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Communications to & from Walagu

March 18, 2012

Actually one week passed between when the lightning strike happened and when Michi arrived to help with repairs. During that time, I did not have the radio to talk with Ukarumpa and other places around PNG. I thought that I had the older radio in the literacy office for back-up. But that radio did not work. Not because of the lightning as it is in a different building, but probably because of old age, or a cockroach ate a wire, or one of many other reasons.

I did feel disconnected from the world, but I had the cell phone. Then the cell phone signal was lost for a couple of days. It was a different kind of feeling. I was thinking, that was what it was like in the days for the first missionaries into PNG, and other places. I thought, I had planned to use the radio, or phone if I had an emergency. But then it was the emergency that partly took those options off my contingency plans. I strongly reminded myself that really it is God that I am dependent upon, not matter what the circumstances.

I had been spoiled all of these years by better communications, and recently, with being able to send email, then very recently, cell phone usage. I was amazed how much I missed the phone and emails, although for years, I had just done without them because they were not available.

The cell phone coverage is sporadic and patchy. There are only a few places where a person gets a good enough signal. Amazingly, one of the places is from the back verandah of my Walagu house. The phone will ring if someone calls, but if I answer in the house, it mostly drops the call. So, when the phone rings, it is pick-up the phone, walk to the back verandah, then answer. Texts will come to the phone, and I can look at the text while still in the house, almost all of the time. Of course, I can type the answer, but only about 1/3 of the time will the texts send from in the house, most of the time, they also need to be sent from the back verandah.

There are several spots surrounding the house where phones can pick up a signal. This is a mixed blessing. Obviously, I greatly enjoy that I can use my phone from my back verandah on the good days. But it also means people just stand or sit around my house and have their phone conversations. It is different and sometime very funny to be in the middle of everyone’s phone conversations. I keep reminding people that I can hear when they stand outside of my house and talk.

One Saturday the signal was very poor, and did not work at my house. I did want to have a short conversation with my mom (weekend rates are cheaper!). So, I had to go over to another area not far from my house, where we could get a signal that day. I did talk with my mom. But me being out and talking on the phone definitely drew a crowd of little kids. So, I had them all yell together, “Hello!” to my mother. For days afterwards, I had little kids coming up and saying things like “Let’s call your mother, I want to talk again.” or “Let’s call your mother, I did not get to talk the other day!”

The radio that I used the last few weeks in Walagu was a loaned radio, so it came back with me to Ukarumpa. That means I only can talk with Walagu by cell phone. Mostly, that works fine, but it is something that we are all adjusting to. All of our phones are pre-paid plan. They call me, and then want me to call them right back. That way we use my units not their units. But, as I can get top-up cards much easier then they can, I do not mind doing this.

However, I am never at my best when I get a phone call at 6 or 6:30 a.m.

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