Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Joy of Speaking Englishes

I must record my English language acquisition in Australia.

After spending, what seems, 20 hours a day at work with my English and Irish co-workers, Thea and Paula, I've come away with some new words added to my vocabulary.

Before we begin the talk about the colorful English language, I have to add a bit of geographical knowledge here. It took awhile for an American college graduate to understand that England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are different countries. However, they are also part of the United Kingdom. Maybe you, my dear readers, are smarter than me, which I have no shame of admitting that. But be careful on calling a Welsh or Scottish person an English. He or she may bite your head of as I've been warned by my work colleagues. Also you just don't want to straight up ask someone from Northern Ireland if they are British or Irish. That can be a sensitive subject. Again, you may lose a part of your body for asking such outrageous question!

So every day at work, I get to whinge with Thea and Paula about our extraordinary lives and excellent working conditions. They think that all good things in life are ace. Like we get to make our own latte everyday. That's definitely ace. It's so cheeky of Paula to accuse Thea for 800 years of Irish suffering. But Thea loves the attention, of course. Everyday, as a routine, we ask each other what we had for yesterday tea when we got home, and what we will have for dinner at 1 pm. Thea loves dipping her biscuits in her tea. We love eating toasties since the company provides them. They also introduce me to Curly Whirly and Chupa Chups and their fierce passion for tea. Paula likes to pear her pencil with a pearer, so much so, that Thea has to limit her use of it. Paula's "r" sounds like an "o" and it takes a few seconds for my brain to covert the "o" to an "r". Usually she tanks tea (thanks Thea) for making her tea, and also likes to tell us about her special tums (thumbs).

If you're confused, welcome to the club. Day in and day out for nearly three months, I had to strain my ears and pay careful attention just to communicate in English. We laughed a lot though. It was definitely ace to have met one another.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Papua New Guinea: The Beginning

The story about how I'm on my way to Papua New Guinea is nothing short of a miracle. Here's why...

October 2006, I came out to Australia and had never heard of Papua new Guinea, or PNG. It's not the most backpackers-friendly place; no travellers I've talked to had gone there, except our church leaders. No, it's not a forbidden city neither. Just that things like women being raped in broad daylight while traveling on a bus aren't unusual, that's all...

Since my arrival in OZ, disciples in the Melbourne Church have kept talking about HOPE Worldwide in PNG, a doctor named Graham Ogle, an American couple--Tony and Tasha--who lead the church in PNG, and this place called Gumine. It'd be amazing to go there, I thought.

Deep down, I feel that my calling has to do with the work in developing countries. This secret obsession/passion started since my time in Cambodia in 2003, the experience that forever changed the course of my life. Something about Cambodia wrung my heart with a profound sense of humanity. I'm still planning to go to Cambodia. But while in Australia, something about PNG also calls me there. Also, later I found out that Doctor Graham Ogle is the same guy who helped start the Sihanouk Hospital in Cambodia. How cool will that be to meet someone like that?

PNG is dangerous, so they say. But I didn't leave the US to seek first-world comfort. Not everyone wants to go where their lives can be endangered. Fair enough. But for some strange reasons, I do. I'm scared and excited. In these places, my senses are most alive, and I write better. Looking back, I should have gone to a journalism school. Maybe I'd have gotten a job as a foreign correspondent for some obscure news network or something ludicrous like that. Well, I guess God has a different plan for me.

I didn't know how I was going to make it out there. My first month in OZ was nothing but a struggle to find work. Whether I'd be able stay for four months as planned or not depended on finding a job. Not only that, a friend who owes me a huge sum of money hasn't kept his promise. Without money, I'd have to go back to Thailand by the end of November, 2006. While the financial burdens were heavily looming over my head, I still wanted to go to PNG. Finally, I gave myself a deadline and prayed that if it's God's will for me to go, He 'd give me a job by the end of November. At that point, I had to surrender all my plans and dreams in Australia to God.

Sure enough, God gave me his answer. I found a job by the end of the month. Then I began saving up. The next step is to get connected with the church in PNG. I emailed someone, but no response. Also, airfare to PNG is ridiculourly expensive for being so close to Australia. Apparently, sane people don't go there. I didn't think anyone else I know would want to go. Who's that crazy anyway? I couldn't go there without solid connections with HOPE Worldwide or the church. Soon I began to feel discouraged planning this all alone.

But I wasn't alone.

Out of the blue while hanging out with Irene, a friend from church, she told me that two guy friends are also going to PNG. What? There are people out there who are as crazy as me!!!

It's true when God is at work. He's not slow as we think He is. When God wants something to happen, nothing can stop it.

I contacted the two guys. Unfortunately, one had to cancel because of work. The other is still going also because of work. He was asked by HOPE Worldwide to document the work in Port Moresby, the capital of PNG.

Tim Lumsden will be my travelling buddy to PNG. I told him that I won't be able to protect him if anything were to happen, and his hope was somewhat dashed...

I have five weeks to prepare for this trip, and I really hope to get malaria pills for cheap. I don't want to spend a fortune on a doctor's visit in OZ.

Five weeks to save up. Five weeks to do research on the country. The cool thing is that Tim will be doing exactly the kind of work that I want to do for HOPE Worldwide and our church--documenting God's work in developing countries. I promised to be Tim's personal attendant for a week and carry his equipment around. Bribery works, and he eventually agreed to let me tag along.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Scuba Diving in the Great Barrier Reef

I went scuba diving for the first time in the Great Barrier Reef!!!!!!!!!

What an awesome experience! Words don't do justice.

Our boat, the Catameran run by the Down Under company, took us to our first diving spot. Somewhere about two hours from Cairns in the Great Barrier Reef.

On my first attempt, I got scared--no, terrified-- of breathing through my mouth and chickened out. Most of my life, I am a fine swimmer and feel in control in the water. But there's something about being underneath it and having to rely on an oxygen tank. The ear pressure, the tank, the breathing, the vast space underneath the surface, aaaahhhhh.....

My traveling buddy Alicia went in and saw all kinds of amazing fish and sea creatures. When she came up to the boat and told me all about it, I felt horrible for missing out. All because of fear. "It's a whole new world down there," she said.

When you're scared, you stop breathing. A normal human reaction. I was physically fit for diving, but mentally under a tremendous weight of fear.

Good thing the boat took us to a second diving spot. With Alicia's encouragement, I was determined to redeem myself. I can't give up on this. Going home without diving would be a downer. "Don't think,"she told me, "Just look at the fish." I was thinking too much and it got in the way.

Before my second desparate attempt on diving, I asked Alicia if she would write me a good eulogy. She agreed, so down I went...

I descended into the great Australian sea, still struggling a bit with the mouth piece. But after a few minutes, it was-----like she said----a whole new world. Life would not be the same again. (Gotta say that for a dramatically corny effect)

After the first dive, most people are hooked. My English co-worker Thea, who got her diving certificate in Thailand, refuses to snorkel once she's learned how to dive. No, this isn't a snobbish English trait. Just a desire for the finer things in life. (Like I said, I do say nice things about you, Thea.)

Hopefully Alicia and I will go diving again before we leave Cairns. We'll see. All I know is that scuba diving is Da Bomb! And....YIPPYYY... I did my first, of all palces, in the Great Barrier Reef.