Friday, 28 January 2011

The Flipped Side: "Yes, Virginia..." (day 8)

* by guest story-teller Steve Doenges a.k.a. Dad [with occasional commentary from Steph]

December 27, 2010

Awake at 6:45 AM to a chilly quiet house, the routine of the family animals was known since we could see the tracks to where the food was stowed.  (Hmmmm... not talking about just the domesticated animals--the new dog food bag in the shed was moved into a container so that the tracks to the hole in the bottom of the bag could be swept away.)  Quietly feeding tem before the others were up, the mind had a flash back to college days, where in my dorm room was a large postcard with a picture of Charles Shultz's Peanuts patting Woodstock on the head.  The caption was, "I think I found my calling."  [Come on back, Dad!  I'm happy to have you around feeding my pets.]

Looking out toward the west, one could see the lazy, soft, smooth fog below in the river valley.  I'm glad something else has a difficult time getting up out of bed in the morning!  Dr. Jim came to the porch and took 6 of the hanging neighborhood apple bananas.  There must have been over 60 in the homegrown bunch at the beginning.  Brutus was served 4 each morning with his food--the suspicion is more for the need of "filler" and making his bowl look full rather than for the love of fruit, but he will eat anything.  [Dog food is $40-60 per bag.  We try to make it stretch as long as possible.  And Brutus loves bananas.]  Jim reported the surgeries would start around 9:00.  Mom soon wok up but stayed in bed to rest longer since her throat decided to treat her to a full-fledged cold.  But as usual, she was a trooper and continued cooking and preparing meals and joining in other activities.

Even though the clinic (a.k.a. doctor's office) was closed again today (From December 24th to December 27th for Christmas), Steph scooted out the door a little before 8 for the short 5 minute walk to the hospital to do "doctor rounds" in the maternity ward.  This takes her about 1 1/2 to 2 hours each day as she visits the patients with special needs--the mamas and/or the babies.  She doesn't need to stop at each of the 28 beds or so.  The deliveries, mamas, and babies without complications are taken care of by the nursing staff.

Approximately two hours later, she was walking down Nazareth Street back toward home and met Dad looking out over the river valley.  They walked down the rocky rain washed lane into the river valley and past the incapacitated hydroelectric building (due to a flood), admired the local's gardens, crossed a makeshift 6-foot single bamboo pole bridge avoiding soft muddy ground, and finally over to the river where a mama and three children were doing their morning laundry.  Dad had a glazed, far off look with kayak reflection in each eye since a level two rapids was racing through a 24x7 scrubbing of boulders.

Upon returning to the house, it happened that an uncalled "iPod meeting" formed at the dining room table.  (The house comes complete with a flakey wireless network, but neither Mom nor Dad checked MVNU email the whole trip!  This "no checking AND no peeking" agreement was one of those common husband/wife unspoken agreements.  After all, we were on the other side of the globe--"how in the world" could email find its way here?)  The remainder of the morning was spent relaxing.  Marsha McCoy came bearing yummy gifts of Christmas jam--strawberry and papaya!  Both jars were completely devoured and scraped clean (by inserting the index finger in the jar then mouth) in three days.

After lunch, we headed up to the post office--a small 8'x20' building that included a "shed" portion.  A few had gathered since the neighborhood buzz spread the word for a holiday river outing.  The buzz was initiated by a Dokta Steph phone call the evening before.  Not seeing the inside of the shed before, we were very surprised when a large black inner tube came rolling out.  Then inner tube after inner tube rolled out the door--9 to be exact.  The urge to take a peek to see what other goodies were inside was placed on hold as the group quickly moved on to the circle near the junction of Nazareth and Knox Streets to meet other explorers.  This enlarged the group to 15-18 that included a few trail guides and guardians of smaller children who were to enjoy splashing in the water at the take out point.

The journey took us down the back lane into the Wara Kane river valley, past new housing units built by Work & Witness teams and the dam that washed out in a spring flood.  (This disabled the electric generation from the river.  The Kudjip station must now rely on unstable electricity that is expensive.  Please pray for funding for a new hydroelectric system.)  At the "Y" in the path, those with smaller children went to the left and the rest to the right including Kathy Radcliffe and Mom.  For the two ladies, there was some question about getting back.  But when in doubt, as noted in the first day's journal, the Radcliffes always go for the adventure.  So the two gals continued with the tubers.  The "follow-the-leader" single line gave us a feeling of bush adventure as we continued up the narrow river valley path, then made left and right turns through gardens and woods for a total of 30 minutes.

We finally arrived at the point where we left the main path that headed on over to the miles of unknown mountain explorations.  The river came in sight and was flowing quickly.  The entry point was a little difficult due to a large, flat, smooth rock that sloped into the water's edge.  Desiring a picture of "tube boarding," Dad asked Mom for the camera.  And you guessed it!  Within another step or two, the old gray haired guy found himself slipping and falling down with and instant slight shoulder pain developing.  The camera, upon finding new freedom in the air, looked around and decided to take the quickest path down.  It dove into the water with the old guy following close behind.  A quick searching grab under the 12 inch deep rushing water resulted in the magnificent catch of a rock, and then the camera with the hope that it might dry out someday.

A beautiful 5 foot water fall plummeted into a pool where 8 others were boarding their tubes including Bennett Isaac.  Bennett was on his first tubing ride and even though a native PNGer, he was a bit nervous about getting on.  Tim Radcliffe cam and assisted with his boarding.  Everyone was now sitting in their tube with legs, arms, and head sticking up and out.  Tim yelled out final instructions to make sure Dokta Steph and the old guy understood that the tail bone needed to be protected.

Then ready or not, all were whisked away by the rapids.  Almost immediately, the old guy's shoulder pain vanished as the body was twisted, yanked, and bashed.  Only one rock "bottom" tailbone hit was needed to send the urgent reminder of no sagging in the middle--the very opposite of bulging in the middle.  Trying to remember not to sag and not to bulge in teh middle was extremely difficult!  But experience is still the best teacher!

After the third rapids, several of the newbie tubies were ready for a timeout, but the request was immediately denied as more than 10 additional rapids came without a rest break.  The water was forceful and so strong that arms, hands, legs, and feet were needed in trying to steer around boulders and keeping clear of stony steep banks.  Every once in a while, a tuber hit a boulder and was dunked with feet and legs flying up in the air (including the dokta)!  We sure were thankful that the news of such an adventure came prior to our arrival and that we did special exercises for two weeks so that we would not be sore the next day... NOT!  The scouting reporter now believes that the rapids were no less than level 6 and possibly approached level 7 even though the scale goes only to 5.

PNGers waved and smiled at us as they mistook our flying feet and hands as a wave greeting.  We passed by some of the PNG men taking afternoon baths, women and children washing clothes, and a group of children in their birthday suits playing in the mud and throwing mud balls.  One child was a complete head-to-toe mud boy... probably a son of a tribal chief who gets painted up for traditional PNG festivals.  Tim, in his adventurous mind, coasted into the side pool and launched a few mud missiles to enter into the fun.  He had no concern that the tubers close to him didn't want to have a mud snack.  (A bit of Murphy's law was in effect here, as the only smooth water side pool was a kids' playful war zone so that no resting place was found there either!)

The other river obstacle was tall grass that hung over the river bank.  The bank seemed to be a magnet in attempting to pull the inner tubes under the low hanging grass.  With no bank to be found in which one could plant his or her feet for a push off, the grass was a scary thicket trying to award cuts, scrapes, and punctures.

Finally, the unimaginable wild ride was over and all 9 safely reached the very golden shore.  The Radliffes were chided for keeping such a fun secret for 25 years.  And "yes, Virginia..." missionaries do have fun!  [That is what you call serious fun.]

It was here that the "Kathy and Mom story" was proclaimed.  The path back from the entry point became a little confusing due to the fact that one garden looks like the next, one palm tree looks like the next, a blade of grass is not a good way to identify where a person is to turn left or right onto the next bush path, and bread crumbs just don't work.  They ended up wandering through the busy by themselves for one scary moment.  Fortunately, the found a helpful person and made it back to the meeting place at the river safely.  We were also thankful for the news that the surgeries were successful.  However, the patient with the very difficult surgery still had serious complications.

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