07 May 1985

Letter: In Papua New Guinea

Letter 7 / 5 / 85

Despite heaps of sickness since we've been here (coughs, colds, fevers, ear infection, upset stomachs ... all in just two weeks!) our time so far has been really encouraging. So much so that the powers that be are discussing the possibility of us changing branches. Of course this sort of thing has never been done before - we want them to go a little bit over the international border, that's all. Then we would have access to all the trained consultants in this branch, and the computer dept, and even a travel subsidy. In turn we may be asked to act as consultants or whatever ourselves.

When it comes to computers our branch in Australia will only allow us to use certain ones (a choice of 2), neither of which is any use without mains power. We are the only ones without mains power, of course, and in such a small branch they have to make restrictions according to what sort of backup facilities they have. But up here in PNG every man and his dog has a computer, and the "in thing" is the little "Radio Shack 100" which runs on batteries, and is driven by a cassette player, and the accumulated data can then be "dumped" onto the big branch computers.

The lady who was babysitting Jo and Alison found it too hard to continue after her 2 year old came down with chloroquin-resistant malaria. We brought the girls with us to the lectures for a few days - trying to remind the administration that we have a problem! (They were very well-behaved, though). Now we leave them with the mother of three boys - Jacob (4), Caleb (3) and Abram (1). Jacob goes to pre-school with James. Young Abram is a little rascal, and is quite taken with Jo. Its been interesting for Sue, their mum, to have little girls around the place.

Emotional traumas for James

James is going through emotional traumas, again. He seems to like pre-school, though he doesn't talk about it. He's been sick, like the rest of us, and has only now developed asthma - first time in ages. He's very run-down, very weepy, won't eat. I have been trying to give him extra attention in case that's what he needs - things like housework are put aside - and he's been learning to trace his name ... but he gets so frustrated and cries if he doesn't get it perfect.

Emotional Upset for Alison

Alison has regressed too. I keep her in nappies all the time here - can't afford puddles etc on other people's carpets, and she has stopped trying to use the toilet. All our efforts to throw away the daytime bottle have gone to pot since she was sick and we let her have it to keep her fluids up. And for some reason she seems to have almost forgotten how to talk except to grunt and "yeah" and "nah". Maybe she's not hearing too well after having ear trouble - she still has a lovely smile!

Jo's missing smile

And little Jo - such a delightful child! We had a few days when we missed her smile, then we found she had an inner and an outer ear infection. Now her smile has returned. The other day she actually began to crawl a little, but she hasn't continued much. After all, she can usually find something close at hand to amuse her. Apart from her dark brown eyes she looks just like the others did at 9 months.

Sleepy kids

There's a market here (7 am Mon, Weds, and Fri) where the locals sell produce to the missios. We've been gobbling up avocados at 10-20t each. Last night at tea we had a fish (frozen, from the store) and corn, potato, sweet potato, and chokoes and choko greens (from the back yard). Unfortunately Jo had a disturbed nap during the day and fell asleep before tea, and James had a prolonged asthma attack just before tea too and fell asleep and slept all night.

Missing teenage mk

The day after we got here one of the teenage boys (16 year old, missionary kid) went missing while camping with a group of kids over the river. They presumed he'd gone to the toilet as he disappeared from his tent without even taking his shoes, but as time passed and he didn't return the search started - and kept going til 2am. They started again at first light using the helicopter and most of the personnel here - we heard the helicopters and stuff but weren't able to help. They gave up about mid-morning. Six days later there was supposed to be a "positive sighting" of him (alive) in nearby Kainantu town, about 7 miles away, and so they mobilised the senior high school boys and many others - thinking that for some reason he must be "running away". He was recently converted at a camp near where they had been camping. But they found his body in the river near Kainantu "looking like it had been there six days".