Let us continue the narration of our Easter getaway in Tsinsibai.
Father Clement, who had been celebrating the Easter vigil mass on the other side of the valley, backed back to the house in the rain, and arrived well after midnight. Yet he still woke up to celebrate an Easter morning mass at the main station, which we attended as a family. Here’s a surreptitious picture of the parishioners:
I ended up spending the sermon outside with Anastasia. Rebecca related that Fr. Clement began talking in Tok pisin, but all the children started to make noises and cry, so he switched to Melpa, which is his tribal language and the language of Tsinsibai, and all the children became quiet! Attending these services was interesting because the people and Fr. Clement generally spoke Melpa (the mass responses were translated into Melpa back in the 1930’s by the original missionaries), and only used tok pisin when they wanted to address us. Rebecca gave a little speech in Melpa explaining who we were and thanking the people for their hospitality. Here we are with the parishioners:
Anastasia befriended a local girl named Marilyn, whom she called “Maryland.” They played together while we cooked more potatoes for our Easter brunch.
Fr. Clement was soon off again to the outstation near the entrance to the valley in order to celebrate Easter mass with the people there. His pastoral zeal was quite inspiring. Soon after he left some local brought us an intense amount of cabbage and offered us a chicken. Rebecca engaged in a hilarious conversation with them in broken tok pisin (they spoke no English), in which she tried to explain that we only wanted the chicken if they cleaned and defeathered it for us. Eventually they understood.
Being in her first trimester, Rebecca was feeling tired, so in order to let her rest, I took Annie on a walk up the ridge behind the guest house. Some people playing basketball showed me to a footpath and told me that the trail went up the mountain and I decided to have my own little adventure with Anastasia. About halfway up, we met what I presume were a husband and wife each carrying giant bags of broccoli and cabbage down to the valley. I assume they were getting ready to take their produce to Mt. Hagen on Monday.
I found some footpaths up the mountain and reached the top of the ridge, only to find it covered in gardens!
We could see quite far up and down and across the valley from the top, but it was a bit rainy.
All in all it was a good hike with Annie. The trail I was on petered out, but all the gardens were connected together and I was able to make my way back to the road, coming down by a Protestant church under construction.
Fr. Clement had returned, but then left with some local young men to see the upper end of the valley. I think he was also giving them a vocations talk! We had a nice dinner, prepared mostly by Rebecca, of chicken, potatoes, and fresh vegetables. We all went to bed early.
Easter Monday, after a final breakfast of fried potatoes, some locals drove us and many heavy bags of vegetables (the offering for Fr. Clement) back to the broken bridge. We were picked up there by a diocesan landrover driven by Moses, the same driver as before. He kindly returned us to Rebiamul, the bishop’s HQ. From there, Clement took us to a social gathering for priests at a Divine Mercy Shrine under construction at the foot of a mountain at a place called Kartanim (car – turn ’em, the place where cars turn around). There we had a nice lunch of barbeque pork (prepared by a Polish priest) and other western and native foods. A few of our students were there. I walked around with the children, while everyone else gave speeches about how happy they were to be there, eating pork.
The next and final installment will be of Annie and me celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday at this Shrine, so you’ll get pictures of it then. For now, here is a picture of the parish priest hosting us, Fr. Bogdan, and Julius, an Austrian lay volunteer.
Julius is sponsored by an Austrian volunteer organization (not the same one as Horst). He is working to reform the finances and administration of the Catholic schools in the diocese. He’s actually married with three college age or older children, and he left the family behind to do missionary work in PNG. When asked what he misses most about Austria (besides his family), he says “Pretty looking dogs”.
After the picnic we returned to Good Shepherd and gave the cabbages, broccoli, potatoes, and onions to the students and staff for their joint meals. They were eating fried potatoes every day for at least a week and a half!