08 August, 2010
A Change of Pace, Maybe. Of Place, Certainly
No, it's not a refugee camp, though I admit that it does look a bit like one. This is one of the photos I took during my time at the SIL Pacific Orientation Course in Madang, back in 2002. It's in black and white because I like shooting black and white and because at the time I was trying hard to come up with ways to make the batteries in my camera last longer. (By the way, on that Toshiba camera that I had back then, I did find that by switching to black and white I could squeeze a few more photos onto my camera's memory card and that there was a little less waiting time between shots.) This photo was shot from the door of the room where I lived for 16 weeks, (with 5 weeks taken out near the end where I went and lived with a family in a village about 100 km north of Madang). POC is where we all go to start learning to speak Melanesian Pidgin and to start learning a bit about Melanesian cultures, all to prepare us for living and working in Papua New Guinea.
For most of us, POC is roughing it. If we wanted hot showers, we had to build fires and heat the water ourselves; the power was often off, so we used lanterns and candles to see at night. A few weeks into the course, the kitchen closes on the weekends and you are left to fend for yourselves if you want food, so you learn to cook over an open fire. If you want to go into town, you have to walk a few miles down to the main road and hope to catch a ride on a PMV that isn't already full of people going to town. The whole experience is meant to prepare people for living in remote villages in PNG. Even people like me, who don't live in remote villages, are often required to go through POC so that they can have a better understanding of what life is like for their co-workers and national friends who do live that way.
POC also involves a fair amount of physical training, including required daily hikes through the surrounding jungle and required swimming down at the ocean. Here's a photo of myself and two couples from my POC group heading out on a three day hike with 3 Papua New Guineans who were on staff for our course. The man next to me with the cowboy hat on was a good friend of mine at the time. He helped to teach me Tok Pisin (Melanesian Pidgin) and I spent a lot of time with him and his family:
Anyway, a few weeks ago I was approached by the director of the Pacific Orientation Course and asked to be on staff for the next POC, which, with 32 adults enrolled, will be one of the biggest courses in several years. (In contrast, mine had only 13 adults enrolled.) As mine was the first POC to happen after the current directors took over, it seemed fitting to me to be on staff for this one, which will be their last course before moving on to take up another position in Vanuatu.
SO! Starting later this month, we will be in Madang for 8 weeks on staff at POC! What was I thinking?! Hopefully we can be an encouragement to our fellow staffers and a blessing to the students.