Breakfast In America

Today has been one of the most surreal days of my life. I woke up this morning in a Lutheran guest house with food poisoning and a random PNG lady who I had only met for an hour the day before. An hour or so later two Germans arrived at the door to take me away. It turns out Wendy, the lady who set up my volunteering, had been in touch with them (Thomas and Verena) and had filled them in on the situation. I then drove with Verena back to Mando to pick up my stuff, which was difficult, to say the least. Margaret did not say a word. She didn’t even come outside the hut.

We then went to pick up their daughter, Thalia from school. This was where things started to get pretty odd. We drove for 10 minutes from Goroka and eventually arrived at a place called ‘Lapilo’ home to the ‘new tribes missionaries’ who seek to convert the most rural of Papua New Guineans to Christianity (despite the fact that 98% of PNGs are already Christian). This ‘centre’ was basically a secluded slice of America in the middle of the Papua New Guinea bush. Bearing in mind that I have not seen a single white person throughout my two weeks it was a shock to see, on driving in through the gates, that the entire community was made up of white Americans and Australians. They all live on the site, which has everything they could need supplied for them: elementary, primary and secondary schools, a shop, gym etc very much like an isolated campus university. We took a walk around and I felt like I was actually in America – everything was entirely modernised, not a hint of the ‘backwardness’ of PNG was present. They were even playing girl’s ‘soccer’ on their (perfectly maintained) playing field. All of the children, including Thalia have heavy American accents. It was completely and utterly bizarre to move so suddenly between such polar opposite cultures. To exaggerate the incongruity, I was feeling extremely light-headed, as if I might faint in the aftermath of my night with food poisoning. It was unbelievably weird.

Thomas and Ruth themselves seem to be very typically German. Not trying to stereotype or anything! On returning to their house in Goroka they were making “sausage” as apparently PNG doesn’t make proper sausage. I’ve been helping Thalia with her character in the school play this evening. (Feels like being back at home, Sue!) Anyway, the arrangement is that I’m going to get a PMV to Mando everyday to teach and then return here in the evenings. Let’s hope it works out.

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