Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Great PNG Post

Ahhhh. It's good to be home. Honestly coming back into modern first-world civilization has been a bit jarring, but I'm adjusting quickly. For those of you who may be lost, I just spent the last two weeks in the country of Papua New Guinea, quite literally in the middle of nowhere in the jungle (and on the beach). The purpose of the trip was to see firsthand the building of an elementary school that we funded with money raised from performing the musical. I'm not sure I can yet sum up the experience into words, I'm still digesting a lot of what I saw and did. I can say though that it was a pretty eye-opening experience. I can also say I will never again take indoor plumbing for granted.

So, I'll give you all a photo tour.

Getting to and from PNG is a chore. I took a 1 hour train to Niigata, where we took a bus to Tokyo, which took about 5ish hours. We then hopped on a plane for about 7 hours to Port Moresby, the capital. Then we hopped on another plane to Lae, only about a 1 hour flight. Upon arriving at the Lae airport, we had a little mini welcome ceremony.

And here we are exhausted and looking pretty darn wrecked, but happy:

We then piled onto the van you see in the pic and drove 45 minutes to our hotel for that night. All together I was in transit for over 24 hours.

After napping for about 3 hours, our guides took us to a mini sort of zoo in Lae, which was pretty cool. We got to see some cool animals in their natural habitats:

We also got to hold a black python. Look, ma! Look what I found!

We ate a picnic lunch of sandwiches at the zoo, and included in the lunch was a variety of fruit, including these wonders, known to the people as "Rumberton." You peel the outside spikey skin and then use your teeth to scrape/suck off the inside fleshy goodness from a rather large seed.

I must say, PNG has ruined fruit for me forever. A banana that has ripened on the tree is in a completely different universe from the crap that the grocery store tells us is "bananas." I stuffed myself the entire two weeks with fresh pineapple, mango, guava, starfruit, rumberton, coconut and oranges.

This is a female cassowary, which is an emu-like bird native to PNG.

And the creature no PNG zoo can go without -- an outrageously giant croc. This one was nearly 20 ft long. The zoo keeper stuck a stick in the cage to rile the animal, and I must say it was pretty impressive.

You've been warned:

The zoo also had a lot of nice birds, including some awesome talking cockatoos.

The next day we got up bright and early and took a 6 hour boat ride down the coast to our final destination, the villiage of Saigara in the Waria Valley. We took two boats with an outboard motor, one for us and one for our stuff. This is a photo I took of the other boat. One of my favorite guys, Sam, has his hands up.

A beautiful place for a rest stop:

We stopped and had another picnic lunch on a small island. It was crazy beautiful. Tsuneo, our one Japanese team member is pictured below (this was his 5th year going to PNG).

My hair, towards the end of the journey was almost as epic as the journey itself.

Then, we were given a proper Saigara welcome:

With of course a lot of dancing:

The elementary school kids for whom we built the school:

The flowers and butterflies of PNG are like something out of dream.

Fiona, chillin' with the kids.

This is Yahwehjah, aka Yahweh. Isn't she beautiful?

And my homeboy, Kamowah.

We had quite a bit of downtime in Saigara, so we did a lot of goofing off. Here is Fiona, of the Shetland Isles, in rare form.

And because I simply must share this with the world, her Louie Armstrong impression.

We went to see the mobile lumber mill one day, which was pretty interesting. Mobile mills are more ecologically friendly, as they don't require clearing large portions of forest to build a stationary mill and they allow you to choose which tree you'll use and then fell it in which ever direction is least damaging to the forest around it.

Me and Yahweh, and the mill site.

Sam and a view of the Waria river.

Deep into the heart of darkness:

Maybe dark isn't the right word.

On our trek back from the mill, we got a little thirsty. Sam turns to the young man beside him (maybe 17 or 18 years old?) and suggests he get some coconuts for us. He then scales a 40 foot coconut tree and knocks a bunch of coconuts down. This took him less than 3 minutes.

A big spider next to the river. From back legs to front legs he measures about 7 inches. He is also smaller than the huntsman spider I got to know quite well, who liked to chill in the girl's outhouse.

One of the many giant grasshoppers that were everywhere.

One day we went down to the villiage in Saigara and watched the ladies make grass skirts and the woven bags that EVERYONE in PNG carries called "Billems." Here are the ladies making the skirts:

Useful feet:

Making yellow dye for the skirts.

Adorable children.

Can't have too many pictures of those.


Dancing in the night.

Cool stick bug.

Definitely cool.

After a week in Saigara we went to Bau village, which was right on the beach. We of course were welcomed again with bright costumes and dancing.

This is the guest house we stayed in at Bau. All open air, so we sleep under mosquito nets.

Possibly my favorite picture, because it sums up Bau so well.

Hermit crabs where EVERYWHERE on the beaches. I loooooved the things, so I was always picking them up and toting 'em around with me.

One day at Bau we took the boat to a small satellite island and went snorkeling in the reefs and had a picnic lunch. Snorkeling was definitely my favorite part, and I plan on investing on a snorkel and flippers in the near future and doing it as much as possible.

The island:
Little man dressed up to greet us to the island (one or two families have houses on the island).

Me all war-painted up (its mud that was put on my face by an old native when we arrived).

The island was definitely my favorite place.

The next day we presented school supplies to the children at a school near Bau. They in turn presented us with gifts of beads and billems.

This is one of their teachers, explaining one of the rituals.

We also paid a visit to the school at Toyare, where the team built the classroom pictured below last year. We brought school supplies and were treated to a dance.

On the last day (Thursday) we went back to Saigara for the dedication of the beautiful classroom we built!

Singing the Papua New Guinea national anthem. Notice the Japanese flag also flying!

Uniformed cuties.

Our farewell from Saigara celebration. More beautiful dances.

And the final goodbye from Bau.

Everything is still kind of a blur at this point, and I am currently still running on 3 hours of sleep I got Friday night and a 2 hour nap I took today (it is now Sunday, almost 8PM), so I apologize for the short explanations and lack of eloquence. All I can say right now is that the entire experience completely blew me away, and that the beauty of the country and the kindness of the people there is something that can never forget. It feels really good to make the world a better place. :-)


Jonah said...

Great photos, Hannah! It's really great to see where you were for the past two weeks. There's no doubt you were in the jungle, given the size of that spider! I'm glad you got back safe and that you had a good time.

Ivy said...

How wonderful it is that I didn't know that you had a black python around your neck! I remember the time you showed me the baby snake that you found in our yard. :-) Trust me, sometimes when you're a mom, ignorance is bliss. Ha ha! I am very proud of you for working hard to do this, and I'm thankful that you got back safe. God is indeed Very Good! Mom