In an unexpected twist of events, my husband, D, and I find ourselves back in town and back in our rented (small) house. As always, we never know where we will end up until (at most) a day before we end up somewhere.
On Tuesday morning, I was out for a walk in the remote community and praying about our situation, something like this: "...Well, God, D is pretty restless right now and so am I. We somehow are stuck here waiting for things to happen that might not happen since they keep getting delayed. We don't really have much to do and we are uncomfortable in our current living situation. D really needs to get some more flights in, too, but we don't have any current prospects for trips he needs to fly. Can you help us? ..."
As soon as I got back to the house of the lady we were staying with, she asked, "Did D tell you the new plan?"
It turned out that the funeral of a lady who had recently passed was planned for Wednesday (the next day). So suddenly a plan had fallen into place to leave the house in the next hour, join the funeral ceremonies in a distant community for an uncertain number of days, sleep any any one of three communities, maybe on a floor, maybe just outside, then come back. Then we would continue to wait for people to be ready for the next project to start. But maybe those people would then be going to another funeral for a few days, so maybe hte next project would just keep getting delayed. D and I had been feeling ready for days at that point to get out and get some time to ourselves in town, so I felt like what we were longing for was getting delayed yet gain.
I prayed in my head, "God this isn't exactly what i had in mind: Packing for a trip we are leaving for in an hour with no certainty of where we will stay or how long or who with. Not knowing how much food to bring or how many people will be relying on us to feed them. Not knowing whether there will be clean water available as the pumps in that community aren't working. But I guess it's better than staying in this community with nothing to do. I'll trust you know what you are doing!"
Just then, we got a call from an administrator in our organization. D was needed to fly someone from our main town on Friday. We could say "no" and stay out in the remote community for longer, or we could come in to town. After various phone calls and negotiations, multiple changes of plans, etc., it was determined that D would fly me (in the organization airplane that we had flown out to the remote community in) to a community near the funeral community, get a ride to the funeral ceremonies, spend one night out there, then fly to town.
I felt a huge sense of relief. I can handle absolutely anything for just one night, even having no place to sleep, no water source, and minimal food. But having a multi-day trip of indefinite length like that had seemed overwhelming.
So that's what we did. On Tuesday, D flew me to the community with the airstrip closest to the funeral, I'll call Airstrip Place. We hitchhiked to the nearest house of someone we knew. We got a ride to Funeral Community and greeted some people there. We found out that we could spend the night in yet a different community that I'll call Sleeping Place, made our way there. Then, surprisingly, were offered a room to ourselves in a minimalist cabin!
The water system at Sleeping Place is fed by water bores and extensive pipes traveling kilometers from Funeral Community. Unfortunately, the bores have stopped working and Funeral Community has no water. That absolutely should mean that Sleeping Place has no water, but for some reason, water came out of the taps at high pressure for the whole time we were at Sleeping Place even with 30 people there cooking, washing dishes, drinking, and bathing! It was like a miracle!
Still, I was very nervous that maybe the water would run out at any time. When kids at Sleeping Place left the taps running, I would get so nervous. I had no idea what we would all do if the water stopped as there were no places to get it for many many kilometers. Nevertheless, we had a good time with people at Sleeping Place, including some older people whom we love dearly.
As previously agreed to, the lady who had hosted us for the past couple weeks, I'll call M, had brought enough food to share with us and a few other people. As evening approached, it became clear that the food would be getting shared with all the people at Sleeping Place as none had brought much of their own food.
D helped M make a big pot of stew. Just as we were serving up one bowl per person, 8 more additional people pulled up in their car and hadn't brought any food. The stew got thinned out even further so it would spread. I got a bowl-full but went to bed still hungry. I tossed and turned all night. I felt anxious and increasingly hungry and headache-y. Somehow D didn't really seem as hungry as I was. Maybe he had eaten more than me at lunch. We'd had to eat lunch on the go in between packing and planning. Also, I think my body was still trying to make up for the time I had been sick the previous week and had taken a whle to get my appetite back. Edit: In reviewing the events of the last couple days with D tonight, I discovered that whereas my stew had been mostly broth and little else, his had been far more nourishing with more meat and potatoes than broth. Haha. Better luck next time!
In the morning, I enjoyed some special times with some of the indigenous people we are close to, even though I was feeling quite bad physically at that point and still quite anxious about the water potentially running out and the minimal food supply being stretched among more people than it was meant for. A big pot of oatmeal was made. It had to be thrown out because the oats were old and had gone sour. So 30+ people shared 3 loaves of bread for breakfast. I was getting ravenous at that point even though I had been lucky enough to get one of the 15 boiled eggs that D had boiled the previous day for M, as well as some fruit along with my piece of bread. But I knew that we would probably be able to leave in the plane before too long. Then we would be able to snack on a couple extra snacks I had brought without feeling pressured to share with 30 people.
Unfortunately, the person who was meant to drive us back to Airstrip Place had gotten wrapped up in another activity. As the morning wore on, I began to wonder if we would even be able to leave. The weather usually turns to storms in the afternoon around there. We each got a chunk of damper for lunch. My headache was continuing to worsen from the increasing heat and on-going hunger. We were told that many more people were planning to come to Sleeping Place in the afternoon and that the main part of the funeral was delayed until the next day. Knowing the usual way of things in that culture, I doubted they would be bringing more food. I began to wonder if the water supply would hold out and if anyone would go get more food. I was starting to worry that we would have to stay another night and my growling stomach was beginning to feel resentful. Then the person giving us a ride to the plane was ready to go.
It took over half an hour to drive to Airstrip Place. Big dark clouds began to roll in and rain began to fall as we drove. I was bracing myself for the worst. The radar over the area was broken, so we'd just have to try to fly and see if we could make it.
It took D a little over half an hour to pre-flight the plane on the side of the bare dirt runway. Meanwhile, more big black clouds rolled past just south of us. Fortunately we eventually got going. Up in the air, we could see more storms closing in and the rain began to fall harder. I was so worried we would have to go back, but D said he could probably manouever between the clouds. We made it out of the worst of it. The choppy air made me feel airsick even though I had loaded up on ginger pills before we left. I was able to sleep a little bit which kept the nausea from reaching unbearable levels.
It's a long flight back to town. I wondered occassionally if we would make it all the way or get closed out by storms. Fortunately we did make it, and last night, I got to sleep in my own bed. While we've been gone, we've acquired an additional housemate to fill the third bedroom. Now it's kind of like living in a commune. Not the most comfortable feeling as I would really prefer if D and I could have our own place. But on the other hand, the location is amazing and the rent is much less this way. Plus we are hardly ever home anyway.
We were very happy to go out for Indian food last night. My body was more than ready to make up for the lost calories of the previous 24 hours!
Originally, the plan was for D to fly someone on a trip tomorrow coming back in an indefinite number of days. I wasn't too excited, trying hurriedly to help him get his laundary done and supplies replenished today. Then an hour ago, we were told he wouldn't be leaving tomorrow but the next day and would only be gone for one night! Hooray! (Of course I realize that there are NEVER any guarantees in our line of work!)
Well, that's all for now. We are excited to be back where the food is plentiful and varied and we can have whatever we want. I am excited about air-conditioning too. I don't mean to be a princess about things, but I am really grateful for comfort and increased independence at least for a little while. Knowing me, though, I'll probably be itching to get out of here in another week!