We were excited. It was the end of the semester and we were going to celebrate with a road trip to the north coast, to the city of Madang. Along the way we had many stops planned to keep Anastasia from going crazy, including at the famous Wycliffe headquarters in Ukarumpa. Once there, we would swim in the ocean, enjoy fresh fish and mangoes, explore a new city, and get to know the students, staff, and surroundings of St. Fidelis propaedeutic seminary, the feeder school for GSS.
But it was not to be. Only a few hours away, on the border of Simbu and Eastern Highlands province, a landslide occurred at 4 am the day we left, burying 6 houses and 9 people. And despite the fact that this is a somewhat regular occurrence during the rainy season, there are no body-sniffing dogs or earth-moving equipment handy and ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice. It might have been possible to climb over the landslide to a waiting bus on the other side, but the people, understandably, did not want strangers clambering over their loved ones’ bodies. There was an alternate route we could have taken around the problem… but the bridge was out. (There is often only one way to get somewhere. Plus: you can’t get lost. Minus: you get stuck.)
The occasion for our trip was the National General Assembly of the Catholic church; a delegate from Good Shepherd was going to attend and we were going to tag along for the ride. The landslide meant that almost all of the delegates from the highlands were stuck, including the bishop of Kundiawa and the bishop of Goroka. They, and thus, by extension, we, decided to wait out the situation for a few days in Mingende, the Catholic headquarters of Simbu.
So instead we had a mini-vacation in Simbu. We stayed in a little cottage owned by an American nun and ate meals with the delegates. We went hiking:
We visited a local high school, Holy Rosary, and got a tour from one of its early graduates, Fr. Anton:
The high school was very impressive — we could have stayed a lot longer in the library, and we didn’t get to the site of their future agricultural university. But Fr. Anton had to go make pastoral visits in the local hospital (which we also toured, but did not get pictures of.)
On our last day there we met an 8th grade girl named Rosemary, whose father drives ambulances at the hospital, and is the youngest of 12. She really took a shine to Anastasia and gave her a kina-shell necklace and feather headdress!
Finally we decided to go home. The people who lived near the landslide were waiting for federal assistance, and it was unclear how long that would take. The delegates ended up flying to Madang.
We’ll get to Madang someday… just not this November. Maybe next time, we’ll go in the dry season.