In general, a typical day for me here in Papua New Guinea is not much different than a typical day anywhere. I am a mom, and so that looks pretty much the same no matter what. I suppose there are some aspects that have a different flavor to them, though, than when we were stateside.
Jeff usually gets up and is at class or morning devotion by 8:00/9:00 . For me, the day doesn’t start until 10 a.m. or so. It’s not that I am not awake, but I am NOT a morning person, and take a firm stand that I do not interact with anyone who was not either a cause or a result of the conception of our children. And even those people…minimal interaction, for their own benefit. The kids aren’t morning people, either…so this really isn’t a problem.
Nancy probably has arrived, though…and has started a load of laundry, done dishes, and swept the floor….and probably worked a few miracles as well. I love Nancy, but she is cheerful in the morning, and so she falls under THE RULE (see above).
Jeff gets home at 11 a.m, and we start lunch. The other day I deep fried kaukau chips (kaukau means sweet potato) and used them as bread for a tuna sandwich. We are thrilled to have found a brand of tuna that is white, and is stored in olive oil. It’s not very cheap…but has been a welcome find. Papua New Guinea has several tuna processing plants, but the good tuna is exported, and the tuna that is the same quality usually reserved for dog or cat food is canned up and sold to the people who live here. With many things that are processed here, there is an “export quality” and a lower quality that is sold here. The same is true of coffee and many other things. Most of the people who live here are perfectly happy with Nescafe Instant with powdered milk, despite the fact that they grow some of the best coffee in the world.
The kids have already started on their homeschool lessons, but take a break for lunch, then when lunch is done, we get serious. We get devotions and catechism done, and then the subjects that I might need to help with, like math. It’s the beginning of our school year, so I am still doing a lot of reading to figure things out. This year it is figuring out SATs and subject tests, schedules, etc.
Afternoon often means running to Wabag to go to the market and pick up anything else we need. It can include a trip to the ATM. We park in a parking lot next to the bank, up against the fence, because the security guards will (we hope) keep our car safe (this has proven NOT to be true in Mount Hagen). There are lots of people walking about, including a guy who seems fairly nice, but has a mental illness and hollers stuff at people. He clearly has family taking care of him. He always looks clean and well dressed.
The ATM has a line, always. And a security guard. After we get money, we get back in the Land Cruiser and go down the hill to the market. We generally are the only white people in Wabag, and we attract people’s attention. There often are pastors or other people we know around the market, too. We park on the street, grab a couple of vegetable bags and walk around, looking at produce. It usually is the women who have brought produce from their gardens to sell. They get extra money this way. The market is usually full of carrots, garlic, spring onions, fresh ginger, squash, kaukau (sweet potato), regular potatoes, greens, and sometimes cabbage, coconut, bananas, pineapple, and oranges. Oh, and betelnut…lots of betelnut. The ground is
saturated with betel nut juice because people chew on them and spit out the juice. The juice is slightly narcotic, red, and stains people’s mouths.
The people selling put a tarp down on the muddy ground, lay their wares on the tarp, and sit down on the ground as well. I am completely puzzled how people keep their clothes clean here. Typically, they do a much better job than me.
Rain often comes in the afternoon and we see the first drops as we are driving home, so when we get home, we run outside and get the laundry as the first drips come down, as Jeff makes his way to his afternoon class . We have to spread it out on the porch or inside, because for some reason lately, the clothes aren’t drying as quickly. I am hoping we return to it not taking very long at all, sometime soon.
As we take down the laundry, our skirts and toes are assaulted by the four puppies, and the cats are also making their presence known. Once laundry is in, it is cuddle time. I will sit on the back steps and pick up Cinder, my sleek, black cat, and hold her close. Unlike most cats, she seems to live for this. She purrs and sticks out the tip of her tongue ever so demurely. The puppies come and continue to nibble at my toes for a few minutes and then lay down and nap. If the puppies get too close, she will generally let them know, but when she is being petted, she is oblivious. Timmon, the other cat, will not come as close if they are near, but she will go to her perch on the blackberry bush frame, looking fat and happy (or at least fat…she’s only fat because she’s preggers).
Sometime in the day, the power will go off. We will just pick this part of the day, for convenience sake.
When the kids finish their studies, they turn on the Wii and start a Smash Brother’s battle, or do some Wii Fit. We might watch an episode of “Firefly” or something(this is all assuming that the power is back on).
Afternoons often also involve guests — pastors, bishops, fellow teachers, neighbors. The coffee or Coke comes out, maybe some cookies. Conversations commence, problems are shared, situations are discussed. One of the most bizarre things here is that it is alright to tell someone that they can leave now. In general, no one is in a hurry here. They don’t have to check the Daytimer or their Google Calendar to see what is next. Supposing you have nothing planned, they could hang around all day. In Enga, a person would say “you go now, I will stay,” but in Pidgin, we can say that we have something to do and they can go now. Probably one of the hardest things for me to get used to…but the day before yesterday, I actually pulled it off!
Then we get started on dinner. This is usually a stew, or a curry, or a roast chicken. Rice and veggies accompany. Often, one or two of us will prepare food while one of us might read something like G.K. Chesterton, Michael Pollan, or our latest, Swallows and Amazons.
Jeff might grade in the evening, or have a conference call with the region. Video games, movies, etc. also might be on the agenda. Night times are usually relaxed and we hang out together until bedtime. Apparently tonight however, a Nerf sword duel might be on the agenda.
There are plenty of days that other things happen, but this is probably what we would call a typical day around here. So now that the typical is out of the way, as Monty Python would say, “Now for something completely different.”