Friday, November 20, 2009

Rachel vs. The Spider

I’ve always taken some pride in the fact that bugs didn’t scare me or gross me out. In fact, I seem to have had a special place in my heart for worms and caterpillars. Mom has told me that when I was little, if I found a caterpillar or earthworm in the yard, I would put them on my arms and “take them for rides” on my tricycle. Apparently, I thought they enjoyed this. Spiders, on the other hand, I didn’t feel the desire to offer a thrill ride to the end of the driveway, however, I’ve never been afraid of them…until now.

In our house we have a backdoor that doesn’t get used very often. We really only go out there when we are taking out compost, burning garbage, or doing something in the garden. On this particular day, I was taking out the compost. As I opened the backdoor, I was looking down, noticing how much the little porch needed to be swept off. When I finally looked up I realized I was about an inch and half away from walking into a gigantic spider (NOT just the spider WEB….the ACTUAL SPIDER). He was at the perfect height to land directly on my forehead!

Now, let me tell you a little about this spider (since we were all “up close and personal” I got a pretty good look at him). His body was gray and about the size of my thumb. He had a black head with red pinchers and little black eyes that I just knew were looking at me…wondering what I tasted like. His legs were skinny and long. If you included his legs, he was about the size of my hand.

My neighbors should be thankful I’m not a screamer. Instead, I gasped and stepped back very slowly. What happened next is probably what caused the death of this horrible little creature…I just stood there! I was about a foot away from him now, unable to move, and letting my imagination run wild. I thought about what it would have been like to have actually walked into him and have him on my head right now. These thoughts sent chills up and down my body. Once I had finished playing the scene through my head I knew that, unless I disposed of this spider, my imaginary spider attack could eventually become reality. So I grabbed the tool that was closest to the door, our bush knife (basically a large machete). Without thinking, I sliced at the top of the spider web that was holding him and he fell to the porch near my feet. Then, another wave a panic swept though my body as I allowed my imagination to picture him running into the house through the open door behind me. After composing myself a little, I positioned my hands on the bush knife with my best golf grip and chipped him into the grass (Dad should be so proud…I had my pointer finger and pinky linked and everything!).

Now, if you ask Jordan (who wasn’t there at the time), he will tell you that I hunted down the spider to kill him in cold blood. I would like to defend myself by saying that, while I do believe I hunted him down, I did it for the good of the entire mission station! Anyways, I found him in the grass and poked pretty hard with the point of the bush knife. BUT he started to run away so I knew I was going to have to take drastic measures. First I chopped him in half, but would you believe that the front of that little stinker was still trying to run away. So, I proceeded to hack at him with the bush knife (a tool that was probably a little bit larger than the job required) until he was definitely dead. Again, it was for the good of the ENTIRE mission fact, probably for the good of all PNG. Who knows what that spider was capable of?

Moral of the Story: Next time you have a little spider in your house, be thankful you don’t have a giant spider on your head!

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Saturday I experienced something very new. It was exciting, entertaining, and weird all at the same time. Myself and a volunteer, who is here for a month, took a long hike up one of the near by mountains with a national friend of mine. The hike was up a decent sized mountain so it was fairly tiring but any exhaustion was well worth the view of the the large valley below and the feeling of just being deep in the jungle. As we hiked we picked up a few more nationals who wanted to tag along, like women and children. Now, before leaving on this hike I was under the impression that it would be fairly long and hard, not a trip for women and children to come on. But they came, and made me feel like less of a man. The kids were running up and down the path playing games while some of the women were carrying trees they had cut down for poles in their home. All the while, here I am going at a decent pace but with no extra energy to play games or carry anything more than my 15 pound pack. I guess it is their home and has been their entire life. And I've lived in Illinois my whole life so I'm sure I could have smoked those kids on flat ground, so I gain some man points back, right? Anyway, aside from my shame, the hike was a great experience.
We were not just hiking for the sake of seeing the bush, we had a goal to see and explore a cave near the peak of the mountain. Along the way up we picked up Pastor David, who's family owns the land that the cave is on, without him we would have had to pay the owner of the land to go in the cave. As we got closer to the cave my anticipation was growing, not only to explore inside, but to stop walking uphill, which we had been doing for 3 and 1/2 hours. Also as we grew closer to the cave the nationals started cutting down branches with lots of twigs on them, I wasn't sure why they were doing this but I didn't ask questions.
After crossing over a fallen tree and stumbling down a small hill we we finally made it to the cave next to a small mountain stream. After a short rest we got our headlights on and went in. The only real climbing we had to do was at the beginning, repelling down a waterfall to get into the cave. Once inside, my national friend handed me a tree branch and told me to spread out from everyone else. I complied not thinking to ask why because I was busy checking out the first room inside the cave. What I hadn't noticed while checking out the cave was that Pastor David went on in the cave deeper on his own to scare up the bats, and he did a good job, because soon after he went in there were bats flying everywhere. It seemed that they liked to fly right at my face and turn at the last second because of their sonar. After recovering from the shock of bats flying at my face I noticed that everyone was swinging their branches attempting to hit and kill the bats. They wanted the bats for food since their protein intake is limited so they will eat what ever animal they can get their hands on, even bat. I started in on the swinging, not because I was hungry but because I didn't like them flying at my face. Soon swinging at the bats was less protection and more sport, we were counting to see how many each of us could kill (I only got 4). We must have killed around fifty bats between the five of us, at least thirty of the kills were Pastor David, he has been killing bats for food since he was a kid so experience must help. (You may ask yourself..."So did they put the bats in a bag and carry them home?" Oh no my friends, they stuffed their cargo pockets full of dead bats. As many as they could fit!) The bat killing was merely a side activity to climbing down the cave. We went through holes that were no more than 2 feet square to enter rooms the size of our house. Through underground streams, up and down guano (bat poop) covered rocks, and to the back end of the 600 ft deep cave. The air was cool and my pants were wet as we sat down at the bottom to take a break. As we sat their we decided to turn all of our lights out. The pure darkness and silence at the bottom of that cave was so peaceful, for that minute that our lights were out I was completely alone.
We climbed back out of the cave with minimal wrong turns and got out safe and sound with nothing more than a few scratches. Once out we dusted ourselves off, refilled our water in the mountain stream and began the long walk home. We had planned to stop and make a fire to roast our bats on the way down the mountain but a thunderstorm rolled in quickly so we had to skip the bats to make it home before we had a Mount Humbolt experience (inside joke for the Sauder family)
The whole day was an exhausting one, but like anything else in PNG the pain is well worth the reward. Seeing the deep parts of the bush and having so many new experiences made it well worth while and I will go back again soon for sure.
Oh, by the way, for all those serious animal lovers out their who might have a problem with us killing fifty bats... we were merely controlling the population in the cave.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Engage Magazine

Here is a link to an online magazine that has a few articles about the new hospital and the transition that is taking place from November 4 through November 6. Also there are a few nice pics from the old hospital and construction of the new.