Monday, April 28, 2008

Bits and Bites...

*Last Friday we celebrated Aidan’s upcoming birthday with his class at the pool. I’m so thankful that we have a place nearby to host 13 grade one kids so that they don’t have to all be in my house…. Tomorrow, the 29th, is his actual birthday and he’ll be 7.
*The other day one of the archaic fire engines from the City of Sentani was put to good use; watering the new medians down the middle of the main drag…
*I asked Ice last week if she took the malaria medication I had given her and she replied,”Yes (they answer every question with “yes”…) I only have 5 pills left.” Envision me hitting my hand to my forehead with frustration… I explained to her that she should have no pills left had she followed the schedule I had written out for her. If you don’t follow the schedule, I explained, the medicine will not kill the malaria in your body and you will get sick again quickly…. She just wanted to save some for the next time she gets sick…. Next time I will do a different schedule that allows me to watch her take the pills instead of leaving it up to her.
*There is a young man from an interior tribe staying in Sentani right now to learn a bit about dentistry. The western couple that lives in his village brought him along on their regular Sentani visit to stock up on supplies and touch base with their fellow workers here. A Papuan woman is teaching this young man, Paulus, about dental hygiene. So she showed him a picture of a big tooth with little bad guys with forks attacking the tooth. He says, yes that is how we get a sore tooth. If we walk too close to a sacred place the bad spirits will make our tooth hurt. That is what the people of his tribe believe causes tooth aches. The animism is still so incredibly strong there. So the Papuan woman showed Paulus some malaria parasites under a microscope so he could see for himself that there are tiny little things that we can’t see with our eyes but can make us very sick or make holes in our teeth. He was quite impressed with it all. In the future I will write more about this very interesting tribe and their traditions and beliefs. This particular tribe has resisted change the most of all other tribes and continues to live in houses up high in the trees. There are also very few of them who can read and write. Paulus himself is illiterate.
*I find I have to remind myself that the people here aren’t stupid or dumb, they are just undereducated. The education system here, if you can call it a system, does not encourage problem solving or thinking for oneself. Everything is learned by rote. Most of the people here have no idea that Papua is actually a big island with water all around it and that the earth itself is actually made up of large “islands” with water all around. If you show them a globe it means absolutely nothing to them. We in the West are taught to read from left to right and top to bottom but if you are never taught this you have no boundaries, anything is possible.
* Someone told me that many of the people that come to our house to get drinking water think that we have a machine in our houses that boils the water that comes out of the taps. That is also a very typical Papuan thing to think. The water that is available in their area is actually from the same place as ours and we don’t treat ours. However, Ice told me that the people up on the mountain often turn off the water flow so they have to bathe in the river but as the river running throughout her “subdivision” is really gross, ie there are lots of pig stalls along the sides and garbage floating in it, they have to go to a different river.

Friday was also track and field day at the school. Aidan is pictured at left proudly showing off his third place ribbon. He couldn't remember what he won it for, but it was for running... Mikah and Christiaan also did very well. It helps that the school is small and that girls only ran against members of the same gender and likewise for boys... But they had a great day and all slept rather well that night! Pictured at right is Brynnie, having removed her bathing suit, and donned a spiderman motorcycle helmet...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

*Yesterday morning Ice came to me and said that maybe she couldn’t work that day. The night before, two women, who live in a house in the same row as her house, had a big fight. One of the women happens to be the mother of our guard, Pak Nios. Ice thought they were done with the whole business when they went to bed, but the next morning after waking up, they carried on where they had left off the night before. (I didn’t get a chance to ask her today what the fight was actually about…) So I guess in situations like this, the neighbours get together to try and help the women solve their problem. Can you imagine using that as a reason not to go to work in Canada?
*On Monday Pak Nios said to me,”Oh, you’re back already. I wanted to order a watch from Singapore.” I was left a little dumbfounded and couldn’t help thinking to myself,” You live in a two room hovel with your wife and five kids including a 2 month old and you want a watch?????” I didn’t say this of course; I just told him that watches were much cheaper here than in Singapore. He then went on to say that from 8:00-10:00 he likes to sweep the perimeter (a little translation liberty there with my choice of words…) and by 11:00pm he likes to be inside our yard for the night. Because before then the young people like to go up the mountain to bathe and they sometimes are a bit rowdy. As he is saying all this to me he looks at his bare wrist to emphasize that he doesn’t have a watch. I just stared at the cell phone (which has a camera on it which my 2 year old phone doesn’t…) hanging around his neck and wondered why he didn’t just use the clock on his phone… But of course I didn’t say this. When white men go into a village here, the people want two things. They want clothes and they want watches. Which is really hilarious because Papuans are known for never being on time, watch or no watch… We go on jam (time) karet (rubber) over here. It is however, like the cell phone, a status symbol.
*It looks like Hugo is going to go to Aceh after all. Next month they want him to do an avionics upgrade on an airplane from MAF Australia.

Monday, April 21, 2008


While in Singapore we often used a cab to get around. You can use public transportation but I was rather nervous about going that route as it was my first time in Singapore. I think every single one of our drivers was Chinese by descent. They may not have been born in China or even ever been to China but their mother tongue was Mandarin or another Chinese dialect that I forget the name of... Anyways, one of the drivers of Chinese origin said that he liked to hear my English,"It's very clear," he said. Now that I'm home I realize why he said that. During my time in Singapore, which uses the English language as its working language, I did not meet one single native North American English speaking person outside of the guest house where we stayed! I spoke English with people of the following origins: Chinese, Indian, Sri Lankan, Nigerian, German, Philipines, Indonesian, Dutch, Australian, British and Kenyan.... No wonder he thought my English was so clear!!
Singaporeans have actually taken the English language and made their own version of it. They also use a lot of Malay/Indonesian words. They also like to add "lah" to the end of the last word in a sentence. Like "Ees no problemlah!" They call this "language" Singlish.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Home Again!!

Well, we arrived back in Sentani at 7:50 am yesterday morning with our bags packed full of goodies like Skittles, gobstoppers, soup packets, pepperoni, Lego, Tostito's tortilla chips, Doritos, Scotch Brite dishwashing sponges, and you get the idea... It was a very loooonngg trip home. We left Singapore at 7:00 in the evening and arrived in Bali a few hours later. There we had a 3 hour layover in the middle of the night. Thankfully there were actually a few shops open; although I have to say that the International terminal in Bali is a lot nicer than the domestic. Speaking of terminals, Singapore does not have a domestic terminal. There is only one airport in the whole country! It's really more of a big city actually. Did you know that in Singapore it is illegal to chew gum? You can't even buy gum there! There are 7/11 convenience stores on just about every corner of the city so Christiaan got to enjoy some slushies. Anyways, we left Bali at about 1:45 am and flew to Timika (city on the southern coast of Papua) waited there for 25 minutes and then had a 50 minute flight to Sentani.
Singapore airport is a beautiful airport that runs very efficiently. We were very impressed with it all. One thing I thought was great was that when you get to your gate, before you even enter the waiting area, you show your boarding pass and they rip off their part. So when boarding begins, there is no bottle-neck at the door as everyone fights to get their pass checked first.

I didn't take a lot of photos in Singapore. The first one is me enjoying my first fast food hamburger in a long time. It was the first thing we did after we arrived! Eat fast food!!! The second photo is a scene that I found while walking through the city. Then the last photo is us walking on the beautiful tree-covered sidewalk from the guest house to the nearest mall. There were even garbage cans along the way!! And no gaping holes in the sidewalk!!! And no garbage to step over!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hi All. I understand some of you are wondering about Hugo's condition. When a person experiences Dengue Fever it can take a half year to a year before you really feel your energy is at 100%. Hugo has recovered from the virus and has returned to work. But he usually takes a little nap after lunch before going back to work. If he overdoes it he can have a relapse so he needs to take it easy. So while I'm gone I have both my helpers coming in everyday to take care of the kids and cook and clean. So Hugo doesn't have to worry about any of that stuff thankfully. He is also able to get off work an hour early while I'm gone so that there's enough time for homework and baths.
Today we shopped until we dropped, sort of. We only have so much luggage room and well, cash of course... Ikea was a bit disappointing as they don't have the chair I wanted to get for Brynnie. But I did find a blanket that we can use as a comforter as our duvet from Canada is a titch on the warm side. Tomorrow we leave. I have to say that I'm good and ready to get back to "real" life again!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Singapore Continued...

Today we went back to the hearing clinic to finish up. Christiaan is enjoying the new settings on his hearing aids. We left off the background reduction option 2 years ago when they were originally programmed as it is important for his brain to learn to distinguish which sounds are important and which ones aren't. So now we have the setting turned on but not to the highest degree possible. Just a little. I continue to be very impressed with this hearing clinic. They are very experienced and very professional and very helpful!
Then we picked up some meds for Aidan at the hospital. Aidan has been diagnosed as having a mild type of dyslexia (decoding issue) and ADD which makes it hard for him to keep attention on what he is working on. He is a bit wiggly, but only because his attention span is so short. He is not hyperactive. So we, under consultation with an expat doctor in Papua, are going to try a low dose of Ritalin for a month to see if it helps him or not. We'll see how it goes before we make any major commitments one way or another. He will also be getting handwriting therapy throughout the summer along with the work he will have to do everyday in order to be able to go to grade two.
Then we went back to "Little India" - Mustafa Plaza (I'm not even sure how many levels this place has-too many). What an insane place! Never before have I seen so many pairs of high end runners just sitting out on shelves, not in boxes, waiting to be bought. There's no, let me get that size for you from the back... There's also no real rhyme or reason to the way things are displayed in this place. You can usually find the same item in at least two different places. But the prices there are the cheapest around... as long as you can find what you are looking for... By the time we left the place our heads were spinning... but I had some lovely Earl Grey Tea and Fruit Roll Ups and brown sugar and MSG-free chicken bouillon in my backpack; which incidentally was tie-wrapped shut. They tie-wrap all bags that you are carrying around in the store. Then it was off to McDonalds for lunch... again... Did you know that you can buy a cup of corn at McD's here? Asian's absolutely love corn. And yes Martina, they put it on pizza here too! Not my fave... Today I met a woman from the Philipines visiting her daughter who just had a baby, a man and his son from Nigeria who used to live in Calgary, a Chinese cab driver who can say a sentence in French, Indonesian, and Dutch among other languages... Love this place! But I'm getting the ready to go home feeling... We leave Thursday. Tomorrow it is off to Ikea where I will hopefully be able to buy a chair for Brynnie. And then I'll be searching for socks and underwear for the boys... so far a no show... Don't boys here wear underwear?

Monday, April 14, 2008

The word so far from Hugo is that he is holding up okay. But I haven't heard how today went...
We had a good visit with the ENT. He sucked all the wax out of Christiaans ears and checked his adenoids with a scope. All is well. Then we went to the audiologist and I was very impressed. The clinic is very professional and the audiologist himself is from Germany and has a lot of experience particularly with kids. He recommended some changes to the programming of Christiaan's hearing aids and so far Christiaan already likes them! Like the reduction in background noise and the sound of his own voice. Then I had my eyes checked. Turns out my prescription is too strong. I picked out some frames and they are going to reduce my prescription just a little.
Singapore is such a modern city that is jam-packed full of shopping centres... I can't believe how many there are! But everything is brand name stuff. I really wish there was a Walmart here (I can't believe I just wrote that...). I also enjoyed a Subway sandwich today for the first time in 2 years. Man it was tasty! I also had a caesar salad at supper! MMMMMMmmmmm..... So good!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Hey All! We're here in Singapore now! I haven't had time to update until now. We had a good trip, it's about 10 hours of travelling. Enjoyed a delicious burger from Burger King in the airport... Ahhh YUM!!!! And fountain Coke!!!! Singapore is an amazing place that is a melting pot of cultures. Last night we stayed in a hotel (well, it was more like a hostel really) that was located by Little India. So we went for a walk and checked it out. We felt rather conspicuous there with our bright white skin. Today we are now in the OMF guest house and it is in an area where there are a lot of Westerners.
I can't believe how many roads there are and how fast people drive. Even in Bandung there weren't that many roads. There are many kampungs (communities) that just have foot paths and not roads. Here there are more high rise apartment buildings - mostly government funded, leaving more room for parks and nice roads and such. Today it was a treat to take a walk on a sidewalk that didn't have big holes in it or a big gutter running under it that was full of trash and it was shaded with big beautiful trees!
Tomorrow we have a full day of appoinments. Then shopping for all those wonderful things that we can't get in Papua! Like Legos, playmobil, good shoes, clothes, brown sugar etc....
I will post photos when I return home.
Please remember Hugo in your prayers as he is running the show solo back in Sentani. Well, with the help of Rita and Ice.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

This morning I came back from playing hockey and asked Ice “how” (Bagaimana?). She turned around and from her eyes I knew what her answer would be. She said that her body felt weak and that she had malaria. I asked her if she went to the apotik (pharmacy) to have her blood checked. No, she hadn’t, she just knows. Then I ask her if she has already taken medicine. Yes, two pills. What kind of pills? I don’t know. Where did you get them? From my sister. She got them from her boss and they are from outside the country so she said that maybe they would help. So you don’t know what kind of pills they are. No, they were in a little bag. So I call up the boss of her sister and ask her what medicine she has ever given Ice’s sister. The only thing she has ever given her was Tylenol. Soooo, I tell Ice that she has only taken panadol (the Indonesian version of Tylenol-same stuff, different name). Tammy told me to give her chloroquine and told me exactly how much and how often. Then tomorrow she also needs to take fansidar which is supposed to help if she has a different strain of malaria. As malaria can be fatal if left untreated, I’m sure glad I asked questions. It makes me frustrated when the people here think that just because medicine is from outside the country it can make them better. Sometimes I feel like I’m raising an older daughter at the same time as being an employer.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Bits and Bites...

* We recently experienced a 24 hour power outage, our longest to date. It was a bit on the noisy side around here last night. It gets dark here at 6:00 and emergency lights just don't do the trick when you're trying to eat and play games... Don't know what happened, but we hope it doesn't reoccur...

* I have realized just how culturally appropriate I have become to this part of the world. Now when I meet an Indonesian friend I raise my eyebrows and maybe jut out my chin and then say, "Bagaimana?" Which literally translated means "How?" No, this is not a throw-back to the days of the Settlers and the North American natives... Bagaimana is just short for "Bagaimana kabar?" That means,"How's the news?" Or if I'm passing by some kids I know, I may just raise my eyebrows and/or jut out my chin... Another 2 more years of this and we'll have to go through cultural training before re-entering Canada...

* Every other week I teach preschool here at our house. This is a photo of our group:

In our class we have: a Japanese/Indonesian, German/Indonesian, Indonesian, Australian/Indonesian, Dutch, South Korean, Canadian, and last of all, an American Child. Quite the little cross-cultural group!

* What we are taking to bed with us these days:

Water in case of thirst...
A sword in case of... bad guys I guess...
A weird Indonesian transformer type guy...
A couple books to combat any boredom that may occur...
And of course, the blankie made specially by Grandma...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

I don’t know if you remember, but a while back I wrote about a woman who was beaten to death by her husband and then found by the side of the road by a guy on a motorbike. Well, the husband is in police custody now. He had been having an affair with a woman who lives down the road a bit from us. Today I heard all kinds of hooting and hollering and I asked Rita what it was about. She told me that today the family and tribe members of the woman that was killed were going down to the house of the woman who was involved in the affair and they were going to collect a fine. Apparently they wanted 70 million rupiah! I asked Rita who in the world would have that kind of money. She said that the fine would be paid in pigs and probably not that much. If the husband hadn’t killed his wife, just had an affair, the people group of the woman would have had to pay 500,000 only. But because he murdered his wife, they have to pay a lot more. So the actions of one person can have a drastic effect on the tribe as a whole!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Today Ice’s little cousin died. She was about 10 years old. From what I can gather, she died of appendicitis. Basically, her parents didn’t have enough money for her to have an operation so they just bought some medicine at the pharmacy and tried that. Then last night she got really bad and they took her to the new hospital on the edge of town but they couldn’t operate on her so she died. This new hospital is very basic and really can’t do much right now. This is a very sad but very common story. People here get very sick and everyone just waits for them to die. Like when Rita fell unconscious the night before Good Friday, many of the relatives that live near her gathered in her house and just waited. It was rather morbid really. In the villages where there is no medical help at all, people will just watch others die without doing anything to help them. They won’t even bother with fluids or anything. There’s just an acceptance that death is imminent and that’s it. This morning some of the friends of the little girl who died went to my neighbours to play and she asked them about the girl. They were quite matter of fact about the fact that she had died and didn’t show any obvious signs of grief. Back home everyone would be devastated at the death of a child. My hope is that the people here simply have a child-like faith and truly believe that this life is just a drop in the bucket and only a journey towards a much more wonderful and beautiful life with our Lord and Saviour. As opposed to believing that life simply has no value at all…