Some village women and children prepare a LOT of bananas for cooking.
Today was essentially a continuation of our progress from yesterday, though with a slightly later start. So as not to disturb church, our team took this Sunday morning to sleep in a little bit and delay our departure until 8:30am so that we would arrive well after the worship service. We were sad to miss out on joining them for church, but it simply wasn’t in the stars, so we gave ourselves permission for a couple more hours to sleep.
Bob and the ATCDI crew came back to the village a little after we did and spent the day with Ashwin, Nita, and Neil, as well as our team of “20 pela strongpela men,” who continued to make themselves available and to help our progress. For example, a smaller team of five to seven of them managed to dig all four footings for the tank stand in about 20 minutes! The ATCDI guys started with finishing up the rest of the cutting leftover from the day before. They also brought their welder today, so they were able to do a test on some of our smaller pieces to make sure it was working in preparation to start welding tomorrow. Bob also spent some time checking all of the piping that was laid out yesterday and, along with our engineering team, supervised the process of cleaning, taping, and adjusting the joints and couplings in the piping system.
As for our social workers, they spent the slightly shorter day just barely finishing up the initial baseline survey regarding water uses and needs in the community that was started yesterday. Both Jane and Crystal got off to slow starts in the morning, but were able to pick up the pace in the afternoon and finish the job with exactly the amount of surveys needed to cover 10% of households in the community. While they also faced many of the same challenges as they did yesterday, they were more prepared for them, simply by the virtue of familiarity with them. The translators also seemed to catch on a little more today, which also helped to speed up the process. The plan is to review our results in the morning, but it seems like the sample included households from many different parts of the village and in a range of circumstances, so it will be interesting to see what we’ve got! As difficult as the process was, we have certainly learned a lot about the community’s water practices and needs, as well as the community structure, family units, and cultural practices.
Speaking of culture, food is very obviously at the center of this community, and there is planti kaikai (“lots of food”). It seems unlikely that any of our team have ever eaten so well! We are regularly fed four times each day: breakfast at camp before departure for the day, “light breakfast/lunch/dinner” in the village (depending on our arrival time), full lunch in the village, and then dinner in the evening upon return to camp. And we’re not talking small portions here. All of the meals at camp are buffet style, and about the same goes for the village. LOADS more food than any average man or woman could ever dream of eating. To give you an idea of the scale of each meal, here is a rough sketch of today’s menu:
Camp breakfast (7:45am): made-to-order omelettes, sausage, french toast, baked beans, hash browns bacon, porridge/oatmeal, assorted cereals, fruit, juice, tea, and coffee
Lunch in the village (1:30pm): rice, chicken, a vegetarian cabbage dish, a meat cabbage dish, cooked banana (boiled in coconut milk in a clay pot, tasting just like a potato), potatoes, sandwiches with peanut butter, sandwiches with peanut butter and tomato sauce (not joking), orange cordial (juice concentrate), and water
Light dinner in the village (4:15pm): rice, a cabbage dish with sausage, and Milo (a hot chocolate beverage . . . HOT chocolate . . . in the late afternoon . . . outside . . . in PNG . . .)
Camp dinner (6:45pm): rice, lamb chops, roasted pork with sauce, sausage, peas and carrots, dinner rolls (a team favorite), fruit, cheese, crackers, salads and toppings, apple pie, orange chocolate cake, coconut cake, hot custard, soft serve ice cream, tea, coffee, juice, and water
Clay pots filled with bananas and coconut milk are pulled off of the fire to cool.
Phew! Not one member of this team will come back skinnier than when he or she left! It’s also been rather entertaining for the rest of the team to watch Jane and Neil (the team’s notoriously slow eaters) try to clean their plates at each meal in the village. Today’s hot chocolate was particularly amusing as we were also close to running late for our daily departure time of 4:30pm. It took intense focus, but both pulled off finishing the full mug! Today’s dinner was also rather special because we were joined tonight by Matt Smith, the resident 11-Mile Camp Superintendent, who helped set us up in our accommodations and organizes our security and transport each day. We’ve not been able to spend much time with Matt since our first day, so it was nice to be able to relax and have a chat over dinner on a Sunday evening.
Tomorrow morning the team will split up again as the engineers head back into Lae to gather more materials and the social workers will hang back at camp to compile their survey data. We’ll head back into the village tomorrow afternoon and we’re rather excited as tomorrow is the first day of a three-day seminar about micro credit and business being held in the village for over 500 women from all over the region. It will be exciting to observe such a unique event and we feel incredibly lucky to have it overlap with our stay in Maniang!
That’s it for today, then. Lukim yupela tumora! (“See you all tomorrow!”)