Not all that happens in Papua New Guinea looks or feels like living in a tropical paradise. In the over three months we have been living here we have already encountered a host of the “not-so-pleasant” that PNG has to offer. A good handful of you who keep track of us have asked a lot of questions about what we have gone through in this area, so this blog is for you. Hope it doesn’t scare you out of coming to visit us someday! 🙂
I’ll start with the bugs.
Mosquitoes are probably the most prevalent bug we deal with on a regular basis. Though it is very annoying to be covered in bites that itch like crazy and having your child covered in them as well, the worst part of mosquitos is the threat of malaria they always bring (I’ll talk more about that later). Bug Spray is what I like to refer to as the “perfume” of PNG and we use it daily. 😀
Flies also harass us very often. Sometimes I feel like my blood will boil when they are hovering and landing on my arms or a place on my leg that is covered with a bandaid. The disease and germs I know they are carrying is enough to make me want to freak out! Flies do not respect your bandaids or your bug spray. They will land on you whenever and where ever they please. It is especially horrible when you have seen a fly land on a pig, a pile of poop or a kids infected and oozing leg wound and then it comes and lands on your son. Those are the moments when I am silently praying that God would protect us! Yikes!
The bugs that are a permanent fixture in our home are cockroaches and ants and little flying gnat type things. Cockroaches are most seen under our sink “cleaning” out our tin cans or skittering across our kitchen floor (or up the walls) in the evenings. The ants come out the many holes in our walls and make their way across our counters, window sills, into the toaster and even into the living room if I have a vase of flowers they would like to lick (or something-I have no idea why they like my flowers).
Last week Tom made me laugh when he told me, “In America if I picked up my drink and saw an ant in it I would never drink it. Here I just fish it out and then drink it.” Wow, yes. We have adjusted! 🙂 At night our curtains and ceilings are covered in tiny winged things that love our lights. We do not know how so many of them get in but suffice to say it is a battle of the heart to stay calm when you cannot get rid of them.
Outside the door on our verandah we have a myriad of Rhinoceros beetles, armored beetles and many other species of beetles, large Moths, Praying Mantis’s and Spiders too. Whenever our light is on in the evening it is a constant gathering of picture worthy critters!
Now for the sickness & disease stuff.
The Threat of Disease
The first problems we had when we got here to PNG were digestive as we adjusted to very different foods and ingredients in our meals. I won’t go into the details, but thankfully these did not last more than a week. They were still bothersome to say the least.
The second biggest trial we had was with infections on Tom’s foot. Any bite or injury you get here in PNG can become infected in a matter hours if it is not properly cleaned and covered. With so many bugs and the high heat and humidity levels it is never wise to ignore your flesh wounds! Tom had gotten a lot of bites and one burn on his feet while on his bush trip and though they were covered by socks, they still got infected very quickly. By the time he got back from the trip the infections were so bad he could feel it in the glands in his thighs! So he had to go on antibiotics to help. In addition the wounds had to be scraped clean, doused with hydrogen peroxide, covered in a topical antibiotic and then covered in bandaids. It was a painful ordeal for him but thankfully the treatment did exactly what it was supposed to and he is all healed now.
Now for Malaria. Thankfully the Center we live on has decided to “fog” for mosquitoes which has helped a LOT. We do not stay on the center all the time though and find ourselves out and about with the people a lot. Whenever you have been bitten by a mosquito there is always the threat of malaria. Unfortunately Tom has already battled his first case of the nasty illness. For those of you who do not know, here is a brief description of what Malaria is:
“Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease. It is naturally transmitted by the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito. When a mosquito bites an infected person, a small amount of blood is taken, which contains malaria parasites. These develop within the mosquito, and about one week later, when the mosquito takes its next blood meal, the parasites are injected with the mosquito’s saliva into the person being bitten. After a period of between two weeks and several months (occasionally years) spent in the liver, the malaria parasites start to multiply within red blood cells, causing many symptoms that include fever, and headache. In severe cases the disease worsens leading to hallucinations, coma and death.” (Wikipedia)
The evening Tom got malaria we were sitting eating dinner and he just looked at me and said, “Something isn’t right, I don’t feel normal”. An hour later he had a fever of 104 and was starting to feel quite miserable. Tom’s strain of malaria caused him chills, sweats, headache’s and a fever. We are so thankful that we had already purchased medication so Tom was able to start the treatment not long after his symptoms started and in about a week was doing a lot better. It was a very tough week for him and brought him to the worst points of misery of just about his whole life. 🙁 Malaria is something he surely hopes he will not experience again! We praise the Lord that Jude has stayed healthy through all of it!
I did get very sick the week after Tom had malaria but to this day we have no idea what I got. Both Tom & I did get really blotchy red spots all over our skin for a couple days after that too. (The nurse didn’t know what it was either) We have no idea what it was but it went away on it’s own. Crazy.
Sweat. I don’t know about you but I hate sweating. Ironic considering where we are now. Though seemingly insignificant I will be honest and say that feeling streams of sweat running down my back and under my hair and down my neck is not my idea of pleasant. Thus is the reality of living so close to the equator. Right now in the States you are in the months were life is coldest, here in PNG we are in the months that are the hottest. One day the thermometer showed 117! When I got up this morning is was 100 in our kitchen before 8am. So, I would count sweat as a “gross” of PNG. Praise the Lord for nights that get down to 80, for periods of rain and for cold showers!
Ok, now that I have successfully “vented” many of the things that have been sources of annoyance here in PNG, let me get to the point:
There is a Bright Side
Although there are times when I think I am going to loose it from some strange bug I found or something that hurts, the Lord has really helped us to see the bright side of things. There are so many things that we have here that missionaries in years past never had. We can communicate with our families back home because we can get on the internet (at least for now), we have medicine to help us with illness and we can fly to different places in air planes instead of spending months on a ship.
No matter how hard it can get or will get, we thank the Lord for all the comforts He has allowed us while here in PNG because of so many faithful missionaries and servants who have gone before us. The Lord is worth any and every sacrifice- and ours have been relatively small.
“If Christ be God and died for me, than no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” -C.T. Studd