A Journal of Our Papuan Journey – Rev Leanne

(Note: you can click on the photos for larger versions.)

Day 1  Monday

Selmat pagi, here we are waiting for our plane to Jayapura. It’s 4.30am Adelaide time but 2am local time. Our first day in Bali was soaking in the sights and adjusting to the heat. We had time for a quick wander to the markets, a swim and dinner. Then it was time catch some shut eye before getting up in the middle of the night for our journey to Papua. Greetings from the team!

Day 2  Tuesday

After waking early and travelling to Jayapura we arrived at the GKI church synod office. After some waiting and more waiting we were taken to the guest house at Abapura where we will stay until Thursday. After lunch and a rest we had visitors! Julius and his family, Ari and Arty along with Sam and Lisa. They were all pleased to see us and made us feel very welcome in the home country. I suppose they were returning the favour. Julius’ older girl wants to live in Australia again. We spend the evening planning our next day, a visit to the local supermarket for a few supplies and finding ATMs to get more money for our plane flight to Manokwari. Most of us took 3 million rup. out which was a sizeable wad of money but actually only worth about $350. The food has been great but very different…sometimes we are not sure what we are eating. Before bed we have all mastered the “shower” which was just a wet area with a sink of cold water and a hand size bucket to scoop water out to pour over yourself.

Day 3  Wednesday

After organising our day yesterday to be ready for Julius and Ari by 9 we didn’t get going until after 10. Our first stop was The Theological College in Abapura. This is where Sam teaches English and where they train ministers for the GKI church. We met with two of the lecturers because the principal is in Manokwari already. Ari works for the government and every public servant has to wear the green uniform. Part way through our conversation one of the lecturers asked Ari why an immigration office was showing the group around! From that point on it became the joke of the day. Sam had organized his English class to come and we spent time in his classroom asking each other questions.

Ari and Julius took us to a great restaurant on the edge of a lake for lunch. We eat lots of fish things and the traditional Papuan dish of sago – Papeda! Sago looks and moves like a bowl of setting glue…clag! The texture in my mouth was a new sensation but I remembered some one advising us to eat it with other things… Like the fish head soup!

After lunch we were driving back when Peter M spotted a group harvesting and processing the sago. We had to stop and look. (It would take too long to describe it here). Then off to the private church run Tafe of economics for more eating & drinking with their representatives. Again the usual person was in Manokwari.

Finally back to the guest house for a rest for some or a short shopping trip for others. Lyn, Peter M and I wandered around the shopping centre which opened that day. Dinner was at Sam’s house… His father was the host and his mother had cooked us a feast which included more sago!  The day was very full but also full of lots of wonderful new things. We made new friends and deepened existing ones. Finally a Mandi (a bucket wash) and bed.

Day 4 … I think it is Thursday!

We are sitting at the airport waiting for our plane trip to Manokwari! It’s a short flight and we hope to make it in time for the celebration today. Yesterday we had a wonderful conversation with the retired director of the guest house we were staying in. It is run by the GKI church and it is a centre to train and educate women in lots of areas. Tina spoke about her passion to improve the level of education for women which then flows on to the villages they come from. The women come for a year and board there. If they are married they need written permission from their husband and they leave their child with relatives in their home village.

We wandered over the road to find lunch in something that was like a food court. Then we went our separate ways. Christa and Jane went off to catch public transport to find McArthur’s lookout; Lyn and Peter went to a museum and The rev’s had a rest!

Julius, Sam and Ari came and took us into Jayapura city for a drive around and a lovely dinner overlooking the city and the port. The view and the dinner was beautiful! Home for bed and an early start this morning. We are very grateful for Ari, Sam and Julius.

Day 5 Friday

Very early start with a short plane flight to Manokwari to join in the celebrations the first arrival of missionaries. We had a short boat trip to the island where it all takes place. It was a national holiday and it feels like “schoolies week” in Victor! Every tribe, with their church choirs, from across Papua are here! The paper suggested a hundred thousand people!   Lots of traditional dress. Most people think we are celebrities because they all want to take photos of us with their friends. Babies just stare because they haven’t seen white people.  We had a late lunch with the Governor and the GKI Moderator and later a supper meeting with the church leaders. Again it was a very long day and full of wonderful things to tell but I can’t write them … You’ll have to wait until we return.

Day 6  Saturday

The day began with breakfast overlooking the sea and mountains. We were joined by the Moderator of the GKI church and some other leaders to hear about the needs of the Papuan people and the work of the church. Resources are so limited here and learning English for the Papuan people is their highest priority. They believe the future development of their country lies in being able to communicate with the western world. We were taken to a medical clinic that is run by the church… It was very basic and most people attend for Malaria and chest infections.

We met over lunch with a guy who is the project officer working with Papuans who grow sweet potatoes and farm pigs. He is trying to help people with lessening the diseases passed on through working with pigs.

After lunch we were told that there was a bit of celebration stuff happening on an oval nearby and would we like to attend. What we were taken to was a huge event where most tribes from across Papua dresses in their traditional dress and paraded about 4 km through the streets of Manokwari and ended up at the local oval for more festivities. Again thousands of people gather with loud dancing and drumming to celebrate. What we thought was going to be an hour parade was two and a half  hours of amazing sights. Eventually we thought we would walk to some local markets and find food… And eat these amazing pancake like things from a road side vendor.  With us were two local women and they negotiated a taxi ride back to the hotel. Wow… Can the days get any better than this?

Day 7 Sunday

Today we went to church with the moderator of the GKI church… 2 hrs with lots of singing and every word in Indonesian. I was sitting with the Moderator who translated a few things for me. It was a great experience even if I didn’t know what was happening. We had lunch with all the church leaders and made plans for Monday and our travel to Biak  and Numfor. Christa, Peter S and I organized a taxi to take us to the only Internet place so we could send a few emails. The Moderator had organized a boat trip over to the island where the first missionaries arrived to see the monuments and the well. We have fresh coconuts off the tree and a quick swim in the warm ocean. Again the locals took lots of photos of themselves with the ” white skin” people. It was just the 6 of us for dinner and an early night. We are still hoping Lyn Leane will join us today!

Day 8 Monday

The plan was to swim, pack and leave for the airport at 11am to meet up with Lyn and fly to Numfor. That’s not quite how it happened but we made it to Numfor around 2.30 after a short 20 min plane trip. We landed next to a small village where the local people greeted us in a traditional way. Within a few feet of the plane we had to put our foot into a bowl and then we were given the bowl to take home. It was a symbol of welcome to their land. We were shown around a pharmacy that is funded by the Uniting Church then off to see the medical clinic being built with some funds from the Uniting Church. It was on a different part of the island so we had a great ride on the back of a ute on a road only wide enough for one car. We passed through more little villages and children waving at the strange white skin people. When we arrived in the village we were greeted with singing and dancing. We felt like royalty. This little town had been preparing for days for our arrival… Lots of food… Temporary shade and they had waited so we could nail the first piece of tin roof on the clinic. We had other church leaders with us so there were many speeches and more singing & eating. I had fun teaching the village children “round & round the garden” on their hands.

As it was getting dark we were driven back to the main village where there was a guest house all prepared for us. Time for us to debrief and get to bed with images of the very simple way of life many people on the island live. No running water, no power except from 6pm till 11pm and most people walk everywhere. No taxis, no Internet, little phone coverage, no showers or western toilets, no buses and very little health services until the clinic is finished!

Day 9 -Tuesday

We concluded over breakfast that we all slept like babies…. Babies who never sleep! It was hot with no electricity for fans and we couldn’t open the window because the mozzies were the size of pigeons! We were all feeling very droopy when our friends arrived to take us to a swimming beach for the morning. The plane was due at 12 noon so we had a few hours to float around in the ocean. Some people arrived with morning tea… More fresh fish… Rice…sweet potatoes. Then we left for final farewells in the church hall next to the tiny airport. We waited and waited and waited and waited and waited some more for our little plane to arrive to take us to Biak. Finally at 5 pm it came. We had filled our afternoon in creative ways.. The best was Jane’s English language class with all the town children. We finally arrived in Biak hot, tired and ready to fall fully clothed into the one and only hotel swimming pool we had seen BUT we were expected at the Dept of women’s health to witness the signing of a contract between the GKI church and the dept who have given the Numfor Clinic some medical equipment. Finally we got to bed in cold aircon rooms with flushing toilets and hot showers.

Day 10 … How time flies!

This morning Christa, Peter, Peter, Lyn M and Jane left Biak on the 5.40am plane for Jayapura to hop on a plane to Wamena, while Lyn L and I stayed in Biak to meet with the local presbytery leaders. Lyn and I did some swimming and shopping in the morning then we meet with church leaders and were shown the almost opened clinic for women having babies. It was nothing like the places Aussie women give birth in! We spent some time being shown around Biak and went to a bird park with amazing coloured birds. The evening was spent sitting around the pool with Yuppie (head of education for the whole Papuan GKI church) talking about education and the need for people to teach English to church leaders. Now off to bed because tomorrow we leave for Jayapura at 5.40am!

Day 11

We arrived in Jayapura by 7 and had a short taxi ride to our accommodation. We are staying in two University student houses up on the hill overlooking the uni. It’s very basic but it has aircons in the bedrooms. Lyn and I unpacked a little and walked down to the local shopping centre. It’s amazing what you can buy in the local supermarkets. Yesterday Lyn bought the hymn/song book used in most Papuan churches and I bought a bible….never would you find these things in coles!

Being back in Jayapura meant everything felt familiar to me because we began our time in the women’s guest house only a few blocks from here. We stocked up on some food and drinks for the others who were due back from Wamena around 3pm. This meant Lyn and I had some down time. I slept for 3 hours and Lyn did some work.

The others arrived tired but full of stories from their quick trip to Wamena. Wamena is an area in the highlands of Papua and you have to fly in and out. It has only been about 60 years since western people first made contact with the tribes who live up there. It’s the place where some still wear traditional dress. The others had a very busy time squashing lots into a short space of time.

Our evening meal was back at the local shopping centre and a food court. We have all found our favourite Papuan drinks which we now mostly order when we are out. One is an avocado juice drink with chocolate topping mixed in. Last night Lyn M had durian juice … Yuk! I of course seem to have settled into ordering es teh…  ice tea!

Tomorrow is our last day in Papua!

Day 12

Our last day in Papua began with an early start. Lisa had invited us all to go with her to meet her mother and she was coming at 7 am to pick us up. Jane and Peter M decided they would stay behind and collect the things we left at the previous guest house.

When we arrived at Lisa’s house her mother gave us a traditional water blessing and invited us into her front room where there was lots of food prepared for us. As we ate, members of her family came to meet us. Lyn L had brought a beautiful shirt made by women at Gawler Uniting Church and she decided to give it to Lisa’s mum. In return Lyn was given a very precious gift. Lisa’s father died 6 months ago and before he died he had given his wife an outfit for Lisa’s wedding for later this year. Lisa’s mother gave it to Lyn and said it was appropriate that now she was a  widow she would wear something different at the wedding so she would like Lyn to have the outfit. The rest of us where showered with gifts too.

From Lisa’s we returned to the guest house for a quick change  into more formal clothes as we were being picked up for final farewells at the Synod office. On the way we had a look through the almost opened HIV clinic the church is setting up. Aids is a growing problem in Papua and they have employed a nurse from Africa to design an awareness raising program and help educate some community workers.

We met with the Moderator …over lunch of course. She wanted to know our reflections on what we had seen and heard during our time in Papua. After more gift giving and final farewells Christa, Lyn M, and Jane returned via a Papua Batic shop and the rest of us went straight back to the guest house.

Our last evening was spent at Ari and Arty’s house, along with Julius and other members of Arty’s family. They had prepared papeda and fish soup…green vegies and chicken. We wandered around Ari’s garden and saw peanuts growing. I always thought they grew on trees!

Our time in Papua began with Ari and Julius and it has finished with their hospitality too. It feels sad to be leaving Papua after only two weeks but I am ready to come home too.

Day 13

Ari, Julius, Sam and the Moderator all come to the airport to say goodbye and of course they brought more gifts for us. I learnt to say Sampai jumpa which means until we meet again. We have experienced many things in Papua and we have made friends. It was sad to leave.

We arrived back in Bali and went to the same hotel. It felt like we had done a full circle. This time as we sat around in the pool our conversation was all about what we had experienced in Papua. After swimming it was time for dinner and a little shopping.

Today (Sunday) we will meet to debrief our time together and some are going to church. I am catching up with Henry whom Susan and I made friends with last year when we were here. I am meeting his daughter and wife. We all the fly out tonight, the others go directly to Adelaide and I fly to Darwin until Thursday. It has been a wonderful experience.  Sumpai jumpa!