Day One - Arrival
I’m sitting in the kitchen of the Bougainville Bible College guest house, surrounded by half-naked men. It is HOT - but a lovely hot. We’ve arrived safely in Tanamalo - a small village on the north coast of Buka Island. Buka-town is the main trade area for Bougainville and also where the airport is.
We departed from Port Moresby this morning - leaving the house @ 4:50 a.m. and boarding our plane at 6:30 a.m.. We had a long wait in the line at the airport to check in and while doing it met a cacao farmer from Rabaul, New Britain. He was a fascinating fellow and very friendly. He said that he normally harvests 4 tons of cocoa beans per month - enough to keep all the women in Lansing, MI happy for about a week.
Once again, our flight was on time and really a pleasure. (Are you listening US air industry?). We flew to Rabaul for a brief lay over. The island of New Britain is gorgeous! I took several photos from the air. One of them is of an active volcano which also complicated our landing pattern since we had to go out over the sea and come back in to avoid the volcanic ash cloud. The airport had been closed briefly earlier this week to sweep up the ash accumulating on the runway.
We had to de-plane in Rabaul - and get right back on after going through security. Thenwe flew into Buka - our approach was again breathtaking. Beauty, not scary - the flight was smooth and good. The airport is really small, which is to be expected. The interesting bit was the WWII anti-aircraft gun by the terminal.
We collected our luggage and began meeting lots of people. Rev. Joe who is the principle of the Bible School and National Supt. for Bougainville, Leslie, one of the students, Nathaniel who is National treasurer, National evangelism director and District Superintendent for the East Buka district as well as a local pastor and he is very young. Pastor Wesley is the pastor of the church here in Tanamalo. It wasn’t long before we warmed up and began having a great time of sharing.
We caught a ride into Buka-town to do some banking and shopping and wait for our ride out to
Tanamalo. The town is not very large, but very busy. Market is each day and it is the place where most people come to do business because some parts of the main Bougainville island “do
not have law and order”. The main island is only about ½ mile away across a channel. I remember Marcia teaching about the long boats that take people back and forth across the channel in the children’s mission class. Today I got to see them in action. Quite interesting. You can cross for 2 Kina - a little less than a dollar.
Leslie took Jonathan and I to do the grocery shopping while Pastor Joe and Jeff went to do some banking. The store was very crowded - what no shopping carts! And very hot - what, no air conditioning!. But we found everything we need and tried a few local treats that were recommended to me by missionaries in Port Moresby the night before. The beef flavored biscuit was really quite tasty!
Speaking of food, (kai-kai is the Pidgin word), we ate lunch at the local restaurant - it was interesting - but edible. I had two sausages (luke-warm) and rice. Also on the menu was a chicken curry where the chicken was simply chopped up bone and all & huge chunks of taro root on the side. Taro is a staple here, but is about 120% starch and very dry. Tapioca is also grown here and I look forward to trying it, but I understand it will be nothing like the nice pudding I enjoy so much. Fun little bit: There was a sign on the wall informing their “valued customers” that the price of soft drinks is now 2.50 kina. Then, “10 Q for your understanding”. Pidgin is really a very logical language. Say it out loud and often, you will have it.
We stayed in Buka-town for most of the day waiting for our ride. Part of the delay was a really impressive downpour which put a stop to most commerce and traffic in town. It rained for about an hour and dropped a good 1 - 2 inches of rain.
We started out for Tanamalo in the back of a Toyota pick-up around 1:00 - The three white men got the seat of honor - a board across the top of the bed of the truck up by the cab. The others rode sitting on the top edge of the bed and seeming to not hang on all that desperately. Our driver was inspired and we flew up the increasingly narrow road until we arrived.
Our lodgings are adequate, though we are doing battle with flies and ants right now. I have murdered easily 30 flies and another one just buzzed me. The ants are all over the place. We will deal with them in a bit. But we are settled in and showered and shirtless and about to enjoy our first meal whipped up by Jonathan - Tuna, rice and some green stuff we picked up at a stand along side the road. If I don’t write tomorrow......