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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My story - Part 2

The Australian family was a lot of fun to work with.  Their children were younger than we were, so we were able to watch them while our parents had meetings or worked.  The Australians have a different language than we do, not really but some days it seemed like it.  We had to learn what "nappies", "tins", and "nursing the baby".   Nappies are diapers, tins are cans, and "nursing the baby" means to hold a baby.

At this point in our lives we didn't have an airstrip.  So supplies were brought in by truck.  I can't remember how many hours it took on a good, dry day, but on a bad day, it could take the whole day to get in.  But by plane, it would only take a little over a half hour.  So we started working on a strip.  There was a huge rock in the middle, and no matter how we tried to angle the strip, the rock had to go.  So my dad wore him self out pounding away at the rock.  We even tried building a fire around the rock and then pouring water over it.  It took us a long time to get the rock out, which we eventually did.

In the meantime, the pilot and our team worked out a way for them to drop supplies in from an airplane.  It cost a lot more than the plane coming in and landing, as they had to fly in circles while they dropped as many boxes as they could in a pass, but saved us all the time of travelling to town to get our own supplies. The supply-buyer had to learn how to pack things so that they wouldn't crush other things or be crushed.  The pilot found men, who were willing to hang on in the back with the door open and who were strong enough to pitch as many boxes in one pass as possible.  This saved us money as it took fewer passes.

I remember the record being 24 boxes in a pass and it was the older brother of a classmate of mine from the year before.  Sometimes we had scrambled eggs on the day of the flight.  One time we lost a huge bag of flour to a puddle.  And they even figured out how to drop the gas bottles we needed for our stove.  We stayed pretty clear the first time we tried that. But it worked, with a parachute and all.

And then the excitement.  Hauling all the boxes home and opening them all.  It was like Christmas every six weeks.  We would always open the mail first - all of it.  What a joy to hear news of home!  It was back in the days before e-mail and our only connection with the outside world was a radio conversation twice a day during the week.  The news was always old.  It took about 2 weeks at that time to get a letter from the U.S.   So there were times when it was a couple of months before we received a response to our letter.

Then, after the mail, came choosing what to have for lunch.  Fresh meat, cheese, peanut butter - all those things we'd been craving were in those boxes and it was sooo fun to pick what to eat from the bunch.  Usually there was some fresh fruit which we hadn't had for over a month, unless there was some fruit growing nearby.

Where we lived there was always the threat of rebel activity and we never knew when they may show up and tell us to leave.  They had done it before.  I remember seeing them in their camouflage uniforms and the people around being very nervous.  When our co-worker came to give her order over the radio, she'd gotten used to asking Mom for help.  She never ended up with what she wanted.  One time she ordered a packet of Tide (now this has to last for 6-weeks), and she got a packet of Tide (one load's worth), but what she had meant at least to an American was a box of Tide.  So she knew that if she wanted her order right have an American read it and see if it was ready. 

So Auntie Pam brought over the order one day during all this rebel activity, and Mom read it over.  "Oh, no, no, no," Mom said, "This will never work.  You can't order this.  In fact, what do you even mean by this?"  Aunt Pam leaned over and glanced at the line Mom was pointing to. 

"Oh, yeah, a dummy.  Naomi needs a dummy, because she keeps losing them."  Mom looked at her with a strange look on her face.  Naomi was their little one year old, but why would she need a dummy? 

So Aunt Pam asked, "What do you think a dummy is?"

"A mannequin type thing that looks like a person.  What do you think it is?"

"Well, one of those things a baby sucks on to keep them quiet."  Aunt Pam said.

"Oh, a pacifier. Well, " Mom replied thoughtfully, "I'm not sure what the rebels would think if they say "people" falling from the sky into our backyard.  And that is what the supply buyer would think you wanted." 

We all had a good laugh about this.   But it wasn't all fun.  We had to know exactly what to do if they did show up on our doorstep.  So we devised a plan. 

And then I remember the time when all of those plans came into action.  I was thankful that our co-workers with their little girls weren't there.  We were in trouble.  We needed to get out, but there was a conflict going on both sides of us and we couldn't go up the road or down the road because either way they would think we were on the other side. 

We were trying to make contact with town to get out of there, but the airstrip wasn't functional yet.  Finally, we were told they would bring a helicopter in the morning.  We were all pretty scared, so we all bunked down in the girls' room.  I slept with my sister, and my brother was in my bed and my parents on the floor. 

I was not going to fall asleep.  I wanted to be awake to hear any noises if they were going to come.  All of the sudden I thought I heard the dog growling.  After a minute, I realized that I had been snoring and woken myself up. 

We were flown out the next morning.  The rescuers wondered why we were crying.  We knew we were leaving our friends (the village people) in the midst of a conflict.  My brother told them, "We can leave but they can't.  We love them.)  And we did...very much.

We were able to go back, but the people were worried.  So everytime someone heard rumors of trouble, one of the men my dad trusted would come to the house and quietly say, "You need to go on a vacation."   And as we drove out to town in our white vehicle, the people would call and ask where we were going, Dad would say, "On vacation." and they would all look at each other smile, and say, "Ohhh, on vacation!"  They knew what it was all about.

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