Thursday – Day 1
Today I left Sentani, hopping on a plane with 3 other guys to travel to a remote village and help a guy build a house. I have to say, it’s a lot different when you fly in a small plane. Suddenly the ground is a lot closer and foreboding than it is when you’re in a huge jet. There you’ve got pretzels and ginger ale and oxygen masks and stewardesses. In a puddle jumper? It’s you, God, the ground and the sky. And if there’s a problem in the latter? You’ll soon be seeing the former.
I’m hoping to do some research for my Indo adventure novel while I’m here, so we’ll see what pans out. Either way, I’ll get a lot of character-building, right?
Friday – Day 2
I needed to bring more padding for my sleeping accommodations. A plan sleeping bag? Not Enough. I could feel the slats of the wooden flood through my ribs They poked me. A lot. I found the best position to sleep in was a fetal one, because it somehow padded my sides enough that I wasn’t in constant pain. Just semi-constand. (Nah, it wasn’t really that bad… but it’s more entertaining if there’s tension, so I’m sticking with my sob story…)
Today we built a few sawhorses, then we moved a ton of heavy 4 x 4′s from one place to another. Honestly? I had no idea wood could be so heavy. Holy cow. I’ve lived a sheltered life. After that, we started planing some wood, which is pretty cool. It’s basically a machine that shaves the planks of wood down until they’re all the exact same thickness. Which is pretty important when you’re making a house, you know?
After working, we walked down a muddy trail to wash off in the river. Which is also pretty brown and muddy. Honestly? I don’t think I’ll actually be clean until I get back to Sentani. Seriously. There’s mud and pig and goat poop everywhere. There’s the outside chance that I’ll reach the point where I’m not so sensitive to getting muddy and disgusting, but not likely. I mean, when I use 10 baby wipes to clean my feet off once I’m in my tent? There’s probably little hope for me going all native while I’m out here. Still, it could happen… I just wouldn’t place bets if I were in Vegas.
Tonight we had Mac and Cheese, and it was delicious. Only problem was, we made half as much, because we were afraid to use both boxes in case it was on the menu later. After we ate it and were still hungry? Only THEN we looked at the menu and decided it was safe to make the other box. Oh yeah, we’re geniuses, we are. It was still delicious. The green beans weren’t bad, either. We followed it up with some divine chocolate-covered almonds from my Mom. Sent around Easter-time no less. (Still delicious.)
I’m now safely secure in my Tent of Comfort and Safety (thank you, Clive Grey), listening to the offline playlists on Spotify, typing on my iPad Mini with my Bluetooth keyboard. (Already cleaned my ears with Q-tips, thank you.) Only problem is, I’m gonna have to make a colossal dump sometime soon, and you’re supposed to do it in the jungle by digging a hole with a parang (machete). I can tell you know, that’s not happenning in the dead of night. Nope, it sure ain’t.
It’s like I’m at camp or something here, being in a different place, new people, and sleeping in a tent. No canteen, but you packed a lot of goodies, so that’s awesome. Tomorrow I need to remember to take some Aleve in the morning… standing on your feet all day is EXHAUSTING.
P.S. It’s so humid here, my pillow is constantly moist. I’m living in a virtual rainforest.
Saturday – Day 3
I have yet to make a poop.
I’m going to attribute it to my working so hard. Maybe my body’s using up so much energy that there just isn’t any waste LEFT. It sounds good to me, at least.
Today was a solid day of work. I mainly stood all day by the planer, feeding in a plank of wood again and again and again until it was smooth and worthy of being a floorboard. The process takes a good 20 minutes per board, because we want to be careful not to overload the planer motor. Burning out the motor early in the process of creating a house? When we’re here for 2 weeks to do nothing BUT plane boards and make a floor? Well… that would just suck.
So we’re going slowly, shaving off a 1/8 an inch at a time until it’s the right height. It’s tedious, monotonous work, but I have my iPod Shuffle running the whole time under the hearing protection, so I’m good, in my own happy world.
Unfortunately, listening to insanely good music selections doesn’t make standing all day any easier. Aleve did that, to an extent, but it’s still odd to get a cramp in your bicep when you’re trying to scratch your back. My muscles aren’t used to these motions, so they’re pretty strained. And buff. And sexy. Kim’s gonna love the new me. Raargh…
It’s hot in this tent tonight. Muggy. No airflow at all. Makes me wish I brought my USB fan in my office. Then I could plug it into the solar charger that I charged today and have some sweet airflow. Yep… that’d sure be nice… airflow… to dry off the sweat on my body… uh-huh… sure would be sweet.
Instead of tromping down to the river to wash off after working today, we all got naked and soaped up in a rainshower. Much cleaner, lemme tell ya. Just like camp… except for the naked part… and taking a shower in the rain. Okay, it was nothing like camp, but I enjoy saying that, so I keep on sayin’ it.
It occurs to me today’s Saturday. I haven’t talked to Kim since Thursday. We haven’t even discussed about using the satellite phone yet, ’cause we’re either working or cooking. (They love her menu selections. She really outdid herself.) Maybe I’ll talk to her tomorrow? Hopefully she’s not in withdrawl TOO much… what with the spontenous e-mails and videos she’s been getting*….
*Before I left, I learned how to schedule e-mails and videos to be sent to Kim while I was gone, so each day she’d get a handful of scripture, photos, videos or an e-mail word of encouragement, even in my absence.
Sunday – Day 4
Had trouble sleeping last night. I was tired, but couldn’t sleep. Even after reading for an hour and FEELING sleepy, I lay there in bed for another hour. It’s odd… when you’re in a village? Dark is an all-consuming, midnight black darkness. You seriously can’t see your hand in front of your face. It’s bizarre.
So, when I almost drifted off to sleep? That’s when the village pigs decide to have a pow-wow underneath the hut we’re in. Screeching and grunting and rubbing against the foundational posts holding this thing up. If I wasn’t a grown, masculine man I’d be pretty terrified. Even as a full-blown bowl of testosterone, my mind couldn’t help imagining what it’d be like if the flood dropped out from beneath me, plunking me into the middle of their melee. It wasn’t a pleasant thought, lemme tell ya.
In retrospect, I think I should’ve brought sleeping pills. They would’ve helped.
On another note, I have yet to poop. I’m not bloated, sick or feverish. Just don’t have anything to poop. It’s become quite a conversation piece among the guys. They gleefully announce to me when they’re going to go into the jungle to poop. Say I should give it a try. And one day soon? I hope to. Mayhap even tomorrow.
My muscles are aching from lifting boards all day long. But she’s gonna be impressed with my tan, muscular build. That’s for sure. Raor…
Monday – Day 5
Last night there were no pigs having hoo-hah under our house in the middle of the night. Instead, I woke up at 3:30am to some village guy standing outside somewhere in the rain yelling “Yah!” every 3 minutes. For, like, half an hour. It was pretty dang bizarre, lemme just tell ya.
In other news, I made my Colossal Poop this morning. And you’ll never guess how… so I’m gonna tell ya. It was using the secret power of… coffee.
You read that right: Coffee.
The guys suggested I drink a cup of coffee to loosen my bowels, so I did. 20 minutes later, off I trot to into the jungle to follow the call. I had a head start when I entered the area and there was a pig ahead of me, squealing and running at the sight of me. Yep, that pretty much helped me vacate my stuff right there. Dang pig.
Was able to talk to Kim on the phone today, after figuring out the satellite phone. Glad to hear her voice, even with the delay. Praying she’ll continue to govern the house with love, patience and an iron fist. The guys and I ate spaghetti tonight, and it was awesome. Hats off to Kim again.
Instead of washing off with the regular 4:30pm rain shower (4 naked white guys sharing a bar of soap, all strategically positioned under the tarps to get a strong enough stream to rinse with. It’d be quite a sight, if anyone saw us. The villagers are all gone by that time.). Anyhow, as I was saying, instead of doing that we went down to the river and washed down there. It’s a muddy hike down, followed by a muddy hike up, but it’s semi-clean water, so that’s what we do. Me? I’d rather wait for a rain shower. But I’m being social, so… here I am.
I made no effort to express my distaste for swimming in a muddy, opaque river where crocodiles any other sorts of nasties could be lurking about. They enjoy teasing me about it, and I enjoy swimming downstream from them, so that I’m the last guy on the menu (provided Mr. Snapper isn’t swimming upstream…). I usually pee in the river too, mainly because it’s gonna be running down my leg anyway…
My solar charger is working like a charm, keeping my iPhone and iPod Shuffle nicely charged. It’s awesome. I do look forward to the new one coming with the US couriers these next few weeks. High capacity, two USB ports. Woot.
I downloaded a ton of Spotify playlists to listen to offline out here, and I found out that I can shuffle between all the Starred (hand-picked) songs easily. So that’s pretty fun, listening to “new” music as I cut the boards down to size. (I also have gloves, glasses and hearing protection on, FYI. It’s perfectly safe. The only way I can cut my hand is if I stick it under the cutter blades themselves, Which I won’t do. Cause I’m smart like that.)
Whelp, I’m gonna go read something… it’s kinda painful to type, hunched over like that. Maybe I’ll take a break tomorrow…
Tuesday – Day 6
We eat dinner from about 6:30pm to 7pm, after which Travis and I walk down the hill to the large evangelist hut we sleep in, while Andrew and Chuck stay behind and sleep in “the shack” at the worksite. Night is my favorite time, because that’s when I’m a viking! (No, I’m not really. But it is my favorite time.)
My typical nighttime ritual is this:
- Wash mud off feet outside (dip feet in large barrel of rain water)
- Find toothbrush and brush teeth ASAP
- Throw my electronics into the tent for later (iPhone, solar charger, flashlights, etc.)
- Remove sandal and stand on yesterday’s shirt. Remove all clothes and wipe feet off with said shirt. Stand naked and admire your buff physique from lifting heavy boards all day.
- Enter tent. (Be careful! Your entrance is also where your head sleeps, so you have to move gingerly to make sure you don’t get mud or dust or pig crap on your pillow. EVER.
- Pivot in tent so your feet are at the bottom of it (turn around). Grab the Anti-bacterial Baby Wipes and begin The Process. Wipe dirt off calves. Wipe dirt off bottoms and tops of feet. Grab more wipes and floss between the toes. (It feels so GOOD.)
- Get a Q-tip. Clean ears. Sigh deeply.
- Retrieve the iPad and keyboard and compose short journal note before my back aches from being hunched over.
- Listen to Spotify playlists. Star songs I like, delete those I don’t.
- Watch a sermon or video.
- Read on the Kindle for a bit.
- Pray silently.
- Get sleepy, put in earplugs, pray for sleep. Drift off 30 minutes later.
That’s it. And now? My back’s aching, so I’m done for now.
Tuesday – Day 13 (Final Day)
The goats pee and poop all over the work area. On the boards, the cutting equipment, the generators… everywhere. And the male goat butted me in the back of the leg today. Right after I scratched his ears all lovingly like.
Stinking goats. They can be cute and wag their tails at you when you pet ‘em, then turn on you and attack in a second. You’d wanna punch them, but then they’d be more aggressive and come at you harder. Makes you wish you had a taser…
It rained a lot today, so we were able to take showers in the rain, using the runoff from the tarps as a poor man’s shower. The strange thing is the rain water’s soft… the soap kinda sticks to you. The other odd thing is stripping down to my underwear and lathering up, all while the village people are watching a few feet away. (When you live in a village, new people ARE the entertainment… even if we’re just planing boards for hours a day…)
I have quite the neck beard going on. And I’m a hairy, sweaty mess. It’s odd to think that it’s cooler here in the village than back in Sentani. So even when I go home, I’ll still be sweaty. And hotter.
It’s been a nice village experience. It’s pretty much what I expected. More mud, though. A lot more mud. More mud than I’ve ever seen in my life. Much less stepped in. And when I say “mud” I’m talking about dirt and clay mixed with rain, pig pee, pig poop, goat crap, etc…
I’ve decided to leave some shorts and T-shirts behind. Considering how remote this place is and how few new clothes come in, it’s the least I could do. I can always buy more clothes when I get home. I’m giving my Superman shirt to Istral (“Israel”), so whenever the Claussens see him wearing it, they’ll laugh and remember my contribution here. (Totally selfish, I guess…)
I do look forward to collecting things to send out as a care package in the future. Clothes, food, spices, tools, etc…