Many cups of water…A Tale from Papua New Guinea

The team and village celebrate the successful construction of the windmillThe following is a guest post by my father, Aaron Martin, who just returned from a project installing a windmill to bring water to a village of displaced people in Papua New Guinea.  For more information about the “Model Village” project in PNG, please see the website of my brother Dave’s company M-CAM.

Dad’s account covers a lot of ground.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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The following is my summary of my experience in Papua New Guinea (PNG) during Feb. 11 – 23, 2012.  It is not an attempt to detail all of our experiences or to give a complete chronology of the time.  Instead I have attempted to give you a taste of some of the experience.  The trip included such amazing experiences that it almost seemed as if we lived a lifetime in that short time span, hence my title.

To the reader, my training is in mathematics and the physical sciences, and I am very grateful for that training.  I have found it to be very helpful and useful.  My bachelor’s degree was in mathematics and my master’s degree was in astronomy.  Some of what follows will not sound very “scientific” but I remind you that the sciences are limited to the repeatable, the predictable, and the measurable.  Not all of our lives fall into these areas.  So enjoy the following for what it is, an amazing story.
March 9, 2012

A Lifetime in Two Weeks

The Background
For my wife Ruth and for me, this all began in the end of May, 2011.  Our son Dave wrote a posting on his weekly blog about a group of five tribes in Papua New Guinea (PNG)who had been driven from their ancient, ancestral home lands by Exxon and dumped in Port Moresby, the PNG capital, with no place to reestablish themselves.  Dave working with Clemence Kanau and others acquired a tract of about two square miles of unused land about three miles east of the Port Moresby airport.  The tract with very fertile soil could support several thousand of the displaced families, except for one problem, there was no potable water on the site.  The closest accessible water for most of the site was around three miles or more of walking distance from locations on the site, and that single tap water source was only available in mornings and evenings, if it was available at all.

Dave in his end of May blog posting challenged the world to step up and provide water to the site through a windmill, and that is where we entered the scene.  Several years earlier, Ruth had received a modest inheritance from her Uncle, John Parsons.  Uncle John lived a very simple life.  He was never married and had no children.  He had a sail boat which he kept on the Chesapeake Bay.  On many occasions he took our family sailing with him.  When he died several years ago, his estate was divided among his 12 nieces and nephews.  Since we were never expecting such a gift, and did not need the money to live, the money was set aside for special projects.  Ruth immediately decided there was enough money in the Uncle John account to buy a windmill for the displaced tribes.  Most of the Dave’s projects through his company M-CAM (see are much larger than our budget can touch, but the windmill seemed to be within our reach.

We initially thought we were simply buying a windmill, but Dave informed us that local PNG culture expected us to be present for the installation of the windmill.  PNG was never on our list of places we wanted to visit.  We knew no one there, except for Theresa Arek (Mama T) who Dave and family brought with them to our family gathering at the beach on Emerald Isle over Thanksgiving several years ago.  Mama T was delightful, but hardly a reason for a trip to the other side of the world.  Besides, she lived on another island from the location of the windmill in the Farea Model Village.  But Dave insisted we should be there, so we started to make plans for the trip.

For us information was sketchy.  We learned that PNG is hot (which I despise).  We learned it was the humid rainy season.  For us there was a lot of uncertainty about the trip.  It was supposed to take place before Thanksgiving, then before Christmas, then in January.  There was supposed to be a team going, most of whom we didn’t know.  In mid-January, we were supposed to be ready to go with less than a week’s notice.  We were supposed to get an anti-malaria prescription drug that was expensive and not readily available.  Our doctors screwed around getting the prescriptions we needed.  The trip was long and at our ages of 76 and 73, we were not sure how our bodies would handle such a long trip.  Furthermore who would really care if we were there or not?  Just a couple of days before we to leave in January the trip was canceled because the windmill was not yet at the site.  We came close to saying scrap the whole trip.  After all, the windmill was the important thing.

How wrong we were in our thinking to perhaps skip the trip, but we did not understand that at the time.

The Trip
The trip was rescheduled for mid-February.  Colleen, Dave’s wife purchased the tickets.  We had our anti-malaria drugs.  Ruth got hers through our pharmacist friend, Archie Bennet.  The well drillers were on the site but had not hit water.  It looked as if the trip might happen this time.  With all the uncertainties, I could not say I was really anticipating the trip.  How would we fare on such long travel?  What if we got there and there was no water.  (I did not yet know the way Dave and the tribe’s elders selected the drilling site.)  I knew the Exodus story of Moses striking the rock in the wilderness and water coming from the rock, but was there water at the PNG well?  We asked all our praying friends to pray for water, since that was the real reason for the trip.

On Sunday, February 5, the small group at Greensboro Mennonite Fellowship (GMF) commissioned us for the trip.  There are two Ethiopian families at GMF.  Each of the families had one of their elder mothers staying with them.  Neither of the mothers is very fluent in English, so I was a bit surprised when one of them offered a prayer on our behalf.  I could not understand her prayer, but it sounded beautiful, not unlike some of the best praying in tongues that I heard before in some of the best charismatic circles we had encountered years ago.  We were encouraged by the GMF family.

February 10, in the morning, we started out for Charlottesville to join the team that was to leave for PNG the next day.  About half way to Charlottesville, we got a phone call from Colleen.  She had just gotten a phone call from Clemence in PNG that the driller had hit water.  (Some time earlier the driller had told them that they were in a dry hole.  Dave told the driller to drill deeper for another day, which was when they hit water.)  We were relived.  For the first time, I began to anticipate the trip.  After all the purpose of the trip was to provide water for the community.

We got to Charlottesville around noon.  We went to the M-CAM office where we met some of the other members of the team.   We reviewed the supply of tools we had purchased to take for the project.  We went out for supper, and then went to Dave and Colleen’s house to rest for the night before we began the long journey.  At the house we went through our bags with Colleen and our grand daughter Katie to review what was good to take along and what was best left behind.

Ray, from the M-CAM office met us around 8 AM on the morning of Feb. 11 to take us to the airport to begin our long journey.  Flying with us out of the Charlottesville, VA airport were Colleen (Dave’s wife), Katie (our granddaughter), Greg Smith, and Dylan Korelich.  Greg joined the team because of his construction skills and Dylan was along to document the entire event.  Dave was not with us because he was already on an assignment in India and would join us later in PNG.  Dustin DiPerna would also join the team but he was traveling from San Francisco.

The first leg of the flight was uneventful, just a short flight from Charlottesville to Dulles International airport.  The flight from Dulles to LA was delayed by “mechanical problems”.  Finally after a three and a half hour delay in our flight to LA we were on our way again in a different plane.  Fortunately, Colleen had built a 7 hour delay into our schedule in LA so we simply divided our wait time between Dulles and LA airports.

The first of our “mini” amazing experiences of our trip happened in the LA airport.  We are cheap and we frequently find food prices in airports to be outrageous from our point of view.   We knew meals were to be served on the next leg of our flight from LA to Sydney, but it had been quite some time since we left Charlottesville in the morning.  We found a place that served fruit smoothies so we each ordered one.  As I listened to the couple behind the counter I thought their speech sounded like what I heard when one of the Ethiopian mothers had prayed for our blessing the previous Sunday.  I inquired and the serving couple was amazed and delighted that I recognized their native language, Amharic.  I was also a bit amazed, because I am not the linguist in our family.

We have flown across the US on a number of occasions and I find a flight across the country to be quite enough of travel for one day, but our long day of flying had just begun.  Our flight from LA to Sydney was on schedule.  I am a window person for flying, but I did not have a window seat.  In addition it was already dark when we left LA.  After a feature length film you check the monitor because it seems as if you should soon be there, only to see that you have barely travelled a quarter of the distance, if that.  There are ways that a long flight can feel somewhat like suspended animation, or perhaps a mild torture chamber, but it ends eventually, and I was glad at my age that I was feeling as good as I did.  It was the morning of Feb. 13 when we landed in Sydney.  Since we had crossed the International Date Line, Sunday, Feb. 12th never existed for us.  Keeping track of dates and time was a challenge, but did such details really matter anyway.

The in air flight time from LA to Sydney was almost 14 hours, and that after having flown across the US.  But we were still not yet in PNG.  The flight from Sydney to PNG was almost like a flight across the US.  This time I had my window seat.  I could see the farm land as we flew over Australia.  I saw a number of beautiful coral reefs as we flew over the waters north of Australia.  And finally we caught our first slight of PNG.  We soon landed in Port Moresby, and our long flight was over, about 40 hours after we left Charlottesville.  (We had logged just over 23 hours of in flight time.)

We collected our bags which were all there except for the tool bag that we had checked, and proceeded to customs.  Colleen and Katie wonderfully changed the money to pay for our entrance Visas.  We had our passports stamped, proceeded through the gate, and there was the smiling face a Theresa.  It is always wonderful at the end of a long journey to recognize someone familiar and the face of Mama T was a welcome sight.  With Mama T was a big man.  We finally met Clemence.  He is tall.  He is big.  His big smile is reddened from chewing betel nut.  His heart is as big as he is.

We piled into Clemence’s van.  He said before he took us to the place where we were going to stay that we would stop somewhere for a brief news conference and a little snack; no big deal.  Boy were we wrong!  After driving a while through Port Moresby, (on the wrong side of the street from our perspective), we turned into a side street and there they were.

The Welcome
Traditional "Mud Men" of Papua New GuineaOut the driveway came the mud men, dancing and pointing their arrows at us!  (Fortunately I had just read about the mud men in an inflight magazine on the flight to Port Moresby.)  There were other dancers, singing, and shouting and surrounding us.  There was a big sign over the driveway (about 3’ X 15’) that said in big letters “Welcome to PNG Mom Ruth and Dad Aaron and the M-CAM team, with the names of the rest of the team in smaller letters.  We were escorted by the joyous crowd to an outdoor decorated platform where we were warmly welcomed.  There was an opening prayer and a welcome speech.  We were all given bilums, beautiful handmade bags.  Some of us were given caps and beautiful long arrows.  Several of us were asked to give speeches.  I almost felt that they were giving us too much honor so I told them that the windmill was possible because of the gift from Uncle John.  I was asked to tell about myself, and to lead in a closing prayer.  The celebration was amazing.

Then came the “little snack”.  It was our first encounter of the mu mu, which we were to experience a number of times.  A mu mu is a meal that is prepared by heating lava rocks in a fire.  When the wood is burnt, the hot rocks are covered with banana leaves.  On top to the leaves are placed special bananas, sweet potatoes, perhaps regular potatoes, sweet corn, squash or pumpkin, cabbage greens, carrots, perhaps squash flowers and squash vine tips, and chicken and/or pork.  All this is covered with more banana leaves, then earth, and left to cook for a couple of hours.  What a wonderful “snack”.
The crowd stayed around.  Some of the women around the edge were working on their needle work.  Ruth quickly joined the women with her prayer shawl knitting.  The whole event was featured in the next morning’s national newspaper.

We were shortly in for another wonderful surprise.  We were told before the trip that we should prepare to sleep in tents out at the windmill site.  Showers would become available when the windmill was working.  Right across the street from the welcome site was a house and courtyard owned by Naomi Tulaha, a most delightful woman.  She had an Ed. Dr. from a Canadian university.  The house was empty at the time and she made it available as a place for us to stay.  So instead of sleeping in tents on the ground, we were given a bed, under a ceiling fan.  There was another bedroom where Katie and Teresa stayed, and a large living room area where the rest were able to spread out mats under ceiling fans.  There was a shower, which was so welcome after a hot, sweaty day at the site.  It was a gift beyond our dreams.  The courtyard was filled with orchids and other wonderful flowers.  The open windows allowed us to wake up to some of the most beautiful bird calls I have ever heard.

After Dave arrived the next morning, we proceeded out to the windmill site, about three miles east of the Port Moresby airport.  Since it was the rainy season in PNG, and since the road to the site is just through the grass land, and since there were some low spots where water would stand, we got stuck.  That happened nearly every time we went to the site.  What was somewhat amazing was how quickly people would show up to help push us out.  I was inclined to get out to help push, but Clemence said we should stay in the van, so we did.  But at one spot we were stuck so badly that we all just got out and walked the rest of the way to the site.  After we came over a small rise we descended toward the site of the well.  As we walked toward the well, we saw in front of us a hill that was clearly an extinct volcano that was called “Gunner’s Hill”.  It seems that the tip of PNG where we were was a crucial part of the Japanese flyway to Australia and other parts of the South Pacific during World War II.  So the US and the allied troops set up machine guns on top of Gunner’s Hill to shoot down Japanese planes as they flew over the tip of PNG.  There are still remnants of the activity in the area.

The team assembles the windmillWe had a productive day assembling parts of the windmill and the windmill tower.  Each of the tribes provided a group of men to work on the project.  I was very impressed with their strength, and with how quickly they caught on to the construction procedures.   Clearly if they lacked anything, it was opportunity, not ability.

Uncle John
I woke up early next morning thinking about Uncle John.  I was in tears as I thought about Uncle John.  We knew that Uncle John (John Parsons) was a communication officer in the Navy during World War II.  We knew he was in the Pacific, but that is about all we knew.  He never wanted to talk about his war experience.  He did not consider himself a war hero.  We loved to go sailing with him in his sail boat on the Chesapeake Bay.  He did not talk that much but it was clear that he enjoyed being on the open water in the bay.  He was never married.  He lived very simply.  Except for his sail boat, he spent very little on himself.  He spent much of his adult life working for the telephone company.  When he died, his estate was divided among his nieces and nephews.  And this windmill project was a result of that inheritance that Ruth had received.  But we learned more about Uncle John from Dave.  Dave was digging into old World War II records due to the fact that the tract of land that was given for these five displaced tribes contained the burial site of some of the US military personnel .  I have frequently been amazed at Dave’s ability to uncover information, and in his research he discovered another amazing piece of information.  Dave found that Uncle John was assigned to a ship that was just off shore from Gunner’s Hill.  So now, here was the gift from Uncle John returned to the location where he had been during World War II, but this time it was a gift of water, not the destruction of war.  We were sure Uncle John would be pleased with this gift.  It was also most fitting that the people in Farea Model Village were claiming Uncle John as one of their own.

Since the road and the site were muddy in places, our shoes got quite dirty.  When we returned to Naomi’s house in the evening, after a day on the site, we took off our shoes and left them on the back covered porch rather than taking them and the mud into the house.  During the night we heard dogs barking but did not think that much about it since we heard dogs barking before.  When we got up next morning Greg said “where is my one shoe?”  We discovered that not only was Greg’s one shoe missing.  All the men’s shoes were gone from the porch.  Dave quickly set the tone for our response.  He said “well we just imported some duty free shoes into PNG.”  He lost a favorite pair of boots but did not seem too distressed by the event, and that set the tone for the rest of us.  I lost my new pair of shoe that I purchased just for the trip.  Shoes are a problem for me when I travel since I wear size 12 shoes and shoes do not pack well.  I had packed a beat up pair of duck boots in the tool bag in case I decided they would be good for the work, but the tool bag was still stuck in Sydney.  The only other foot ware I had was a pair of very cheap, flimsy sandals and a pair of flip flops.  All the men on the team took inventory of the foot ware we had.  I tried on another pair of shoes but I could tell that they were too small for my big feet.  So I ended up with Dylan’s flip flops.  I took his because the thong in his flip flop was not nearly as sharp and irritating as mine.  The plan was that Clemence would take the group out to the windmill site, then take me into town to buy a replacement pair of shoes.

There had been heavy rain the previous night and the road was muddier than usual.  We forded the river, as we always had to do.  The water was deeper than it had been.  We started up the ascent out of the river on the other side, which was always a challenge.  But this time, due to the extra rainfall, we got stuck going uphill and around the curve.  It was clear we were not going to push ourselves out of this one.  The decision was that the only practical thing to do was to walk the remaining two miles to the work site.  It was also clear that Clemence would not soon be free so it would be quite some time before he could take me into town to buy other shoes.  So I had a choice.  I could wait indefinitely with Clemence until he might or might not be able to take me into town to get other shoes, or get out and walk with the group back to the site.  I chose the latter.

I discovered there is a problem trying to walk in sticky mud with flip flops.  The black volcanic soil made mud that quickly built up a heavy ¾ inch thick layer on the bottom of the flip flops.  In addition the mud was extremely slick.  I was sliding all over the place.  Trying to walk in heavy flip flops that are sliding all over the place is no easy task.  I was quickly falling behind the rest of the group.  That alone might have been OK but we had not gone to the site often enough that I was sure of the trail.  So I made a decision.  I saw that many of the men in the community walked barefoot.  I had gone barefoot a lot as a kid.  I was told that it would not be a good idea for me because of the sharp volcanic rocks and some of the tall grass, but I decided to try it.  Once I was barefoot I was able to catch up with the group.  At times the mud squished through my toes.  I did not find the volcanic rocks to be irritating.  When we got back to the site, Tevin had my flip flops washed and I was able to wear them later in the day.  For the next several weeks the skin on my feet felt smoother than they had been for years.  It almost seemed as if this could be some valuable pedicure treatment.  The tool bag came and with it were my duck boots, which I wore because the thong had created a blister between my toes on my right foot.  But the theft of my shoes had resulted in my learning some local wisdom that I likely would not have experienced if that had not happened.

Raising the Tower
We were waiting much of the day for the crane that was to come to raise the windmill tower and the windmill on to the tower.  We heard various reports throughout the day on the progress of the crane, but it was of no use until it got to the location.  Finally by mid to late afternoon we got the word that the crane was hopelessly stuck in the mud and would not make it.  So Dave made the call, “let’s raise the tower.”  Since the work crews from the tribes had also been waiting all day, they immediately sprang into action.  A number took their bush knives and cut down trees with forked notches for pushing poles. Poles were lashed to the bottom feet of the tower to prevent the feet of the tower from sinking into the mud.  Then teams lined up along each edge of the tower and the lifting began.  First it was up a few feet, then a few feet more.  At each stage the tower was propped so the lifters could reposition themselves for a better pushing position.  And up the tower went.  When it was up at about a 30º angle, a rope was attached from the top of the tower to the raised bed of a dump truck.  As the pushers lifted, the bed of the dump truck was slowly lowered, assisting the lifting effort.

A rainbow appeared in the sky and seemed to help the villagers lift the tower into placeAnd then it happened.  The tower was now high enough that most of the lifting had to be done with the poles.  When the tower was at about a 40º angle, a partial rainbow appeared behind the tower!  As the tower went up, the rainbow got more complete and brighter.  It appeared as if the rainbow was either pushing or pulling the tower.  It was a most amazing sight, and the people of the community understood the meaning of the blessing of the rainbow.  When the tower was erect the rainbow framed the tower and Gunner’s Hill in the background.  People were laughing and crying.  It was a powerful sight.  The bright, triple rainbow persisted about right up to sun set.  I cannot imagine anyone who was present will ever forget that sight.  It was an amazing sight!

The Crane
The tower was upright but the windmill itself with its motor was still on the ground.  The windmill fan and motor weighed nearly a ton.  Dave, Greg, and I spent much of evening trying to figure out a block and tackle system that could be attached to the tower to raise the fan and motor.  Greg and Dave thought they figured out a system that would work.  I was confused on some of the details.  Meanwhile Clemence and Theresa were scouring Port Moresby to see if there might be some other crane operator that could be hired for the task.  In the morning we got word that there was a crane operator who would come with a bigger crane provided we paid him up front with a cash advance of about $1500 (US).  Due to the weight of the windmill, that seemed to be our best option.  I went with Theresa to the bank to withdraw the cash (converted into Kina, the local currency).  The rest of the crew went out to the site.  There was still the issue of the muddy roads, even though there was no rain after the rainbow.  The work crews from the tribes worked on the road.  They took shovels and dug out and drained the worst of the mud holes.  They cut logs to fill in low spots in the mud holes and ditches.  The cooperative work was beautiful to watch.  They worked under united thought and direction.  Their strength and skill was a sight to see.

Then the fairly new Caterpillar crane appeared.  It maneuvered into position.  It first lifted the tower so the final bolts could be put in place to secure the tower to its buried posts.  This crane was up to the task.  The fan and motor were lifted slowly but easily.  Dave and Tevin went to the top to the tower to direct the windmill onto its mounting shaft.  The windmill was slowly lowered onto the mounting shaft, but it was tilted at such an angle that it would not slip on to the shaft.  The windmill was lowered.  In the first attempt the tail fin of the windmill was folded parallel to the windmill.  This time we opened the tail fin with the tail perpendicular to the fan which made the whole assembly hang more nearly vertical.  Up went the windmill again.  This time it started to descend onto the mounting shaft.  After moving it back and forth a number of times it finally fell into place.  The crowd below erupted into cheers.  It was a good day.

There was just one problem.  A 3 inch coupling that connected the rods from the windmill motor to the pump was missing.  We spent much of the next morning visiting hardware store after hardware store in Port Moresby.  The city has many excellent hardware stores, but PNG, as much of the rest of the word uses metric standards, and the windmill, built by Aremotor in Texas, does not.  We went out to the site and searched as carefully as we could for the missing coupling, but it was not to be found.  Most of our group stayed at the site.  Tevin said he wanted to show us his home, and Dave said we should go with him.

Tevin is a fine man.  He has been selected to be the chairman of Farea Model Village, and he seems to be very capable of the assignment.  He took Ruth and me down the tall grass path, past lovely gardens and a few village houses.  He took us with his beautiful wife, Esther, and fine son up Elder’s hill where the windmill project was conceived.  He took us to his house with its lovely flowers and fabulous gardens.  He brought us back beside Gunner’s Hill, to the windmill site.  We walked by a small shelter that was the meeting place for their church group.

It seemed so strange that Tevin was not the leader of his church group.  He was a clear leader.  He was highly committed.  But instead, a “missionary” came out from Port Moresby to “lead” the group.  We never saw a trace of the missionary during the water project that was a major event for the entire community.  I am not sure who needs to repent and be converted.

New Britain
Since it was Saturday and all the shops would be closed for the weekend, the decision was made that Greg would stay in Port Moresby while the rest of us went on to Theresa’s home on another island.  The original plans were for all of us to fly to New Britain but the windmill was not working due to the missing coupling.  Clemence found a machine shop that would fabricate the part on Monday, but there was no reason for all of us to stay for that one small but essential piece.

The few days at Teresa’s home were most delightful.  We learned about the operation of the small plantation.  We participated just a bit in the processing of pepper.  We learned about coconut production and special spices.  We visited the volcano that had been active very recently, tasting some of its salt deposit, and feeling some of its hot pools.  It was a break to spend a few days at higher elevation where it was a bit cooler.

For me a very special highlight of the entire trip was to spend some extra time with Dave.  I am not sure there is anyone I would rather be with than our four boys and their families.  Dave, however, is all over the world, and I have often been puzzled to understand what he does and how he does it.  On the trip it was delightful to watch him lead the windmill project.  I enjoyed when I watched him with Colleen.  But for me it was a special treat to watch him at work with some of the abused peoples.  PNG is an extremely rich land.  It has some of the richest mineral deposits in the world.  But much of the world has treated the people as if at best they are entities to be exploited.  The tribes making up Farea Model Village were pushed off their ancient lands so Exxon could exploit their natural gas.  Mining companies have come in and taken copper, gold, and other minerals and given essentially nothing and sometimes worse than nothing back to the people.  External companies have come in and violated international law to take what they wanted from the land.  It is not that these are not bright, capable people.  It is often that contracts are signed without the people on the land having any knowledge of what is being signed.  There is even one company where anyone in the world may buy stock in the company except for citizens of PNG.  Exploitation has been the name of the game.  Dave, with his company M-CAM, has been working around the world to correct some of these injustices.  And on this trip I had the chance to sit with him in some of his meetings in homes or under trees with some of the abused people and see him provide them with information that they did not know.  I gained a new appreciation for his work on behalf of people around the world.  At the very least, people everywhere should have equal access to information and opportunity.  Exploitation of other people is never appropriate.
Windmill Dedication
It was Wed., Feb. 22, time for the dedication of the windmill.  We had word from Greg that the coupling was fabricated and the windmill was working.  Dave flew back early in the morning.  He was the project leader and he needed to be sure to be back so everything was ready for the big day.  We caught a flight later in the morning.  The dedication program was to start at 1 PM.  Clemence picked us up, but it seemed as if he was trying to do everything he could to stall our arrival at the site.  We knew by now that PNG time schedules were not necessarily the same as ours, but he seemed to make every stop he could.  There was ice to pick up.  There were more drinks from several different stores.  Dave had called and said things were getting crazy at the site.  It was after 1 PM when we turned off the road beside the airport onto the three mile dirt road back to the site.  Since there had not been rain, crossing the river was easier than many time had been.  We saw people walking toward the site.  They were driving.  They were on the open beds of trucks.  We soon saw flags planted along the way, PNG flags, US flags, and M-CAM flags.  The road had been worked on to the point where it was in better shape than we had seen it before.

And then we saw them… all the people with whom we worked during the construction of the previous week.  Those who prepared the mu mu while we worked were there.  Kids were there.  Families were there.  Young and old were there.  When we saw them we asked to get out of the van to walk with the people.  We were surrounded by a river of people.  The mud men were there.  The yellow clay people were there.  The red paint people were there.  The tall strong warriors were there.  It was the most amazing crowd from all the tribes, many dressed in their finest festive garments. There was singing and dancing. I was reminded of the very beautiful scene in the book of Revelation where there is the description of people coming from every tribe and nation and tongue gathering for celebration.   We marched with the joyous throng, an experience unlike anything I saw before.  As we came over the rise toward the windmill, they came with three chairs on poles.  They put the man who had given the land for Farea Model Village in the first chair.  Ruth and I were placed in the other two chairs and they picked us up and carried us through the joyous waving throng, past the windmill with Gunner’s Hill behind it, to a very decorated platform prepared for the occasion.  I felt like I was being recognized beyond what I deserved but knew it was not appropriate to refuse the honor.  I knew I was recognized because I was the father of Dave, who had done far more for the project than I had ever done.

Each of us was carried by six men.  I think at one point one of the sticks supporting me cracked.  I heard what sounded like a crack.  I felt the chair shift slightly, but they carried me on as if nothing happened.

A lot of effort went into the preparation for the occasion.  The windmill was decorated.  The stage was built.  A generator was brought in to provide power for a PA system.  A special band was there for the event.
We were seated on the stage, and as we looked out from our seats we saw this incredibly beautiful sea of humanity.  (I do not know how many people were there.  Some said a thousand.  Some said a couple of thousand.  I was told that if the event had been on a weekend instead of a work day the crowd would have been twice as large.)  The formal ceremony began.  Tiven, beaming broadly welcomed everyone.  There was an opening prayer.  Clememce gave an extended speech.  He spoke in Pidgin so I was not able to follow what he said, but clearly the crowd was with him.  Dave appropriately was asked to speak.

Now it was time to cut the ribbon to open the windmill.  We went down from the platform and over to the windmill.  Ruth and I were asked to cut the ribbon, then pull the stop to release the tail of the windmill.  The tail opened.  At the moment there was no wind so a couple fellows climbed up and turned the windmill.  The water started to flow and the crowd went wild.  Shortly a breeze picked up and the windmill pumped water on its own.  This was the moment people were waiting for.  They held plastic bottles in the following stream to catch some of the wonderful flow.  The crowd laughed and cried.  They shouted and hugged each other.  The gift of water had come to Farea.  It was a celebration of life itself.

We returned to the stage where I was asked to make a few final remarks and Ruth was asked to lead a closing prayer.  There was another large mu mu feast.  At the end of the day we left Farea Model Village but part of us will always remain there.  We were there such a short time. We were barely beginning to get to know some of our new brothers and sisters.  There was so much more we wanted to learn and want to know.

The Face
One final amazing experience on the trip.  I think it happened on Sunday morning, Feb. 19th.  We had to get up very early to be ready to leave at 4 AM to catch our flight to Rabaul.  In preparation for that early flight we should have gone to bed early on Sat. night, but it was our last night at Naomi’s house, and she and her family wanted some special time with us.  They prepared a wonderful dinner for us.  They presented us with very special gifts.  So it was late when we got to bed, and I was very tired next morning.  It was still quite dark when we got into the van.  I may have closed my eyes, and there I saw the most beautiful, round, bearded face of a PNG man looking directly into my face and smiling.  I did not recognize him as any of the men I had met.  I was so tired I could easily be convinced that it was a hallucination, or was it a vision?  The face was so beautiful that I tried to hold and keep the image, but it faded far too quickly.  I will let you decide what I saw, but I know that at the moment I wished I was a skilled artist so I could paint the face of Christ as a PNG man.

As the tower stood upright, the rainbow spread across the sky as if in blessing

4 thoughts on “Many cups of water…A Tale from Papua New Guinea”

  1. David Martin

    Dan, sharing this moment with Dad, Mom and, thanks to this post, the world is a great honor. Thanks for getting the word out. And, the last call we received informed us that there is now “too much” fresh water and the number of displaced with water is now growing!

  2. Haitch

    Thanks for the post, I’m very jealous of the mu mu. The LNG project is expected to double Papua New Guinea’s GNP in a few years and unfortunately it looks like the ordinary Papua New Guinean won’t be benefitting much. Here’s a link to a recent productive academic gabfest “PNG: where to now?”

  3. Alica

    Loved reading this post and hearing about this project. I am a high school classmate of Dave’s and former student of Aaron, and had the opportunity to sail for an afternoon on the Chesapeake with “Uncle John”, Dave and friends way back in 1985. What a wonderful thing to do with his inheritance money!

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