20110613

PNG Departure

It's been a pretty crazy two weeks since I came out of the bush...
Computers, projects, visitors, and a big sing-sing over at Pausa which I
don't have time right now to edit.

This photo was taken on a momentary brake from the rain in this "dry"
season as the clouds helped to form a moon halo. We've been hearing how
dry this year will be, yet if you were to walk out in the yard right now
you wouldn't be able to tell if you had shoes on or not from the mud
that would slosh up around your ankles. Pretty amazing. And I thought
it rained a lot here last year!

20110526

Merum?

Mirim, marim, merum, merrem, melrim?... How do you write something that
you've ever only heard spoken through multiple accents? Very
difficult. This plant is the new wonder sweeping across the Sepik.
It's a plant that grows into a large bush, roughly two meters tall and
wide. Once it has reached a large size, the people that are purchasing
the leaves have sent out harvesting instructions. They are very clear
that you must take a scissors and cut off each leaf, don't tear it off,
then you place the leaves in the sun until they're nearly dry and then
pack them into the small 1Kg rice bags and bring them down to the
factory that is being built in the lower Karawari river. The reason
this plant has generated so much attention in the last six months here
is that the rumors say that for just one of these 1Kg bags of dried
leaves you can earn K1,500, or even up to K3,000. When I'm told this
story, my first reaction is to say, maybe 1Kg of the finished product
might be worth that, but no chance that your silly dried leaves are
worth that much. Most people here don't agree with my sense of
skepticism... Though if they can't count, maybe they think they're
getting multiple thousands... ;-)

So, what does it make? No one seems to know, or really care, they all
see Kina signs and that's good enough for them. I was brought a sample
of this plant because I was so curious as to what it could possibly make
and I smashed a few leaves in my hands and smelled them. It's got a
smell that I would expect a female perfume to have, somewhat sweet, but
with a hint of old person... Think of the good parts of the smell of
grandma's house, without the apple pie in the air... Now you see that I
am not a perfume expert as I have no idea how to classify this smell,
but it was a very light scent even with the handful of leaves that I
had. (Might have something to do with my more than burned out nose from
years of hog buildings and welding smoke, but I digress) The water from
the leaves just barely showed any hint of oiliness, which also explains
why the scent was so weak. All in all, it was a pleasant scent, but not
something that I would directly say was intended for perfume.

So, my questions remains: What does it make? What is the real name of
this plant? Unfortunately my picture isn't the best, and the specimen
had been chewed on pretty thoroughly by some insect, but hopefully you
can zoom in and get an idea of the shape of the leaves, even with the
poor resolution I'm forced to use currently... Oh, and for the record,
I heard from a somewhat more reputable source that the actual selling
price is K100 for 10, 1Kg bags of leaves, or K10 per bag... That I'd
believe.

20110523

Mini-Banana

Perhaps I have a banana fetish... I'll have to look into what that's
called...

You know when you have those mini-wedges in an orange? Well, I found
the equivalent in bananas, only much funnier. I can just see the
cartoon image of a giant stepping on this mini-banana skin and tumbling
to the ground in a heap.

On the bottom of the stock of bananas was two or three perfectly formed
mini-bananas and it required that I take their picture before devouring
them. I don't think the candy industry was original anymore with their
'bite size' products. Nature obviously beat them to the punch, and the
packaging is easier to open as well. ;-)

And yes, the baby banana was quite tasty.

20110518

Stubby Bananas

Yeah, they're rip and they're stubby... I thought they were big beetle
nuts at first glance. I can't keep track of all the varieties of banana
here. There are several different kinds of sweet banana: one with very
light colored skin, 'regular' ones, some that don't turn yellow when
they're ripe. Then there's many more cooking bananas. Some they throw
directly in the fire and later scrap off the outside, others they boil.
Always interesting to see what kinds are around, though these short
stubby ones still make me laugh.

20110509

Bone Yard2

Shoot, forgot the word of the day... 'opulent'... oh well.

And before you ask, yes, I had help pulling these out. My father showed
me how to loop a chain so it bites when I was younger, even though this
was a choker chain, some were too small, or short, for it to bite
alone. Then there was me, myself, and I because all the boneheads
around here disappeared into the bush again so they can hold 'court'
this afternoon. But I'm in a much better mood today. Something about
busting your knuckles on a logging chain and ripping defenseless trees
from their homes that makes me smile.

Bone Yard

Gentlemen. Welcome to the Bone Yard. You are here because you dared to stand in the way of progress. Doubtless many of you thought you had escaped eradication when the first wave of axe men came through and toppled your most formidable towers. However, now you see that such thoughts were extremely dubious. You were given the chance to come out with your roots up, but in your refusal to do so, you have been forcefully removed from the sanctuary of ground and your (insert mocking tone) precious (/mocking tone) nutrients.
Having given you a moment to consider your new location, you will see that you are now surrounded by razor sharp switch grass laced with stone on a high and dry location, all designed to inhibit your progress and remove all doubt that your root structure will ever see the safety of the darkest solitary soil locations. Those of you who are lucky may find themselves removed to other locations where you will be put to work exuding heat for cooking sago starch or sweat potato. Those less fortunate individuals shall be summarily put to death by cremation.Make no mistake, your time at the Bone Yard will not be a pleasant one. The heat of the noon-day sun shall dry out your moist veins and make even the most virulent of you weep like sapling willows. From this point forward you have ceased to be trees and are now considered, at
best, fire wood.

20110508

My Great Fear for Humanity

This is going to be quite the rant if my anger last night is any
indication...
It all started Saturday afternoon when two of the local kids here at
Kaiam were hanging out at my house. The younger one, who looks to be
about 10, though no one here knows how old they are which I can forgive
because it's hard to tell when one year ends and another begins, asked
how many individually wrapped items come in the box he was looking at.
Nice thing about packaging is that I didn't have to know the answer to
that, just look at the box, and as I was sitting just out of reading
distance of the box, I told him to look at it and tell me. So, he and
the older boy (probably 12) started poking their fingers furiously at
the box.
"Here?"
"No"
"Here?"
"Is that a number?"
"Here?"
"That's a 'G'."
"Here?"
"That's a bird of paradise."
In short, no clue. Well, they haven't seen too many printed items in
their lives, perhaps it's just too busy for them to identify a number in
all this noise. So, I covered up three-quarters of the box with my
hands and said to try again.
"Here?"
"That's a 'G'."
You can see where this is going... By this point I'd told them that the
box contains 36 individually wrapped items and I wanted them to find the
'3'. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Eventually the older boy found the '3'. Good, yes, that's a '3', now
find the '6'. Several seconds pass with more furious stabs until the
older boy locates the '6' conveniently placed right next to the '3'.
Now, there used to be a school here, until it mysteriously fell apart
with starving kids, so most of them can rattle off 1->10 verbally. Ok,
good, you just can't read it. That's fine until you realize that PNG is
now a cash society and the numbers are stamped on all the bills: K2, K5,
K10, K20, K50, K100. We've just found a small issue.
We also run a small conveyance store out of the house here for the
locals to get useful items like soap, bush knives, fishing hooks,
batteries, etc. Usually we don't sell food items that are transported
for ourselves, which is quite the ordeal. Given costs, a 'D' cell
battery sells for K2 here and they're one of the first things to be sold
out. I usually don't get involved with the transactions, but happened
to overhear a recent purchase of a single battery (they like to throw
away one dead battery of a set, and replace it with one good one... they
seem to think that gets them more for their money). The kid, roughly
20, pulled out a 100 Kina note to pay for the K2 item. Not very
convenient for us because we don't have that much change around to break
that kind of a bill.
For the record, I should point out here that money is not hard for them
to come by. Generally they can find bush materials that sell down river
for a pretty penny and they do so frequently. They never have any idea
what these things are being used for ultimately, and have little desire
to find out, yet they continue to export all these less useful items to
people who would are willing to pay for them.
Back to the change for K100: We eventually found K98 for his change, and
handed it to him, much to his dumbfounded look. He was overwhelmed by
the number of bills now in his grubby little paw. Turning to his other
clenched hand, he opened it to help sort through this newly acquired
disaster and we see a fistful of K2 notes, then he proceeded to ask us
to count back the change we handed him as he was unable to do so. Here
came the realization that he was unable to recognize the value of the
notes he currently possessed as well.
Now we've realized a *very* big problem. If these guys are going down
river to sell their wares, and aren't able to identify the monetary
value that is received for their transaction they are extraordinarily
susceptible to deceit from any number of sources. Imagine if someone
said they were going to pay you K1500 for 1Kg of dried leaves (don't
balk, there are rumors of these transactions that are widely accepted by
the community) and when you go to collect your fee, they hand you K200
and you have no knowledge to verify any different. I have no proof that
this is happening, but the widespread lack of number recognition among
those aged 20 and below is staggering.
But what about older persons? Well, there are several people that I'd
guess were 35 and older that are able to read, granted at a third grade
reading level, but well enough to read in public and understand the
content. My guess is that those between 35 and 20 have some degree of
both reading and number recognition... So what happened to the younger
kids? It appears that we are rapidly backsliding in the rural education
level in PNG. Could this be any indication of the inadequate ability of
this government to govern when power was benevolently handed over in
1975?... I digress.
To combat some of this degradation, I thought, given that it's rainy and
there's nothing else to do, a good project for a Sunday afternoon would
be to count from 0 to 9 with the kids. I had them find/make short
sticks that could be written on with my permanent marker the required
numbers, and made sure that they could individually point to the correct
number when spouting off their counting. With a few of the more able
kids, we even tried writing them down. What I discovered was both
rewarding and exasperating. About three quarters of the kids (ages ~5
to ~13, in a group of 15 kids) could say the numbers in order without
help. Half of those point to the numbers as they walked up the counting
stick, and a quarter (generous quarter as the number was three) of them
could identify numbers when I randomly pointed and asked them to tell me
the number. This last group could also write the numbers unaided on
paper (cardboard in this case) indicating that their parents were active
in their education. These were the oldest of the group, but they were
also boys. The girls of similar age were inconsistently able to point
to a number and tell me what it was except by counting in their head
from the beginning to where my finger rested, so no number recognition.
What seemed like several hours later, every kid that was roughly 7 and
up could point at the numbers and count their way up to nine
consistently, and the two or three that were younger were looking at
their sticks and scratching things into the ground as instructed to
practice writing them, or had lost interest and were throwing dirt clods
at one another, so I didn't get around to testing them.
Another thing that struck me when a few of the elder kids tried to write
was that they were quite unable to recognize things that were the same
and things that were different. If I let them draw a 7, and it faced
the wrong way, then I drew one, they couldn't tell which one was
different. There's one boy I'm positive is dyslectic, but was able to
correct his writing when instructed, however, others would draw the same
incorrect figure dozens of times in a row despite repeated corrections
and coaching, and even hand holding to draw the symbols. I've noticed
this lack of pattern awareness in adults as well. Such as lining up the
stripe on a battery the same way, it's simply not a sensory input that
gets charted. The only way some of them can install batteries is by
finding the 'nub' and putting it in correctly, and if they miss the
'nub' you've got a 50% chance of the radio/flashlight not working when
they're done messing with it.
Now at the end of the day, I was feeling pretty good about helping out
the community when a man came to buy some things from our store. He
looked to be in his late 20's and I'd give it 50/50 if he was able to
identify the value of his notes as he purchased and received his change
for one item at a time (this happens for every transaction... You can't
just purchase a bar of soap, a couple batteries and a fishhook. You
must first purchase the bar of soap, receive change, then request the
batteries, wait for your change, the ask about fishhooks, then pay with
the same change we've been trading back and forth and suddenly the K20
you started with paid for everything but all transactions necessitated
the repetitive exchange of change instead of a single efficient
transaction.).
The next item he asked for takes the cake: He asked for a piece of metal
to put on his arrow to kill a man. Really, just like that in a very low
voice so that I couldn't hear him. Boaz, of course, told him we had
nothing like that and were unwilling to try to sell something like this
and the conversation died out in a minute. While this was going on, I
was talking with his daughter and niece (both about 10) and counting
some of the items they just purchased and showing them the numbers on
cardboard, to no avail. Within ten minutes of this man leaving there
was a huge commotion next door and people started running and yelling as
this guy had tried to kill someone.
Here's where my anger is kindled... Not just kindled, perhaps we'll say
it's gone nuclear... These people would much rather hold court to
discuss who's baby a newly pregnant mother who's been sleeping around
belongs too, then figure out who's going to marry her, then demand
compensation for her out-of-wedlock impregnation, then discuss bride
price. If they happen to get through that one without shooting or
stabbing one another there's another 'court' held the very next day
discussing a young lady that was "kidnapped" from the neighboring
village under the claim that they were getting married and were going to
pay bride price that had already been agreed upon, but the recipients
were unable/unwilling to receive it until the death of a relative was
compensated when someone stole a gun that had been in possession of the
groom was used against their line. If they get through that one, the
next day there's 'court' do discuss the 'magic potion' that was obtained
45 miles down river, secretly brought up and used to poison a man from
another neighboring village when he came down to buy smokes and beetle
nut causing small boils that our health worker identified as a simple
bacterial infection and provided medicines to cure if he'd take the
required dose... Which of course he disappeared back into the bush
before completing and the boils (surprise) got worse! If they complete
the compensation claims for these then you get guys that have the gall
walk right up to someone in the community and ask to buy a weapon to
kill a man not five minutes from now and then have 'court' to deal with
all the fun compensation and retribution that would follow that exciting
episode...
They would rather do all of the above than spend even a fraction of this
time teaching their own kids how to count to ten and identify a K2 note...
How can you help people who are unable/unwilling to help themselves? I
am nearly convinced that an airstrip will not help them. A 2x4 to the
face may not either, but would decidedly improve mood. It's been said
that "it's a wonder they made it into the stone age."... I'm surprised
they stayed that advanced... I'm at my wits end...

20110503

Hydraulic Fix

So, I'm really failing at this blog posting stuff. I posted the wrong picture in the last email, so I'm going to have a bunch of posts to edit when I finally get back to the Internet to do so... Anyway, I trust you're all smart enough to take the picture from this post, and apply it to the previous post, then take the picture from that one, and read the
following:
Fixed it (2011-06-03)
We had several pressure and wiper seals failing all at once on the little tractor, so we figured we'd gotten some sort of containment into our hydraulic oil supply. Upon looking at the in line oil filter, it was discovered that the ends had cracked, and the filter it self glistened in the noon-day sun. Not a happy sight. Unfortunately a replacement filter could not be found, so we decided to make our own using a piece of plate steel and an off the shelf oil filter.
The process started in Mambis with Anton receiving the sizes of fittings that everything down here attached to, then he took his piece of plate steal and affixed it in the lathe. Many hours later, he emerged with an immaculately crafted filter assembly, minus mounting brackets, and proceeded to braze fittings together and then shipped it down to Kaiam where I had the pleasure of installing it into the existing system, replacing the fouled unit.
All in all, a good fix, and now our oil comes out as clean as it went in, unlike before when it looked like used engine oil. It has been pointed out that these are plumbing fittings, not hydraulic fittings, which would burst at most hydraulic pressures. However, this is an open system reservoir, and here it's only under the pressure of the oil and the atmosphere, so a little bit of thread tape makes the world go round.

20110502

Vegetarian

Really, this says it all...

20110430

Bent Bit

The number of unique experiences at Kaiam grows... I've broken many a drill bit in my time, but I've never seen one bend like this one did. I was making a bracket for our new hydraulic oil filter and it required a hole for a bolt. So, starting with a punch, then a small drill bit, then a little bit larger, finally I worked my way up to this one. It sat nicely in the hole, it's point recessed easily in the existing cavity. Then I pressed the trigger on the Dewalt only to have it nearly jump out of my hands. At first I was puzzled, I had the drill straight up and down, why did it buck like that? Upon trying to recenter the bit, the reason was obvious and the result just demanded a photo...

Bent Bit

The number of unique experiences at Kaiam grows... I've broken many a
drill bit in my time, but I've never seen one bend like this one did. I
was making a bracket for our new hydraulic oil filter and it required a
hole for a bolt. So, starting with a punch, then a small drill bit,
then a little bit larger, finally I worked my way up to this one. It
sat nicely in the hole, it's point recessed easily in the existing
cavity. Then I pressed the trigger on the Dewalt only to have it nearly
jump out of my hands. At first I was puzzled, I had the drill straight
up and down, why did it buck like that? Upon trying to recenter the
bit, the reason was obvious and the result just demanded a photo...

20110426

How the ???

 
What are the chances of this???
Welcome to our washing/swimming spot on the river. This big rock right
in the middle of the stream is a good indication of the water level when
you look down on it from the back end of the airstrip. If it's been
rainy, the water comes up towards the top of this rock, but when it's
dry, you can see even more than you can in this picture, so currently
we're at about average river height. However, you'll notice an
interesting feature delicately balanced on this stone. Last night the
rains flooded down the river and lifted this tree trunk up and deposited
it where you see it now. It was perfectly balanced so that the kid on
the left caused the whole thing to see-saw. It was just heavey enough
though that he couldn't rock it off it's perch and it took Boaz and
about eight kids to roll the thing back into the river while I stood by
and got video of the splash it made.

20110417

Work Progress

Well, here's a photo of the current progress as of today. We've broken
through all the big hills and we're down to the original helicopter pad
that the little machine was delivered at in 2005 (the flat spot on the
right). All the area in front has to be filled from the yet remaining
hill on the left so that the flyover area is wide enough for the planes
to come down. To give you a sense of the scale we're working with, look
at the edge of the dirt and grass of the helicopter pad. There's a grey
and black verticle smudge... Well, that's a guy walking on the other
side of the airstrip... Yeah, this is a big project. Unfortunately we
haven't been able to do much work this year yet as it's still pretty
rainy, but there are a few days that it's dry enough to drive for a
couple hours. In the last thirty-five days I've gotten fifty hours of
driving in... Not very impressive, but the work done in that time is
pretty dramatic. Most of the dirt you're looking at is new as of that
fifty driving hours.

20110413

Happy Birthday To Me..

I bet you can't guess what I did for my birthday this year... No really,
I bet you can't...
Yesterday afternoon two guys came into Kaiam after having a tussle with
a wild boar, a pretty good sized one (we saw it today) that the third
guy with them finally killed before it killed them. One had the
stereotypically humorous boar tusk to the left butt cheek (go ahead, try
not to chuckle), while the other was bucked into a tree and dislocated
his shoulder. We spent the remaining portion of the day (I say "we" but
it should be clarified that our health worker has gone on sabbatical to
the bush, so a bunch of amateurs were left to muddle through as best as
we could figure) trying to reset a shoulder using the "weight" method,
which, unfortunately, proved to be unsuccessful. But the butt was
bandaged beautifully.
Today (my birthday), I had the wonderful experience of a feverishly sick
baby who wasn't holding down food. So, I got to learn about malaria and
administer some medicine to a 16 to 18 month old baby while waiting for
more detailed descriptions and pictures of how to set a shoulder to come
from Anton and the hospital staff back at Mambis. When the emails
arrived, it was a matter of figuring out how best I wanted to cause Mose
pain with the ultimate goal of a functional appendage. I settled on a
combination of the "Kayakers" and the "Yupera" method. Yupera is the
X-Ray tech from the hospital in Mambis who explained that by having the
individual face down on a table with the arm dangling, then pulling it
straight toward the floor with the palm facing "up" from the patient's
perspective you slowly rotate the arm in small circular motion until it
"pops" back in place. The "Kayakers" method helped with a 2nd person
pushing on the ball of the shoulder to help it slide into place. Having
two people was almost necessary because the guys here are deceptively
strong and only made of muscles. And since Mose's arm had been
dislocated all night, it was somewhat tight by this point.
Watching Mose's facial expressions was pretty amazing. He'd had a
permanent grimace on his face since I saw him yesterday, but when that
shoulder "popped" (and yes, they sure do pop) there was the sudden look
of both surprise and relief washing across his face. Add that to the
list of "firsts"...
I can't say I've ever had a birthday quite like this one...

20110408

Dry Morning Work

Yesterday morning was an early morning as we didn't have any rain for
two entire days and I fully expected to get a lot of dirt moving done.
I quietly ate my breakfast and went down to the shop, retrieved the
key, did my prestart checks: oil check, brake fluid check, coolant
check, belt tension check, power steering fluid check... Everything
looked good so I mounted the machine while thinking about how much fun
it was going to be to wake up the valley with the sound of the tractor
springing to life.

With an evil smile on my lips I pushed in the clutch and readied my hand
to start the machine when the machine responded in kind with a fairly
healthy *BANG*! Being quite early in the morning and still somewhat
groggy myself, this sudden sound surprised me, but just as much it
confused me. Bang? What goes bang?

When troubleshooting, it's best to start at the incident and work
through it again... Ok, release the clutch, push it back in- whoosh...
no resistance on the clutch... oh no... Broke my clutch cable... again.

I succeeded in waking up my cohorts, but not with the sound of a machine
billowing out black noise in the morning sun. It was my desperate plea
to come help me strip the machine to put in our spare clutch cable.

Get out the tools, squeeze inside a dash built for a six year olds
hands, pump out the recently filled fuel tank, loosen frame brackets,
drop the tank three inches and wedge one hand past to the clutch cable
and remove it with half a finger... Got it. Now reverse the process to
install.

Four hours later I was tightening up the last bolt from underneath the
machine when I hear Jeff say: "Here comes the rain."... you've got to
be kidding me. First dry morning this year and I spend the whole work
day under the machine rather than on it. Welcome to Kaiam.

Good news was that my clutch cable repair still looks to be in the same
shape as when I installed it. However, the same can't be said for the
reused bracket that holds the cable to the peddle. Still, this repair
day turned out to be much better than the three days it took to get the
machine up and running when the cable broke last time.

20110406

Tree Kangaroo

We have a new housemate: this tree kangaroo (otherwise known as a
cus-cus) Jeff found him while out looking for more timber for our house
project. They had felled a tree when the mother fell with the tree,
then ran up another one close by. After felling a second tree she got
scared and ran down onto the ground where these guys were quick to catch
her. In her pouch was this not-so-little baby cus-cus, which means that
the mother, by all accounts, was huge.

The biggest problem with a cus-cus housemate is the fact that they like
to be awake when I like to sleep. The first night of his acquisition,
we were concerned that neighborhood dogs might retrieve him off the
front porch so he slept inside with us. Big mistake. The little guy
smashed into the walls of his rather roomy cage at break-neck speed,
which needless to say, generated quite the ruckus. And even though the
two other guys in the house said the next morning "Yeah, I heard him
too!" their snores were adding to my auditory discomfort and a restless
night.

But other than that, sure, makes a great pet! :-|

20110329

Ladders

What do you do on a rain day? Well, find projects. That's what we did
today and the result was two ladders for the bunk beds. I wanted
something that was really strong, but light. Jeff found some crazy hard
wood for the ladder, and Boaz showed me how to tie the conda vine, which
I never really got the hang of... That's fine with me though because
I'd rather take pictures of him doing it.

We've had over 600mm (23.5 inches) of rain in the 15 days that I've been
here at Kaiam. Not very productive as far as dirt work is concerned,
but it keeps our water tank full... or rather overflowing.

20110321

Water Tank Stand

After roughly two years... yes, years... The water from the health
center is now going to flow into a water tank that has sat next to it
for at least several months. Up to this point, when the rain started
coming down, mothers would send out their kids with buckets to come grab
the water as it fell off the tin rooftop and carved out a nice hole in
the ground. Then the kids would carry the bucket back to the house in
the rain. Logic would deem that you place a large container here to
catch this resource and store it for later. Logic prevailed and a
bucket was placed there that quickly became the local dog watering bowl
as well as the community water reservoir. Enter Boaz and a rainy
Tuesday morning. Since it was too wet to drive, and Boaz being the
productive type, he decided he'd looked at the community suffering from
this underutilized resource long enough. So he went to work stacking
the stones (that had been loosely piled there for months as well)
layered with ground to hold them in place, and suddenly with only a few
hours work you have the fantastic result you see before you.

Now there's no erosion hole, no dog watering bucket, and a mosquito
larvae free reservoir for communal use. I'd call that a step up in the
world.

School House

The attached file was originally sent with another message.
File Name: IMG_7975_1.jpg

[Edit 2011-06-03]
So, thanks very much UUPlus for striping off my text on the email to the blog...
Anyway, this is the new (not so new now) school building down at Kaiam.  Though they still don't have a teacher they've got a nice location out of the rain and sun that they could educate their chilln's if they had the desire, and they must have a bit as they took the time and effort to clear a spot of bush and then construct this building.  I hope they start using it for it's intended purpose

20110309

Bugged

I came home late one night (why do I always end up at home late when
working on computer stuff?) and found that the light outside my door had
attracted a visitor. Unfortunately, this visitor had knocked a little
to hard with his head and the ant colony that lives under my step had an
all you can eat buffet!

This is a pretty fitting picture because in a few hours I'll be bumping
down the road to Mt. Hagen to get on a MAF flight to Munduku to spend
three days (or more, we've got a lot of cargo to start out the dry
season!) going up the river to Kaiam. Nothing like point A to point B
around here. Anyway, I'll be getting back to nature soon and thought if
I've really got the creepy crawls on me, then you should at least see
them... Aren't I so kind?

20110304

Siphon

Every trip to Kaiam requires fuel for the motor canoe to get up and down
the river. This can be found at Munduku, for a price, in quantities of
200L drums. Now the process of measuring out the quantity you would
like to buy is precisely done with used oil containers. We were lucky
this time as they had "large" measuring containers... a whole 5L!
Unfortunately, we were filling 20L drums of our own, but you can't just
siphon fuel into those because then it wouldn't be measured! :-S

The other great part of this adventure is watching them siphon the fuel,
not with another primer, or a finger pump, but with oral suction...
yummy! Can you imagine doing this twenty times just for one sale?
Breath mint anyone?

20110227

Panorama Point Nebraska

Ok, I thought I'd already posted this picture, but apparently not...
It's from a little while back (2005) when I was still living in Nebraska
and went to visit the highest point in Nebraska: Panorama Point at
5429ft (1655m), just over a mile high... Take that Denver!

Oh, right, forgot to mention I'm planning a road trip for the summer:
Alaska -> Nebraska... Sound familiar? I know, I know, I did the reverse
a few years ago... At least this time I'll have some company, so it
should be even better!

20110218

I am such a slacker

I was wondering where all the hard drive space on my computer was going,
then I decided to look at my 'Pictures' directory... 111Gb ouch... Well,
time to go back through and edit some of those CR2 files that I haven't
touched in since the middle of 2009... Anyone remember Ignite Alaska?

20110202

Nature is Alive!

There's been a bee hive buzzing outside my door again. Between the time
that I'd removed the hive last year, took my time re-boarding up the
side of the building, and left to go to Kaiam, the bees had returned.
Unfortunately I didn't have the time to get to them before I left to go
to Madang, or before I left to go to the states, so it was time to take
care of them now.

The rains came in the late afternoon, and if I learned anything from
'Bee Movie' it's that bee's don't like rain and really can't fly in it.
Time to put my fictional movie knowledge to the test! I donned my
raincoat and a crowbar and ripped into the side of the house. Whenever
the bees got too intense, I took a step back from the awning and watched
them plummet to the ground. Success!

A mosquito net and a big soup pot later, the hive had been removed to
the freezer to await until morning. Meanwhile, I've stepped out my door
every now and again to see the moving mass remaining. I know for a fact
that there is no hive remaining under this mass of bees. It's pretty
impressive to see a ball of stingers that formidable.

Can you count them all?

20110128

Solomon

This will be a great cultural lesson for you: Trying delicacies.  This is Solomon, a nut from the Hewa that has been cured to perfection.  To find out how, you'll have to watch the video.  Pictured here is myself, Anton, Peter, and later Joseph as we all sample a bit of this 'treat'...

Bon App├ętit!

20110126

Dance Night

How often do you go to a dance and they tell you to leave your bush
knives at the door? Well, that's not a problem if there's no door!

It's only a little disconcerting when the guys down at Kaiam are dancing
with axes and bush knives, but they seem to get by just fine, and I
haven't seen anyone cut open from dancing with one yet!

BTW: I really like the Snoopy dance that the guy on the right has... So
much fun!

20110123

Binatang

If you've been around me much, you know how much I like bugs... but not
just any bugs, the insect variety. I've been looking (since I knew I
was going to PNG, so basically two years) in vain for a good insect book
of Papua New Guinea. The only ones that I've been able to find are in
the multiple hundreds of dollars, and that's not in my budget. So, when
I was able to take a trip to a real bug collecting site in PNG, I made
sure to open my schedule for it.

The New Guinea Binatang Research Center was just the place for me. Not
only did they have lots of six legged critters, but they had names and
classifications of them as well! I didn't end up leaving with anything
other than a few pictures, but that was enough... for now... I think we
spent about two hours looking at insects there.

Even though they weren't really setup to be a tourist destination, the
college kids there still took the time out of their day to show us the
research they were currently doing, and some of the collections that
they had on hand... My kind of place!

20110109

Hang'n 'round

I've been hang'n 'round the states a bit too long and have gotten much
to busy with life here... Time to head back to PNG where I can actually
post to this blog more than once a month. If the weather holds I'll be
on a plane in the morning headed back to PNG and then I really will put
up more photos of the last trip down to Kaiam and the airstrip
progress... Panoramas and other things as well.

Now, the time in the states hasn't been all that bad... I think I ate as
much protein in one meal a couple nights ago at a Brazilian steak place
as a Papua New Guinean eats in a month, so I feel fit to head back...
Not sure I gained any weight over the Christmas season like I was hoping
too, but perhaps my lankiness makes that a bit deceiving...

Paul's Engaged!

Very exciting news... I'm Engaged! Here's how it happened:

I went to Atlanta to see my girlfriend and there was a New Years Eve
dance party that required formal wear. Of course I had to wear a sweet
leisure suit from the 70's. Katrina has had a dress to match it for a
little while.

At this ballroom dance there are only two types of dancing that I'm any
good at: East Coast Swing, and West Coast Swing. During a West Coast
Swing song there is a move where I put the girl's hand over my head onto
the opposite shoulder and she "pushes" away into the next move. Katrina
always likes to add a little flare to the move by tossing her head to
the side which breaks eye contact for a split second.

This was my chance, so I immediately dropped to one knee and presented
the ring. She was blown away. Of course she said yes, and we even had
time to dance a bit more before the end of the song and then all the
ladies at the dance had to come see the shinny rock.

Pretty good New Years don't you think?