Merry Christmas 2012

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turning stuff down

In my life, I have passed up free trips.
I've passed up a work trip to London, to Las Vegas, to multiple places.
This week I passed on a trip to Thailand.


Partially because I am a family man and dislike being away from my
family much. With this new job, I've got an invite to spend weeks away
from home every month if I want. I have to prioritize.

Partially because of circumstances and timing.... for example going to
Thailand means I don't get to celebrate Easter with family and friends.

and partially because I do not have the world traveller bug. There are
people who chomp at the bit to go see some other place in the world. To
experience it, to say they've been there, and done that.

I am a solitarily focused individual. Sometimes I get so focussed on a
task, that days go by before I realize 'oh, I haven't stepped outside
yet'. or 'oh, when was the last time I ate?'

I'm sure I would enjoy Thailand, but I would bemoan leaving behind my
work and my family for the duration of time I'd be gone.

Not to mention I'm a big guy and riding around in a plane isn't always a
fun thing for me.

So... my life is a cornocopia of missed travelling opportunities that
others think I'm crazy for having passed up.

I don't get stir crazy, I don't get island fever, I don't miss shopping
malls and restaurants. And all that tells me I'm perfectly suited to be
here, although I have no idea how I ever got up the gumption to get
here, but I am here, and I love it here, and I don't really desire to go
bouncing around to other places I don't like as much.

And so all the people thinking 'you're crazy I would LOVE to go do that
and experience that'.... more power to you. I find that attitude makes
people very restless where I live.

NOW, if you yanked away my internet connectivity, suddenly I would get
horrible island fever. I would be chomping at the bit to get somewhere
with access.

I think differently than many non-geek people.

I would one day, enjoy taking the entire family to London. I think
visiting the world is better if you have someone to share the experience
with you.

Traim hat

2nd to last day before Christmas break.
I put a wire in my Santa hat and taped it to my helmet, driving around my ATV like this to be festive.

I set down the helmet to walk inside, and through the window I see a PNG man, bald, walk up to it and stare at it.

We call this 'aigris'  aka 'envy' (eye fat).  The man was envying my Santa hat.  I kept my eye on him wondering if he might try to snatch it.... but he didn't, he stood next to it for five minutes, staring at it.

When I came out, he shook my hand, and then did something in the culture called 'Traim Tasol' (give it a shot ---try it that's all--).

He didn't ask, didn't inquire, didn't use the word please.  He simply said in mumbly Tok Pisin
'You will give me that hat, because my head is being cooked by the sun!'
and I said 'no'.
he replied 'you will give me that hat, my head, it is hot, the sun is cooking it.'
I replied 'you can go into town and buy one at Papindo'.
'no' he said 'give me that hat, my head is cooking, I need it.'

I decided to stop pursuing the conversation and left before things got ugly.  As I left, several people started giggling at the man.
That is a traim tasol.  He gave it his best shot.

Another interesting part of the culture, is that most likely now, he will tell a story about how an uncaring ex-pat had 2 hats, and wouldn't spare 1 for him, because his head was hot.... hopefully he doesn't allow that to justify him vandalizing my fruit trees or something. We'll see.  If suddenly my ripening bananas are missing, I'll know why.  What a story that would make 'how my wearing a santa hat caused my family to lose some bananas'.

Video Christmas Greeting


Png santa

Saw a lonely santa in the moresby mall. I went down to snap a pic of me in his lap but he suddenly needed to take a lunch break. I never saw a single kid on his lap. I think the concept of mall santa is so foreign here that no one knew what to do.


Maybe I'm too 'bush man tru ya' but which one am I supposed to be tempted to kiss. And. Has this been that big of a problem to require a sign?


Crowded at these photo kiosks i found in town. Says something about the culture still thinking about what


In town they have fast food!!

Odd Cat

under the category of 'is no one else seeing this?' Last night I was an
a christmas party in Port Moresby, everyone perfect strangers to me, and
it was an Australian family's home. So naturally I put on my best
manners and behavior. Removing shoes, I went to sit. A few moments
passed and their cat came up and started sniffing my feet. Which I
thought odd enough. Even though I dislike cats, I'm not cruel to them,
so I ignore it. My payment was the feeling of sharp teeth into my
foot. The cat, was so enthralled by my feet, that it tried to eat them!

Still not wanting to be rude or call attraction to myself, I shooshed
the cat away, who quickly ran off in shame as if knowing it should be
biting human feet.

When I went to step outside, I found the cat with it's head inside my
shoes (which were left by the door) sniffing away.

Something about my foot odor was like ...well.. catnip to that cat.

and no one else seemed to notice this oddity. So upon leaving I asked
the cat's owner 'does you cat enjoy sniffing feet?' which I thought was
an odd question and he simply said 'oh yeah, don't mind that.'

Apparently, the cat, was a habitual foot odor addict.


Monday I got on a plane and flew 1:45 on a Kodiak plane into the capital
city of PNG called Port Moresby. This city has grown so much over the
past 6 years that it is like a completely different country from the
rest of PNG.

There is a mall, shops, restaurants, a movie theatre, paved roads
without potholes, fluent English speakers and the culture is entirely
different. Standards of dress, social etiquette, it's all a very
different place in many ways.

I came down to configure a VSAT network for the main offices, our
property of flats (apartments), and our partner's offices (BTA). This is
the third trip from my department, the other two were made by co-workers
trying to get this VSAT to work.

It is Weds now and I'm prepping to fly back to the highlands. I feel
very out of place here in Moresby because I don't know my way around
well, but also because there is all this Christmas decor up,
advertisements, commercialism that I'm so unused to seeing unless I
travel back to the U.S. or Australia. It's odd.

And yet, there is this feeling 'they have everything here, is there
anything I need? Anything my family needs me to pick up?' for the life
of me, I can't come up with anything. I should be like a kid in a candy
shop. I don't even want to eat in the restaurants.

Some people absolutely love living here because it feels more civilized,
with cable modem internet, and satellite television, cell phone
coverage, nice roads. They even have a rush hour. I'm glad for those
people because we need folks living in this capital city to get work done.

But I feel hedged in, the living situation here is somewhat crowded,
there is traffic noise, and neighbor noise. I wasn't expecting to have
to make that mental transition inside the same country.

Last night I was invited to a social event, a Bible study group was
having a Christmas party. I try to always take advantage of
opportunities to meet new people, especially in this country. You never
know when you might make a relationship that helps you get work done.

Right off the bat, I met an Aussie man who needed help putting his
Security cameras onto the LAN. He'd been trying all day. I helped him,
and it took about ten minutes. He was happy, and so was I, because I
firmly believe in making oneself useful. He then was able to show me
his security cams around his complex and how he could view them on his
Galaxy phone.

I noticed also the pepper spray by his front door, and the bars on the
windows and doors. Crime is not an unexpected thing in the towns, but
then, have you read the news lately in the U.S. crime is everywhere.

It is most definitely an interesting place. I feel like a country
bumkin come to see the big city. I have finished the work, and I am
ready to go home. I fly out in a few hours. I leave behind three
properties that now have internet access with the ability to record and
report on it using a homegrown system our dept. came up with.


Wonderful Night

Years ago when we first came here, we were advised to consider adopting some of the singles into our family so that they could have some small portion of family life.  Being an aunt or an uncle, would help them during times when they were away from family.  During our training there were several single ladies (who are the backbone of translation work!) who we got to know and became aunts to our kids. 

Come Christmas time, our first year, we decided, rather than mourn the loss of Christmas traditions we can no longer do, we would adopt new ones.
One of the ones we adopted was our annual Christmas movie night.

We invite all the singles (usually ladies) to our home to share in our family.  We light a fire, rearrange the furniture, make multiple types of soup, and show

It's a Wonderful Life
and usually
Miracle on 34th Street.  (this year we don't have time, and also some people don't like the plot around Santa).

We share in soup and getting to know people that we haven't had a chance to know.  Part of my reasoning is that I want the single ladies to know that if they have need, they can call a man to do 'man stuff' instead of feeling stranded and helpless. (for example, their gutters are clogged, or their water pump is failing).

Each year we see so many new faces, and we wonder if this tradition is as important to others as it is to us.

Today we got this email.
"I'm coming, this is the only Ukarumpa Christmas tradition I do, I'm looking forward to it."

That really brightened up my wife's day.

Of course I, being a student of film, have to resist the urge to launch into a diatribe as to why this film is the Quintessential Christmas Movie...
so now I just print out all my trivia and hand out sheets!


Other new Ukarumpa traditions we do:
-Christmas tree hunt
-cookie baking/decorating, giving to the neighbors
-hiding pickles the elf (whoever finds him the most gets to open the first gift on Christmas morning)
-Christmas eve soup
-Birthday cake for Jesus
-Advent novel
-Advent calendar of daily family activities
-cookie exchange (we're foregoing this one this year)
-...plenty more.


What I do #1

I decided to try a new recurring thread called 'What I do'. (at least I hope it's recurring... I'll try to make it so)
because when people ask me what I do, I find that there are a whole lot of answers to that question.
It's best to focus on one answer at a time.

AUDIO - Post Production
I turn this:

into this:

Someone (if not me) has recorded some material for the village to be heard.  Most often it's Scripture in their heart language.

The above is Matthew Chapter 12 in the Onobasulu language.  The Onobasulu live in the Southern Highlands and at last count there were 1000 native speakers of this language. 

In post production work, I take out the mistakes, the multiple takes, and match the spoken word to the written Word.  But how do I do that?  I don't speak Onobasulu!  I take the Scripture in front of me, and listen, and can most often read it phonetically even though I have no idea what I'm reading unless I open up an English version at the same time.  I'm checking for mistakes and errant sounds.

-I remove rooster crows
-I remove dog barks
-I remove mistakes
-I lessen the pops that 'P's make
-I dullen sharp "S" sounds
-I remove long pauses

(for those who took Prof. Nash's editing course at Biola, you all remember 'the..purpose...of...editing....' speech he gave.)

What I can't fix is when people pronounce the words wrong, which has to be caught by the people who speak the language... and when it's caught... I fix it.

Finally, I make it all sound good enough for FM radio, but most often it's heard over a small audio player.
I learned how to do all of this decades ago in college, and then updated my learning a few months ago.  So I'm not nearly as elite as some of the pro's, but what I lack in perfection, I make up for in production speed.

I've been averaging 3 chapters a day since I took this job, which is a tremendous amount of output when you consider that we have a year backlog of work to do.

I am finding it incredibly satisfying to be able to go home at the end of the day and say 'Today, I completed 3 Chapters of Matthew for Audibible!'  or 'Today  I put a box of 30 players in the hands of the translator who is taking it out to the village next week!'

next in what I do thread: - recording!

POWA , electricity

Electricity here costs 50 cents per kilowatt hour.
We run fluorescent lights because of that. It's saves a lot of power
over incandescent, but the lighting is not as warm. As a result
sometimes for a special treat, we turn on the 2 incandescent lamps we
have and turn off the fluor. lighting just to feel sane for a while.

We run at least 8 fluor. tubes (short ones not long ones), 12 hours a
day around the house as security lighting.

I have been introduced to an in country supplier of LED tubes. To
install them, you have to remove the starter, and plug in the bulb.
That's in.

Now in the U.S. you're probably saying 'what is a starter?' Our
fluorescents don't have those, but elsewhere in the world they do. It's
what causes the ARC spark that gets the light to power up, and it gets
the juice from the ballast inside.

THESE LED tubes will save us money on electricity. But there is more.

-they are instant on. No more flickering at 2am when you're up to use
the bathroom and the fluor. lights strobe blink you to death while they
come on.
-less UV rays
-cost less to operate

-the light takes some getting used to (not hard)
-the bulb costs ten times as much as a normal fluor. bulb.

I tend not to adopt early LED technology because I find that they LED's
tend to fail not long after manufacture if they're going to fail. When
a friend asks me about the light I always say 'it's 10,000 times
brighter than the sun' which is totally untrue, but to many LED light is
still mystical and magical and so I tend not to bog down the
conversation with facts when no one is actually seeking them.

BUT... here we go.

Gonna get geeky here with some math.

Fluor bulbs come in 2 sizes here.
long = 40watts
short = 20watts
They cost about $2 and 4$ respectively not counting starters which are
around fifty cents.

ONE 20 watt bulb burning for 12 hours is (20W x12) = 290watt hours in a
single day. In a month that's around 7200watt hours, or 7.2
Kilowatt/hrs. At $.50 per kilowatt/hr that's $3.60

$3.60 per bulb, per month is what I'm currently paying in electricity.
AND that doesn't count any of my inside lights. EACH time you turn on a
fluor tube, the ballast has to kick up the voltage and burns 1/2
kilowatt hour. So simply turning it on twice is 1 KWHour.

Right now my son is walking around counting all of our light bulbs....
so I'm making an assumption that we have around 20 bulbs.
that is around $72 per month, if we assume the on/offing equals the same
as the security lights being on straight for 12 hours. But it's a huge

At the cost of $22.95 per LED tube, which burns exactly HALF the
wattage, plus has no ballast on/off time used.... PLUS is instant on so
no strobe effect...
we save 1/2 of that.. which is:

$36 p/month.

To fully equip my house with these LED tubes, that will cost me $459.
They are rated to last 50,000 hours which is ten times that of the
normal fluor tubes, and since they cost ten times as much, I figure the
price in bulb replacement over time, will be about even, so I won't
factor that in.

Which means, if I take the total install cost, of $459 and divide it by
the savings per month of $36, in 12.75 months, I'll be at the break even
ASSUMING the cost of electricity doesn't change (which it will most
likely increase over time).

So, assuming that the bulbs last at least a year and a month, we'll have
made an installation change that takes moments to do per light, and
continue to save money.

BUT, that isn't the value add. It's just the economics of the thing.

The value add is the instant on, for us. We absolutely hate the
flickering strobe effect.
And the value add for the rest of the community is that we run on
emergency generators which are nearly maxed out. By decreasing our
power consumption, we save ourselves money, and save the entire
community money and effort on the generator upkeep.

It's a smart choice.
Now all I have to do is wait until we get some more in stock....

I'll be installing 2 around the house and seeing if the family can
adjust to the new light.



Saber In the Village

I got this email today from a translator in the village who was encouraging our efforts in producing audio Bibles.:

The last time out in the village, we gave out 9 of the sabers that came from project funding.  I put onto those sabers whatever recordings that I had that were ready.  We passed them out to the translators and I showed them how to use the sabers. [Others] were taking pictures as we were doing this.  The smiles on their faces say it all.  Sorry that I cannot show you all the smiles of the villagers in each village!  But, at least I can show you the translators' faces.  May God bless you for your hard work - May He give you peace - May you know the blessing that your work has been.



The Pain of Shipping

My kids are so awesome, months ago they thought ahead to work with me to
order gifts for people, mom, brother, sister, etc.

I told them to estimate double the cost of the item from Amazon, and we
would hope they arrive in time for Christmas.

So, we wait.
As we wait the kids see other things to give and start to spend their
hard earned money (we don't give an allowance, but we give them work

Today I got a package, and each gift they had ordered was well beyond
double the price, because not only did TAX get added, but shipping and
import fees.

So I'm looking at the kids, and haven't got the heart to tell them how
much it really costs, so I tell them,
you pay what you planned, and I'll pay shipping.

Most of my 'gift giving' this year was paying for intangibles like
shipping costs... but I wanted to encourage the spirit of planning ahead
and generosity.

Still, you should have seen their faces when they realized they had
forgotten about their online purchases... they ran around, calling in
the debts, scrounging their funds and gladly turned them over to me.
They worked that hard to make sure they could have a gift to give someone.

This is the second year in a row where I have been touched deeply by the
generosity of my kids. Sure they may complain about dinner, or about
other things, but they never ever complain about spending their last
dollar (Kina) when it comes to getting something for someone else.

I was never that unselfish as a kid, I was never that giving at their
age. They must get that from their mother.
I married well. (-;


Christmas in PNG

This is Kainantu town.  Anybody want a peanut? Or an egg?

Gift giving in PNG is an interesting thing.  According to the books, if an adult gives a gift to a PNGian, it creates debt for them.  But in reality, if the adult giver is an ex-pat (waitskin), it doesn't create as much debt because as we are seen as more wealthy, it is expected that the more wealthy will from time to time share.  Most often by throwing a party or a feast of some kind.

The one time of year in which we can impart a gift without causing debt, is Christmas time.  Each Christmas employees and friends are accustomed to receiving a bonus (we call it Amamas which means - happy). 

So, how to give the perfect gift?  Most often, the perfect gift is something unwrapped, and very practical.  A bag of sugar, a bag of rice.  That's the perfect gift.

A dear friend of ours has been a loyal worker for us, and each year we do give her her Amamas pay, her bonus gift, but we also try to find something nice to give her children.  This year, Calvin and Sydney were in charge of picking something out, and they chose a toy for each child.  PNG kids don't have toy collections.  They have "A" toy if that.

(Most of these rules change depending on where it is they live, the more 'bush' (remote from town) they are, the more these rules apply)

Often you can see kids running around with makeshift toys.  A wheel they found, they will attach to a bamboo rod with strips of rubber they found, and run around with it.  Or maybe you see them skidding down a hill of dirt on a banana leaf.  Maybe it's a coconut shell they're kicking around.

Getting to know some of these PNG kids because of the relationships our children have forged, has been a delight.  One thing we notice is that every PNG kid hits an age in which they stop smiling by default, and it becomes VERY hard to elicit a smile.

I was asking around about this, and I assumed it was because of hard work, a loss of childhood, or tragedy at the loss of loved ones.  All those may be true, but I've found that culturally, smiling, is often perceived as being flirtatious in young girls and men. 

And so they don't do it.

So what's Christmas like in PNG?
Not really any gifts to open, not many smiles, and yet, there is family and love, and in some houses, a recognition that Christ was born. (and at least in 2 houses this year , a present to unwrap)


I'm sure many of you have heard the story, or some mutated version of
the story, of the miraculous Christmas Peace that happened during WW I.
(if you haven't here

One of the prophecies we hear quite often around Christmas time is
Isaiah 9:6 "For unto us a Child is born .... and He will be called....
Prince of Peace"

I spend most of my time thinking on the prophecy of Isaiah regarding the
coming Messiah and most of those thoughts are centered on the enormity
of God becoming flesh. But today I have been thinking about the
concept of PEACE.

The word used there for PEACE entails a lot of leadership. At the time
of the prophecy, there was horrible, wicked, leadership. The prophecy
was giving hope to a world without it. A world who was crying out for
someone to be a decent leader, and to bring peace.

I grew up in a country, and a state (California) where even the history
of war was barely alive. If you visit the southern states, you'll find
the Civil War is very much still in the memory of the people. If you
visit the South Pacific Islands, WWII wreckage is not hard to find.

But I grew up knowing peace where I was and so the idea of a savior who
brought peace, wasn't the most impressive thing about Christmas to me.
If you watch what is going on in the Middle East, it definitely doesn't
feel like peace. And yet, in the middle of WW I , this random peace
broke out, because of the celebration of the birth of Christ.

I live in a country now where Peace is needed. There are always rumors
of impending fighting. We have witnessed village houses burning down,
people fighting, killing. People not showing up one day because they
have to attend a funeral. Nearly everyone we know from this country has
lost multiple relatives in some fight or another. Peace is not a way of
life here.

And those who find Christ, and try to rely on Him, often try to choose
more wisely and still find themselves under extreme pressure in the
culture to seek violence.
You killed my brother, so I'll kill your brother, then you killed my
uncle, so I'll kill your uncle, and it goes and goes and goes.

This week, I'm focusing on the fact that a name for Christ is the Prince
of Peace. Because that seems like a very real need to me around here.


Fun facts about new language work

Some interesting facts about the Doromu-Koki language:

  • the language has 30 words for banana, the staple food
  • there is only one 3rd person pronoun, and it can mean 'he', 'she', 'it', or 'they', depending on the context
  • Doromu-Koki uses a number of colourful idioms, including:

◦        'good sweet potato' (a nice girl)

◦        'stomach pain thinking' (heartache)

◦        'stomach child' (a beloved child)

◦        when you are hungry, your stomach 'grumbles,' and when you have diarrhoea your stomach 'does a landslide'

  • Translating the New Testament has required creating new words, including:

◦        'good word' (gospel)

◦        'plant straight thinking' (believe)

◦        'give stomach word' (promise)

◦        'say soft stomach' (forgive)

◦        'say one stomach' (agree)

On mobile device


Funny WOOPS!

so one of the things I do is I record and edit spoken Scripture in other languages, and put them on devices to be played in the village.  Last month I did Luke in several languages and they were brought on Saber players to the village.

I found a few mistakes, words left out, or said twice, and cleaned them up and worked with the translator to get them re-recorded.

But the funniest one, is one I couldn't have caught because I didn't know the language.  The way we catch them is we read the Bible in their language and listen.  We trust the pronunciation is correct because there is no way for us to know that 'ooloolu' is said 'ooh, loo, loo' or 'ooh loo luh' we have no way to know as sound editors.

During the playback, they found a mistake.  One of the readers had said a wrong word which was nearly identical to the correct word.  Which is why when editing I don't process the sounds too much because an S and F can easily become confused with too much filtering.

Anyway the verse was Luke 9:17 regarding the feeding of the 5000.

"[17] They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over."

Only the word for "satisfied' was said wrong so it changed meaning to be "fighting in such a way as to punch a man lying on the ground with your knee in his chest" (very violent)

So the crowd listening heard this:
"They all ate and were violently fighting"  (or some derivative of that).. and the disciples picked up 12 basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over"

The PNG people started laughing hilariously at this.
Definitely a need to edit that one.



This is happening.... teaching nationals to do translation, teaching them to use netbooks.

VSAT pic

doesn't this just blow your mind?


tree hunting 2

Every year it is our tradition to go tree hunting. Since we have a three
foot tall artificial tree, (it was easy to ship over) that we bought
from Costco for $15 6 years ago, we don't exactly need a saw. BUT, it
has been our tradition for me (dad) to go hide the tree somewhere in the
jungle of PNG.

Typically I hide it, put up a sign saying 'Tree Farm', then we pile into
the car, and drive around sipping cocoa, listening to an ipod with
Christmas songs, and the kids have to answer Christmas trivia. Whoever
answers right, gets to choose 'LEFT or RIGHT' at the next intersection.

This way we turn a relatively small area, into about a 40 minute search,
as they're searching for that sign to tell them where to start looking,
and since the driver (me) knows where to go, it is a way for me to not
have control over WHEN they'll find it.

This year I got stuck in the mud a little, but, the kids found the tree,
and then my son and I mock up cutting it down and carrying it (it weighs
about 9 lbs), together... sometimes we even fake needing a break to get
in the spirit of it.

Then we complain about forgetting rope to tie it down to the
car...etc... the whole 9 yards.

We have a lot of family traditions that we do here, and the reason we
started them, was because often at Christmas time people get homesick,
and miss their old traditions, many of which you simply can't do here.

But when you have NEW ones, that are associated with living here,
suddenly the 'homesick' part goes away. You do your PNG customs when
here, and your USA traditions when in the USA.

We have a pretty long list of things we do, and ways we get excited,
prepare for Christ's coming.

Our perspective on Christmas is that is a GREAT teaching time for your
kids. You can reinforce family values with fun, and tradition. You also
teach generosity, kindness, and the real reason for Christmas.

This particular tree tradition, was something that came to me on a lark.
I was rummaging through some scrap wood and found this sign, and it said
'trees' and suddenly the idea popped into my head. I discussed it with
my wife who played along and before we knew it, we had a really fun
family tradition.

Tree hunting

Tree hunting

Son Singing

White Christmas

That is smoke. So thick its filling our house up. Grass burns nearby to bring us not the kind of white Christmas we dream of.