There’s a common saying that goes something like, “You never know what you have until it’s gone.”
Yumi tingting long dispela liklik…
Papua New Guinea is a beautiful tropical rainforest, full of mountains and surrounded by the beautiful blue Pacific ocean. It has sparkling rivers and gorgeous plant life. I grew up with these things as normal. I didn’t realize I was growing up in beauty. I played in rushing wara, sliding down rocks and jumping off of cliffs. I hiked lek nating up and down mountains and explored the bus. I climbed trees and picked flowers – whenever I wanted. I lived in paradise without even knowing it.
When mi kisim balus back to Papua New Guinea after living in the US for a year and a half, I was shocked with how beautiful the country was. Everything was so green, so colorful, so bright! I loved being in nature again – going to sleep hearing crickets chirping and waking up to birds singing. I was able to hike down to the rivers and jump in. I never knew what I had until it was gone.
Not only did I take the land for granted, I also took ol man na meri and the way of life for granted. The people in Yemli live to build relationships and serve each other. There are no watches for people to “be late.” There’s no hurry to finish getting to know someone because you need to be somewhere else. There is always time to get to know a friend better.
I remember going over to haus bilong polo bilong mi, Diana, and having a sleepover. The next morning, we got up and began peeling kaukau and putting some saksak in bamboo and cooked it all over the fire. Mmmm, that was a delicious breakfast! After breakfast we went outside, talked to each other and looked for lice in each others’ hair (This is a typical past time for people, and they get a kick out of looking for lice in my hair because usually I never had any). Eventually, Diana said we should get back up to haus bilong mi so my parents wouldn’t worry, and we walked back up the mountain to our house. Once I got inside, I remember looking at the clock, seeing it was 12:30, and thinking it was so nice to have a morning where I didn’t have a clock telling me what time I had to be home or what time I had to get up – we just went with the day and how we were feeling.
On furloughs, I found myself in a vastly different world. Grass and trees were plowed over and covered with grey, hard cement. I realized if I ran barefoot on cement for too long, my feet would blister and would hurt for days. Rivers and waterfalls were “off limits” many times, and I couldn’t wander anywhere I wanted because I might accidentally wreck someone’s flowers. I couldn’t build fires, climb trees, jump off rocks – I couldn’t do anything!
The worst part of all was that I felt people didn’t care about relationships – they cared about time. This was the complete opposite of what I grew up with. If I had an appointment with someone, they might spend the entire time glancing at their watch as they didn’t want to miss their next meeting. People would not talk about who they truly are but kept their conversations on a shallow level. It was so hard to adjust in the beginning. At times, I felt I lived in a world where everyone was made of stone. Looking back on the poems I was writing at the time truly reflected my feelings.
In a poem entitled “Unforgettable”, I wrote
“How can I find home in this wasteland
Full of hardened hearts and lifeless bodies
How can I return to the place of warmth
When cold is all that surrounds
The life I once knew will always be a memory
Because this life will always haunt my mind
The time I felt left alone and abandoned
With no one to stay by my side.”
It goes on to be even more depressing, but at least that gives an idea of the state of my heart. I hated coming back to the US and immersing myself in what I called a “Stone Hearted World.” The only thing that gave me hope was the fact that no matter what, I would be back lo as ples bilong mi within a year.
When I first came back to the US after high school, I knew I would not be returning home, and if I did go back, it would only be for a short while. I was forced to learn to live in my “stone hearted world.” It was super difficult in the beginning, and I had to make many adjustments, but eventually, I found that there was a different beauty to my new world, and the people, even though they weren’t as open and deep as I was used to, were still loving and longed for deep relationships just like I did – it just took longer to get there.
The land that God brought me to was just as beautiful as the land I came from – it just took time for me to get out of my selfish self and see the beauty God made. If I had not come to the US, I would not have met the lovely people I have, and I wouldn’t have met my husband, gotten married on such a breathtaking hilltop, or been able to camp in some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
Because God is a God of creativity, and He created this world, His beauty is everywhere! It took me a long time to realize this, and even more so, that there is beauty in every human being. The beautiful landscapes are all icing on the cake. God really put his heart into this world!
Now, it is my prayer that as I look out my window, I see beauty in the simple things – the white snow on the ground, the spring buds popping out, the green coming back into the grass, the little birds that sit on our porch and the old couple that walks down the road, hand in hand. There is beauty everywhere, and I am so thankful God was gracious enough to open my eyes and show me.
Amazed by His beauty every day,
Tok Pisin Dictionary
Yumi tingting long dispela liklik – Let’s think about this for a bit, or Hmmmm…. 🙂
Wara – Water
Lek nating – Barefoot, literally translates as “lets nothing.”
Bus – Bush, or forest, or woods – whatever you call being out in the wilderness with nothing but trees and grass and bugs around you
Mi kisim balus – I took a plane
Ol man na meri – the people, literally translates as “the men and women.”
Haus bilong polo bilong mi – My friends house
Kaukau – This is the name for Yemli’s main food. It’s much like a sweet potato, but it is white rather than orange on the inside
Saksak – This is a specialty item – only harvested once a year or so. It is scraped from the insides of a tree, dried, and it turns into a powder, then the powder can be boiled, baked, or fried. In our case, we used piece of bamboo to bake the sago.
Haus bilong mi – Can you guess? This means “my house.” 🙂
Lo as ples bilong mi – Remember what this is? It means back or in my home or where I am from.