Tom has been able to take two short canoe trips with one of his new friends, Grasmus. There are a lot of islands surrounding the tiny one that we are living on and several are clearly visible from the beach. Grasmus wanted to show Tom around two of the Islands that are close by. The first island they went to was called Limaloome and upon arriving there Tom was pleasantly surprised by a very enthusiastic welcome from the islanders there; PNG people are generally very friendly and welcoming!
He went around and met a bunch of people among whom was a very old man named Oliver who was pretty hard of hearing. After talking a little with Oliver, Grasmus and Tom went on. A while later Oliver came and tracked them down again and wanted to tell Tom something. He told Tom that he had heard the Bible teaching that the missionaries had done years ago and had believed the gospel. He was very excited to tell Tom this and Tom was very encouraged to hear it. Oliver went on to say that he would like to see Ned again (the missionary currently serving here) but he is too old to canoe to our island now and his canoe is broken. Tom said he would tell Ned he had met him. So, in the midst of many who do not know the Lord on this other island, we have at least one brother in Christ living there. Make sure to look around for Oliver when you get to Heaven!
On the way back from the island Tom was asking Grasmus about the popular crop that the Tigak people fish for, sea cucumbers (or piklama in Tok-Pisin). Tom had never seen one, so with out skipping a beat Grasmus reached down into the water and pulled up a sea cucumber! 🙂 Tom was able to hold it and then bring it back and show it to Aimee and I. We were very grossed out by it and declined the offer to hold it. What a strange creature! Wow.
On Valentines day Tom and I needed to get creative for a way to have “a date” to make the day special so Tom suggested that the two of us take a “couples” canoe trip to a neighboring island. I was all for the idea since I had still not had an opportunity to learn how to paddle a canoe! After leaving Jude peacefully napping with the Bealls keeping an ear out for him, Tom and I started out on our journey.
Unfortunately we found that the Bealls canoe had sprung a leak in the form of a long crack in the bottom of it. As soon as we were both on it, water was coming in pretty quickly. Reluctantly we decided that venturing out into open water with the canoe in this condition probably wasn’t the best idea. Instead we decided to see how far we could get just going around our island, staying close to the shore. The going was not easy between my incompetence with paddling and the fact that I had to devote much of my time to scooping the water out of the canoe to keep us from filing up! We hadn’t gotten far when we decided this had not been a good idea and we decided to turn back, as the water level inside the canoe was getting higher and higher. Don’t ask me what went wrong but the process of changing direction did not go well and before we knew it the canoe was tipping over and we were both in the ocean! 😀 We had to laugh at ourselves. If you had been watching I’m sure you would have been laughing. Unfortunately several of our island friends did witness our big splash and got great laughs out it, too!
One awesome thing did happen though, and that was that we found a turtle shell in the water right were we fell out! 🙂 It had been discarded after someone had enjoyed the sea turtle for dinner (plug your ears endangered species lovers!). I have always been wanting one ever since we got here and if I can manage getting it to the states, hopefully you will be able to see it on our display table if you ever come hear us share at your small group or church! (Tom has been trying to get someone to take him out hunting sea turtles, as we he has heard from a friend that it is quite delicious.) And THAT was our “romantic” valentines day. 😀
When we had been here about a week, Jude woke up in the middle of the night crying. We assumed he had had a bad dream (which happens occasionally) and after consoling him and checking him over we put him back to bed to fall back to sleep. He ended up crying for a while longer but by the morning he was happy as usual. After the incident Aimee & I were both asked on different occasions if Jude was ok. Many of the villagers had heard him crying that night because our house is very close to many of the people’s huts. We were asked if we had noticed Jude’s sleeping habits change since he got here, has he been crying more, things like that. Each of us did our best to assure the people that Jude was fine and that babies cry a lot sometimes and that is normal. The reason this event was so interesting to the people was because of an animistic belief the people have. According to the Tigak people, if a baby is crying for an extended amount of time, it means that their spirit is being taken by an evil spirit. So, many people here now think that Jude has an evil spirit that is bothering him.
Dealing with this situation has been an interesting thing for us and as much it has been frustrating, it has given us a very clear example of the confusion and fear many people are living in.
One day Tom was talking with a new friend of ours and the man was sharing with him what you need to do to catch a shark. The man explained to him that first you need to find a tree and then carve your name into the side of the tree. After having done this you would then go out into the deep water and start looking for a shark. As you look for a shark, soon you will see a shark swimming by you that has your name written on it’s side. When you see this, you will know that this is your shark and you can kill it and now it is yours.
These little stories are just two of the many examples we could give you of the confusion with which people look at the world. It is very clear to us that though some of the people here have heard the Bible teaching done by the Bealls and their former partners, there are still many here that remain untouched by the message that brings life.
Saksak & Octopus legs
The diet of the people here in Tigak is very unique compared what we are used to in the states. Not only do the people here consume parts of plants we have never conceived of eating, they will also eat just about anything that moves in the ocean-as well as the things that do not move.
Learning to prepare food here has been one of the many interesting cultural activities we have had the opportunity to learn. One of the things we have learned about is saksak. More specifically, washing Saksak. This interesting substance is harvested from the center of the saksak tree. It is a long and complicated process to harvest saksak which involves canoeing to another island so I was only able to experience the very end of this common event here on our island when they all got back.
Washing the saksak involves running clean water over and hand squeezing/wringing out piles of the shaved saksak pulp which looks like piles of coarse saw dust. There is a trough that has been built from part of the branch of a saksak tree that you wash the pulp in. This “trough” has a cloth stuck in the end that acts as a strainer of sorts to allow the “juice” of the saksak to flow through it and be collected below. It’s not an especially hard job to wash the saksak but it is very repetitive and does take a while-even for those who are good at it. Once the saksak pulp has been squeezed of all it’s usable juices it is discarded to be used as fertilizer. All the saksak juice that has been collected, proceeds to separate and a good portion of it settles as a heavy clay like substance at the bottom of the basin. That clay like stuff is what the people eat. To be very honest when the water is poured off and all the saksak is put into pots for storage it looks just like clumpy wet cement to me! The people prepare it in many ways, some of which are mixing it with coconut milk and adding rice or fish or using it as the base for making gooey cakes. I have only tried small portions of saksak and it may not surprise you to know that it is among my least favorite things to eat here in PNG. 🙂 Either way though, I have enjoyed learning about it and coming to appreciate the significant role it plays in the PNG diet.
Some of the other common (and sometimes gross to us) things that the Tigak people eat are: Sting rays, large crabs, clams, sharks, sea turtles, any kind of fish and even octopus. One time a group of kids excitedly offered Jude the severed legs of an Octopus to play with. Yuck! Jude held them but was a bit grossed out and then threw them into the ocean. They were quickly retrieved by the kids and offered to him again and again, every time with the same result: Jude attempting to return the legs to their rightful home. 🙂