Sunset at Kaiam

Ok, so it's been a long time since I posted here... My bad. I've gone
from Kaiam to Mambis to Madang back to Mambis in the past month so you
might say that I've been rather busy. Right now I'm going through all
the photos that I took while down in Kaiam and there's more than a few
of them so expect another mass posting of photos in the next week or so
before I fly back to the states for a couple months. No use sitting in
one place hu?

This photo was taken back in September, but it looks pretty shiny, so I
thought you should see it to. The sunsets (and rises, but who's up for
that?) really fast when you live so close to the equater. This sunset
was only visible for about a minute before the sun actually set.
Luckily my camera was only thirty seconds away. Enjoy!


OSHA Eat Your Heart Out

Edit: (2010-11-04), one more post that needed fixing...:

This was the result of a day's work.  You think I'm joking...  Let me elaborate:

The day started out when someone decided that the wooden scaffolding had been up long enough and had gotten weak, so they didn't want to climb up on it.  Therefore, it must be removed and replaced.  Using bush-knives to cut the conda (vine rope) the scaffolding was removed by about ten in the morning.  Then all five guys disappeared for about two hours to go find the appropriate replacement trees, cut them down, and carry them back to the job site.  Next, they had to be erected by the very complicated process of stabbing the log vertically into the ground five or six times until it was sufficiently planted, then crawling up the freestanding structure to attach the horizontal logs.

By this time it was after three and now time to work on the facha boards, the initial reason for wanting to use scaffolding in the first place.  However, in the infant wisdom (no, that's the word I meant to use) found here, the scaffolding did not reach to the desired location.     Instead of building their scaffolding to fit the project, they attempted to use ladders.  This was when I came along... Not before they had set up just one ladder that was pushing on the back side of the gutter facha board which is nailed with two very small nails.  Fearing a repeat of the tumbling action that occurred on this same roof about 9 meters away, I told them to do something else.  This was their idea... I probably should have vetoed this plan too... but they were already standing in this orientation by the time I refilled my water bottle and any distracting movement or sound from me was sure to send at least a couple people tumbling to their demise...

Also, they don't like to measure things first to cut and nail them on the ground where they can actually work, they would prefer to put full length boards up, nail them by randomly swinging a hammer (bending a handful of nails) then later cutting the board to the correct length...

My head hurts from the number of times I've hit my own head because of the things I've seen... I think I'm going to go lay down.


Caption Contest

Everyone loves a good caption contest right? Well, here you go...
Caption away...

Here's a couple to get started:
"Your turn Boaz... I moved the last one..."

"Who put that there?!?!"


Rat Attack

Edit: (2010-11-04) Just realized that my email program stripped off the text... Here it is: 

Last night was another sleepless night... I say "another" because I caught some little stomach bug that's thrown off my ability to eat the diverse cuisine of rice, tin-fish, and sweat leaf.  But that's not the reason last night was so sleepless.  Let me explain:

Many nights, when my mind is thinking about things, I find it quite difficult to sleep.  Usually this isn't a problem as I'll get up in the morning, work a full day and crash the next night.  Sometimes I end up having a week straight were I just can't sleep through the night, but I'm usually able to get my body tired enough to at least sleep for a couple hours.  Because of the stomach bug I've not had the energy during the day to do any work, so the nights have been especially restless the last few days.  On top of that, the rats have started to find our house an enjoyable experience with a virtual buffet table laid out for them to feast all night, every night.  I'm a light sleeper at the best of times, and currently even the geckos occasionally wake me, so having a half dozen rats in the small house sounds like twenty-four feet and well over a hundred claws tap dancing on the floor, the walls, the counter-top, the shelves, the boxes, and around my head.  We've set out traps, but because they're showing some age, they aren't the most reliable things in the world, and the items we've used for bate so far don't seem to be the primary meal choice for these picky eaters.

Last night was especially restless, so I watched 'TV' (portable video player) until I finally started to doze off close to 4am.  I was just starting to dream when, in my dream, something kept bumping my big toe.    The first reaction of my brain (and I assume many other people) is to incorporate external senses into the dream, this made sense at the time, but when that something stopped bumping my toe and performed a proverbial "elbow drop" onto my ankle, I was instantly at a high state of alert.

Grabbing my glasses, flashlight, and appropriately placed flip-flop, my eyes quickly adjusted to the stark contrast and severe intensity of the photons reflecting from the mosquito net to focus on a pair of beady eyes staring back at me.  I literally lept into action (much to the chagrin of my head) and started pummeling the foam mattress at the approximate location where the eyes had disappeared.  However, because of the thickness of the foam, the inconsequential thickness of the flip-flop and the tightness of the mosquito net holding all of it just slightly off the floor, I was unable to inflict adequate injuries to the cohabitant that so rudely interrupted my night.

Having a more of a sense of relief than disappointment in the fact at letting the intruder vacate, I attempted to let my heart rate return to a two digit number as I continued to sit at the foot of my bed, when out of the extreme corner of my eye (the part not looking through my glasses), the bed netting at the other side of my bed "fluttered".

My initial reaction to this new sensory input was twofold.  Firstly, I was supremely confident that there was another rat still inside my bed netting, and to continue my night, must be removed.  Secondly, and with equal confidence, I could not believe that there would be two rats that would be able to find their way into my usually quite securely fastened netting.  Still, I could not take the chance of the latter proving false and ripped the pillow away from the head of the bed, while still holding the flip-flop.

For a moment the two creatures stared back at each other in disbelief and shear terror.  One final thought flashed through my mind just prior to the utter flailing that followed:  I really don't want to sleep in rat pee/guts/blood.  The details of what followed will soon be lost to history as my mind was still somewhat groggy from the hour (nearly five am) and the limited amount of rest afforded my mind.  Essentially the rat ended up trapped beneath a palmed flip-flop just off the side of the bed, was "squished" for a seemingly adequate period of time, then, as pressure was reduced, a half-skinned rodent flashed out from under the rubber.  Thankfully for all involved, the disappearance of renewed shock was faster than a half-skinned rodent, and it suffered no more.

Having disposed of the rat appropriately, I returned to a slightly violated, horizontal, and rat free position only to doze off just as the sun was cresting the hill around six or six-thirty this morning.

And to think that before all I thought the mosquito netting was supposed to keep out was the mosquitoes... Who knew?


Rain Gauge

Money: the thing no one talks about, and always do something about.
Weather: the thing everyone talks about, but never does anything about...

Twice in September my rain gauge overflowed... It's not that I leave it
alone for days at a time, I check it three times a day (and empty it at
least that much) and yet in the time it takes for me to go to sleep
something like this happens.

Rain total for the month of September in Kaiam (the "dry" season): 307mm
(or ~12.1 inches)

I'm scared to think what kind of rain totals we'll have during the "wet"
season... I think I'm going to need a bigger rain gauge... or an



That's right... mud... For the first time in the history of Kaiam
someone is recording rainfall amounts... That someone is me. Currently
I just about have one complete month of recordings and the numbers are
quite staggering for what is unanimously considered the "dry" season...
I, however, use that term loosely as the picture above is a common sight
in many locations throughout our airstrip project. The
sticky/slimy/suck-your-shoes-off-your-feet substance, while less
frequent than my previous experience here, is still much more prevelent
than the name of the season implies...

However, there has been a comprimize reached on the seasonal naming
system: "Wet season" and "Soggy season"... I leave it to you to
determine which is a replacement for "Dry season"...


Evening Feast

It's not just a meal, it's literally as much as you can eat during the
evening meal at Kaiam... Sometimes it's ridiculous how much food the
guys here consume, but as it turns out having just rice, cumu (sweet
leaf), and maybe a bit of tin fish for flavoring doesn't give enough
calories to keep me from loosing weight. And for those of you who know
me, know that I can't really afford to loose much.

So, from time to time, it's good to have some real protein, and on this
particular night, Nick provided for us with a smoked rubber-mouth fish
that was caught a short walk away in the Karawari river... Well, not
that short of a walk, but it's the closest place to catch a fish this
size. The nice thing about this type of fish is that most of the bones
that it has are really big and easy to take out. The bones that are a
little bit smaller are still a pain, but they're flexible enough not to
break too easily if you miss one... I really hate bones in my food.
That's probably why I hate buffalo wings so much... I don't want to
nibble my food, I want to eat it. Usually I avoid fish as well for the
same reason, but these rubber-mouth fish aren't all that bad.


What did you do all day today?

I moved this rock... or rather, I moved the dirt around this rock in
order to get it out of the ground because it was in the middle of my
airstrip... And left a ginormous hole behind as a result!

There's this one strip of rock running through the airstrip and it's not
easy to break up even with this machine. For two days before this I was
scratching at the top of the rock trying to break it up but on day three
I'd had enough and went nuclear on it. This rock was exposed when I was
done... Vertically... When I picked it up it was heavy enough to put
the tractor on it's front two tires, even with the counter weight...
Let's hope I got it all. (yes yes... we both know that there's more...
who said I can't hope???)


Midway point of airstrip

You're looking down the midway point of the airstrip. Of course it's
all sopping wet in this photo because of a huge rain... As it turns out
my rain gauge goes up to around 60mm (more than 2 1/4") and then it's
overflowing, and on this particular morning the rain gauge was topped
off... Where's my dry season?

With construction about half done it seems like things are going to
start happening quicker. On the left side of the photo is the
"mountain" that we removed. It extended the majority of the way across
the airstrip and the big hole that's now filled with water used to be a
rock... A very large rock (the size of my bucket) that took me the one
entire day to remove... I hope I don't have to do that again!

All the people here keep saying things like "What's that noise? It's
the plane coming to land!"... Though there's still a long way to go...


New House Construction

Well, work continues on the new house. This is what the new "haus
copper" is looking like, and hopefully soon the floor will be going in.
Then it will probably feel a lot more like a house instead of a picknik
shelter. While I'm busy driving the tractor, Jeff is working on the
house. That will be much nicer to live in than the sac-sac (sago) house
that we currently live in. We hope to be moved in before Christmas.

For the most part I try to ignore what's going on over there. Every
once in a while Jeff will ask me questions like: "Why is the blade on
the saw smoking so badly?" I wrongly assume that he's talking about
cross cutting and that he's not supporting the timber close enough to
where he's cutting... After giving him the advice to move his supports
closer, I decide I'd better investigate. He's using a 4" cut blade to
rip a 5" thick piece of lumber. If the motor wasn't smoking yet, it
would be soon... I told him to use the baby chainsaw instead of
breaking our one and only electric saw. Sometimes it's best not to know...


Clutch Cable Resolution

Well, it took nearly two days, but here is the resolution to the clutch
cable... It's a piece of bar stock drilled out in the center, then four
slots drilled in alternating fashion that was welded to heat it (there
is no torch here at Kaiam) then pounded while still hot to pinch the
cable in place. The piece below is the old cable end... I would have
preferred to drill that one and do something like this, but the metal
they use on those things must be extremely hard because I wasn't able to
make much more than a dent when attempting that one.

Making this part took me all day... But when you consider I had to
re-wrap six inches of frayed cable, drill three inches of bar stock,
file out the sharp edges with a small round file, charge a battery to
start the tractor to run the generator to weld the piece to smash the
sides in to pinch the cable and mushroom the top flat and I atempted to
heat it up and solder all the pieces together to help hold everything
firm... that part didn't work as I couldn't keep the part hot enough for
the solder to stick.

Today I put the part in and tested it out. The overall length of the
cable didn't change by much and from the driver's point of view it's
just like it was before. All in all I should probably be more happy
with the fix, but I guess this means I've got more driving in my
future... ;-)


Broken Clutch Cable

Darn... After I've been in Kaiam for 10 hours of driving too...

Monday was a big day of work here. There were about twenty people here
and most of them had bush and grass knives cutting grass in the low
areas for me to fill. One of these areas has been our 'swamp' area for
a long time, so I was very excited to fill it in. However, as I was
pushing material into the hole, therefore chasing out water, I broke
through my new surface and instantly sunk in to my axles. It took ten
guys an hour to put enough rocks, logs, and dig out my ruts to get back
the two and a half feet to solid ground. Ick.

After that I took lunch, it was after one thirty and as I raised my arm
to crawl up onto our porch I noticed that my arm hurt... I looked over
and realized that I'd missed a spot on my arm where I hadn't liberally
applied sunscreen. It was already an unhealthy shade of pink.

At this point I was feeling pretty good... I'd had two fairly bad things
happen today and was ready for the afternoon... I shouldn't have been.
Right at the end of the day as the sun was setting, or getting close to
setting, I put my foot down to shift gears, but the tractor wanted to
keep moving forward. Since the fear of going back into a similar deep
hole as this morning had my reflexes heightened, I quickly jammed the
pedal to the floor while shifting into neutral. Cautiously, I applied
the clutch and shifted into gear... Good so far. Now, let out the
--jump!... The clutch was shifting about a quarter inch from the
floor. Time to go back to the shop!

At the shop, a quick inspection told me I was not leaking anything, and
all the major pieces were still accounted for. Looking under the dash
to where the clutch pedal goes I was greeted with a ratty end of a
clutch cable held together by four thin and worn strands of the
originally 3.5mm. Talk about skin of your teeth.

Unfortunately today required loosening the fuel tank, which required
draining it, and taking off a frame bracket, which required two of us to
stand on the wrench to break it loose, not to mention the six or seven
hours it took to accomplish this. Finally, the cable has been removed
in all it's 700mm glory... Since I don't have another one of those here
(yet), I attempted to fix it... so far no luck. The ends on those
cables are pretty hard steel and I can't just drill through them and
braze the cable back together like I thought I could for a "temporary" fix.

Any bright ideas for a field repair?


Mambis over look from Radio Tower

Well, it's now 2:30am and I've run out of time again to post all the pictures that I would have wanted to put on this blog, but there is some good news.  The Hospital here now has internet, their nice Cisco router (that I've been telling them they needed for two months but arrived about 28 hours ago) that is all configured for "some" of the needs here... I'd never worked with a real enterprise router before... always the home networking WRT54G type with custom firmware... Those enterprise ones are really complicated/powerful!  I really wish I had more time with that piece of equipment to get some settings more finely tuned, but that's what they get for delaying until the 11th hour...

Right now they have a hidden SSID with WEP encryption, a VLAN that broadcasts a public SSID, unfortunately I wasn't able to train anyone on how to enter in MAC address filters so that they can charge people for use of the public WLAN, but it will make it easier for all the hospital staff because I know for a fact that most of them won't be able to set their computers to connect to a hidden network and this way they can actually start using the internet that they bought and paid for well over two months ago...  It's been a frustrating couple of months that was only slightly alleviated by the fact that the Lutz's had a small WRT54G that I setup in the window so that a couple of the tech savvy doctors and I could use what the Hospital had paid so much for.

Now that router has dd-wrt firmware on it configured to be a bridged repeater for the house down here... Very handy.  Unfortunately now it's time for me to go to Kaiam, so it's back to C.R.M.F. radio email and that's it.  Quite a stark contrast.  But at least it's email... so hopefully I'll be posting more 50kb photos to this blog while I'm working on the airstrip.

Ok, enough tech talk... The photo here is the last picture I took from the Radio Tower hill looking back toward Mambis and Pausa high school with my super wide 10mm lens.   Enjoy!

Sing-Sing - Munduku

The last night I spent in Munduku in June (was it that long ago already?) they had a sing-sing that lasted all night.  I only was able to stay up for a few hours of it, but they where dancing and playing these strange flute like things all night.  It made a pretty strange sound and there was apparently different songs that they where playing as well as different steps, but in my inexperience, I couldn't tell the difference...  It was certainly unique though.  It seemed like it was only the old men that knew the songs, so it's very nearly a dieing art.  Hopefully some of the younger kids take interest and are able to keep PNG's culture alive.

Sunset - Munduku

A few minutes before sunset and the colors were pretty cool.  I always like the profile of a palm tree and having the sunset background made this a really nice evening... right before it rained buckets on us.


Soccer Field - Munduku

Here we have another spectacular example of the scenery on my "daily" (biannual?) commute.  This is the soccer field that is connected to the airstrip in Munduku.  By connected I mean it's an extension of the flat land that was chosen for the airstrip right next to the river.  Some of those trees in the background are actually on the other side of the 100 meter wide river.  This rainbow was quite visible and contrasted the stormy skies above the soccer game on this evening. 

Soccer, Rugby, and Volleyball seem to be the big sports here, but usually it's easier to stab two sticks into the ground rather than set up a net, so Soccer and Rugby are a close pair.

Lotu Building - Munduku

This is the Lotu Building (one of them) in Munduku, where we have to fly in and out of until our airstrip is completed.  They had gotten an unusually large amount of rain just before we got there and that's why there was a lake in front of the building.  What's interesting is that they are unable to dig any drainage ditches to the river because that would cross someone else's property and it sounds like there's some neighborhood disputes over land rights so there is no way to drain this area.  It doesn't usually seem to be a problem because in a day and a half all the water had evaporated.  Talk about heat!  This did make for a spectacular photo though...  I really like the reflection.

River View: Part 4

How would you like to jump in a canoe like this one?  These girls were going home for lunch from school.  They took a five minute canoe ride from one side of the river to the other.  It's pretty amazing to see them get into this extremely tippy canoe and paddle over to the other side through some fairly difficult water without falling in.  I'm not sure that I could say the same in my case.  Made me glad we were in a slightly less tippy motor dugout canoe.  It's too hot to paddle.

River View: Part 3

There are several points where amazing waterfalls can be scene... ahaha... pun pun pun...

River View: Part 2

Another view of the river scenery.  This one is of Susu mountain which is visible for a large part of the journey.  The clouds were changing quite quickly in the afternoon on this day and were doing a very strange layering effect.  It made the mountain look much larger than it actually is.  The Karawari river is part of the Sepik watershed and it really does drain a lot of water.  We're still a long way away from the coast at this point, but not too far down river from where this picture was taken, the land flattens out like the panhandle of Texas and these large rivers snake their way to the ocean.  It makes our 20 mile "as the crow flies" journey take nearly 40 miles of river travel because we weave back and forth through the landscape.  One thing that I never thought rivers could do was to fork into two rivers, but that's what this river seems to do many times.  Sure, a river can have sandbars in the middle (thank you Platte river) but to actually diverge and later rejoin after miles multiple times is just strange to me.  It might be interesting to take my GPS and map out some of these forks in the river, but that would take even more time on the river, so I'm not sure I'm too interested in doing that.  These guys really know this river though as it seemed to change (or we took much different paths coming down, not sure) in the time I was at Kaiam.

Oh, and Susu means milk, so you can figure out what the people that named this mountain thought it looked like... ;-)


While we were floating down the river I decided to pull out all my big camera equipment, much to the chagrin of many of the people that were going down river with me.  They were quite concerned that if we capsized (not difficult in the very unstable dugout canoe) then my equipment wouldn't be protected in the Pelican case.  However, I would never have gotten shots like this one had I not kept my camera in hand.

It's pretty difficult to take a photo of a bird in flight as the auto focus has trouble finding the subject if it's not setup just so...  I was pretty fortunate when this Hornbill flew over.  They sound like small jet planes as you can hear the wind blowing through their wings from pretty great distances.  That helps with getting pictures of them as well because (kind of like hunting grouse) they scare you when they take off.

Rubber Mouth Fish

You may think that all we ever do on the river is fish... well, that's partly true.  Pictured here is the rubber mouth fish that is harvested from the river.  They're a fairly large fish and decent to eat.  I just like this photo because it looks like the fish wants a kiss... ;-)

River View

How can you be upset with a commute to work like this?  I get to spend two or three days going up and down a river that has absolutely beautiful.  And possibly best yet, I have no responsibilities while doing it... It's like I'm on vacation or something... ;-)

The guys in the picture are fishing once again, but at this point in time, I really didn't mind.

Catching Fish

How do you catch fish on a big shallow river?  Not with a hook, that's for sure.  You get a big net, a couple guys to stretch it across a narrow section, then start the motor to make a bunch of noise and chance the fish toward the net.  Easy true!  Part of what makes our river adventures always take so long is that the guys have a chance to get some protein in their diet and they don't waste the opportunity by looking at the scenery.  On the other hand, it is much nicer to eat sago and fish than just sago... so it's hard to complain too much.

River Canoe

Here we are lazily floating down the river.  Anton seems to be much better at the time killing activities than I am.  I've still got a lot of go-go-go mentality, and that just doesn't work on a dugout canoe on a shallow river.  There are usually two to four guys in the front of the canoe that take turns pushing poles down into the water to test the depth and make sure that the driver knows if he needs to pull up the motor before it runs right into a big rock. 

In this picture you can also see all the loot that we float up and down the river with.  Clothes and camera gear and all other sorts of cargo that we probably don't really need, but just can't separate ourselves from.  Conversely, these guys have a small bilum bag close by that has some bui, a flashlight, a bush knife, and that's about it.  It would be quite nice to be able to just get up and move as these guys are able to do.

By the way, those umbrellas... Not really for rain... It's hot out on the river in the middle of the day and you can only put on so much sunscreen.  What a wonderful addition to be able to pop up your own mobile shade...  Anton and I often discuss how much of a curse it is to be white.  Makes me want to take a few of these guys back to Alaska and see how they like -40... ;-)

Kids are kids...

All over the world... Kids are kids...

This young boy was trying to stalk grasshoppers on our airstrip at Kaiam.  He would walk up to them Mowgli style on all fours, pounce from higher ground, sprint across the pitch, or simply wait for the busy insects to make their way into his arms reach.  Pretty entertaining to watch, and even better to take photos of on a hot evening.


Smoking is a big part of PNG, and especially in the bush.  It's kind of like all those old movies set in the 20's where everyone has a cigarette in hand.  However, these smokes are all hand rolled with wet leaves and scraps of paper that happen to be around.  Even the old cardboard boxes that aren't any good are taken and stripped apart to be rolled.  The leaves they use are green, but usually placed over a fire to dry them out a little bit but they still have to relight the smokes several times in order to burn the whole thing.

There's a running joke that they'd even smoke pages of the bible if we gave them such things...  Sad, but more truth than fiction.  Between all the smoking, the smoky houses and malnutrition, tuberculosis is a huge problem for many people in PNG.  From the records that Anton has kept it looks like close to a quarter of the population in the Kaiam area have been put on TB drugs at one time or another.  The biggest problem isn't that it's difficult to find the people with TB, or administer drugs, it's a problem of keeping them on the treatment.  After the first few treatments they feel a lot better and then they leave the area so that they can't actually eliminate the sickness from their body.  Complications...  Another interesting side affect of the TB treatments is when someone with HIV/AIDS (huge problem in PNG) gets sick and takes the treatment and recovers.  Others look at this and say that the TB treatment cured HIV/AIDS... no... it cured the TB, that's all it was going to do in the first place.  Strange to think that people still don't know that there is no cure for HIV/AIDS...

Hello Douglas!

You remember Douglas don't you?

One of the pastimes of the kids here is to make a bow and some little arrows and try to spear grasshoppers, or whatever they can find.  I'm not sure what all the materials are that his equipment is made of, in fact, I'm not sure that I could make one, but it's pretty impressive to see him firing away at extremely small targets with impressive accuracy.  The arrows that he's firing don't have any fletching on them, possibly because he's not shooting far enough for them to need it, and the arrows just have a sharpened tip on them, no stone or anything like that.

The skill of hitting what you're aiming at might mean the difference between you family getting some much needed protein or becoming malnourished, so while it looks like a game (and it is) it becomes much more serious when they become adults.  In places there are lots of feral pigs in the bush.  Perhaps they used to be domestic (like the Arkansas wild boars), perhaps not, but if you're talented enough to spear one of those there would be a feast for sure.

If you've never killed a hog before, I must warn you that they don't die easily.  Even if you can get close enough to hit them, more often then not they keep running away with your arrow stuck to their side.  And the possibilities of chasing a pig into a trap like on `Apocalypto`... well... good luck to you...  Speaking of that movie, the guys here in PNG really get a kick out of it.  At Kaiam we have a small 12V portable DVD player to watch movies at night.  It's a great way to relax, and a fantastic addition to the house.  What's interesting to note about most people here is that they are deathly afraid of snakes...  Remember the part where the guy gets bitten when he's leaning against a tree?  One of our guys jumped up and ran out of the house... Anton and I laughed about that for days!  We're so mean... ;-)

Dragonfly: Part 2

Yep, another dragonfly... Hey, you can't blame a guy for wanting to post a picture like this can you?  I'm still looking for the PNG insect book that I'd like to identify all these fun creepy crawlies that I live with at Kaiam... Wouldn't it be amazing to discover an insect that wasn't in the book?  Sure it might happen all the time in PNG, but not to me!

Anton and I both used to collect insects in our youth, so I have a kindred soul to help me chase after these strange bugs in the bush.  Yeah, I may not always be moving dirt to complete the airstrip, but that's part of the wonderful place we live in...  People are always saying you should stop and smell the roses... well, I don't like them (they're pokey!), but I'll stop and look at the insects/spiders/millipedes/etc.

The Thinking Room

At least that's what it is when I'm able to sit down, relax, and let nature flow... Not quite the same at Kaiam.  This is our squat toilet, which is really well designed with a sealed lid to keep the bugs out, a mostly leak proof roof for when it's raining, and an interesting view of the forest behind our house.  It would make a great thinking room if not for the quite uncomfortable position you are forced into to keep from $@*!ing on your feet.

Between the extreme heat, and prevalence of biting insects, this ranks as a solid #3 on the list of reasons I'm not excited about heading back down to Kaiam.  Good thing there's lots of greens to eat there... ;-)

Macro Sweat Bee

One of the most hilarious, but absolutely annoying creatures might be this little sweat bee.  Why do you ask?  Well, first of all how does it fly?  It has this really fat body and tiny wings.  In humming birds this trait works out fabulously, but in these little guys, well, Dumbo flew better.  They don't so much fly toward you as crash into you.  Not graceful.

What makes them absolutely annoying is the fact that they are drawn to sweat, and at Kaiam there seems to be plenty of that to go around.  These little guys crash land on your body, but since they're so small you hardly notice them.  As they walk across the surface of your skin they drag themselves through the forest causing a mild irritation.  If you sweep your hand across them, they act like spiders and hold fast, so the best thing to do turns out to be smashing them into your skin.  Good thing they don't have stingers.  They actually make honey from the sweat that they gather.  I haven't tasted it, but Anton has and he says that it is quite salty in flavor.  One time when he was at Kaiam they were covered with these bees and went searching for their home.  It turned out to be a small hole in a dead tree full of gloriously salty revenge.


Perfected Spring Steel Bearing Puller

Say that five times fast...

We had another bearing fail on the little tractor but there was a small problem: Before, when that bearing had failed, the Lutz's took the part to Mt. Hagen and the shop there had to weld something onto the part in order to pull against to take it apart.  We were not exactly thrilled about the idea of having to do this again, so we set out to build a bearing puller that would slide into the 1/16" gap between the gear and the casting in order to remove it.  Pictured is the result after nearly five hours of work.  The basic thought was to shave down two 1/8" spring steel plates so that they would slide into place, then weld something to them that would allow us to put the whole contraption in the 30 ton hydraulic press.

Of course we started out with a much less durable form of similar design.  The first one I ha just one cross brace on, which popped off without much pressure.  The second attempt broke my stitch welds (or rather ripped out part of the spring steel because the welds didn't penetrate the hard steel far enough) on the horizontal pieces.

At the time I was feeling wonderful because of some bad chicken I'd had in Mt. Hagen earlier in the day, so Anton went to work grinding out welds, and re-welding one of the pieces all the way around while I laid down for an hour or so.  When I came back, I re-welded one of the pieces and then we were ready to put it all in the press.

After the pressure built up to about 18 tons, we were questioning the strength of our newly rebuilt device and decided that this was enough pressure, so we broke out the torch and heated the casting up a little bit.  By a little bit, I mean about thirty seconds of heat and we heard a huge "POP!" ... It sounded like a weld breaking but we were quite happy to see that the part we wanted to move had indeed started to slip off.  It still took about 10 ton of continuous pressure to remove, but at this point we pumped the hydraulics as fast as we could.

That night we were on top of the world!  Pretty nice to build a specialized puller and successfully use it in just a few hours...  We certainly couldn't have done this at Kaiam, so it reinforced the decision to fly the part out and fix it in Mambis.  I will be accompanying it back down to Kaiam on Monday!


the Coke side of PNG

Have you ever taken one of those photos that looks like it came right
out of a commercial? Well, a few weeks (months?) ago, I took one of
those and sometimes you can't keep those photos to yourself... So, I
went online and found some free fonts that resembled the fonts used the
real adds. This was the result. Almost looks like I took it straight
out of a magazine or something.

For a little back information: Coka-Cola is the only soda company in
PNG. Years ago Pepsi was here, but between a very good add campaign and
other things there is no longer any competition from other companies and
we're left with Coke as the official soft-drink of PNG. I don't think
it hurts that the red and white fits right in line with PNG's colors.
They also have these really nice billboards and wall sized adds that
read: "Coke and Kai"... Kai-kai means food in pidgin.

It's pretty common to see Coke cans and 500ml bottles around. Most
little trade stores sell them. The cans can also be recycled at various
places but for about a kilo of aluminum you only get about 4 Kina (a
little more than a U.S. dollar), and it takes a lot of cans of Coke to
add up to that. That doesn't mean no one recycles them... And it's
always fun to see a couple hundred cans lying in the roadway to make
aluminum pancakes.


Moving dirt...

The old fashioned way...

This photos seems like such a simple photo, but there's a lot going on
here. For one, take a look at the muscles on this guy... Most of the
guys in the Penale are cut like him. I would be too if I worked as hard
as the people do here to survive everyday. Cutting firewood, getting
food, traveling over rough terrain... It's no picnic.

Next, notice the small bilum bag hanging around his neck and slung onto
his back. Even though Kaiam is a "safe" community, no one ever puts
their possessions down. Bui, tobacco, matches or a butane lighter, and
a flashlight are very commonly found in these little bilums.

The traditional clothing for the Penale people usually consists of the
leaves that you see here, some sort of vine to go around the waist, and
a small piece of fabric called a lap-lap (no idea on the spelling, but
that's how it sounds) in front. More often though it seems like you see
the multiple windings of some sort of twine or wire and western style
shorts, but the leaves are still present. Also, you can tell that this
guy doesn't live directly in the Kaiam area because of the type of twine
around his waist. If I was more familiar with the people groups I could
tell you exactly where he comes from. Some other differences are
braided rope worn around the forehead, different styles of lap-laps, arm
bands, and many more that I can't think of right now. Pretty unique no
matter who you look at, but they all tend to be similar if they're from
the same people group.

The other thing to not overlook is the bright green colors and the side
lighting in this photo. It could have been a little better if you could
see a little more of his face, but the main reason I point out the
actual photo is just that I really tried to make sure the greens came
out the way they should on this photo... Hopefully now that I figured
out the process the other hundred photos in this same folder/location
will be edited much more quickly and you'll see more photos of Kaiam in
the near future... Or we can all hope so...


Mambis Antics

So when's the last time you were driving across the road and found out that someone had dug a ditch across the road?  Never?  I can't say the same as some boys from town decided that they didn't want people from the next village over driving the short way.  Now that village has to make an hour drive (or more) to get to their home.  It's a pretty strange thing to do, but it seems to make a lot of sense to the people around here.  I really don't understand Engans.

Carring Rocks

Ok, the last post didn't make it sound like the guys ever have to do any work.  They just happen to have to do slightly different work.  Here we see six guys who have built a rock carrier in order to move these large stones from the river up to the airstrip to be used as foundation points for a house.  Unfortunately they have to walk about fifty meters horizontally, and twenty meters vertically to get from the riverbed up to the airstrip.  And it's not an easy walk.  Again I find myself unable to do it with less than one hand out in front of me to keep from sliding back down the muddy bank.  These guys just dig their toes into the clay and get to the top quicker than I can just carrying myself!  Everything here seems to be more work that it's worth, but this will keep the house supports from rotting as they won't be buried directly into the ground, so a little (a lot?) more work now keeps the house (hopefully) from falling down in three years, which is typically the time that a traditional house lasts in the bush. 

Can you imagine building a new house every three years with just a bush knife and an axe to aid you?  That probably partly explains why houses here are so small and typically don't have any siding.

Penale Girl

It's amazing how much the kids at Kaiam like to get their picture taken.  Even most of the adults will give you a thumbs up or even jump up and down when they know that you've got a camera pointed in their direction.  This really doesn't work for me because I much rather prefer to have shots of people when they are doing their normal things and not acting strange.  However, I am a sucker for a cute girl. 

This girl was with her mom at our house at Kaiam who was busy weeding the area around the house footprint.  Since it's pretty easy to grow certain types of foods here, really anywhere is a garden and we have coconut, banana, guava, and many other edible plants all around our house.  Usually the mothers get the kids that can't really walk away from them, and the girls usually stick pretty close.  The boys, however, once they can keep up, or mostly keep up with the other kids, are off rampaging around the jungle.  The men typically are off doing their own thing as well, smoking, or chewing bui (beetle nut). 

Meanwhile the moms come by with two shovels slung over a shoulder, a bilum bag with some essentials, like the day's food, a baby in another bilum, both strapped to their foreheads and another kid usually alternating between one arm and a breast...  I'm in awe of these women.  I can't hardly walk with my water bottle because the heat causes me to drip sweat so badly I can't see where to put my feet on the slick slopes.  Yet they trudge up and down with apparent ease.  I'm reminded every time I leave the front porch just how much of an uncoordinated ape I really am...  Quite humbling really...

Cus-Cus (Tree Kangaroo)

Another example of Papua New Guineans coming to the door with interesting animals.  This time it was at Kaiam and this guy is a Tree Kangaroo.  I think they look a heck of a lot like the Ewoks from Starwars.  This guy became our pet at Kaiam, and last I know he hadn't become stew yet. 

His cage started out underneath the house, but as I was spending the afternoon on the computer I heard this terrible scratching noise coming from just outside the window.  The tree kangaroo had climbed out of his cage and was quickly moving across the firewood siding towards the sac-sac roof, which already has enough leaks in it that an animal larger than a gecko poses quite a threat to it's structural integrity.  The conversation at this point went something like this:

Me: Jeff!... Jeff! Your animal is getting away!
Jeff: Wah? 
Me: Get to the window, I'll pull him down.
Jeff: How? He? The?
Me: Ok (grabbing his tail) he's coming down, catch him.
(at this point, not realizing that the claws of these guys are pretty sharp to hold onto trees, I got my reward for grabbing his tail and he fell ten feet to the ground... but just like a cat landed on all fours)
Me: Grab him!
Jeff: Ack, he'll scratch me!

Ok, so it was really funny at the time, even with a bloody stump.

Later that afternoon the lik-lik cus-cus was built a proper home, and lives happily just outside of reaching distance... for both him and me... ;-)

Kaiam Airstrip

Here's the business end of the Kaiam airstrip as it looked on June 8th, 2010.  Hopefully I'll actually be motivated to upload the panorama pictures of the whole airstrip (which means that I'll need to stitch them together first)...  I've been back in Mambis for about a month and I still haven't gone through all the photos and video that I took while down in the Penale.  Since we only have solar pannels for power, and my computer is an energy hog I figured that I'd just put all my photos onto an external hard drive and do the actual work of going through them when I got back to the hydro power in Mambis.  What I didn't figure on was taking so many photos that I can't put them all on my computer at once...  Yeah, my 250Gb hard drive computer had about 30Gb free when I got back from Kaiam and not all the photos from the trip would fit.  I think I shot close to twice that.

Anyway, the airstrip here was soaking from a good rain overnight so we were unable to drive that morning.  Instead we spent the morning waiting for the sun to restore the wet, sloppy clay to a sticky goo that we can actually drive on without making too many ruts.  The amount of rain that the Penale gets is amazing.  I want to put up a small weather station to record it, but that's a story for another time.

The rain is also just as lacking in the dry season as it was prevalent during the rainy season.  The guys that are down there currently tell me, over the radio, that the sun has been baking the clay into bricks so that the stone we were breaking up with the big tractor is indistinguishable from the regular clay that needs to be moved.  In other words the top surface of our airstrip has been fired into pottery.  Instead of hoping it stops raining so we can get some work down, they're hoping for some rain to loosen up the soil so they can get some work done.  Such harsh conditions no matter which way you look at it.


Would it seem strange to you if you watched a grown man walking around with his camera gear following bugs?  Well? Ok, I'm that freak... for some reason I just really like taking pictures of insects, and when you see this picture I hope that you'll understand why.  I really like this photo.  It reminds me of the photos that you see in the insect identification books.

In Kaiam there are plenty of "bugs" to take photos of... half the time you're more interested in swatting at them rather than pointing a lens at them, but you get the idea.  The last week or so that we were in the Penale the dragonflies came out in pretty amazing numbers and pretty soon my 16Gb card was full of photos and video, not only from the local dragonfly populations, but also of several types of insects that I'm not really sure how to classify yet.  I'm hoping to get a PNG insect book to help me out with that identification problem, but I haven't come across any stores with that type of thing in Mt. Hagen yet.

Internet at Mambisanda Hospital

Slowly but surely the modern conveniences of the western world are making their presence known in PNG.  While most people here don't own their own computer, or have ever even sat down to use one (I watched a friend of mine using a computer for the first time and, after I opened a word processor, it took him ten minutes to type the first line of his mailing address).  A two minute walk from where this picture was taken gets you back to the more traditional grass roofed houses, lack of indoor plumbing, and no electricity.  But the prevalence of such things like cellphones is quite astonishing.  Not quite as bad as the third graders having cell phones in the US, but just about.  I would say that about 70% of the adults have cellphones, even if they don't have electricity they will walk to somewhere that they can plug into the 240V power system, even if it's by 'hot wiring' the phone into the overhead lines.  Such is the dichotomy of Enga.

Majestic Bird of Paradise

One of the amazing things in PNG is the fact that people bring things to your door that you just don't see anywhere except the National Geographic magazines, or on the Nature shows.  This Majestic Bird of Paradise arrived at my door unannounced one afternoon and I had to take photos of it.  The long tail feathers still trip me out.

Enga Roads

Is the road bad where you live?  That pothole that you hit that you know is there, but never seem to avoid?  Well, this picture is an example of the roads that I drive in Enga.  Off to the right of the picture you will see an 18-wheeler semi-truck on it's side because it slipped off the edge of the road.  But this was good news because if it would have slipped off the other side and rolled like it did, it would have been about sixty feet down. 

On these roads in general you can drive in second gear, and if you're some what reckless, you shift into third like the PMV drivers and fly over all the potholes.  I don't really know how fast second or third gear is because I'm forced to dodge to the right side of the road in order to avoid something... And we drive on the left in PNG...

Dr. Steve's Memorial

Well, Dr. Steve Lutz's Memorial was a few weeks ago in Mambisanda, but it was pretty good.  There were lots of people there and it was fairly short overall... so I think it suited just fine.  At one point they had all the groups from around Enga that were in attendence stand up and, while I don't remember now where everyone was from, there were many, many groups there.  The good Dr. will certainly be missed, but only for this lifetime.



The attached file was originally sent with another message.

File Name: Steve_Julie.jpg


What did you have for breakfast?

Think back... way back to this morning. After you slapped the snooze
button three or four times, staggered out of your room into the kitchen
and reached for your favorite breakfast food: Corn puffs? Toast?
Waffles? Coffee? Today, like most days at Kaiam, I had a pack of
Wopa's, which are basically a hard tack cracker that come in beef
flavors or plain.

Meet Douglas. He lives next door. This morning while his dad was out
cutting grass on the airstrip when breakfast started running away. A
large field mouse was quickly caught, gutted, roasted (to remove the
fur), "cooked" (I'd say more warmed), and eaten (bones, skin, even the
head) by this very quiet, polite boy. A tasty meal of protein in an
otherwise carb only diet.

And just to be clear, Douglas would love to share with you... ;-)


Bearing Between Teeth

Remember that bearing that blew up on us about a month ago? Well, we
now have the replacement bearing and when we had it almost all put
together again, I noticed a little crack in one of the teeth of the
drive shaft that had happened when a ball got wedged between a couple of
the teeth when it failed. Unfortunately there is no easy way to get a
replacement shaft, or the gear that was also slightly damaged. So, we
did the next best thing: we ground out the crack, put it together and
hoped for the best. The tractor has now been running up and down the
airstrip delivering it's dirty payload for about ten hours now... so
far, so good.

I also had fun with a chainsaw yesterday. It needed a new bearing as
well, which was hand delivered up the river the same time as our tractor
bearing. It's the clutch bearing and this new clutch is tight enough
that the chain doesn't want to stop moving even with the idle turned way
down. It required a pretty substantial change of the mixture (as it
turned out both high and low) before it got sorted out. Silly
carburetors and lots of air at this elevation. This was the first time
that I've ever used a big chainsaw and I was glad to get it running well
and hand it back.

We've got about a week left in Kaiam before we rotate out for a little
break. My body probably needs it more than my mind, but it would be
nice to see more than just three buildings and a field of dirt to move.


Taka Anda - Human Skull

The CRMF (Christian Radio Mission Fellowship?) email server has been
down for a week, so I wasn't able to post anything until now. I figured
I should post a photo from the Taka Anda museum in Wabag when we went a
few months ago... Just because I like skulls.


Night of the Flying Ants

If it sounds like the title of a horror movie, it kind of was. Last
night, just after dark, we were bombarded by thousands of flying ants.
I sat down to write a short email and had to stop when I couldn't read
the screen anymore because the ants had almost completely covered up the
screen with their winged bodies. I blew them off, closed the computer,
and went outside to sit in the dark to avoid the continual harassment of
six legged fiends flying toward lights. We have a kerosene lamp that
usually gets lit in the common room, and we all turned to look at it
when we thought it was running out of fuel since the light got dimmer.
Drastic measures were to be taken as the tiny insects were engulfing the

So, we decided to go to war. We set up a candle on the floor of the
room. As the victims flew too close to the flame, their little wings
got clipped. Having lost the ability to transcend quickly toward the
light, they resorted to climbing the candle where their doom awaited
them at the top in the form of fiery vengeance.

Our elation was quickly subdued, however, when the continual stream of
their forces began to overwhelm our meager candle. Soon their bodies
were stacking up around the flame, choking it out in a suffocating wall
of bodies. Within ten minutes (we hadn't even finished our suppers) our
source of light, and our weapon, was extinguished! There was only one
thing to be done: clean off the candle and re-light it... over, and
over, and over again... I personally lost count after half a dozen
times when we resorted to much more extreme measures to eradicate our
enemy: aerosol can.

Their forces never saw it coming. They died by the hundreds. With each
blast their force was left scattered on the sago bark floor. We won the
battle, but they won the war. After ten minutes of intermittent battle,
and a can of ammo, we retreated to our portable DVD player under the
security guard of a mosquito net over the three of us and the brightly
light screen. Our candle soon extinguished, we were left in relative
peace under the net and an uneasy truce was kept for the remainder of
the night.

Bards will write of the saga of the Night of the Flying Ants for
weeks... At least we tried during supper.



It's very interesting to see the local reaction to snakes and spiders.
I have a healthy respect for them myself, but I'm not opposed to petting
a constrictor snake, or lifting a triancula with a shovel to look at
it's fangs. In general, I understand this to be a little more friendly
than the average person but the reaction here is nothing short of over

The Lutz's have a few pet snakes in small fish tank type containers.
The largest one is a good sized constrictor of almost two meters in
length. The smallest one is probably half a meter long. Anton once
took the small one out of it's cage when we had a crowd of people over.
Instantaneously the people that saw the snake in his hand dashed for the
closest exit pushing, shoving, climbing over anything (including people)
in their way. It was a stampede. The reaction was quite similar when
one of the guys found this triancula in the stump of a tree that we were
removing. Even as I leaned down to get a closer shot (taking one of the
pictures I was probably within a foot of the large spider) the unnatural
fear that overtakes the average Papua New Guinean was so strong that
they felt fear for themselves and moved instinctively farther away.

Life around here is usually anything but dull... I should really take
video in the middle of one of these episodes sometime... ;-)