few minutes of use, the controller for the winch died, it was useless, it would only feed the cable out, but not back in, so we unplugged it from the winch body and just used an old piece fo scrap steel we found in the back of the truck to cross over the contacts on the winch itself so that we could control it--of course, as it got more and more wet, we were getting worse and worse shocks while trying to use the winch.  Fun times.   "Okay, let the winch out!"  "Okay--BZZT! OW!" whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Bzzt *sparks* bzzzt "Ow!"

      Alright, so it's dark, we've only got one flashlight and the batteries in it are going.  It's now also pouring down rain.  We spent a long time trying to find a way to get that trailer on to that ball.  Finally about 6 PNG guys stopped by, (not all entirely sober, but at least they were reasonably friendly), and started offering advice and suggestions, without us even having to ask.   Before we left Ukarumpa, the director had given me his cell phone, (I don't own one because I very rarely have a need for one here) so every 10 minutes or so the time we were stuck people kept calling us on the phone and asking "where are you?  Are you still stuck?  What are you doing?  Are you lost?  Can't you get somebdoy to help you?"  Always at bad times and with not much useful to offer.   Eventually we removed the winch and got these guys to help us lift the trailer and drop it on to the ball.  (I should also point out that the truck was on a little hill, (the only place where there was reliable traction), and the trailer was downhill from it, which all added to the mess.)  The PNG guys were friendly enough, they remembered me from another wrecked vehicle recovery I had been involved in in that area a few years ago.  I guess I made an impression on them during that recovery--I was on crowd control that day, that was what they all remembered, though it seemed to be a happy memory for them.

        Okay, so we've finally got the trailer back on the truck, handed out K20 to the guys  (about $10 US) and told them to scale it out amongst themselves.  Everybody left happy, though I was a bit ticked off to find that some one had stolen our leaky bottle jack out of the back of the truck while we were working on the trailer.  So we drove back to the church and pulled in behind the wrecked car.   Thankfully the terrain there offered a natural way to get the truck on to the trailer.  I say "thankfully" because we had forgotten the ramps for the trailer.  Unfortunately, the wreck had one front wheel that wouldn't roll, and the steering didn't work.  We tried to get it onto the trailer, but after a couple of failed attempts, the steering tie rod popped off and we found that the threaded end of the rod was more or less shattered, so there was no way to really patch it up.  When we took a good look at the wheel that wouldn't roll, we discovered that the reason why it wouldn't roll was because the wheel was bent--we realised that if we could put the spare tire on, we'd be able to roll it.  The spare tire had a locking lug that needed a key to open it, so we got the key from the driver and then discovered that while it was definitely a rental vehicle, it was an AVIS rental, (! I didn't even know that AVIS was active in this part of PNG!) not one of our fleet vehicles.  At that point I started asking "is this really our job?  Shouldn't AVIS be doing this?"  Anyway, we the key turned out to be the wrong one for getting the spare off and there was no other key, so we decided to leave the vehicle, (it was now after 10:00 pm) and come back Monday  (we had another work-related road trip already planned for Saturday)  with a spare wheel and whatever parts we needed to get the steering going again, (it might even have been drivable after that).  So we took the two passengers who were still there--some of the people who had been in the wreck had already caught a ride back to Ukarumpa in a Public Motor Vehicle), and went back to Ukarumpa.

        It was quarter to 11 when we got to the front gate, which had already been locked for the night.  We honked the horn for a little while until a guard showed up and let us in, (about 10 minutes or so), 

        After I dropped off the guy who had been in the wreck, Evan, and the AS rescue truck, I got in the Land Rover to drive home.  On my way home, I saw the director crossing the road in front of me in his van, so I followed him home, returned his phone and told him that while the wrecked car was indeed a rental car, it wasn't one of OUR rentals.  He told me that we probably shouldn't be recovering it, then.  He said he'd make some calls in the morning and see if AVIS couldn't recover it instead, which I have now learned that they ended up doing yesterday afternoon.

        So!  5 hours, at least 3 of them spent getting the truck and trailer out of the mud, and in the end, pretty much nothing to show for it, except giving 2 guys a ride back to Ukarumpa!  Pretty much par for the course...  I was glad Evan was there, I was all set to abandon the trailer and come back for it on Monday, (which would have been a mistake--the wheels on the trailer also happen to fit a lot of vehicles in this area, so they might have been a little bit too much temptation for somebody), so I'm really glad that we didn't.  I would have done if Evan hadn't been there.

        The next day Evan came along again and we went to Nadzab (the airport near Lae), and picked up the shop apprentices, absolutely no drama.  Though yeah, whoever said the road was really bad was right!  Especially between K92 and Yonki.   Kassam Pass is down to just one lane in several places, though in one area that has been just one lane for a long time has been repaired, so that's a plus.

         So that's the story of our "rescue"...

13 May, 2012

Are We Depressed?

       So I've been using the crank starter to start up Patrick the Land Rover lately.  Why?  Because the battery that is in it is now at least 6 years old and won't hold a charge anymore, and I can't afford the $150 pricetag of a new battery.  It's not that hard, the engine in it right now has a 7:1 compression ratio, so once you get it spinning, it's not too hard to keep it spinning until it fires up.  Anyway, here's the procedure, for anyone who wants to know:

       1.) Make sure the hand brake is on.

       2.) put the transmission into neutral (this is very important--if you don't do this, there's a chance you could run yourself over!)

       3.) make sure the choke on.  I like to pump the accelerator a couple of times, too, just to get some fuel into the intake manifold.

       4.) turn the front wheels all the way to the left--if you don't the steering dampener ends up being in the way of the crank handle.

       5.) turn the key switch on.

       6.) get the starting crank out from behind the seat, feed it into the hole in the bumper.  I usually have the hood/bonnet up when I do this, as I find it very difficult to get the crank lined up in the cam on the front of the engine's crankshaft unless I can actually look down on the operation from above.

       7.)  start cranking in a clockwise direction.  Trying to crank the other way won't work, the cam on the front of the crankshaft will just kick out the starting crank.

       Once the engine catches, the crank is automatically disengaged from the engine, so there's minimal danger of it flailing around and trying to kill you at 750-1000 rpm's.

        Anyway, the fact that I am hesitant to spend the money on a new battery was on my mind when I had a chat with a buddy the other day about the price of gasoline/petrol.  It's up to about US $8.00/gallon here, and as we were discussing that, I suddenly said, "we're in the mnidst of a depression, man."  "You think so?"  "Sure, look around, no matter where you go, it seems like nobody has any money and the price of everything just keeps going up.  It reminds me of stories I've heard from people who lived through the Great Depression."  I don't think that he was quite convinced, and truth is, I don't know enough about economics to really have any idea what I'm talking about.

          I admit that I do get something of a kick out of crank starting it.  There's just something manly feeling about using your hands to force a big old engine to run.  Crank starting an old Lister generator gives you a similar feeling.   

          Thankfully I don't usually have to drive very far, and the old XR 600 gets a lot better mileage than the Ancient Land Rover does.        

29 February, 2012

Never Had To Do This In Tennessee....

So chalk this one up under "things I never had to do in Tennessee"--

As you may remember, there are bridges in the area where we live that are in pretty bad shape. The government is working to restore/replace the worst of them, but it is a long process. Anyway, one bridge in the town of Kainantu is getting a little worse every time it rains, and right now is rainy season. Unfortunately, the bridge is part of a major road artery between the Aiyura Valley and the rest of the world.

So because the bridge is going to fall down "any day now", we're desperately trying to prepare by laying in whatever supplies we would normally haul in by truck. This morning I got to play truck driver again and took the ex-USMC M813A1 5 ton truck in to town to pick up 2 loads of fuel. My first load was 20 drums of fuel, my second load was 16 or so. This time we were bringing in petrol/gasoline and diesel to get our fuel station tanks filled up. This fuel is not just for our own use, we also sell it to the local public--there are a lot of trucks in the Aiyura Valley, and if the bridge falls down, ours will be the only fuel station that locals will be able to get to. (Actually, there is another place where cars can get across the river, but the bridge there isn't much better and isn't really suitable for heavy traffic. Plus the road over there is really rough.)

So here's what it looked like this morning:

The fuel comes up from Lae in drums, about 50 or so on our road truck, then we take the 5 ton truck in, put as many drums on as it can hold, (about 20 or so), and drive back to Ukarumpa. This time I had to do 2 trips, as we wanted to get the road truck really light for crossing the bridge.

Here's a shot of the truck parked in the shop at the end of the day:

We're hoping to get in another load of diesel for our generators sometime soon, so I may be doing this again real soon.

26 February, 2012

Back Into the Swing of Things

Well, we've been a month back in PNG now and you can hardly even tell that we were ever gone. Motorcycles, chainsaws, generators, big airstrip mowers, small lawnmowers, ATV's, and other small engine powered machines are pouring in and I'm beginning to feel like I need to slow them down again somehow.

Clare is adjusting to having two children in the house now, Levi is about 90% done with potty training, and Heidi continues to radiate good will towards all with her big smile. Here she is posing with our duffel bag, which got lost somewhere between Tampa, FL and Brisbane, AUS and arrived here just over 1 month after we did:

In other news, I offered to go pick up the Language Survey Team from an area they were surveying near Lae. I took a friend with me and we left a day early so that we could get some shopping done in Lae before picking up the survey team. We had a productive trip, we got very nearly all of the things we were looking for (which is surprising) and all was going well. On the morning that we were to pick up the team, we found that we had one last errand to do before we could go, so off we went to do it. We were headed to a business that niether of us had ever been to before and had only vague directions on how to get there. While trying to find it, this happened:

Yup! While slowly driving through a fairly busy neighborhood, a group of several men tried to hold us up. One ran out in front of us with a rusty old revolver and started waving it around, while another stood on the side of the road with a big slingshot. 1 or 2 more stood near him, waiting for us to stop so that they could rob us. I think that the one with the gun was supposed to distract us from the real danger, the man with the slingshot.

I long ago decided that in cases like this, nothing improves if you stop, so I mashed the throttle to the floor and held down the horn button to warn the man with the gun that he was in danger of being run over. Eventually he jumped out of the way, but not before his buddy with the slingshot managed to damage our windshield. I labelled it "Attempted Hold-up #2" as this is the second time that I have driven through an attempted hold-up in PNG. It's the third time I was in a car that somebody tried to hold-up, but only the second where I was the driver.

Thankfully, the whole thing was pretty much over in about 20 seconds and nobody was hurt. I was more annoyed than anything, especially as the insurance on our rental vehicle carries a $500 deductible that my passenger and I have to pay!

These things happen from time to time, and not just here.

In other news, my parents have sold my old Ford Ranger, which has featured a time or two in this blog. I'm a little sad, as I did rather like that truck, but also glad because now I have extra bills to pay, (like half of the $500 insurance deductible).

27 January, 2012

10 years in PNG!

10 years ago today, (January 27th), I first set foot on PNG soil. I don't remember much of that day, I had started out from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Los Angeles, Tokyo, Singapore, (where I had a 22 hour layover and dozed in the observation lounge of the airport), and then finally to Port Moresby. I was very tired--as I recall, one of my new colleagues who I had met in Singapore, proposed spending the day in a local hotel to get rested up before our next flight to Madang that afternoon, where we would go through Wycliffe's Pacific Orientation Course.

Anyway, it's been 10 years since that day. A lot has happened in that time, but I'm as sure of my calling now as I have ever been. This is where I am supposed to be, and this is the work I am supposed ot be doing. Sure, it's frustrating some times, and life might be easier somewhere else, but we weren't called to a life of ease, were we?

17 January, 2012

Ahhhhhh, Brisbane.

Ah, it's nice to be back in Australia. We left the US a few days ago and had a mad series of flights between Tampa, Florida and Brisbane, Australia. We were delayed by weather on our first flight, which meant that we missed our connecting flight in Atlanta, which meant that all of our subsequent flights were shuffled around and rearranged and what we ended up with was somewhat different from what we started with, and included what must be one of the longest commercial flights on Earth: Dallas, Texas to Brisbane in 15 hours and 15 minutes or so.

Anyway, these few days in Brisbane have been great, to me it feels like maybe only the second time we've really relaxed since we stopped in Hawaii after leaving PNG back in June. Today, however, we leave and fly back to PNG. We're planning to spend the night in Port Moresby, then tomorrow on back to Ukarumpa!

Here's a photo from the archives, me back when I was still single, riding a borrowed bike (US spec 1987 Honda XL600R) to Madang for Christmas holidays with friends back in 2004, (I think?).