Plotinus in the Jungle

Some Notable Students


Martin Maka

Martin Maka is a seminarian finishing his studies at Good Shepherd.  He is from the diocese of Lae on the east coast.  Martin has a keen interest in Phenomenology, an approach to philosophy developed in Germany in the early 1900’s.  Martin wrote a research paper in which he used concepts from phenomenology to critique cargo cults in PNG.  His main argument is that cargo cults conflate the intentionalities proper to dreaming, praying, wishing, and economic planning.  Pray that Martin is able to go on for further studies so that he can become one of PNG’s first philosophers!


Thomas Posul

Thomas Posul is from the diocese of Mendi, in the heart of the Highlands.  In 2016, he successfully completed the BA in Religious Studies program at Good Shepherd.  Brandon was the director of the program.  Thomas wrote a social research paper on the participation of white-collar laity in the masses in Mendi.  Bishop Lippert decided that Thomas’s success showed that he the potential for advanced studies and Thomas is now doing his theology studies for the priesthood at the Urbaniana University in Rome.  Please pray for Thomas’s continued success and that he will make it to the priesthood.


Thomas, Connie, and Fredrick Sebie in Italy

Fredrick Sebie, from the Archdiocese of Madang, on the north coast, studied at Good Shepherd 2013-2016.  He did especially well in his philosophy studies.  He developed a keen interest in social and economic thought, especially in the ideas of Karl Marx and Catholic Social Teaching.  Brandon recommended to his bishop, Steve Reichert, that Fredrick should be sent to Rome, where he could pursue his intellectual interests.  In 2017, Frederick was sent to the Urbaniana University in Rome to do his theological studies for the priest hood.  Here he is with two other PNG seminiarians in Italy.  Please pray for continued academic success for Fredrick.


Queen’s Birthday, 2018

CTI celebrated the Queen’s Birthday back on 12 June.  Brandon was acting President at the time.  CTI hosted Catholic students from University of PNG for a mass and a day of sports and fellowship.  Here is a brief reflection that Brandon gave:

“Today we are celebrating Queen Elizabeth II.  In her person, the Queen unites together the peoples of the Commonwealth countries.  Through their relation to the Queen, the peoples of very diverse places – such as Canada, England, Tanzania, Australia, India, Papua New Guinea – are related to each other.  Through the Queen, these diverse peoples are united as one commonwealth.  In reality this unity is weak and the Queen has very little power, however, we can still understand the Queen as an image of Jesus Christ.

“Through Jesus, the Christians of all cultures, all languages, and all nations are united together into one holy people.  Christian unity is far deeper and far more real than the political unity created by the Queen.  Through our relationship with Jesus, we are all one family. Christians from America, Australia, Poland, New Zealand, India, Tanzania, Peru, Wabag, Wewak, Moresby, Alotau, Kimbe, Rabaul, Bougainville, Honiara are brothers and sisters.  Through Jesus we are one family-line and our spiritual connection runs deeper than connections based on politics, language, even blood.  For these are earthly things, which like the Queen will pass away; but Christ and the people he has made for Himself are everlasting.

“Today, through sports and fellowship we celebrate the political unity brought to PNG through British laws and military might, but, more importantly, we also celebrate the spiritual unity brought to PNG through the Gospel and the power of Christ.”




Co-ed Sports


Back on the tennis court, finally!

The Queen’s birthday marks five years in Papua New Guinea for us.  We came in June of 2013.  I tried playing soccer in the equatorial sun while suffering from jetlag and culture shock.  In this event, I played for the first time since my foot injury.  Let’s just say that there’s been no improvement . . .


Sacraments for a seven-year-old

Since she was about four, Annie has been waiting to participate in the eucharist.

A few weekends before her birthday, we heard the announcement that the seminarians were holding a first communion class. She faithfully attended and got instruction in a mix of tok pisin and English. We followed up at home with books recommended by Mater Amabilis, like Kendra Tierney’s Little Book About Confession.

The first sacrament of the weekend was her first confession. The 19 kids started by cleaning the church, then got some last instructions on how to eat a host properly. Her confessor was Fr. Jacek, a family friend.

Anastasia received her first communion on the Feast of Corpus Christi. The morning started with a procession to three different outdoor altars.

You can see the monstrance gleaming in the distance

She sang the responsorial psalm with four other girls.

Shalisa, Annie, Lydia, Shabasha


the elevation of the host

the elevation of the chalice

Body and blood, soul and divinity

Receiving a brown scapular and rosary

Also a certificate, now proudly displayed in her bedroom

Her class, with teachers Newman and Peter kneeling and Fr. Peter Silong in glasses at rear

Afterwards we had a party for her and house blessing. Fr. Joseph prayed over our family and sprinkled holy water on the whole house, even the laundry room.


Brandon and Annie reading a psalm during the blessing

It was a very good time – perhaps the most pleasant since we’ve come back to PNG. Lots of neighbors came to eat cookies, including two fellow communicants, Rebecca and Aaron. The grownups enjoyed looking at our photobooks, which were good conversation starters. CTI’s president tried reading Fox in Socks to Tabitha and started crying and laughing because he couldn’t get the tongue twisters. Tobiah played blocks with the other little boys. Towards the end, Annie spontaneously organized the older children to sing songs with her, including “Jesus Loves the Little Children” in Motu, the local tribal language. Fr. Joseph danced along with “Father Abraham.”

Rebecca, Elaine, and Jacelyn dancing

It was a joyful day.
Thank-you for your prayers and friendship.

Birthday at Adventure Park

Ever since we first visited in November last year, Annie and Tabitha were dreaming about having their birthday party at Adventure Park, just down the road from CTI.  So last month we did!

Annie is seven, a reader, dancer, music player, and motormouth would-be leader.

Yes, she chose her own outfit

Tabitha is four, strong, dexterous, sweet, and stubborn.

With our friend Fr. Paul Sundu, visiting from Good Shepherd

We invited our neighbors, co-workers, and some of Annie’s school friends. We walked around and saw the lakes, a few of the zoo animals, and the many other picknickers. Then we had lunch, complete with homemade cake.

Crying because the cake was not in his mouth

Om nom nom

Fr. Marcin helps distribute cake while our neighbor Neville watches paddleboats

Then came the main event of the day: waterslides!

Thanks to Nonna for helping out with this part

Annie has water up her nose, but still decides to go down again

Parents watch from the shady stands

Annie and school friends Kimari and Zilda

More school friends – Khylane and Priscilla

Tobiah had a grand old time

Tobiah enters the slide with Daddy

Tabitha with our babysitter’s daughters

Brandon goes down the BIG slide

Some joyful chaos

The last event of the day was the crocodile feeding.

Here it comes…

Yes, that is a live chicken

Thanks for coming and celebrating our girls with us! They are very special to us, and I hope they always know that.

Annie and her first grade classmates

Eastertide Activities

We’re back to Ordinary Time now, but here’s a review of what we were up to during the 50 days of festivity.

Let’s start with the Easter Vigil. Here is the Easter fire. For scale, that is the priest with the Easter candle to the bottom right.

Dry wood, stuffed with grass, two stories high.

Fr. Joseph Vnuk, OP sings the exultet.

Annie and I sat on the balcony at Holy Spirit Seminary’s church for the Vigil Mass, which gave us a good view.

Seminarians dancing in procession.

We also went to the Easter Sunday mass the next day.

Brandon’s foot is 90% better now, PTL

Splurged on imported NZ apples for a special easter dessert

The next weekend, Divine Mercy Sunday weekend, we went to the beach for the first time! Fr. Jacek and Fr. Marcin, the Rector and Vice-Rector of Holy Spirit Seminary, showed us a favorite swimming place at Lea Lea Beach.

The tide was way, way out.

Everyone enjoyed looking for shells, even when they were supposed to be looking at the camera. We did find a few cowries to take home.

Tiny sand castle at Tabitha’s feet

Fr. Jacek and Fr. Marcin also gave us another gift- a cat! Her name is Mia. Tabitha is slightly obsessed.

I promise you, they are not twins, they are 18 months apart, really.

This is her photo smile.

Finally, we had some visitors from Jiwaka, which made us happy. Dr. Scott from Kujdjip Nazarene Hospital was in Moresby for some meetings and came by to catch up and play a boardgame.

Terraforming Mars, a christmas gift from my brother

And our beloved former neighbor, Bubu Anna, whose house our children played at daily, came to POM for a graduation in her family.

Picture taken by Anastasia

Our final exciting occurrence during eastertide was the girls’ birthday party, but that will have to wait for the next post!


House Tour

We will start our tour in the kitchen.

There’s a little antechamber which we refer to as the scullery, where  the refrigerator, cabinets, and the sink are.Here is the front door of the house.This is looking to the left of the front door.

Our neighbor Dalus’s house visible on far left. She’s the registrar at CTI and the mother of Freddy, a favorite playmate of the kids’.

This is looking to the right of the front door.

Flowerbed, Annie’s window, mango trees

Coming back inside, if you come in the front door and go straight, you end up in the kitchen bathroom.

If you come in the front door, pass the wall of bilums, and turn right, you end up in the living room.

bookshelf has kids’ books and art supplies

bins have toys, movies on the left, board games up top. We could use a sofa.

Going down the hallway, if you turn right at the first door, you’re in Annie’s room. This is a funny room because it used to be a second kitchen, before they knocked down walls and turned it into a single-family dwelling. The builders wanted to keep the cabinets, because they were in good shape, so they made the counter wider, stuck a bedrail and a ladder on it, and now it’s something like a captain’s bed. Annie enjoys having the chapter books right above her to read to herself before lights out.

Now with missing tooth.

If you turn right at the second door, you’re in Tabitha and Tobiah’s room.

dresser knobs visible to the far right

If you turn at the first door on your left, you’re in the laundry room.

out of frame on the left is a linen closet

This is the view to the left of the laundry room door:

Living room windows, kitchen bathroom window

master bedroom windows, study windows, clothesline

Whereas in Jiwaka the main landscaping concern was drainage ditches, here the main concern seems to be eliminating hiding places for snakes. Most of our neighbors have packed, swept earthen yards. Maybe we can grow a lawn…

Coming back inside, if you were to go in the second door on the left, you would be in the second bathroom.

Going straight down the hallway brings you to the master bedroom.

Has since been enhanced with curtains and a bedside table.

Turning around and looking backwards down the hall from the master bedroom:

We have many geckos in the house, at least one in each room, for which I am thankful, because they eat mosquitos and cockroaches and are pretty cute to boot. I thought this nocturnal visitor was cute too:

Some kind of tree frog?

The last room in the house is the study, which is connected to the master bedroom. Right now the study is used more for playing boardgames, because we can lock the door and the children won’t lose the pieces.

Needs work.

So that’s our new home for the next three years! Come visit us sometime.

7 weeks in Port Moresby

Hi! So. Moving is crazy. You probably already knew this. Here is some of what we’ve been up to in our new place, in photodump form.

We lived in temporary housing for about 5 weeks and are in our second week of living in our new house. Photo tour coming soon. Here we are eating our first meal in our new house — Aussie-style meat pies.

Note boxes and drinking glasses still wrapped in newspaper

The builders left a sand pile behind from making cement. A good way to get introduced to the neighborhood kids.

The little shovels I brought from the US are a hit.

At one point this was a hotel construction site – very Port Moresby.

Anastasia has signed up for a free extracurricular class — guitar lessons on Wednesdays!

We bought Tabitha a ukelele so she wouldn’t feel too left out. Bring on the sibling jam sessions, now that we have our own space. 
We’ve finally been able to unpack all the way, after about 5 months. We rediscovered some Christmas presents!

Annie seen here in her gym uniform

The finished product!

We’ve been getting to know the students – Brandon is teaching the first-year class Intro to Philosophy and I am slowly matching faces to the names on library cards. We at least know all the students who were at Good Shepherd, plus some SVDs who did pastoral work at Fatima.

Students in their final year and Fr. Fredy

We’ve been getting to know our way around Port Moresby more, figuring out where to buy vegetables (Boroko market) and the like. This past saturday we saw King Lear at the Moresby Arts Theater with about 40 students, and the saturday before that our family went to the Port Moresby Nature Park.

nice walking trails

We enjoyed the multiple walk-in aviaries. Tobiah was enchanted. “Birds! Birds Eat!”

The children all got to pet this endangered sea turtle. Tabitha was very sweet and gentle with it. She informed me that the turtle ate turtleweed.

note turtleweed in bottom left

A yam house for any Malinowski fans out there

And they all got their faces painted.

He chose the design himself

We’ve climbed a few local hills within walking distance of the seminary.

Water treatment plant is yellow

Here’s the view of CTI from on top: the church spire is in the center of the picture, with some student dorms to the right. To the left a little farther away are the classrooms and library.

Unfortunately on his second time up this little mountain, a huge rock fell on Brandon’s foot. He didn’t break anything, thank the Lord, but 8 days later he continues to be on crutches with a swollen and painful foot. Pray for us — it is hard to be a monopod Dean or a monopod daddy.

More later, including house tour!

First Week of First Grade

We arrived back in PNG on Saturday 27 January. Anastasia started the first day of a new school year on Monday the 29th. She’s in first grade at Koroboro International School.

Anastasia’s classroom is up the stairs — it was a rainy gray day due to a typhoon off the coast.

Her teacher’s name is Ms. Asimi, and her teacher’s assistant is Ms. Malkati.

Reading aloud to me while waiting for class to start

She gets on the bus at 6:20 am and arrives back home by bus at 4 pm, a long day and a new schedule we are still adjusting to.  Her bus friend is a 6th grade boy from India.

The bus drops her off right outside the door of our temporary housing on campus

Tuesdays she has computer class and dance class — she is thrilled about that one. Wednesdays she has two periods of music class, another favorite. And Fridays she has PE.

Wearing her school uniform

She brought home a scholastic book catalog this week, with instructions to triple the prices to convert them to Kina. She’s made friends named Lisa, Kailani, Faithful, and Priscilla. We have a parent-teacher meeting next Wednesday. Anastasia says she loves school and that it is so fun, but she misses her parents.


We are moving! (Or have moved?  It’s complicated by the fact that we went for home leave in the middle of the process…)

Brandon has accepted the position of Dean of Studies at Catholic Theological Institute in Bomana, Port Moresby.

CTI is the major seminary for Papua New Guinea, located in the capital city. It has a six-year program in philosophy and theology studies. There are 10 member colleges, that is, houses of formation for 9 religious orders and a house of formation for diocesan seminarians, which send their seminarians to CTI for studies. Lay people also attend CTI.

So we have left the cool highlands for the hot city. Maybe our blog title should be read as “Plotinus in the [Urban] Jungle” now…

On CTI Hill looking down at the campus

He was announced as the new Dean at CTI’s 2017 Graduation, pictured here processing in with the faculty.

Blurry photo by Anastasia

Students dancing during the graduation mass

Rebecca will work part-time in CTI’s library. Anastasia will attend Koroboro International School. We will live in staff housing behind Holy Spirit Seminary. 

Looking down at CTI from on top of the hill

We are excited about this new opportunity for our family and sad to leave behind the community of friends we had in Jiwaka. After our home leave we will jump in to our new lives at the end of January.

Tobiah is Two!

We celebrated with a joint party (…which happened a month ago now…) with our neighbor Jodi, whose birthday is the day before Tobiah’s.

Blowing out their candles together

We had our now-traditional backyard party with games at the basketball court afterward.

Miriam and Tabitha singing Happy Birthday

Party guests

Jodi enjoying her cake

Anastasia loves ‘babysitting’ Jodi

Tobiah and Miriam walking to the basketball court for games

Lined up and ready for Red Light, Green Light

Portrait of a toddler boy

Opening a present… what’s inside?

A handmade bilum birthday present

Tobiah, we love you, and we’re so glad you’re in our family. It will be great to see you grow more and more this year — we are especially looking forward to hearing you talk in sentences.