"Pilot to Ukarumpa, Pilot to Ukarumpa, do you read me?"
"Ukarumpa to Pilot, we hear you."
"Pilot to Ukarumpa, am I cleared for landing?"
"Ukarumpa to Pilot, Yes. See you soon."
Pilot: "Well folks, we'll be landing in Ukarumpa in a few minutes. If you look out your window you can see an beautiful birds eye view of the land I've come to call home. Ukarumpa is situated in Ayura Valley. It is about 5000 feet above sea level so our mornings can get pretty chilly - you might even see your breath - but usually it warms up by noon.
If you take a look out your other window, you can see Ukarumpa a bit closer. Since this is your first time visiting, I'll give you some of the facts. Ukarumpa is the missionary base for Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL. Really, they are the same, but Wycliffe loves acronyms. SIL stands for Summer Institute of Linguistics. There are about 1000 people who live in Ukarumpa - but this changes often since missionaries are always coming and leaving. If you were to walk from one end of the fence to the other, it would take you about half an hour - so those 1000 people plus all the other buildings are packed pretty closely together.
Alright, hold on folks, the landings going to be a bit bumpy. We don't have a paved runway - but it serves our purpose. Once we get out, we'll take a look at the runway and I'll tell you a bit more about it.
Well, welcome to Ukarumpa, folks! Glad everyone made it safely! We are actually not in Ukarumpa Center right now. We'll need to take about a 10 minute ride into Ukarumpa. You can see the landing strip we came in on just in front of us. Every time I land, I just can't get over the beauty of where God has put me!
Alright, let's get everyone packed up and headed for our tour of Ukarumpa Center!
Anyone car sick yet? I know the roads are super bumpy compared to what you may be used to from a ride in the US. But - at least we dont' have to walk, right? Most of the Papua New Guineans who are employed in Ukarumpa walk from their village. They could walk up to 2 hours one way. Up ahead is the entrance to UKarumpa. Once we pass that Stop sign and the security building (the small building to the right of the stop sign) we'll be in Ukarumpa.
There we go! The official "Welcome to Ukarumpa" sign! We are going to drive around Ukarumpa and I'll point out some of the main buildings and explain how we do life here!
First up is the Ukarumpa store. As you can imagine the SIL store is a pretty important part of living in Ukarumpa. We only have one store and its a bit like a Target (but much smaller) in the sense that it has a bit of everything. However, because the items need to be shipped or driven in from Lae city or even Australia, things tend to be pricey. For example, a box of regular corn flakes could be as much as $8 or even more! Most people buy their staples - flour, eggs, milk etc - at the store.
Connected to the front of the store is our "McDonalds." It's called the Ukarumpa Kai Bar. in Tok Pisin, the trade language of Papua New Guinea, "kaikai" means "to eat." It doesn't take a genius to figure out how they got the name Kai Bar. They sell super greasy fries and burgers along with fermented ketchup and the occasional milkshake. Always smell your shake before you take a sip, though - it may be spoiled. They also sell meat pies and soda pop.
Located just behind and to the left of this building is the market. Papua New Guinea natives who have gardens and want to make a bit of cash often will hike in from their villages with their fresh produce and sell it in the market. Market is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from about 6 until 8.
Papua New Guinea is a land FULL of delicious vegetables and fruit and we can buy them at the market while supporting local farmers for a fraction of the price you would pay in the US. For example, a bunch of those carrots you see usually run anywhere from $.50 to $1.
If we keep walking a ways down this row, you can see the prices! One of my favorite fruits to buy are strawberries! We can get a huge box piled high of strawberries for $3, if that!
Alright - now that you've seen where we buy our produce and staples, let's keep walking.
Right here to your right is what we call "The Teen Center." It kind of is the idea of a place run by teens for teens (with supervision.) Quite a few different teen orientated things take place in this building, including an opportunity for teens to hold down a job. A minute ago, we passed the Kai Bar. That is run by Papua New Guinean nationals. On select Friday nights, the Teen Center hosts what is called "Hamburger Night."
The basic idea of Hamburger Night is to allow teens the chance to work in a restaurant type environment, make a bit of money, learn about responsibility when it comes to the work environment, and have something to put on their resumes. There are adult supervisors, but for the most part, Hamburger Night is run by teenagers. You can buy a homemade grilled burger, chicken burger, fries, milkshake and a number of other options.
Teen Center is also the place where the teen orientated church services are located (called Soul Purpose) and where the yearly Banquet (Ukarumpa's version of Prom) is held. Through out the year, pep rallies, craft fairs, goodbye parties and other such things are held in the Teen Center.
Let's keep on our tour. To your left is the clinic. There are a few missionaries in Ukarumpa who came to serve as doctors and nurses. It is such a blessing to have them here and able to help when we get sick. The clinic can treat the majority of every day illnesses. They can even treat things like dehydration (with an IV) and cast broken bones. They also give immunizations and there is a small drugstore located inside the clinic. In some situations, the doctors simply don't have the equipment to help a person. For example, a few years back, one of my friends got into a terrible car accident and had multiple fractures and needed to be air lifted. After stabilizing him in this clinic, they flew him to Australia to get him the help his body needed.
To your left is the Meeting House. This functions as our church. We don't have a pastor, but instead there are gifted men who take turns presenting the Word and coordinating the service. Because there are many different denominations (although all are Christ believers and followers), each service takes on a bit of a different taste. The Meeting House is also used as a gathering place for town meetings, school, concerts, school plays, and other similar things.
If we cross right over the road, we are in front of the post office. When someone sends something from the US, the mail needs to catch plane and car rides all the way from its origin to Ukarumpa. Because there are not one way rides anywhere along the journey, mail can take as long as a couple months to reach us. Once it gets here, workers sort the mail and put it in post boxes just like they would in the US. There is no mail delivery, though. We need to walk to this location, pick up your mail, and walk back home.
Well, let's head up to the guest house where you'll be staying tonight. There's still much more to see in Ukarumpa, but we can only get to so much in one day, and I'm sure you are exhausted from your long trip here and would like some down time!
Anyone out of breath yet? After walking up and down the hills of Ukarumpa, you'll get used to it, but I know at first - it's quite the adjustment! Well, here we are!
Once you check in, you can settle into your room. You don't need to worry about what to eat anytime as the staff provides your meals. If you need to do some laundry, there's a washer in the basement and a clothes line out back to dry everything.
So you guys go rest, and I'll come back tomorrow after you sleep off some of your jet lag. Have a great night and enjoy your stay!