Learning to be Flexible

I won’t even go into all the personal emotional challenges I had before leaving Perth! Needless to say, having only 3 weeks at home between arriving home after a month in Tanzania and then hopping on a plane to PNG, were rather fraught.

There were 4 of us in the team this time: me, Mike, Debbie and Nicci (a New Zealand trained midwife. Her first time to PNG).

Departure: The Virgin Blue checkin was soooo slow, we were the last people to be checked in and raced to get on the plane. I was glad to be seated on my own at the back of the plane where I could gather my thoughts and try shift my feelings to a place of relaxation. My luggage didn’t make it so I was left without fresh undies and pyjamas for our overnight stay in Brisbane. I did a good job containing myself at the airport. But…

Transit: when we arrived at the airport hotel in Brisbane I was horrified to learn that my online booking was just for 1 room with 2 double beds rather than the 2 rooms with twin singles as I had originally thought. Well I started to cry at the reception desk! Tears welled up in my eyes, but I remained calm… The hotel very graciously gave us their biggest room and provided 2 more fold away beds. They had no other rooms and were fully booked. We managed. We were all having to be flexible.

The next day we left for Port Moresby, me now with my luggage in tow. Our flight was slightly late and we had to get to The Gateway Hotel to pick up contraceptive implants left there for us by Spacim Pikinini project manager Wendy Stein. We got the implants then raced back to the airport only to be told our flights to Wewak were cancelled – rescheduled for 4 am the next morning… By now I was feeling quite calm about the changes. “Well done Sara, you’re learning to relax and go with the flow,” I thought.

So, back to Gateway Hotel where we had a lovely buffet dinner, but a rather early wake up call to fly out to Wewak! Not much sleep with very loud hotel guests laughing and shouting until all hours – reminded me of Soccer City in Tanzania.

I’ve not arrived in wewak at sunrise before. Usually it’s at sunset. It looked like tropical paradise although a bit brown due to a long dry season. It was great to be met by Susie who we know from previous trips and to be warmly welcomed back to the CBC guesthouse – we’re regulars there now!

After settling into our rooms we went shopping at the local supermarkets in wewak to buy food and supplies for the remote village. At one point another white person came up to me and asked if I was part of the team of midwives from Perth? He’d heard about us from a young student teacher who visited my church earlier in the year. She had stayed with this family in Wewak teaching his kids for 3 months. He said we must catch up before we leave – his wife is Australian and would love to meet some Aussies and have a chat.

Later in the afternoon Rhondy arrived. It was so good to see her again. We both hugged each other for a long time and shed tears of gladness. We have had many many conversations over the last 5 months, supporting each other, wrestling with struggles and opposition together, praying together. At one point I didn’t even know if Rhondy would be able to travel with us because of difficulties within the bureaucracy. Amazingly because of her courage, perseverance and tenacity, she managed to arrange time off work to join us. She is such a blessing.

That night we had a very nice meal with strategic people in East Sepik Province. We had robust discussion about all the problems in delivering health care to people in remote areas. At one stage I felt very depressed at the overwhelming problems. But then we started talking about the opportunities… I came away knowing that there are opportunities, it just takes perseverance to see those become a reality. That’s what I want to do. Help people see the opportunities and then support them to realise those.

After a massive dose of chocolate ice cream for dessert we went our separate ways and prepared for the long journey ahead the next morning. Rhondy had us awake at 3.30 am. I could tell she was excited. So was I…

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The Challenge Begins

Labour Pains

Women who have experienced labour will identify with what I’m going to describe. You’re expecting the birth of your second baby. Very excited and can’t wait to experience the warm gushy feelings of love when you lay your eyes on the baby for the first time. You remember that well. The labour starts and the pain is a gentle reminder that it is time. You arrange for the babysitter to come look after your older child and you and your partner head off to the hospital excitedly. When you arrive the contractions are coming strongly now and it’s then that‘the memory of the last labour’ floods your thoughts. You remember how tough it was, you feel a little bit of despair that you’re going to have to dig really deep to manage the pain. You know it’s going to be hard work. You want it to stop and just go home. You allow yourself to have a little cry as you realise the enormity of the task before you, but then with the love and support of your husband and your midwife you regain your focus and get on with giving birth to your precious baby.

This was my experience during the labour of my second son, Matthew. It was also my experience as I travelled to remote PNG again. With each discomfort and challenge I faced in the early part of the trip, I kept thinking, “this is just like giving birth! Its tough and I have to dig deep”. For me personally, I drew on my Christian faith for strength. During my labour I remembered had a mantra, “breathe in Jesus, blow away fear” and the biblical story was when Peter was in the boat and he then walked on water towards Jesus. As soon as he realised what he was doing and felt afraid, he sank, but when he looked at Jesus and kept his focus on him, he was able to walk on the water. Interestingly a friend of mine reminded me of this verse a day before I left for PNG. I have to say, as you read, you will see we had many challenges and this verse really did help me stay focused and feel at peace despite the circumstances.

The challenges began right at the start of our trip.