My “Stone Hearted World”

The view right outside our house

The view right outside our house

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.


A river my brothers and I would swim in often just down the mountain from us

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.

Hiking out of Yemli village, surrounded by beauty

Hiking out of Yemli village, surrounded by beauty

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.

DIana (woman holding booklet) and I sitting underneath my house in Yemli village.

Diana (woman holding booklet) and I sitting underneath my house in Yemli village.

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.

Hanging out with some of my friends

Hanging out with some of my friends

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 view at the location where my husband and I were married

The view at the location where my husband and I were married – one of the most beautiful places I have ever been!

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.

The simple beauty of a sunset up near Bayfield, WI.

The simple beauty of a sunset up near Bayfield, WI.

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,

Avi Mu

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.


Childhood Norms

Standing on our porch in Yemli village in everyday clothes

Standing on our porch in Yemli village in everyday clothes

One thing I am continually aware of is how different everyone’s childhood is and how thatforms what they consider normal. Take me for example…

Normal for me included

  • Not really knowing who my tumbunas were – they had their pictures on the fridge and yanang Wakamik ma Wakatik always told us their names, but that was about as far as the relationship went. This is something I look back on now and am jealous of people who developed strong relationships with their grandparents. A grandma to me meant someone who lived far away and you hardly ever saw. The first time this definition of mine was challenged was one furlough when my friend told me her grandma lived down the road from her. What?! How does a grandma live down the road from you? That’s an oxymoron! I learned that there were many others…
  • Cleaning the whole unyak and packing everything away every 4 months or so to travel to a our other house and live there for a while. Usually this included taking a yingaling into or out of the village – Yemli.


  • Airports felt like a second home. That’s really sad now that I think about it, but walking into an airport always feels a little refreshing. I feel like I am supposed to be there, and I just know what to do, where to go, and it’s really not stressful at all.
  • Taking airplanes to and from the United States every three years and also the fact that the flight was over 6 hours. I remember the first time I realized not everyone in the whole world flew on long flights, and I was even more shocked to find out that some people hadn’t even been on airplanes or out of their own state! What?! How is that possible?! And, to make it worse, some of my friends ideas of a long flight was 4 hours. Haha, yu giaman ya…. Try again.


  • Dreading “furlough” – going back to the US or what everyone called “my home.” The US was the farthest thing from anything I would call my home. What were people thinking?! Longlong ya!
  • Seeing pigs tied on a log, with the victorious hunters yelling Yabbi ya HOO HOO in victory of their catch, and of course pigs are brown, not pink. The first time I saw a live pink pig, I thought it was a joke! I thought pink pigs were only real in fairy tales! It was kind of scary seeing a pink pig, not gonna lie…Image

And of course, since it was normal to see pigs tied up, I played painim na kilim ol pik with my brother. 🙂


  • Only speaking English in our home, speaking Tok Pisin and hearing Male everywhere else. It was almost like my brain switched off English when I stepped out the door, and switched back into English when I walked back. Sometimes, English wouldn’t always switch back and I still run into that problem sometimes…
  • Putting RID on every day to make sure the mosquitoes didn’t bite me so I wouldn’t get malaria. This was something I DESPISED! Mi les olgeta! Maski ya! I hated the smell, I hated the feel of the lotion, I hated how it made my skin look white, I hated everything about it. But the choice was to wear RID or get bit by a mosquito and die from malaria – wasn’t a hard decision. Well, sometimes it was.

And the list goes on and on and on. I am sure I still have more discoveries to make about what I think is normal but in reality, it is only normal for me. This brings me back to last night and my newest “normal” discovery.

My husband and I were watching “Deadly Dozen, Asia Pacific” on National Geographic through Netflix – most amazing invention! Of course this got me all excited because Asia Pacific is Papua New Guinea! Sadly, only a few of the Deadly Dozen were located in Papua New Guinea (or is that really so sad…) but it was still exciting to see similar landscape and the little island of Papua New Guinea on the map. Mmmm, as ples bilong mi!

Anyways… as you would imagine, about half the Deadly Dozen were snakes, and after one of the actors carelessly walked on a snake and was bit, he went running off to find help. The narrator then went on to explain how the snakes venom affected the body by shutting down the muscular system and if the victim was not treated soon, he would die from asphyxiation or internal bleeding. But, he also mentioned that the best thing to do after a snake bite is to wrap something around the area above the bite wound because doing this slows the poison from traveling through the rest of the body.


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When Michael heard that, he said something along the lines of, “Oh that’s interesting.”

I looked at him, surprised he didn’t know that obvious fact. Of course that’s what you do, didn’t your parents ever give you a tourniquet when you walked around the neighborhood? Well, of course not! He had no reason to know about what to do in case he was bitten by a snake.

I, on the other hand, was always given a tourniquet when we would go hiking. Dad would always bring one in his backpack just in case. We only had one dangerous snake where we grew up, but people were bitten, and often would die, so you could never be too prepared.

So once again, I learned that one of my norms – carrying around a tourniquet with you whenever you go hiking – was not a norm for my husband. I was flabbergasted! Wow!

I am excited to find out more “norms” that aren’t “norms!”

I would love to hear what yours are – maybe I will make some new discoveries today!

Lukim yu!

Avi Mu

Tok Pisin and Male Dictionary

Tumbunas – Do you remember the meaning from my past entry? 🙂 This means grandparents or any older relative

Yanang Wakamik ma Wakatik – This is in Male not Tok Pisin. This means my mom and dad. 🙂 Long words for mom and dad huh?

Unyak – Male for house

YingalingMale for helicopter

Yemli – I believe I have mentioned what Yemli is, but if not… Yemli was the name of the village where my parents mainly worked as Bible Translators. They were translating the Bible into the Yemli dialect of Male. Because there are so many different dialects and languages (over 900 distinct languages alone, not including dialects) there needed to be a common language that everyone could understand. That’s where Tok Pisin comes in. Because the kids often go to school with other kids who might not speak their same dialect or language, they usually speak Tok Pisin to each other. This is why I grew up fluent in Tok Pisin but also in Male.

Yu giaman ya – You’re kidding in Tok Pisin. Remember what the ya means? It just adds on an extra umph, like in English saying, “You’ve GOT to be kidding!”

Longlong ya – Crazy in Tok Pisin, and again the ya adds on emphasis.

Painim na kilim ol pik – Find and kill the pigs – of course! Didn’t you guess that?! 🙂

Mi les olgeta! Maski ya! – two phrases in Tok Pisin with similar meanings. The first means I don’t want to at all. The second phrase means “Forget it!” You know what the ya means – forget it with passion! 🙂

Mmmm, as ples bilong mi – well, the mmm is similar to English as just saying Mmmm 🙂 and the next bit means my home!

Lukim yu – I bet you can guess this one… It means “See you later!”

Avi Mu – This is my village name – I will explain how I got this name, and why my blog address is avimumu in a future blog. 🙂


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