Saturday, 27 June 2009

Sing sing

One of the interesting cultural traditions in PNG is called a "sing sing."  Basically, it is a big celebration of something really important such as a bride price, compensation, or peace ceremony.

Today I experienced my first sing sing.  I drove Big Blue (the cruiser) picked up Nykki and Matt (two of our volunteers) and their daughter Miriam.  Jonathan is a local and was our tour guide for the day.  We headed down the Minj road about thirty minutes or so to the site of the sing sing.  (Wow, I feel like such a grown up missionary.)

The reason for today's celebration was that one of the local tribes would be giving 21 cows to a neighboring tribe.  Rumor had it that an elephant would also be making an appearance.  Once upon a time these tribes were enemies, so this gift of cows was a sign of continued friendship between them.  

Our first stop was at the place where the cow exchange and feast would occur.  There was a several story tall tower of plants and flowers and food to mark the actual site.  We also got a peak at the infamous cows grazing in a field (their last meal).  There was no evidence of an elephant, and I wonder if there has ever been an elephant in PNG.  A few kilometers back toward Kudjip, the celebration was underway.  Participants dressed in traditional costumes made of leaves and feathers and shells and more leaves.  Their faces were painted with a rainbow of colors.  The feathered head dresses were particularly impressive, some of them with entire birds (not live ones) perched on top.  Apparently they are passed down through the generations from father to son.  Each of these traditional costumes is particular to the part of the country where the tribe or person comes from.  The sing singers all danced (or jumped) mostly in a circle and sang some sort of song about going to get the cows.

The whole thing was quite a site!  I have some pictures to share, although they really don't do it justice.  Someday you will just have to come and see for yourself.

"Speak to one another with songs, hymns, and spiritual songs.  Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
~ Ephesians 5:19-20

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Blues vs. Maroons

The big American past times are baseball, football, and basketball.  Soccer dominates throughout much of Latin America and Europe.  But in this part of the world, rugby is #1.

Last evening I was introduced to the great game of rugby.  I joined up with some of the missionary families and several PNGians to watch the "State of Origin" rugby tournament.  (We gathered at the Bennet's home, one of only two houses on station that actually get the one TV station we have here in PNG.  "Em TV" --> "em" is he or she or it in Pidgin, and is pronounced "M-TV."  Hee hee.)  Australia holds an this annual all star tournament, which seems to be that continent's equivalent of our Super Bowl.  State of Origin is a three game series.  The Blues from New South Wales play against the Maroons from Queensland.  The Maroons have won the tournament for the past three years, and also won the first game of the series.  So it was win or out for the Blues!  And the Blues were out.

My first impressions are that rugby is some sort of combination of football, soccer, and basketball.  A match consists of two 40 minute halves.  All of the players on the team, 13 to 15 of them depending on the league, play both offense and defense.  The ball is moved forward by either running or kicking, and is also passed but only backwards.  The goal of the defense is to stop the forward progression by tackling the guy with the ball.  Each team has 5 chances to score before they must kick the ball to the other team.  These are similar to downs and punts in football.  There are no pauses between the "downs;" the players just get up, pass the ball, and keep going.  A goal is called a "try" and is worth 4 points.  After a team scores, the kicker goes for an extra two points by kicking the ball through the goal post from the point at which the ball crossed the line.  This is a "conversion."  There is also some sort of something called a "scrum" where all the players from both teams huddle together in a big bear hug and try to get possession of the ball, but it is not entirely clear to me when or why this is done.   I still have a bit to learn about the game.

Rugby is a very fast paced game.  Reportedly the Australians find American football quite boring in comparison, and I can see why.  It was a lot of fun experiencing this part of the PNG culture.  And I would have to say I am hooked!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Two Joes

I took a brief trip over to B-ward but have been back on pediatrics for about the last 10 days.  I have been rounding along side Dr. Carol Howard.  The Howards were serving here as missionaries the first time I came to PNG and have since settled back in the States.  Carol and her daughter Hannah, who is a pre-med student at Point Loma Nazarene University, are here to volunteer for the month.  It has been great to catch up with them!

Once again peds ward has been full to overflowing, with an entire third row on the floor most days.  But unlike the typical peds rounds which consists of alternating cases of pneumonia and gastroenteritis, I have had some unusual cases over this last week.  There have been several with strange abdominal illnesses that I never really figured out (hepatitis or typhoid or who knows what?), but thankfully with medicine and prayer they recovered.  I cared for a three year old with fever and some sort of inflammatory arthritis.  Another one of our patients presented with acute flaccid paralysis, PNG's version of Guillan Barre syndrome.

Joe #1 is about 12 years old, more or less.  He came to the hospital last week with severe headache, vomiting, and weakness of the left side of his body.  His work up was negative for any kind of acute infection such as meningitis or malaria.  This left two diagnosis at the top of my differential list:  tuberculosis or brain tumor.  In an ideal world, he would be rushed off for a CT scan of his head and we would likely have a certain cause for his illness.  However, there is only one CT scan in the country and Port Moresby (where it is located) is only accessible by plane.  Most families cannot afford the price of a plane ticket or cost of the CT scan (somewhere between $100-300).  Joe will not be getting this much needed test.  As a doctor, how do you care for such a patient?  You treat the illness that you can treat.  If the cause is TB, he should get better.  If he has a brain tumor, his condition will continue to worsen.  For now, we wait and pray.

Joe #2 is maybe a couple of years older than the first Joe, and sleeps two beds down from him.  He has seizure disorder or epilepsy.  Joe had been doing well for some time so he stopped taking his medicine.  Unfortunately his seizures returned this last week with a vengeance.  Convulsions continued despite several medications, and we almost lost him a couple of times.  Joe is no longer seizing, but he is confused and combative.  I am concerned that he has some permanent brain damage.  So again, we wait and pray for a miracle.

It's a good thing that my God is a God of miracles!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Brutus the Wonder Dog

My sibs and I grew up with all sorts of pets: cats that had kittens, and then more and more kittens; our mini collies Tippy and Candy; Fuzzy the hamster; various fish and turtles other aquatic creatures.  One year we raised a pair of ducklings for Easter, feeding them and watching them grow, and "teaching" them how to swim in one of Mom's flower barrels (we kids were so very proud of that).  We named them "Huey and Duey" but later discovered that they were actually "Donald and Daisy."  We also enjoyed our holiday trips to "The Farm" where we collected duck eggs and shoveled cow manure.

Due to crazy call schedules and apartment restrictions, I have not been able to enjoy the company of a pet for a few years now.  After all, it is hardly fair to an animal if their owner has to work for 40 hour straight!  Life got a little nicer when I came to PNG.  My schedule is a bit more regular, and even on call there is a good chance I will sleep in my own bed for at least a few hours.  And I also have a roomie who is at home when I am not.  

Becky already had two cats when I moved in.  She had adopted Meki shortly after her arrival in PNG six years ago.  Meki was sick for the last few months with some sort of cancer or infection, and has now gone on to cat heaven.  The Dooley girls come by on occasion to lay flowers on her grave.  (She is probably the only cat in PNG that has a "mat mat" or memorial grave.)  Peter was added to the family a few years after Meki, and was king of the house until recently.  I use the phrase "king of the house" very loosely.  He is actually scared of just about everything (especially Meti and the sweeper) and is more of a chicken than a cat.  Thus the nickname "Pete the Chicken Cat."

About a month ago, we learned that someone from one of the other local missions had lab puppies for sale.  Most of the dogs around here are mutts, and occasionally you will see pure bread German shepherds that are better for security than as pets.  Lab puppies?  How could we resist.

So Becky and I added yet another member to the family this week.  "Brutus the Wonder Dog" is a now seven week old black lab puppy.  I'm a native central Ohioan and a graduate from the school, so by default I am a big fan.  My sis has a dog named "Buckeye" therefore that name was already taken.  So our dog is named for "Brutus the Buckeye," the mascot for Ohio State.  Becky has no ties to Ohio State but agreed that "Brutus" would be a good name for a dog.  The "Wonder Dog" addendum is because we fully anticipate that he is going to grow up and be brilliant.  He did learn to "sit" in one day.  But he also thinks the front porch is the same thing as the grass when it comes to doing his business (after all, they are both "outside") and the electric cord is just another chew toy, so we'll have to see about that.

By the way, two of Brutus' yellow brothers were also adopted by Kudjip families.  The Dooleys are now the proud owners of "Coppertone."  The Radcliffes and Riggins are co-owning "Buckeye."

More adventures coming soon, to be sure.

"And God said, 'Let the land produce living creatures...'  And God saw that it was good."

~ Genesis 1:24-25

Monday, 8 June 2009

The Queen's birthday

Holidays.  Some of the special days here in PNG are the same that I grew up celebrating, such as Christmas and Easter, though they may be observed in different ways.  Thanksgiving and July 4th are 100% American and therefore not recognized by the general population in PNG.  They are, however, celebrated by the American community!  (Good thing I now know how to make a pumpkin pie).  We made a point to observe Cinco de Mayo, but that was mostly just an excuse to have Mexican food.  There are some new ones to experience as well.  There was some sort of holiday a couple of months ago and the clinic was closed for two days.  I never did figure out what that was all about!  Sometime later in the year we will celebrate PNG independence.

Today is a new one for me:  (observation of) the Queen's birthday.  Having once been governed by Great Britain, PNG is one of the members of the commonwealth.  Thus the holiday.  In England, her special day is celebrated on June 2 which is the anniversary of her coronation.  Our neighboring Australia observes the 2nd Monday in June, which is probably why we are celebrating here today.  Her Majesty's actual birthday is April 21st.  Wow, that is a lot of partying.

So how would you celebrate the Queen's birthday?  (All suggestions welcome.)  Most of the country just enjoys a day off.  Becky and I celebrated with lots of laughs and all things "British":  homemade English muffin and a spot of tea to the music of the London Symphony Orchestra.

Happy birthday, your Majesty!

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
~ 1 Peter 2:9

Friday, 5 June 2009

Culinary experiments: how to cook a pumpkin

A few days ago I acquired a pumpkin.  One of the PNG ladies who works part of our garden (it is too big for just Becky and me, so we share the space with a couple of nationals) gave it to us.  Now PNG pumpkins are not the big round orange ones like we would carve at Halloween.  They are smaller and green, more resembling a squash.  

"Hmmm... a pumpkin,"  I thought.  "What in the world do I do with this?"  So as with any question about living and surviving here, I called Kathy Radcliffe (who knows just about everything) and she gave me the save.  Apparently you can cook them in the microwave, boil, or bake in the oven, puree, serve as a side dish, top with butter or brown sugar.  All sorts of good things.  Who knew pumpkins were so useful?

On my day off I was inspired to do something with this lil green pumpkin.  I cut the thing in half, spooned out the seeds, and placed the two halves in a pan in the oven for about 45 minutes.  While it was baking, I cleaned and boiled the seeds.  These were subsequently tossed with olive oil and later toasted in the oven.  (I think the toasted seeds are my favorite part!)  Timer went off.  The pumpkin was pulled from the oven and allowed to cool.  I scooped out the tender flesh and pureed it in the blender.  Half of the puree became the base for pumpkin pie and the other half will be frozen and used for a future pumpkin experiment such as bread or ice cream.  I used Aunt Naomi's famous pie crust recipe and discovered why it is so good (though mine not quite as good as hers)... it uses a TON of shortening (or butter in my case, 'cause you can't get shortening in PNG).  Becky made home made whipped cream to top the pie... deeeeeelish!  And much better than anything you could ever make with an avocado.

So just in case you ever wondered, that is how you cook a pumpkin.

P.S.  Canned pumpkin is not available here in PNG.  If we could buy it, I don't think I would be quite so industrious.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

The Queen's actual B-day

Start:     Apr 21, '09

PNG celebrates the Queen's B-day

Start:     Jun 8, '09
Happy b-day, Your Majesty!

Raining avocados

(Actually, the more appropriate title for this blog entry would be "hailing avocados," as they don't fall very gracefully.  But I'll get to that later.)

I don't think I ever tasted an avocado when I was growing up as a kid in Ohio.  It is just not a mid-west kind of food to eat.  Our staples were corn and beans, chicken, beef, apples, blueberries, potatoes, and other such things.  Avocados seemed to be more of an exotic fruit (or vegetable?), something you might eat if you visited the exotic state of California.  At some point I was introduced to this whatever it is, perhaps during that year I lived out in sunny CA.  I found that avocados are not my favorite food.  OK, I don't care for them at all.  They are slimy and don't have much of a taste.  And guacamole is just good for nothin'.

The Carter's were my Texas family:  Mark and Robin (dad and mom), and Jeremy (who played the part of lil bro quite well) and Tiffany (lil sis).  I adopted them and they adopted me.  It was mutual.  We attended church together and I would frequently join them for lunch after Sunday service.  Some of our favorite restaurants were Mexican.  Mark would order extra guac, and I scooped the mushy pile off of my plate and add it to his.  He always remarked on how good it was and I would retort that the green stuff was just something that ruined a perfectly good Mexican meal.  It was a similar routine every time.

We recently discovered that there is a avocado tree in our front yard.  This fact was previously unknown to us because the tree is rather tall (we never looked up that high) and the base was surrounded by plants (so we never saw avocados on the ground).  Meti cleared away the brush and found the evidence.  The avocados have now started to ripen.  The problem is that the tree is so tall that we are unable to reach the produce before it falls to the ground and explodes with the impact.  Well, not a problem for me (see above).  But Becky does enjoy an occasional avocado.  Apparently the Dooleys have developed some sort of contraption to pick them which involves a very long bamboo stick and a bucket.  We might have to give that a try.  I'll take a picture for you all.

So Mark Carter... this one is dedicated to you!