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Author Archive for IsaacAugh

A Short Pondering on Feelings of Superiority

I have noticed a trait that is held in common by many people. I have even seen it in myself. Remembering that an unexamined life is not worth living, I began to exam the nature, roots and validity of this characteristic.

Allow me to express it plainly. We all seem to believe that our preferences about any given subject are somehow objectively superior to those of others. Those who have similar tastes to us we immediately take a liking to as though that in itself made them virtuous; those who prefer a slightly different flavor (or prefer custard, God forbid) we look down upon as though that makes them some inferior species of life. For example, I prefer eating off of glass or ceramic to plastic. So I immediately assume that this preference of mine reflects some deep nobility of my character that those who indiscriminately shovel food into their maws off of plastic dishes lack.

Why do we behave this way? Why do I behave this way? The only feasible answer I can give is that it actually reflects how very much our flesh is still very alive in us. The only reason I could think of for artificially inflating myself into a higher position than my neighbor was pride. Because there is no objective standard to judge country music superior to rap. Truly, there is no objective standard for judging some rap crap and some the apex of all music (for those of you who snobbishly dismiss all rap as crap, apply the argument to some other, less offensive genre of music). We might say that some forms of music display more talent in terms of difficulty to perform or accuracy of pitch or rhythm; we can even say that one is objectively more popular than another. Yet I fail to see how even that makes some songs or music objectively better than others. If you prefer those who sing off key or the incredibly simple melodies of, say, Bob Marley or Cat Stevens, does that make you slightly above the sentient level of a sea cucumber? Many of my favorite times of worship have been led by the tone deaf and participated in by the arrhythmic.

Which brings us back to the question, what is “better”? If I’m going to feel superior to the masses based off of the way I choose to interpret my senses I want to have a nice strong definition or rule to basement my judging off of. Interestingly enough, the bible doesn’t say anything about which genres of music are good and which are bad. It doesn’t rank tv shows or flavors of ice cream. Instead it leaves us with such vaguaries as calling creation and its Creator good.

Maybe there’s some other objective measure we can use. But try as I might to justify my innate superiority based off preference; I just can’t. There’s no yardstick to say that it’s better to paint my walls in earth-tones instead of hot pink polka dots. Which is a bummer because I’ve really built my manhood and self-esteem on the fact that I prefer soccer (football to most the world) to volleyball.

Which leads me into wondering if God really made everything good. Maybe where someone else sees beauty I could to. It’s just a thought, but sometimes I catch myself thinking that instead of discrediting someone else’s hobby as a waste of time we should try to see the beauty in it. I mean… the world’s all out there and stuff and God said that it was good. I’d rather be spending my time trying to participate in that goodness than arguing about how it’s actually ugly. I just don’t understand why so many people look at modern art (whatever that means) and dismiss it as being childish instead of seeing beauty in the art of children. The world can be a terribly ugly place. And a lot of times it gets me down. Which means that I’d rather spend my time trying to enjoy eating beetle grubs and admiring sunsets than courtiquing someone else’s enjoyment of brussel sprouts.

Let me pursue this thought just a slight bit further. Does this mean that we should then enjoy everything indiscriminately? Does this mean there is no good and bad? That all music, movies, entertainment is created equal?

I don’t know. But I have a theory. Whether it tastes good or bad, some food is wholesome and some is poison. I think in the same way some of the things we enjoy are edifying and some are (or at least can be) destructive. I’m not concerned with putting everything anybody enjoys into one of those two categories. I don’t know if some music is intrinsically evil. I’m reminded of Frank Zappa putting a facetious warning on one of his albums. Something along the lines of “Nothing said in this album will make you go to the big place of fire where the pointy horn guy lives.” In my estimation, he’s probably right.

The apostle Paul said it more along the lines of “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.” Judge (prudently) for yourself what things dominate you and what things are helpful. I know (that is to say I’m learning) what things cause me to stumble, and what things remind me of truths worth remembering. As an ascetic acolyte I won’t judge those who write off all entertainment as something that distracts them from God. But I will disagree with those who condemn it as inherently evil. I truly believe that God created music (just read the psalms), art, books and even movies as things that can bring glory to Him; the ultimate author of all that is good and beautiful.

As for me, even as I strive to remain pure, I want to share in that beauty with anyone who will invite me to.

 

Seaking temperance I sent the above post to my friend Lisa for her opinion. Below is her reply.

 

 

At the beginning you mentioned liking people with similar preferences, and later on touched on whether it is OK to prefer some beauty and tastes to others.  I’ve talked to Amie about some of these ideas, about how some of those deep sea fish are ugly, and I can’t imagine anyone finding them beautiful even though God made them and they must be good in some ferocious and bizarre way.  But I can understand people finding canyons and rock formations pleasing, even though they mostly just make me thirsty.  For some reason I like small rocks in museums and collections, but landscapes made of rock make me run the other way.  And I don’t denounce the rocks or the people who appreciate them.  I just “like” and spend more time with people who share my tastes, so that we can share enjoyment of things.  Obviously I have friends whose taste on some things differs.  Most of my friends love Chipotle and various takes on Mexican food, but not me.  I love pasta, but Michael and Josh and Jesse all don’t and I’m still their friend.  =)  My main point is that I think something God created was limited beings who have unique personalities and tastes, and as long as we leave out unfounded superiority, we can celebrate that, too. 
I was pondering last week why a certain song was unappealing to me even though my friends like it.  I could hear that it was not merely noisy, but had musical integrity.  One thing I noticed was that it didn’t resonate with me.  As much as I could relate to some of the circumstances the song was expressing, the emotional response I have isn’t the same.  I think this is one of the purposes of art, to connect to something a person already senses, and expound on that.  And I don’t think it was a waste to listen to the song, and to ponder my reaction.  What I caught from a single listen was that the song dealt with the daily grind, with a modern George Bailey living a simple drudgery far from where he’d dreamed of being.  And the song’s reaction to this was a music of marching.  Left right, determined, forward, steady, a little tired, a little angry, a little discouraged.  And I can relate even to those adjectives.  But when I feel that way in life, I picture myself either standing firmly, unmoving, faithful – or charging passionately into the work because I must have passion even if the everyday doesn’t inspire as I think it should.  Slight difference.  Or, I hear a sadscape, more the grief of the bleakness than an angry rhythm.  There are songs that resonate on this subject.  Just not this one.  But, I could absolutely see how this music resonates with some of my friends.  It matches their personality differently. 
Anyway, point of that is the value in not just trying to enjoy something you don’t automatically like, but letting the fact that others like it communicate to you something more about them, not so you can judge, but so that you can walk beside with friendship.

Education

The real human division is this; the luminous and the shady. To diminish the number of the shady, to augment the number of the luminous,- that is the object. That is why we cry: Education! science! To teach reading, means to light the fire; every syllable spelled out sparkles.

~Victor Hugo

 

Ever since the inception of OIPNG it has been involved with education.

 

Recently, Karie started tutoring and facilitating a FODE (formerly CODE) school for the ApMa people. FODE (Flexible Open and Distance Education) is a program to allow those who cannot attend a reguler school to still obtain their highschool diplomas.

Many students in PNG drop out before completing highschool and because students are not allowed to be married it is impossible for most adults to ever get their diplomas once they drop out. So along comes FODE, a correspondance school that, in theory, will allow older students or those otherwise unable to attend a typical school to still complete their studies. FODE is grade 7-12 plus a matriculation program that is kinda like AP for grades 11 and 12.

When I came in 2017 Karie asked me if I’d like to help her teach a couple of the classes. Teaching is one of my passions so I immediately agreed. At the end of last year all students were required to write essays on various topics as part of their final exams. Some of them made us cry, others made us laugh. One reminded us of the importance of what we’re doing. I’m sharing it here for all of you.

 

Dreaming of Education

Mark Balu

Grade 7

Since 1996 I completed my grade six at Samban community school. Than I was not selected to go to Angoram High School. Some of my class mates were seleted a they went to Angoram High Chool to continue on their education. I was very worried During that time there was a Topu Up school at Gawien in the Angoram districk. I asked my father If I could go there for school. But he said that he has no money to buy my school fees. That makes me very dissapointed and very sad.

This happen in early 1997 when I was 18 years old. These thought bring me into doing bad things like smoking marijuana and drinking home brew. But I am still thinking of schooling  That really upset me. From 1998 to 1999 I started doing bad activities with the other village boys in and around the Samban area. In October 1999, I went to Lae city stayed there doing nothing. I lived there almost four years.

In 2005 I came back to Samban and got married to a Paniten lady. In 2008 I joined the OIPNG and became a level 2 Shawmill operator. We milled timber in and around thge Apma area. But the thought of education is still on my mine.

In the year 2015 the OIPNG put up a notice of a FODE Centre will start at Samban. The lady in charge of the FODE Centre is Mrs. Karie Pryor of the OIPNG. So I was the first person to give my name to her. Karie asked me about my grade. I said “I am a grade six drop out at Samban community school and now I want to continue on with grade seven in FODE”

So other student joined in to continue on with the FODE.

Karie named the FODE CENTRE THE APMA FODE CENTRE

Now I see my dream came true. I am doing my FODE final examination for grade seven(7).

I thank God to make my dream come tru.

 

This year we have 26 students between the two of us (Karie and myself). Next year, it is likely that neither of us will be here. I don’t believe that education is the answer to all problems, social or otherwise. Only Jesus gives us true solutions. But education is a powerful tool. Especially in a country like PNG where we can openly use the bible as a textbook and use school lessons to teach life lessons centered around a Jesus like approach to problem solving.

All that to say, pray that God would send out laborers because the harvest is plenty and the laborers are few.

Pictures from November

Proof that I’m still working.She was a *galvanized steel* house Does this count as monkeying around?Or at least that I’m still goofing off.

 

If a picture’s worth 1000 words than I think this post is plenty long enough.

 

More to follow (probably, maybe… eventually).

October Picture Update

Arik helping me test my new shelves.

Look! Counter-tops! (This is my “kitchen” at the moment.”)

Guys Playing SoccerIt’s soccer season.

Other Guys Playing SoccerJust look at them go.Pigs resting.My pigs resting after a long day of lounging around. There’s actually 4 pigs in this picture. The last one is just buried underneath the others. Alus sleeping.Little Alus came over to my house and promptly passed out on my couch. Must’ve been a long day for him too.

Bare Bones The clinic staff house.Avast a house. Now under roof. Hopefully soon with siding.Head Wound One of my emergency patients.Scalped Not to sure what the emergency was with this one…Sewn Turns out patients with concussions are very docile.Sorry.The nurse liked my suture job so… If Auntie’s happy everybody’s happy.

That’s all for now folks.

Broken Trailers

I have a story to tell.

On September 27th of 2017 I was again alone in the village. When I say ‘alone’ I mean I was the only white man and the only representative of Outreach International; but sometimes it also means I was the only problem solver. Or at least it felt that way.

Our story begins in the afternoon of the day in question. I’d spent the morning doing naught much more than waiting, finally my waiting was put to an end by a shout from below my window; my boat had come in. Within ten minutes I was on ye olde Massey-Fergussen tracor heading down to the water. Behind me, Alus- OIPNG’s proverbial right hand man- was following on the atv. Between the two of us we hoped to get both the cargo and the boat back to the base in one trip. Alas it was not to be.

During rainy season, the water’s high enough that the boat can stop within a twenty minute tractor drive of the our base. Now, because it was dry season I’d have to travel about an hour, past 2 other villages just to reach where the boat was beached. I wasn’t unduly worried by the drive or the distance or even the remaining daylight. But I did figure something would go wrong because… PNG.

Surprisingly, the drive down to the water was completed without incident. The boat was pulled up on (in) the mud just about a mile from the nearest village.

Once we reached the boat, we loaded the cargo onto the atv trailer, and the boat onto the trailer behind the tractor. As the tractor pulled the heavy boat and trailer out of the mud, the inner-tube inside of the right tire on the boat-trailer blew, leaving it completely flat.

I still wasn’t too worried, living in a swamp has the benefit of there being no sharp rocks or otherwise jagged objects. This meant that, even running flat, I shouldn’t have had any problem making it back. Though being an hour’s drive away from any tools or means of changing the flat did weigh in a little on the decision to drive back on the flat tire. We took everything we could out of the boat to make it as light as possible and headed back. Alus took off back towards the base with his load on the atv. I set about to follow (much more slowly) behind, pulling the boat/trailer with the tractor.

The road I was following had been more than two meters under water some four months ago. Normally, the tractor has no trouble pulling a load over the thick grass and mud and dirt that passes for a highway here in the swamp. Normally the tractor isn’t pulling a heavy load on a trailer with a flat tire. With loose tire flapping to the wind, the rim itself began to dig into the ground; piling up an impressive mountain of mud, weeds and debris in front of the wheel after only a short distance. I became afraid that the trailer would dig in far enough to tip the trailer and break something. An hour away from my nice little house full of tools, I really didn’t want to take that chance.

So we took a break while I sent one of our employees up a tree. I wanted him to cut me a good sized limb, only problem being that none of us had thought to grab a machete. Now the cargo I had come all this way to get was all items to be sold at our local trade store. It was an itinerary that contained, among other things, machetes. So after staring at each other stupidly for several seconds, we broke into the cargo, liberated a machete and in no time at all had a tree branch about the size of my leg.

Using local manpower and a little finesse from the tractor, I shoved the tree branch under the trailer’s axle. I then used a ratchet strap to lift up on the front and secure it tightly to the trailer itself. Now we had a trailer with one wheel; and one runner all credit for this idea going to Bush Mechanics. It worked fine as far as saving the tire and rim went, much less so in the not digging ditches department. But we were on our way, with our new made runner, serving dual function as a ditch-witch.

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It didn’t take us long to arrive in the first village on our route, a place called Raten which just happens to be where almost all of our clinic staff live. So I pulled up at the house of one of the nurse’s and took a break to check on my new, improved, transport system. As I dismounted the tractor decided to display one of it’s quirks and immediately shut off. After three attempts at starting it I gave up and began to plan alternatives.

By this time Alus and the atv were well out of sight, probably almost back at the base already. With the tractor dead, and no tools, there wasn’t much for us to do but wait. Alus would have to come back eventually in order to get everything we’d taken out of the boat earlier. As our wait stretched on, I realized that Alus, go-getter that he is, probably was grabbing the necessary tools and supplies to swap out the flat tire. Fair enough, if the tractor was working that would definitely be worth the extra wait.

Sure enough, when he came blazing back, he brought with him a jack, some wrenches and a tire! I thanked him, informed him of the tractor situation and sent him back down to the water to get the rest of the load we had left there. Even with the tractor inexplicable refusing to turn on, I had nothing else to do while we waited, so I set about changing out the flat tire with the spare Alus had brought. With what seemed to be a hundred bystanders providing muscle, it didn’t take long to get the old tire off. It would have taken much longer to get the new tire on as neither I nor Alus had noticed that the spare he had grabbed was a 5 lug in a 4 lug world. That is to say that he’d grabbed a tire with 5 holes in the rim for studs and the spindle only had 4 studs. It would have been nice to have noticed before I’d done all that work getting the old one off… oh well.

And so we waited, again, munching on coconuts and fried sago loaves. By the time Alus arrived back in Raten darkness had descended. He paused while I explained the situation and we decided to leave the boat with at the nurse’s house for the night and work on it again in the morning. The tractor would either go or stay depending on whether or not we could get it started. Typically, all Alus had to do to get it started was: walk over, reach up and turn the key. The tractor started with barely a murmur after I hadn’t been able to get it going no matter how hard I tried only a half hour before.

After that, we loaded up the ATV trailer and the tractor bucket with what we could and headed home. As I was leaving Raten I was waved down by two women. Another of our nurses informed me that she was attending a pregnant woman who was having complications with delivery. We needed to move her down river to where she could be transported by car to the nearest operating hospital. That meant I had to get another boat into the water with fuel and a driver. I signalled my acknowledgement and we headed out into the night.

The rest of the trip back up to our village passed uneventfully. The road that I was following into the village comes in exactly opposite the primary school. Someone had set fire to three large rainforest trees right behind the school that night. As we came into the village they stretched glowing hands up into the night sky. Red embers glowing against a background of pitch black, like a row of infernal christmas trees. It wouldn’t be the last time they would greet me that night.

Back at the base I was greeted by the squealing of pigs, I hadn’t had time to feed them dinner before I’d left and they were vociferating their displeasure. But they weren’t high on my list of priorities at the moment. I needed to move this patient immediately and didn’t have time to waste taking care of pigs. Ignoring their squeals, I set out down the village to find the clinic boat driver, and inform him of our emergency. He was willing as always, so I went back to the base to get the boat ready and scale out fuel. The last thing I did before hitting the road again was make a trip to my neighbors house to ask him a favor. My pigs were hungry and loud and needed to be dealt with. He agreed immediately so we left him behind to feed them and headed back to the water.

I seemed to me, tired and hungry as I was becoming, that the road was just a little longer and a little bumpier every time I drove it. Surely just my imagination. As I had left Raten earlier, the nurse had asked me to grab a referral letter for the patient we were about to transport. In the bustle and the hurry I had completely forgotten. When we got back down to the nurse’s house, I borrowed a pen and a piece of paper and scribbled up a poor imitation of a referral letter that could only ever work in Papua New Guinea.

We made it safely to the water in just about an hour or so. By now it was ten o’clock at night. As I was backing the trailer into the water to unload the boat, I heard a loud bang and the trailer hitch leaped off the back of the tractor. Luckily, the weight of the boat was already in the water so we didn’t have any trouble unloading it or re-attaching the trailer afterwards. What had happened was the the trailer had actually broken between the hitch and the body where the boat sits, but because of my tiredness or the darkness or the busyness all around me, I didn’t even notice. I actually ended up towing the trailer all the way back with it hanging on by only a thin ribbon of twisted metal.

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After the boat left, the crowds dispersed leaving me and one other other guy to make the long, dark and weary trip back to the village. The throaty roar of the tractor engine discouraged conversation So we followed the long, potholed road mostly in silence. I felt almost peaceful driving a tractor pulling an empty trailer back towards home.

Once we got back to the base I parked the tractor in the front yard and shut it off. Dismounting I took a look at the trailer and only then noticed that it was broken and dragging on the ground. I asked my last companion when it had happened and he was unsure. I didn’t remember hearing it break and it was so light (the trailer that is, the night was quite dark), I hadn’t noticed it dragging, so I concluded it must have somehow broken just at that moment. Determined to worry about it on the morrow, I headed back to the house.

At the time it seemed like a whole big ordeal to me. But in retrospect, it’s just the kind of thing people do out here. And have been doing as long as there’ve been missions and frontiers. Most people just don’t make a big deal out of how much work it is just to get groceries sometimes. And the patient? She traveled by boat for another three hours and then four more by car over the worst road I’ve ever driven. Chris Cooke, the expat nurse who’d picked her up, didn’t even check her in at the hospital, instead he drove to the back and transported her directly to the maternity ward, only afterward sending someone to formally admit her. At eight in the morning, the doctors arrived and performed an emergency Caesarean section. Both mother and child are living and healthy. Chris told me that the baby would have definitely died if we hadn’t gotten them out and the mother’s life would have been in grave peril. So I guess it wasn’t all effort in vain. I just wish people could have emergencies before 8 o’clock at night. Oh, well, so is the life.