Thursday, June 30, 2011

Haus Krai

Here in PNG, it seems that the people deal with death much more frequently than we do in the US.  It may be an exaggeration, but it seems like every other week a friend of ours tells us about a death in their family.   

This past week a policeman who lives here on our centre passed away.  He had been living and working here for the past 20 years.  When we first came here we lived right next door to him and his family.  Our children often played with his children.   He will be missed.

He didn't die from cancer, heart attack, or even one of those tropical diseases we deal with here.  He died of an asthma attack.  This is especially heartbreaking to me as I reflect on Calvin's struggles with asthma over the past couple of months.

When my son was struggling with asthma last month, we were put on an airplane and flown over the pacific ocean to Australia, met at the airport by a fully equipped ambulance, and driven to a nearby clean, fully stocked hospital with well trained doctors and nurses.  Our friend, the policeman, was given some basic medicine and sent home, where he later died.  Our clinic here did the best they could (they truly are an amazing group of doctors and nurses), but there is only so much that can be done here.

 It's in times like these that I feel thankful for the medical resources and support  we have here through our organization, but I also feel saddened and discouraged that our Papua New Guinean friends don't have the same access.  In the US, have you ever heard of someone dying because of Asthma?  It's possible, but It's not likely.  Here, we do what we can to help our national friends with their medical needs, but sometimes it's just not enough.  Our organization operates a medical clinic that serves the people who live in this valley.  Often times, people walk for hours to seek medical care at our clinic. We do basic medical care, but have no hospital here.  The nearest hospital, about a 20 minute drive from here, has very basic facilities and supplies.   I've had friends here be admitted to the hospital only to be given pain medication and be told "We don't know what's wrong with you."  I know that medical care in the US has it's problems, but the situation changes my perspective a bit.

One of the traditions here when someone dies is the "haus krai." In English, this translates to "house cry."  Basically, the family and friends construct a large "house" out of bamboo and tarps. The body is placed in a wooden casket and set on a bamboo stand in the middle of the "haus krai."  Family and friends come from all over to mourn and cry over the body.  Often the "haus krai" can last several days.  People, quite literally, sit in the "haus krai" and cry, sometimes in loud wailing, other times in quiet sobs. There's something very natural and cathartic about this process.  Afterward, the body is transported back to the "as ples" or place of birth to be buried. 

Matthew 5:4  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will inherit the earth.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Grade 6 Graduation

Friday night was grade 6 graduation. We are now, officially, the parents
of a middle schooler. (I know many of you middle school begins with
grade 6 or even grade 5, but here middle school is grades 7 and 8).
Our school here is technically one school divided into two campuses--the
primary campus (preschool-grade 6) and the secondary campus (grades
7-12). As you can imagine, moving from the primary campus to the
secondary campus is a big deal for 11-13 year-olds.
The tradition here is to have a graduation ceremony for the grade 6
kids. This ceremony is very similar to what you might see in the US. We
have a song sung by the primary school choir (grades 4-6), a sixth grade
band performance, The kids get a graduation certificate, and lots of
pictures are taken.

Sydney, being the multi-talented kid that she is sang in the choir, played and in the band, and was among the graduates. We were very proud of her.

However, there are some really special parts of this graduation ceremony
that I love. These things remind me how blessed we are to have our kids
in a school where they are both academically and spiritually
challenged. One such tradition is that all of the kid's previous
teachers are invited to write up a special greeting to the class...
included in these greetings are special memories about the group of kids
and things that stood out to the teacher about this particular class.
Another tradition is that the kids get a chance to share memories from
their primary school years. Sometimes these are fun, silly memories.
Other times, they are more thoughtful memories of friends they've had to
say goodbye to along the way.
My absolute favorite grade 6 graduation tradition, though, is the
awarding of character awards to each student. In preparation for the
night, the teachers meet together to choose a character award for each
student. These character awards are qualities that are consistently
shown by that student. They are qualities that reflect God's work in the
life of that particular student. The teacher stands up, announces the
character trait, describes what it looks like in action, gives some
scripture verses that address this character trait and then announces
the name of the student who has been given this character award. Some
examples of character awards are loyalty, discernment, prayerfulness,
conscientiousness, and creativity. I had to laugh a bit when Sydney was
awarded her character award. I knew it was her as soon as her teacher
opened her mouth and announced what character award she was about to
give.... any guesses for a girl who is, in many ways, a lot like her
Because we often have to create our own fun here, the parents planned
some after grad events for the graduates. I was in charge of organizing
all of these events, but it really was a group effort. It was a full
night for the kids and their families.
Once the grad ceremony finished, we headed over to the primary school
where we had a reception for the grads and their families-- you know,
finger foods, punch, chatting, and about 200 cupcakes in a variety of
flavors (the cupcakes were my idea and they turned out to be a bit hit!).
Once everyone had their fill, we did some Australian Bush Dancing.
(Think Square dancing, but more fun!).

Next, the grads said goodbye their parents and began an epic game of capture the flag all around the primary school grounds (by this time it was 10:30 pm and POURING rain). As you can imagine, they had a BLAST.

Finally we wrapped up the night with a quick bonfire (beacuse of the rain) and finally rides home at around 11:45 pm

What a fun but exhausting night!

And the character award of CREATIVITY goes to Sydney Owens! (just in case you didn't already guess it!)
All dressed up and ready to graduate!

The "cupcake" table.  We made about 200 cupcakes in 6 different varieties.  They were a lot of fun to make and a big hit at the reception!