from Email of December 16
After weeks of being on orientation in Lae, I am back at Senior Flierl Seminary and my laptop. I hope I will be more consistently successful in sending email - I had two failure after the one letter sent.
My last week was spent meeting important people in the ELC-PNG - Evangelical Lutheran Church in Papua New Guinea. They are now my bosses. It was fun to meet most people, though a few visits were rather perfunctory. It is an odd feeling to be an "honored guest" much of the time. I met many people such as the President (what we would call Presiding Bishop) when I can't get Bishops to return my phone call in the U.S. I most enjoyed talking with the head of the Woman's program and the coordinator for the HIV/AIDS program. Interestingly the HIV program is focused on prevention and is in the Evangelism Department instead of with Lutheran Health. The Lutheran Health service runs many hospitals and is a major player in health care in PNG. This reminds me of Tanzania.
Last Thursday I returned aboard the 3 times a week ferry. It is definitely larger than one of the "banana boats" that I took to get to Lae. Unfortunately for me, this means the ferry goes out into the open sea instead of hugging the coast line. I was seasick for the first time in my life. I definitely won't eat so much breakfast next time. :-)
I continue to realize how much I stand out as a "whiteskin". It feels odd for it to be assumed that I am an rich, and even odder to realize that in PNG I am among the rich. For example, I did a major grocery shopping for meat at one of the upper end grocery stores. (Since little meat is available in the Finschhaven area we can freeze meat at the Lutheran Guest House and take it back in a cooler). After I checked out I stood in the parking lot waiting for the driver to come. A security guard stood near me to make sure no thieves grabbed a box from me. I almost started telling him that he didn't have to, but realized that I had spent what some people earn several months. Crime is a particular problem in Lae, as people have drifted into the city from the country side and without their usual social support. Here in the Finschhaven area most people still live in villages. While life doesn't have western style luxuries, everyone has enough to eat.
It continues to stay light later as we head into summer. Fortunately it hasn't gotten much hotter. I think I am making some adjustment to the heat. It is still strange to me for the seminary to be winding down for the summer, with graduation on Dec. 5. I am still getting my head around the idea that it is getting close to Christmas. Most of the students and staff leave to be with family, so it will be a quiet Christmas around here.