Ukarumpa to Lae to Yemli to the US and back again

Since I've talked about Yemli quite a bit in my past blogs and have mentioned Ukarumpa but not really gone into more detail, I thought I would spend some time familiarizing you with one of the other homes I had in Papua New Guinea.
First off, let me give you an idea of how Ukarumpa fit into my life in comparison to the US, Yemli and everywhere else.


Ok - so first off, We would travel from Papua New Guinea (the red circle) to the United States (the blue circle) every three or four years. Basically, the way Wycliffe works it furloughs (or time back in the missionaries home country raising support, seeing family, preparing for the next field assignment, etc) is that for every year you spend in the field (in our case, Papua New Guinea) you get three months back in your home country. We always came back for at least 9 months so that each of us could complete a full school year - which means we would need to spend three years in Papua New Guinea. I remember we had one four year term which meant we spent a whole year in the US.
The yellow dots on the map are places where we would catch flights on our long trip from PNG to the US. Unfortunately, there's not one plane that can go from Papua New Guinea to Minnesota, so we'd have to stop off at many different airports and catch many different planes. Because of that, I have been in MANY airports around the world and as I've talked about before, really feel quite at home in an airport. So, our usual route would be fly from Port Moresby (the capital of Papua New Guinea) to Cairnes or Sidney, Australia. From there, we'd either fly to New Zealand, Singapore or somewhere in Asia (Tai Pei, Tokyo, Hong Kong, etc) and then from there, we'd fly into Los Angeles or San Francisco in California, which is in the USA! Sometimes, there might be a stop off in Hawaii... (Hopefully you know your geography and can pick out which yellow dots are which country on my map...)
 It's a lot easier and shorter to type that all out than it was to actually travel. The plane trip to California was anywhere from 12 to 16 hours depending on where we were flying from and that's just one small leg. You add on the flight to Port Moresby, Australia, New Zealand or Singapore, and from California to MN, we were looking at at least 30 hours of flight AIR time, not including layovers. The trip from PNG to the US (or opposite) took a good 36 hours at least. So, that trip would take place every three to four years, and then 9 months or a year after each trip to the US.
Ok - so now that we have that under control, back to Ukarumpa and how that fits into my life in PNG.

Ukarumpa in located where the big letter A balloon is sitting. The green circle is the city of Lae on the coast and the small red rectangle dot is where Yemli village is located (general idea). Growing up, we would spend anywhere from 6 to 9 months in the village each year. Maybe even more...
Usually, we'd spend up to 6 months in Yemli, go back up to Ukarumpa for a month or two, and then head back to Yemli for another few months. Now that you have the general pattern, let me go through a bit more details.
Assume that our family was in Ukarumpa (the red A balloon) but it was time to do a village stay. We would pack up our entire house, clean it spotlessly (getting it ready for a renter), and leave some early weekday morning (around 6) to catch a PMV (or Public Motor Vehicle) to get to the city Lae (green circle). A PMV is basically a bus, except imagine stuffing the bus as full as possible and then stuffing a few more people - that's a PMV for you.
Typical Ukarumpa to Kainantu PMV - usually the ones from Kainantu to Lae were covered in case it rained, but sometimes not. Just depended on how desperate you were to catch one and what you were willing to deal with.

So, we'd flag down a PMV on its way to Kainantu (a small city about 20 minutes from Ukarumpa). Once the right bus came, we'd have to run to get a spot. Once all six of us got on the bus, we'd go on the bumpy road. Once we got to Kainantu, we'd find another PMV heading to Lae. Once we found our bus, they would drive around the city looking to completely fill up. What's the point of making the long trip if you don't have every seat filled? So waiting for the bus to fill up would take anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes, maybe even more depending on how committed and serious the drivers were.
Eventually, we'd be on our way. The actual drive to Lae takes about 4 hours. Now don't imagine four hours in the US. The fastest you can drive on PNG roads is probably abotu 65 miles per hour. They don't use mph there, but rather kph or kilometers per hour. PMV drivers who know the roads because they drive back and forth every day can get up to about 120 kmp, but you can't maintain that speed the whole trip. There are potholes the size of your car every few miles, and landslides, dogs and logs you have to dodge, bridges you have to carefully cross, tolls you have to pay and more. I have no idea how many miles the actual trip is, but I bet if the roads were nice like they are here in the US,  you could easily get to Lae in two hours if not less. But, that's never going to happen.
Ok - so once we got to Lae, we'd stay at the missionary guest house for up to two weeks. During that time, my parents would be doing village prep shopping. By that, I mean my Mom would be buying groceries for the whole time we were going to be in the village (remember? 4-6 months). Not only would they be buying food, they'd be buying things like toilet paper, dish soap, laundry detergent, and all those other things you need to LIVE. My Dad would be doing lots of shopping as well, but he got things like notebooks, pencils, paper and other office supplies. Both my parents also home schooled us in the village, which meant they needed to pack and get a hold of all the school supplies we needed for that village stay. In addition, they were translating the Bible into Malei (the Yemli language) and needed to buy any supplies they needed for that. So, in all honesty, Mom and Dad were running around pretty much every day besides Sunday while we were in Lae.
My Dad's main job was to pack all that stuff I talked about in the last paragraph in small boxes that were helicopter appropriate. The missionary helicopters had super strict luggage rules. I know it was for a great reason (like not crashing) but I actually don't know why. But, every box had to be packed meticulously and fully, taped shut, weighed and sometimes repacked. Then it needed to be labeled with our name, the destination, and the weight in kilos.
Finally, the great day would come. We would pack everything up in one of the missionary vans and head out to the helicopter pad (a huge field.) Then, we'd take everything out of the car and stack it up in different piles. In addition to each box being weighed, only a certain amount of weight could be on each plane. My dad would need to think about which of us would be going on each helicopter ride and how many boxes. Good thing he was a math major in college, huh?
There's the missionary helicopter we would take. This is actually the new one. There used to be a much smaller one that we took when I was growing up - but it looked pretty much the same, just smaller.

So anyways, the helicopter would come, whoever was getting in would get in along with all the boxes and the short but beautiful 20 minute ride from Lae to Yemli village would start. I really miss those rides. Now, for those of you in denial right now, yes, I rode on a helicopter so many times in my life I don't even know. Maybe you're jealous, and you should be. Those rides were amazing.
When I flew back home Christmas of 2010 and got to ride on the helicopter, I was awed at how beautiful PNG was from above. I totally took all those rides for granted - but what do you expect a kid to do?
Not sure if you can see or not, but in the upper left hand corner, you can see the helicopter heading out with a load!
So - we'd ride for 20 minutes and land in Yemli.

There's the landing pad for Yemli village (the basketball court or cleared flat spot you see. Our house is the one right next to that cleared flat spot to the right.
Sometimes it was a lot more difficult than that - maybe clouds were covering the mountains or there was wind or something else, and we'd have to take a different route or wait a few minutes in the air or something, but we always got there safe and never had any problems.
Coming in to land...
Jumping WAY ahead, after our stay in the village was done, we'd catch the helicopter back to Lae, usually stay there for up to one week and tie up any loose ends we needed to, and then PMV back up to Ukarumpa.
So there you have it.
Stay tuned for an actual tour of Ukarumpa!