Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I guess it's time for an update on our family eh?
Hugo's gotten really busy now that the plane from Aceh has come in for the avionics upgrade. An avionics tech from MAF US in Nampa, Idaho has come as well to help out and another guy will be coming next week as well. They are doing some major upgrading so it's a huge project that will take many weeks to complete. Hugo has also started to play hockey twice a week.
I'm just doing the housewife thing, a little busier now that Rita is off for her forty days, but that's okay. The truth is I don't really need to have her, I like to have her as she has become a friend and she is someone that I can learn a lot from both cultural-wise and language-wise. Plus, she really needs the job. So I've started teaching preschool twice a month now. All the parents of preschool age kids here have gotten together and started our own preschool. We do it at the home of whoever is teaching that day. The kids are used to a routine and do great. You don't even notice that you have 9 preschoolers in your house! I still also play hockey twice a week with a bunch of expat ladies. It's a lot of fun. I'm also enjoying trying to make new things from scratch. The other day I made homemade noodles for chicken noodle soup and lasagna. They sure were tasty! I also regularly make my own salsa and tomato sauce for on pizza. You can't buy them in the store so you don't really have a choice. Today my neighbour and I ground our own ground beef. The ground beef that I buy from that hole in the wall place has no fat it in so when you try to make hamburgers they just fall apart even though I've put egg in it. Another responsibility that I have is to provide breakfast and lunch on Wednesday's for any visitors that we have coming through. And sometimes we provide a meal on a weekend as well. I'm also responsible for compiling the news from all the MAF Papua bases each week and emailing it out. There is a Tuesday morning Bible study that I go to as often as I can. Brynnie has been sick since last Wednesday, so I didn't go today. That night she threw up every hour. Real fun stuff... She had fever and then the runs and she didn't eat from then until basically yesterday when she nibbled a bit. She drank quite a bit, but didn't want to eat anything. So she's lost quite a bit of weight. I sure hope she starts eating normally again as she's been quite clingy and cranky...
The oldest three are back in the swing of school. They all enjoy it, thankfully. Christiaan has a new teacher as his old teacher, who is from Northern Ireland, is in Bali awaiting the birth of their first child. The new teacher is from Nova Scotia! Christiaan's FM cord and one of his FM boots that attaches to his hearing aid broke this week. Thankfully we have spares... That's really the first time since we left Canada that something has actually broken. I'd say that's pretty good! Mikah is just sailing along in school and most times has her nose in a book. She has some good friends that she likes to play with too. Aidan has improved in his reading a lot. We had him assessed by a school psychologist as I was concerned that he was struggling so much with learning to read. But according to her he does not have dyslexia or any other learning disorder, he just learns slower. But he scored really high on the IQ test. Too funny... Marc is so easy to have at home. He just plays and plays and plays. He's never bored. He loves to play with the neighbour girl and they make up great stories. Preschool has been really good for him too.
Well, that's the long and short of things from our end of the world! Love to hear from yours! You can always email me at hfeunekes @ maf dot org

Monday, January 28, 2008

Yesterday a young man who worked for MAF drowned in the ocean. Chris had just turned 21 on Saturday and his family went to the ocean to celebrate. He was overwhelmed by the waves and undertow and his cousin went to help him and also drowned. Chris was responsible for servicing and washing the cars and helping out with other maintenance and construction that occurs around here. It feels like a tragedy to us, but the truth is, as a Christian, what other place would you rather be than with your heavenly Father?
I popped by Rita's place again today. Her sister, who works for my neighbour, said that she is very bored right now. So I brought her a needlepoint that I had bought and started in Bandung but never finished. I have other things like scrapbooking to keep me busy here. She was happy to have a project to work on. Each time I go to see her, I get more information. It seems like that's the way it is here, you never learn the whole story in one time. She says now that her husband had some rope burns on his neck and arm. But she feels at peace now and says that God called him and the way that he called him doesn't matter. What I also found out was that her husbands female relatives, sisters I think, sleep in Rita's house every night along with their kids. They come around dark and bring food which they prepare for everyone, remember, Rita is not allowed to cook, and then they eat together and everyone sleeps in the living room on mattresses. How cozy!!?
She also told me that the land that her house is on was from his family but not really. His family came here a generation ago and settled in a certain area on this hill we live on. The family or tribe that apparently owns the land doesn't want to sell it and they charge each house owner 50,000 rups a month rent for the land. So Rita hasn't really wanted to put a lot of money into her house as she is afraid one day this tribe will come and take it away from her anyways. And she can't really buy another piece of land and build a new house as it is so hard to safely buy land here. Too often the person selling a piece of land isn't actually the owner and so they fraudulently sell it to you. Even government workers have been guilty of doing this. It has happened to MAF before too. Someone pretended that he owned the land and sold it to people. It is very difficult for MAF to get this land back. So Rita is stuck in this very poor house that she lives in. Half her roof is metal and half is palm branches. The walls are a hodge podge of pieces of wood and asbestos-type corrugated roofing. Please continue to uphold Rita and her family in your prayers. This is a very difficult time for her.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Today I went to church with the kids. On the way we picked up two of the ministers kids as they live just down the road from us. The older girl, who is 18, told us that her mom and dad were having a fight and had asked Pak Naftali (an elder and the one whose house we meet in) to come and help facilitate. So we arrived at church and two other children of the minister arrive as well. Then the phone rings and another elder answers it and comes back and tells us that the problem is not yet solved so the minister won’t be able to preach today. So we had a “service” without a sermon. Everyone just takes it in stride. Can you imagine if that were to happen in Canada? Hmmmm….
Yesterday I went to see Rita again. I brought her some food. There’s this new kind of Indomie (like Mr. Noodles-wildly popular here and available in a plethora of flavours) that has the flavour of satay. Satay is the peanut sauce that you put on chicken that has been barbequed on sticks. Very yummy. Anyways, I know Rita loves it. Basically it was an excuse to see how things were going. Her house was quiet again. Only her mom is still visiting. So that was nice to see. But the women in her husbands family had made her cut her hair- it is part of their adat (cultural tradition). If I understood correctly, she is not allowed to cook, leave the house, or work for 40 days. It sounds like the husband’s family is being quite strict about it and even has someone checking up on her each day. Then there’s the issue of the money. In front of the house in the day and a half before the burial there was a box to put money in to help out the family. I had put in an envelope with Rita’s name on it and so had Joy. That money never made it to Rita. We told Rita that we had done this and she has asked around about the money as there was much more than needed to pay for the coffin, rent of tarp, sound system etc… Suddenly no one seems to know who took care of the funds… This is very sad as it was someone from Rita’s husband’s family who took care of it. So not only do they not allow her to work for 40 days, they also take all the money that was given for her and her girls… But that is so typical here. When a woman becomes a widow here, her life becomes very difficult. Especially if her husband owed people money etc... One can’t help but feel a sense of deep sadness regarding this situation. But what can you do? We can’t change how things are done, we can only help out Rita as best we can without going too far as that wouldn’t be healthy either. I’m thankful that Joy and her husband are also able to help out as they have lived here as a couple for 30 years (John grew up here too) and have a lot of experience.
I also talked with Adel deHaan (expat veterinarian here) about Pak Leo’s death and she said that a lot of people here die of heart attack and stroke because of smoking (without filters often) and diets high in deep fried foods and carbohydrates.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

This afternoon at 5:00 I walked down to Rita’s house with Joy. We were both quite worried as to how she was fairing after seeing how she was the past two days. Of course as we were nearing the house people ran to get her. I was so glad to see that she was herself again. We were able to talk with her and comfort her and pray with her. We told her that our customs are so different that we felt very confused and worried about her. Then she told us that there was no accident. Her husband did not hit anything nor was hit by anything. He was found lying by the side of the road beside his parked motorbike. At 4:00am he had tried to contact his younger brother who lives in Timika (home of Freeport Mining company). He wasn’t successful, but was obviously still alive at that time. Here’s the thing, he has a small child with another woman and they live in the village by the beach we like to go to. We heard that he was called to come because there was something wrong with the child. According to the people there, when he left to go home again he was not drunk or anything. The motorbike did not have a scratch on it and neither did he. He also still had his handphone on him which was taken by the police as part of their investigation. He had no obvious marks anywhere on his body. The doctor that saw him said that he had been killed probably by strangulation as his tongue was kind of out of the side of his mouth. But the doctors here aren’t very good so who knows if he is right or not. We explained to Rita that there are times when a person is injured but you can’t see the injuries as they are internal. But the crunch of the matter is that she doesn’t know how her husband died or why. By all accounts he was well liked by everyone and knew everyone.
Rita, the poor girl, hasn’t slept since he left in the middle of the night. She was already worried then. She was so tired when we saw her. Unfortunately she must follow the rules of her husband’s tribal culture. He is from around here and she is from the interior mountain people, the Dani’s. Her husband’s four sisters have come and are staying in her house until three nights have passed. During that time Rita may not change her clothes (she was still wearing the same shirt stained with her husband’s blood when we saw her), bathe, leave the house, or get her own food or drink. They will prepare food and drink for her and give it to her. Technically she is not allowed to work for forty days now but as she is a widow with two small children, she is going to be allowed to forgo that rule. Thankfully. I told her that she needn’t work for me until she feels ready and that I will still pay her. Also, during those forty days her husband’s family will visit her everyday. So basically her house has been full of people since this all happened and she hasn’t had a moment to really be alone and grieve and pray. Of her two girls, the younger one seems to better understand what has happened than the older one.
Today I asked Icelina about Rita’s behaviour and the fact that no one appeared to be comforting her etc… She said that as long as there is a body, the widow can think of nothing else and kind of loses her mind. Everyone knows this and so they just leave her alone and let her grieve until the body is in the ground. Then she will go home and eat something and then they will talk with her. Rita’s mother and father were both there as well along with aunts and uncles etc… So her family did come to support her.
What is also amazing about the whole process is that there was no funeral home called who arranged everything, it was all done by the community. The neighbour men, who were friends of Leo, got together and bought the plywood and made the coffin and they wrapped it in black cloth and decorated it with string art (see photo of lid on yesterdays post). It was they who dug the hole for the coffin and then filled it, not a machine. It was they who arranged the tarps and sound system. It was the women who arranged for the food and who helped Rita dress her husband for burial. Everyone knows what needs to be done and what to do to get it done. It really is a community effort.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

This morning at 9:00am, Joy, our neighbour for whom Rita also works, and I walked down to Rita's house to attend the funeral service. I'm not sure why they don't do it in the church. Anyways, it was supposed to start at 9:00 but didn't start until 10:30. In front of the house they had hung a tarp and put some benches under it. At the front was a box that you could put money into to help the family pay for the expenses that are incurred. Joy and I went into the house and sat with Rita for a bit. At that point the body was in the coffin and the top was covered with a thick clear plastic. Rita was still crying and wailing and waving her hand over him. She was also still wearing the same clothes as the day before as well. Rita is normally a very level-headed cheerful person so it was difficult to see her in this automaton-type state. Her sister had thankfully come out of that state and washed and dressed the girls before the service. At the back of the house people were busy cooking food for later. It is expected that food is provided as many have to come from far. Finally at 10:30, the minister started the service. Thankfully they didn't turn the volume on the speaker up too loud. The pastor spoke some nice words of comfort encouraging us not to feel sad for Leo as he has returned home to our Father in heaven, but only feel sad for those left behind. Meanwhile Rita remained inside with the body and continued to moan and cry. It was really too bad that she couldn't listen to those words of comfort. (there is to be another service on Thursday evening so hopefully by then she will be able to listen to those comforting words) Then after the sermon there was one last chance to view the body and there was much wailing and crying that accompanied that. Then you could hear them nail the lid on the coffin. After that they carried the coffin out and Rita didn't want to let go of it and walked with it to the van. She, her sister, and the two little girls accompanied the body to the grave site. It was sad to see those little girls. They didn't really seem to understand what was going on and I'm sure were feeling confused by the behaviour of their mother. Many people rode in the back of dump trucks or in taxis to the grave site. Joy and I walked and it was an interesting hike through streams and peoples' yards and up the hill. At the grave site Rita continued to wail and cry no matter what was going on. The minister spoke again and we sang some songs and recited the Creed. Then the coffin was lowered into the grave and some threw dirt on it and Rita and another relative threw flower petals on it. Then a bunch of men filled the hole and we all watched and waited for them to be done. When they were done, there were the flower signs laid on it by representatives of the groups that had given them. The last one was put on by Rita with great difficulty. She could hardly walk anymore by that point and needed help from two friends. she kept saying that he was going to be hot under there and then later at night cold. After that everyone just left and no one said anything to Rita. Joy and I went to her and hugged her. I tried to talk to her and tell her to drink something and rest as it is done. I told her she needs to think about her girls now. But I don't think my words were heard, she was in such a state. Joy and I were struck by how alone she seemed. There were no family members there to comfort her. There was a man who is either her father or was Leo's father but we never saw him talk to her. We were thinking that maybe one of the reasons she is grieving so much is because she feels so alone right now. I'm so thankful for her that she does have her sister who lives with her. Rita's mother lives in Wamena, which may as well be another continent as it is expensive for them to fly there and they are so poor, and her dad lives in Jayapura area with his other family. He married twice. Please continue to uphold Rita in your prayers that her faith may overcome her grief and that she may continue to raise her girls in the fear of God. Please pray that we will have the wisdom to help Rita in the best way possible.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Today my fabulous helper, Ibu Rita, at the age of 27, became a widow. Her husband was killed when he was hit by a truck while riding a motorcyle. They had been married around 10 years or so. Theirs was an arranged marriage, probably some funds exchanged hands, when Rita was in her late teens. They have two girls, Awi who is 8 and Rode who just turned 5. After Hugo came home from work I went down to Rita's house to pay my respects. I wasn't sure what to expect. In front of the house there were already two tents set up. Under one tent a group of men were busy building a coffin out of plywood. Under the other tent were chairs set up and you could sit there if you wanted. There were already some flower covered signs out. They make those signs for things like store openings or deaths etc... I removed my shoes and entered the house. I saw the body in the middle of the living room on a narrow pallet on the floor. Around the room were women just sitting quietly. Rita's younger sister sat at the foot end of the body and moaned while rubbing the legs. The body was wrapped in sarongs up to the nose and his jaw was tied shut. I looked for Rita but did not see her. I went to the doorway to the kitchen and she came as someone had let her know I was there. We hugged for what seemed like forever. But it was like she wasn't there. Rita was in a mourning zone. She was very hot like she had a fever and as she moved away from me she gestured towards the body and said,"I told him to wait!" Then she sat at the head end of the body and began to moan along with her sister. She caressed his head and sometimes spoke to him saying things like,"Why did you go?", or, "It's time to eat, wake up!". Then she lay next to him and continued to moan. She was obviously exhausted. And everyone just quietly sat there. There were some women who looked genuinely sad and others looked like they were just there because it's what you do. There was obviously no thought given to time or food or other such practicalities. This was simply a time to mourn. I of course, being a western person, was checking my watch to make sure that I didn't leave too late as it was supper time. Strangely I did not want to leave Rita. It felt disrespectful for me to leave while she continued to mourn, but of course I had to. Also because it was getting closer to 6:00 and at 6:00 on the dot it gets very dark here and I didn't want to walk home by myself in the dark. There is to be a service at her house tomorrow morning at 9:00 and following that the burial. Because of the heat here, things have to be done quickly.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Things we can't help but miss:
Friends and family (of course!)
Listening to live sermons in English (cd's just aren't the same...)
Good Canadian milk
waxless chocolate (in order that chocolate bars won't melt outside the fridge here, they contain a wax-yummy) the junk food here is just that, junky, it makes Canadian junk food seem, well, good quality...
real ranch dressing out of a bottle
pork chops
Mississippi honey mustard
parks with playgrounds and nice grassy areas to play in and maybe a nice stroller accessible trail to walk...
Fruit snacks
granola bars
Tostito's tortilla chips - I have once bought a bag of Dorito's-type chips here and they were cheese flavoured, cost me 35,000 rups and then they were sold out...
sour cream
nachos with cheese
Squeezable Heinz ketchup (we can get ketchup, but it is ABC or DelMonte brand and comes in small glass bottles)
Sliced deli meats
bags of prepeeled, ready-to-eat baby carrots
Long English Cucumbers
Lipton Chicken noodle soup
Earl Grey tea (I just used my last bag from Canada two days ago... sniff...)
frozen vegetables in bags ready to cook!
McCains french fries
Being able to go to the mall and find good quality clothes, shoes, toys etc...
being able to use a relatively clean flush toilet in a public place
being able to go to a doctor and know that, most of the time, you will get good advice (right now there is no expat doctor in Sentani so we rely heavily on the expat nurses for advice)
Being able to go to one store, like Real Canadian Superstore, and buy pretty much everything you need (here we need to go to about three different shops to get just the basics and then to the market for the fresh stuff if the grocery store is out, which it often is - lately the seas around Indonesia have been quite rough so many boats are delayed and everything little thing that is sold in the stores here (except some fresh produce and chicken), comes on a boat so you know what happens when the boats are delayed...)
Believe it or not... McDonalds food... actually, I personally love the A&W Mozza Burger... but the kids... we can get hamburgers at one of the local restaurants, but I've heard talk that the meat isn't actually beef it's from an animal that barks... But my kids still love them anyways....

Things we know we'll miss when we are back in Canada:
Fresh pineapple (unbelievably yummy!)
bananas - yes I know you can get bananas in Canada, but did you know that they don't actually taste like real bananas? More like cardboard...
People coming to the door to sell fresh pineapple and bananas and veggies at really low prices
Authentic Indonesian chicken satay (also rather yummy)
being able to walk to the pool and swim whenever we want
The beach!!! The beach here is amazing!
Snorkeling by the coral reefs
riding the motorbike
5 minute bus ride to and from school

Notice how the majority of what we miss is food related... I never realized just how much food makes you feel at home... man my stomache is growling now!!
We've been here for about 1.5 years now and I guess we're getting to that stage....

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


There’s a little girl who is about 10 or 11 years old who likes to hang around at our neighbours house. Sarah happens to be Icelina’s (my helper) niece and the granddaughter of my helper from four years ago, Ibu Termina. Sarah’s parents are living a fractured life. Right now her dad lives in Wamena, an interior city (happens to be the largest city in the world with no roads going to it-everything is brought in by Hercules airplanes). He claims to have a good government job there and wants his wife and daughter to move up there too. But his wife is having nothing of it. She hears rumours that he is being unfaithful to her while living up there. He denies it all and says that he is living with his sister and has been faithful. You know, there are many, many families here with this same story. While they consider themselves Christian, many are still a bit in the dark as to what that really means. The men, sadly, are often not faithful to their wives. Ibu Rita’s (my other helper) husband has actually had a child with another woman and wanted her to take care of it. She put her foot down and the child is living with his mother. Rita and her husband have had to work through this, and they seem to be doing okay now. This area of the world may have been exposed to the Gospel for over 50 years now, but there is still so much for the people to learn. Not to say that we in the West never do things such as this, but here it is the norm rather than the exception.
Sarah was telling us how her teacher at school was getting her students to go to her house and cut her grass and do her dishes until the head of the school found out and put a stop to it. Too funny, but not so funny… education here is really bad. Sarah was also saying how all the kids at the school are required to take a machete to school on certain days and they altogether cut the lawn around the school. And if you don’t take one you get into trouble. Can you imagine? Sarah said that there have been kids who’ve accidentally cut into another students leg as they are swinging the machete to cut the grass. There’s just no thought of safety measures here. There really isn’t. Little tiny kids play by the side of the roads all the time. The bridges that they make in their kampungs to go over the rivers or streams never have railings and are always very rickety. I asked Icelina about the rickety bridge in front of her house. “Do people ever fall off?” I asked. “Oh sure,” she says, “Lots of people have fallen off.” But no one takes the time to make the bridge stronger and better.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

So today, at lunch time of course as I am scrambling to prepare food for myself and five hungry kids, some guys show up at the door and ask me where the phone line was attached to our house. No, "Hello Maam, we're with Telkom and we'd like to get you hooked up again, sorry to bother you at this time of day..." sort of thing... No, it was more like, "Yo, Ibu, where was the phone line attached?" There were about, I didn't have time to count, five guys that came to do what is essentially a one or two guy job. I was a little leary of letting them go into our attic to reconnect the line as I was afraid they might not only step on the trusses and maybe fall through the ceiling. But it went fine, they just left a trail of grass and needles and dirty fingerprints on the wall, behind them... But, we have a working phone again! Yippee!!
Otherwise, life has just been puttering along. The kids are still on holidays until next Wednesday. They have a long Christmas break so that the kids whose family's live interior have a chance for a good long visit especially as some of them can take a couple days to get to their villages. It has been very windy here lately, which means no mosquitoes, always a plus. So today was the first day this week that we went to the pool and we left early because we were cold...
Hugo is currently in the process of planning a complete avionics upgrade for the Cessna Caravan that is being used in Aceh. At first they thought that he should go there for a couple weeks to do part of it. But now they're talking about bringing the plane here and doing everything here. This is a much better idea as the MAF base in Meulaboh doesn't have a hangar so everything is done out in the sun. At least here there is a hangar and all the equipment needed. This is probably going to be an 8 week job for two guys... Wow! I have to say that I'm really, really glad to hear that Hugo is probably not going to be gone for two, or more, weeks...

Monday, January 07, 2008


Today some guys came and hung up the fallen power line. In the meantime however, our phone line has become disconnected. The fun never ends here...

Yesterday we went on a hike up Mt. Cyclops, the mountain directly behind our house. We walked from our house up the mountain and about 45 minutes later we were at the water fall. It is a really neat spot with a couple pools of water for the kids, big and little, to play in. The government is actually making a small dam for drinking water a little further up, see photos, and all materials are brought up the mountain by hand... The workers live in those tarp houses. It was a really fun hike although a couple of us got some burnt skin out of it...

I just wanted to comment on garbage... Back home you separate your garbage. You have your blue bin for recyclables, i.e. tins, milk jugs, newspaper etc..., you have your clear bags for leaves/grass and you have your other garbage. Here we also separate our garbage. We have a blue pail for anything and everything remotely edible for Icelina’s dad’s pig, we have a blue rubbermaid for anything and everything that we can burn and then we have our other garbage. We don’t know where that garbage goes... We leave it out at night once the bag is full and Pak Yoben takes it away somewhere... we don’t even want to ask....

Wishing you all a happy Sunday. Selamat Hari Minggu!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Yesterday we headed out to the beach for some fun in the sun. The day before, New Years day, it had been very windy and rainy. That day there were times when the temperature briefly went down to a frosty 23 C, that's with the wind chill... So we were worried that we might not be able to go to the beach the next day. I had heard that there was a cyclone off the coast of eastern Australia and wondered if we were getting some of that. However, Wednesday dawned sunny and calm. The boat ride out to the beach was a little tense as the waves were fairly big, bigger than I've ever experienced before. We hung on tight and thankfully had a skilled boat driver who got us there and back safely. We had a great day hanging out on the beach, enjoying the waves, and snorkelling. I saw a lot of the fish from Nemo, in real life! So neat!
It's actually amazing that I can even post this post. Last night our neighbours rather tall tree crashed down and fell over the road on the power and phone lines. Amazingly all the lines are still intact except they are laying on the ground... The lines come down from our house and over our fence and then go down to the road. So you either have to walk under it or over it. Thankfully, we can just drive a car over the part that is actually lying on the road. The neighbours called the electricity company a few times but they still haven't been by to fix it. Hopefully no one gets electrocuted between now and then...