Monday, May 5, 2014


Feet are always a major topic with my missionary-lady friends. We complain, swap stories, and share tips on how to keep the disgustingness (I know that is not a word, but it fits here, so I am using it) of our feet.

A pedicure is definitely in my immediate future. My co-worker, Susan, told me that on her last furlough her husband bought her a gift certificate for a pedicure and she was too embarrassed to go because of the condition of her feet. I mean, I will be embarrassed for sure, but I think I can power through!

With my Hewa-lady friends it is a different story. They often show me the huge slices in their thickly calloused feet from long hikes though the jungle usually carrying string bags with babies and food on their backs.

My teenage friend Bihaipa showing me where a rat chewed her toe and heal.

But the most horrifying is when they show me that rat chewed on their feet at night. I think if anyone deserves a pedicure- it is these ladies! 

Joli is another young lady who I love very much. She recently got very sick and then started having fainting spells. Susan wasn't in the tribe at the time, so they called me to come check on her. After a treacherous climb up to her house I realized that I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn't really tell any reason for her episode, but I did notice that her feet were very cold even though they were next to the fire. So, not able to do anything else, I just sat there rubbing her feet. As I felt every crack and callous I wondered if she could even feel through that thick layer of skin. I also chose not to think about what those feet had likely stepped in and just kept rubbing. I knew I couldn't heal her or offer any real advice, but maybe she will find comfort and know that I care through this little foot massage. "This is the closest she will ever come to a pedicure," I thought.

Joli later flew out with us to go to a hospital (after lots of drama and extensive money raising) where they determined she had an irregular heart beat but couldn't figure out why because the EKG machine was broken. She flew back into the tribe the next day and still doesn't know what is actually wrong with her heart. Her family will now have to raise more money for her to fly out to a different hospital in hopes of finding out what her condition is and if there is any way to help her. Oh medical care in PNG! But...that is a post for a different time. Moving on...

Another major difference in my friendships here is our gift exchange. Most of the missionary ladies here are so caring and thoughtful that they send nice little gifts from America for birthdays and special occasions. I can't tell you how exciting it is to see that "Bath and Body Works" label in the jungle!

But when I exchange gifts with my Hewa friends it looks a little different. This is my friend Ana.

Ana sitting next to me at a wedding. The bride is the one in the bright orange.
 We exchange gifts a lot. I give her clothes and beads and she gives me food from her garden or comes to help whenever she sees me working in mine. But the most special gift she ever gave me was a muruk neck (the neck of a cassowary bird). Meat is hard to come by and highly valued when you get some - especially for a young girl who doesn't have a husband or father (like Ana). One of her male relatives shot a cassowary while he was out hunting and gave each family member a small piece. She gave her piece to me. It was cooked but still disgusting and I so desperately wanted to give it back because I knew how much she would love to eat it, but I also knew that she really wanted to give it to me as a way of showing true friendship. This was a big gift and to refuse it would show her I didn't care. Me giving her something and not accepting later gifts from her would not be friendship. It would just be the missionary lady giving hand-outs. But when I give her a skirt and two weeks later she brings me a piece of meat. That has BFF written all over it!

Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of that muruk neck and it is one of my great life regrets! But I won't ever forget what it looked like with the huge gap of the esophagus down the front and the fuzzy down still attached to the outside. I certainly won't ever forget what it meant. Ana recently married and moved to another village so I won't get to see her very much anymore. I will miss her very much.

Back to my sweet young friend, Joli. She also helped me in the garden many times, but also recently got married. This was my wedding gift to her...

It is a root vegetable know in Hewa as "paikz" (cassava in English). It didn't actually go directly to her as that is not Hewa custom, but went into the ground with all the other donated food for her wedding feast.

Joli helping me in my garden.
Definitely different than the many toasters and fluffy towels I have bought for wedding gifts back in America.

My friendships in the tribe are very different, but still very meaningful. It is absolutely crucial to learn the culture of the people you live with so you can know what is important to them and what all the gestures really mean. I have been blessed to get a crash course from Susan, so I didn't miss the significance of these times with my Hewa friends. And I can build friendships in a way that actually means something to them.

1 comment:

  1. I had NEVER thought about the difficulties involving feet on the mission field. That is strangely interesting.