Two Americans, an Irishman, and a Kiwi* all get onto a chopper to head into the jungle. They have one bladder between them and not enough food for the week that they’ll be gone…It sounds like the beginning to a weird joke, doesn’t it? But it’s not. It’s my life.
Tomorrow I will be flying into Iski-land with three other NTM guys to finish up the work on our bush house. I’ve planned for this day for weeks and organized everything perfectly: All of our supplies got flown in two days ago, and now my work team is following the cargo in, ready for a well-provisioned week of work. (HA-HA-HA! Just kidding! Where’s the fun in THAT?!)
What’s REALLY happened is that the chopper had to undergo more maintenance work than the pilot had originally planned, so my earlier flight with all of our cargo got axed, and my work team’s flight got moved back a day. That means that any equipment that we might need on our trip needs to fit in the chopper WITH us, which wouldn’t be an issue if “us” were a little skinnier, and our equipment was a bit lighter.
A contributing problem is that here in PNG they use the metric system (“metric” is Latin for “un-American”), and insist on measuring everything by kilograms (kg). Here’s the issue: Our helicopter could haul 992 lbs into our bush location, but since we use heathen metric numbers over here, we can only load 450 kg. Obviously, 450 is a WAY smaller number than 992, so we’re totally getting shafted on the conversion. I’ve talked to our pilot about it, but he doesn’t seem to get what I’m talking about. (It’s sad how some people just can’t adjust to a different type of measurement.)
Anyway, this new arrangement has us completely strapped for weight. Our non-negotiable cargo weight is 55 kg, and our combined person weight is 374 kg. (For those math enthusiasts, 55 + 374 = hardly any weight left for clothes, food, or personal items.) We’re going to be able to make it work though (probably). We’ll just have to tweak a few things. I figure if we all eat half a week’s worth of food before we leave, and then eat another half after we get back, it will all even out in the end. And if everyone works in their underwear, then that will save us the weight of 4 sets of shoes, shorts, and shirts. Yeah, we can make this work.
Another issue that we have to sort through right now is that even if we end up finishing the house this week, our water bladder is currently bone-dry (household plumbing generally works less-than-ideally without a water source). Papua New Guinea is not helping us in this regard, as it is currently in the middle of its most severe drought in the last twenty years. Droughts are bad news when you get all your water by collecting rain, so we may have to seriously reconsider our move-in date of Nov. 3rd if we don’t get a bit of precipitation on the soon-ish side of things.
And, while I’m on the subject of rain, let’s not forget about the Iski people. Where this drought is inconvenient for us missionaries, it’s fairly devastating for the nationals. Our villagers, like many in PNG, live solely off of what they grow in their gardens and find in the bush, and this drought has done a serious number on local horticulture. Most everything they’ve planted is dead, and they can’t start growing anything new. People are getting pretty nervous (and hungry). This country could really, really, really use some rain. Maybe that could be something that you could join us in praying for?
So, in summary:
- All of us missionaries are too fat.
- Helicopters are too small.
- We really want to finish our house this week.
- Please pray for rain.
*A kiwi is a small, hairy tropical fruit. It can also be a small, flightless bird or, occasionally, a citizen of New Zealand. Context usually helps determine the intended meaning.