As you can imagine, living on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean takes some getting used to. Many simple things that we don’t think twice about having or getting in the States, take much preparation to ensure we have on our island. When we run out of sugar or flour there is no such thing as hopping in the car and driving to a nearest Walmart for more! There is no car and there are definitely no Walmarts!
So, how do we get the supplies we need to live and function on an island in the middle of nowhere?
Once a month (approximately) our team goes on a “supply run” to the capital in our province. Supply runs are generally an all day activity and can be a lot of work! The day starts out around 8:30am and begins with loading up the boat. Fuel must be hauled to the boat in the wheelborrow and hooked up to the engine. We need to bring empty gas tanks, coolers to hold our frozen and fresh items, we must bring lots of bags for the market and make sure all the life vests are on board in case of emergency too! After slathering on sunscreen, double checking for water bottles and making sure we either have a hat or sun glasses, we are off!
To get to the provincial capital we need to boat for about a half an hour over the ocean, carefully maneuvering around shallow reef and islands, and bouncing through some exciting waves at times! For now our partner Ned is the most trusted driver of the boat (having been doing it for years!) but both Tom and Aimee have been practicing a lot driving the boat and will soon be able to make boat runs themselves hopefully!
Upon arriving at the bay in our provincial capital we drop anchor and wade up onto the beach, first stop-Market! The market is located right on the waterfront and is a very colorful place! It is probably my favorite part of the day. I love fresh food and it is very fun for me to browse over the piles of bananas, pineapples, greens, coconuts and much more. Because it is so hot in the PNG islands, most of the produce has to be grown in a slightly mountainous area that stays a bit cooler than it is were we are. So the villagers who live up at the higher elevation load up their produce and bring it down on the weekends and then we can buy it at the market! Many PNG people also sell fish and many varieties of seafood. Smoked fish, fresh fish, clams, crabs,sea weed, octopus etc. are just some of the food of the sea available for anyone to buy. I happen to greatly dislike seafood so that is an area of the market I steer clear of. Yuck! If I ever buy seafood (for Tom) I do that on our island when the people bring it to our door fresh.
After buying enough produce for the month and loading it into our coolers, we leave our coolers in our boat in the bay. We pay a Tigak friend by the hour to stay with the boat and guard it and our groceries while we go further into town to get the rest of our supply’s! The support missionaries who work in the capital and run the guest house there usually bring the mission owned truck to the bay to meet us so that we have a way to get around town and carry all of our stuff! After we are done at the market, we pile into the truck and head to some stores.
The grocery stores in our capital do not represent the grandest shopping experience you have ever dreamed of. 🙂 There is little variety and most products in the store have one brand to choose from and one price. If you need it you have to buy it, or it may not be there the next time you come! Sadly for me there are no such things as sales, clearance stickers or coupons. It has really taken some practice knowing how much food we will need for an entire month. For the most part I have estimated right but when I have not I have a wonderful partner in Linn Beall who usually lets me borrow or buy something I need from her! She has had years to learn that when you are in doubt, buy MORE than you think you need! 🙂
When we are done selecting all our items, we pile them up at the register and the workers do a great job of boxing it all up for us! After each store we end up with many taped up cardboard boxes with our initials written on the side of them with magic marker so we don’t get mixed up with each other’s stuff when we get it all back to the island. All of the boxes get loaded into the back of the mission’s truck and we go on. We go to as many stores as we need too; sometimes we will need to go to the hardware store to get something for a repair, or we have to run by the lumber yard for some wood, etc. When you aren’t in town much you gotta get a lot done when you do go!
When all our things are purchased we go to the mission guest house to sort it all out. This is a sweaty job as we have to identify which boxes had frozen stuff put into them, rip them open andrepack the items into our coolers so they don’t rot in the heat. When that is all done, it’s off to the boat again to load it up! By this time it is usually late in the afternoon (or evening) and we all pitch in to get the boat loaded as quickly and efficiently as possible. I’m not going to lie, sometimes it is nerve wracking for me too see how full the boat gets and see it slowly lowers into the water! Everything can get really heavy when we are hauling gas cans filled with the fuel we need to run our generators for the next month (not to mention boat fuel too) and heavy things like flour and watermelons! I have thought before that we would surely sink heading back to our island! Thankfully I have never been right about that. 😀 Our trusty banana boat has always done her job well, thank goodness!
Carefully perched on our loaded coolers and gas cans we head back to our island, sometimes in the pitch black night staring up at the amazing stars. We feel tired enough for all the work to be done by this point but it is not. When we get back to our island we must unload everything and then put it away in our houses, rain or shine. Often our village friends (especially the teenagers and kids) help us carry our boxes to our houses and we are always very thankful when they do so and thank them with some sort of treat.
When I have unpacked the boxes I usually toss them off our porch for the villagers to take and they are never there long before some kid has snatched it up and gone running back to their hut! It feels great when everything is finally in it’s place and we can sit down and relax finally! Next we just hope that our supply’s will last well through the month and that we remembered everything we needed!
One of the things that I have really enjoyed while being back in the States on this maternity leave is going to the grocery store! The variety of options available here is almost unbelievable to me at times. Not only do we have countless brands for each food item to choose from, we also have all kinds of dietary varieties. You name it, it seems like it is here. I love the WIDE aisles, smooth tile floors, air conditioning, bright lights, pushing a cart, sales, and just LOOKING at all the options. Shopping in PNG is a necessity, here it is almost entertaining (at least it has felt this was since being back). Though I like to look at it all I most often walk away with just the simple things we always buy realizing as usual that we can get by with so much less than is offered to us in America. This is a good thing to realize and helps me to be very thankful for what we can get in PNG, even though it can be limited. Anyway, how would I get to be such a good baker if I could buy my bread?! 😀