Dustin's Journal

Dustin’s Journal, Full Text

Dustin's Journal, Full Text...

Wed, Oct 7th, 8:25PM

What a day! We finally got on the Kodiak and got rolling (after the pilot forgot to remove the chocks). There was no seat for Abby- she sat on my lap. Before we rotated she was asleep, and slept for about half the flight.

It was incredible... seeing trees that only grow in jungles, and villages of grass huts, and mountainsides of hand-tilled gardens. We landed on the dirt strip, and were finally "home."

Janine Lyninger and our fellowship family, Scott and Sarah Carey, were there to meet us at the airport and help get us moved in to Translator Lodge 3A. It is a duplex, with no one currently on the other side, and probably as large or even larger than our house in Canby.

Newcomers in Ukarumpa are assigned a “Fellowship Family” (in our case Scott and Sarah Carey) who take care of them and help them get oriented. Residents also signed up to have us over for lunches and dinners for the first three days, which was a very welcome rest!

We had Kristen Brewer (Jeff Brewer is in aviation) stop in with peanut-butter bread and say hi. Everyone is so nice!

We finally got settled, and then it was time for dinner with Dave and Melissa Raube and their 7 (!) kids. What a fun circus! We rattled over to their house in the Carey's Hilux over the steep and potholed dirt roads. This place is beautiful though, with tropical birds singing, everything green and growing, and a perfect breeze in the 70 degree weather.

At the Raube's Melissa was making tortilla chips... deep frying tortillas she cut in stacks with scissors. The tortillas had been made earlier by a "house mauri." We had a delicious meal of white-sauce enchiladas and chips and salsa to the accompaniment of stories about the outlaws and gun-fights that go on round-about, punctuated by half a dozen distant gunshots at irregular intervals. (just as I was brushing my teeth I heard three more on this side of the compound). Apparently no one is too much bothered by this.

While we waited for brownies there was a major brownout. Candles were lit, but unfortunately an accident with one of the kids landed the nearly-done brownies in the bottom of the oven... so we had just ice-cream (which was quite good anyway).

Abby had got a scare from something one of the boys told her while they were playing in the other room, but finally recovered after the lights came back on.

Abby has already started making friends, and I think we're all going to like it here.

Saturday, Oct 10, 2009 5:00 PM

What a delightful time we've had. I don't know how better to describe it.

So much has happened since Thursday that I can barely remember details. We had lunch with our fellowship family, Scott and Sarah Carey. She was in linguistics before they got married, and helps out one day each week with translators. He is head of the math department at the high school. They have two kids around Abby's age. They were kind enough to loan us some toys.

We took the computer in to CTS also. They had some trouble with it, as we had, and changed out the memory chips. They thought they had solved the problem... however, it seems that something else is amiss, as it is locking up when it gets hot... and it does get hot.

Thursday evening we had dinner with Julianne Spencer and her friends Benji and Esther. Julianne does survey work... very adventurous stuff. She's the one whose photos we used on our newsletter, and friends with Kristy from San Diego. He place was very clean and modern. It seems that whatever sort of home you would have back "home" you could also have here. We had a fun time.

Benji and his wife are newly married. He grew up in Ukarumpa, and she is also a MK... as are many of the people here. He is the "youth pastor" so to speak.

Friday morning we went to the market with Scott. It was interesting, and reminded me a lot of Africa... but bargaining is not a part of the culture here. We got a few veggies... the selection is incredible!

We stopped by housing, finance, and CTS on the way back, then went down to get some much-needed groceries at the store. It was the last opportunity, as they are closed for the weekend.

At lunchtime we had a very long walk over to the home of Christopher Clark and family. It's funny, we've had enchiladas for two dinners, and we had tacos for lunch at their house.

Christopher is a pilot, and after lunch I went with him up to the hangar, where I got a mini-orientation and actually got my hands dirty pretty quickly. I will be back there full time on Monday. There is certainly plenty that needs done there.

I left early, at 3, and picked up our computer. We had a little time to send a brief e-mail to parents before heading off to dinner at Michael and Sarah Johnson's house... just as long a walk as lunch if we hadn't hitched a ride halfway with Raubes.

We had a great time with them. They have two girls just a bit older than Abby, and an older boy. It was nice to be able to commiserate about parenting a bit. They also had James (pilot) and his wife Natalie over. We had a great time, and it was sad to have to walk home, but the girls were all getting tired.

Today was very exciting as well. I got up early and went on a "joyride" with MAF pilot Remi W. to Sangapi on a medical evacuation. They have a clinic there, the condition of which would horrify any westerner, but which is much better than nothing. A national lady was evacuated for an ectopic pregnancy to Madang. It’s an amazing feeling to think that what you’ve done has saved a life. Had Remi refused to work on Saturday, she most likely would have died.

Continued Monday, Oct 12, 2009, 8:30PM

I actually got to do a lot of the flying, and it was challenging stuff. The flight from Aiyura to Sangapi wasn’t gorgeous, flying around and over broken/scattered clouds over the sea of green mountains, through passes, and over incredibly high ridges. The cramped quarters of the runway would give any pilot either wonderful dreams or nightmares. I got to do all the flying until the last few hundred feet. The Robertson droop-aileron/flap mod brought the airplane down slow. As we came over the end of the runway I was very honestly momentarily afraid that we were going to catch the main wheels on the edge. We must have touched down no more than twenty feet onto it. The airplane was slowed and stopped before we had gone more than 300 feet.

We picked up the woman, her husband, and their young daughter, I would say three years old. She was hysterical about being on the airplane, but (as Remi predicted) as soon as the engine started she quieted. He let me do the takeoff and climb out, over a ridge that I would never have guessed we could have out-climbed. In fact, I did all of the flying, even to the landing in Madang, although he had his hands on the controls as well.

After the family went away in an ambulance, and the plane had been refueled as necessary from a 55-gallon (200 liter) drum, Remi took me on a tour of Madang. It is a favorite vacation spot for missionaries, and he showed me all of the favorite places to go. Although it is hot and humid, it is not nearly as bad as Port Moresby, and the coastline is beautiful. The water is crystal clear. I can see why it would be a nice change from Ukarumpa once in a while.

We took off about 11AM and headed back toward Ukarumpa. Thanks to Bergmans, I had a little idea of how the Garmin 430 works. It was absolutely necessary for our flights. We put the turbocharger to good use (absolutely necessary in this part of the world), climbing and climbing, trying to go over the clouds VFR. We ended up in a valley of clouds, several times having to pass through them briefly. As we climbed to 12,000 feet over the passes, the Garmin showed a terrain warning... mountains beside us that high!

Finally we found a hole, and squeaked through, down toward Aiyura Airport. We did a straight-in approach, not approved by SIL, dropping down full flaps and side-slip over the mountain at the end of the runway, and I landed, flaring high, and coming down in what would have been a poor 180 landing, but was salvaged by a bit of extra power and the tricycle landing gear. I’ll blame the landing on the visual oddity of the uphill runway. What a great time!

When I got back to the house, Sarah and Abby had been to a “neighborhood” yard sale at the top of the hill, and Abby had a “new” princess dress. Almost immediately the phone rang. It was Dave and Melissa Raube, offering to take us on a shopping trip to Kainantu. Kainantu is the “big city” for Papua New Guineans in this area. We went to a well-stocked supermarket where they were going to get bread and toilet paper, and then enjoyed shopping in some second-hand stores. The stores buy bales of clothing from Europe or Australia, divide them up, and sell them. Much of the clothing is high-quality good name-brand clothing with nothing wrong with it at all, although some is stained or damaged. I picked up another tee-shirt and long-sleeve button-down, and Sarah got a hat for Abby. The Raubes were looking for a “costume” for Dave, who is playing a Russian in the upcoming community production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Sarah cooked her first dinner here that night - tuna casserole.... mmmm.

Sunday morning we all got up bright and early to wait until church... It doesn’t start until 10:45. It was a pretty nice morning until about half-way through the service, when it began pouring rain in buckets. It’s been soggy ever since, and the laundry Sarah did Saturday afternoon is still not dry.

The service was interesting. Apparently people in the community rotate through a sort of council which picks leaders for worship and the message. Ever week it is different. This Sunday it was a Lutheran who led worship, and the songs were all hymns I love, and the prayer and scripture readings very scripted and liturgical. The speaker was an older Australian fellow. We sat in the back, where the families with children sit (there is no “children’s church”), so it was a bit noisy and hard to hear.

We slogged through the mud back home to take the dripping clothes off the line, and moped about all afternoon. The computer was most certainly on the fritz, but I was making a valiant attempt to get our newsletter finished, and finally did. It seemed that we had only a certain amount of time to use the computer before it would fail, then we had to wait until it cooled down before we could use it again.

In the afternoon I took a walk back to the meeting house through the mud to get my Bible, which I’d forgotten. Unfortunately, it was locked, but I took the opportunity to take a tour around the perimeter of the center. It was a long way! I had no idea how big this place was, and was also surprised by how winded I got, much due I think to the mile-high altitude.

After dark I slogged again through the rain, and caught the last part of the evening goings-on at the meeting-house. It was a report by a couple who recently finished a Bible translation. Very honest... goods and bads. Encouraging in that as well as in the good which came of it all.

Today was my first full day at the hangar. I caught a ride on a little motorcycle-driven cart thing that one of the mechanics, Dan, drives to work. The potholed road is insane. We started off the morning with a Monday devotions and prayer time. Next I was given most of the remaining orientation by the new shop foreman, a fellow who can’t be much older than me by the name of Paul. He seems a nice guy, and easy to get along with.

I got to go home for lunch, which I enjoyed briefly. Sarah hasn’t been feeling too well today. When I got back to the hangar I spent much of the afternoon reading ops manuals. They seem a lot like part 135 manuals back home, except they cover every possible aspect of what happens in the Aviation department. Fortunately, Paul came and rescued me by sending me to find out what was leaking on the 206 I’d helped look at Friday. It didn’t look to us like it had been leaking anymore at all, but there was another squawk to work on, which was a failed engine fire probe. I’ve never seen before, two OAT-type probes, one on the inside of each cowl-flap hole. Good idea, I guess. By the end of the day I was still working on repairing it, as apparently we didn’t have any new ones in stock, and the problem appeared to be insulation chaffed off the wires.

When I got back home I was just in time for the CTS technician, Loren, to show up, bringing back our computer with the report that although he’d removed a likely-faulty printer driver (I don’t doubt it), he couldn’t make it crash. We hooked it up, and in about an hour it crashed again. Sarah suggested that it could be the dial-up modem. I unplugged it and restarted the computer. So far, more or less glitch-free except for a pause from I-Tunes.

Well, it is getting late. Apparently we are beginning to finally adjust to the time. I slept all night last night, and now I’m up after 9 and still feeling all right.

Sunday, Oct 18th, 2009, 3:00PM

It’s been a busy week. As far as work goes,I spent the first couple days in orientation, reading operations manuals and learning what everyone does. I did a few odd jobs, and then got to help with the inspection of an M.A.F. 206. It was the same one that I had gone to Sangapi in.

The only notable exception was on Thursday. Thursday morning I was up by 5:30. The “P2” bus was outside the door at 6AM to take me and several others to the hangar. (Officially the Aviation bus, but called “P2” because all of the aircraft registration numbers in PNG start with “P2”). By 7:30 a group of mostly pilots had got the Kodiak and a 206 loaded and ready to go. By “loaded” I mean that I loaded about 1000 pounds of sandbags into the Kodiak.

We were going down into the Ramu valley, just 10 minutes away, to Gusap airstrip, a former WW2 base. The strip is used for training, and on this trip we were going to be testing the performance of the Kodiak. Using laser range-finders, radios, and survey and photography equipment, those of us on the ground recorded the distances and angles for takeoffs and landings with the Kodiak loaded to its maximum weight and then empty.

Gusap is at 1400’... Ukarumpa is at 5100’. What a difference! By noon the tropical sun was beating down on us, and even with a considerable breeze the heat was becoming almost unbearable. Humidity must have been about 100%. Although I enjoyed the trip and the chance to do something new, I was glad to climb back into the 206 for the trip to Ukarumpa. The cool breeze at Aiyura was delightful. I’m really happy that I can be involved in readying the first-ever Kodiak in use in missions work, in a small way helping to usher in a new era in missionary aviaiton.

At home, Sarah has been feeling sick since Monday. She hasn’t had trouble eating, but her tummy has been hurting, and she hasn’t felt up to going much of anywhere. As a result, I was up early one morning for a trip to the market, and then took two hours for lunch so I could make it to the grocery store and to pick up our computer (yet again) from CTS. Sarah started boiling all of our drinking water, but at this altitude it has to be boiled for 20 minutes before it is safe. Fortunately, one of the guys from the hangar loaned us a filter, which we started using Saturday morning. Today she thinks she may be feeling slightly better... I sure hope so. If she is sick for this entire trip, it may put a definite slant on the “test.”

Speaking of the computer... It seems that a “work-around” solution has been found. It is unclear why the computer heats up so badly, but overheating has definitely been found to be the problem. Apparently there is a firmware upgrade (hopefully we can get next week) that increases fan speeds. I have some doubts that even that will fix the problem. However, the computer guys installed a temperature monitor program and a program which allows the cooling fan speeds to be adjusted manually. With this combination we have been able to keep it cool enough to be usable, although it’s frustrating that it won’t “just work.”

Friday night was “hamburger night.” The teens on center put on “hamburger night” most Fridays to raise money, and it is the only opportunity for a family to get a chance have someone else do the cooking. Since Sarah was feeling ill anyway, we took advantage of it. Unfortunately, Burgerville beats the food hands-down... but the nearest Burgerville is half a world away, so we were thankful for what we got.

After Abby was in bed I walked up the hill to a new friend’s home and spent the evening with a helicopter pilot, a village translator, and an on-center translator administrator playing board games. We played two rounds of a complicated little game called “Puerto Rico.” It had hundreds of tiny parts, which I love. It was a lot of fun.

Saturday we went to the center library. It is only “regularly” open for a couple hours Saturday afternoons. It’s not big, the books are beat-up, and the card catalog isn’t very good, but we did borrow a few books. Many of the paperback books don’t even get “checked out,” but are simply labeled as belonging to the library, and expected to be returned when you finish with them. Since it gets dark about 7:00, and there’s no where to go anyway, the books will be a wonderful evening entertainment.

Tuesday, 20 Oct. 2009, 10:53 PM

Just a quick note... I’m glad to say Sarah seems to be feeling better. She’s not completely back to 100%, but certainly a lot better than she was. The computer, now that we’ve got ADSL hooked up, is quite fast enough to get things done on, although not nearly as fast as in Canby.

Yesterday we had dinner with Tom and Marilyn Kelley, and this evening we enjoyed the Wycliffe Associates weekly potluck.

I’ve got to ride to work and back with Steve Parker in his “buggy” the last couple days... what a blast! The P2 bus seems to average no more than 25mph, while the buggy feels like at least 50mph on the muddy/dirt road. On the way home today (in the rain) Steve let me drive, which was an absolute blast! The little motorcycle-powered two-seater is designed for racing, and the air shocks and grippy tires, along with the light design, make it the fastest thing around.

Working on the Islander today and yesterday.

Wednesday, 21 Oct. 2009, 7:25 PM

More work on the Islander today. It looks like Sarah is back to feeling like her normal self, and I feel like I’m successfully fighting off the remains of a sore throat.

The bulk jet fuel tank is almost empty up at the runway. They have been trying to get fuel for a week or so, without success. Today they finally got fuel, although it was in 55-gallon drums. They opened the back of the truck and backed it up to the storage building, then stacked two very large aircraft tires behind it, followed by two smaller tires, then a number of others in a single layer. They rolled the 28 drums to the back of the truck, then with a “plop” and “whoosh” out of the truck and onto the tires. It was quite a job, but now at least we have enough jet fuel for the next couple weeks.