March 20, 2012

**Warning to my mom and others with snake phobias - there are snake photos in this blog post!!!**

First, an update on the birds - they are gone!  Hallelujah, Amen.  It was not without a good bit of tree-banging and praying.  David said he heard them over by the airport one evening, squawking away.  They can stay over there and keep the airplanes company from now until eternity as far as I am concerned!

Right about the time the birds left us, we became caretakers of a new creature, this time a lovely green tree python.  See, this is how your children can change you.  If reptile-loving Carter weren't my child, I probably wouldn't find myself slamming on the brakes to check out a dead snake in the middle of the road like I did recently.  I digress.

Ever since we found out we'd be moving to Papua, Carter has been dreaming of having a green tree python as a pet.  He planned for it, researched it, purchased items when we were in America to go in a snake cage.  And two weeks ago Carter's "Verdi" came home (if you haven't read the children's book Verdi, you should - it's a great little story about a python who doesn't want to grow up and change.  Heartwarming.  Really.)

As Steve Irwin would say, isn't she a beauty?

This past weekend we hosted two Papuan girls, Mey and Ivan, from a local school that does English training and discipleship classes for high school graduates.  Part of their training requires them to do a home-stay with an international family for a weekend.  We tried to give them a "typical" American weekend (as typical as you can get in Papua) - a high school basketball game, waffles and cartoons on Saturday morning (our standing family tradition), and a cookout and games with friends.  We also decorated cookies for St. Patrick's day, but I spared them the green grits.  

They are sweet girls and I enjoyed getting to know them and learning about their culture a bit.  

So I started this blog post yesterday and because of internet issues I've had to finish it this morning, but that just gives me a chance to report on the crazy night we had.  First there was a massive thunderstorm that rolled through.  Then, at about 3 a.m., David shakes me and says "Earthquake!" I was so confused, but keenly aware of the bed shaking and the pictures on the wall rattling.  I stood up, wondering if I should go to the kids' room, not knowing how earthquakes work and if it would get stronger, and then it was done.

You can see a map and details here.  David is supposed to fly today to the area near the epicenter.  Between the earthquake, storms, and local people demonstrating every other day, Papua has proven to be a wild place!!

March 01, 2012

The Birds

I usually love birds.  I love to watch them fly, I love to hear them sing.  But lately, not so much.

We have had a major bird problem ever since we arrived in Papua.  It all started long before we arrived, when a large flock of starlings roosted in a neighbor's tree.  Every evening, for months, these birds would announce their presence with loud shrieks and chirps as they swooped in from all directions.  The neighbors finally got fed up with the birds, and cut down the tree.

So the birds moved all of 20 feet, to a tree in our yard.  When we first arrived and heard the birds, we were rather amazed.  They were SO loud, and SO punctual.  It was rather fascinating to watch them arrive - landing in the tree, flying up again and around the MAF base as if calling their friends to join them before coming to roost in our tree.

  I can't even describe how incredibly noisy these birds are.  They make a tremendous amount of noise when they first settle down for the night, but then any little noise or disturbance gets them all flustered and they squawk for 5 or 10 minutes before settling down again.  It's like there is a newborn in the house.  We tiptoe around, shushing each other, reminding each other not to slam a door or yell, lest we wake the birds.  It's ridiculous.

Noise can have an amazing effect on a person.  I was feeling sort of stressed out one day, and a friend pointed out to me that noise can be a huge stressor living overseas.  I hadn't really thought of noise as stress, but it's so true.

I remember my first visit back to the U.S. after living in Indonesia for two years, and how quiet it seemed.  I lay in bed at my parents' house, and there were no roosters crowing, no toads croaking, no mosque call, no motorcycles zooming by - nothing, but an ear-achingly quiet that almost throbbed in my ears.

In addition to our birds, we hear jet engines all day long (David would say that's a lovely sound; he is entitled to his opinion, I suppose), an Indonesian preschool (really, I don't mind that so much - I love hearing the kids belt out their abc's), and at least twice a week a drum and xylophone band practices next door.  After a few weeks of listening to them practice the Indonesian national anthem, Grace said in frustration, "You'd think they'd have that one down by now!"

So noise is a constant in our lives, and usually we are able to tune it out.  But these birds - they were getting to us, and last week we reached our breaking point.  My normally gentle, peace-loving husband started telling me how he's fantasizing about shotguns and a bird bloodbath.  We take turns in the evening going out to whack on the tree with a baseball bat to scare the birds and hope they will go roost elsewhere.  The birds, of course, don't think too highly of the bat treatment, and one night they gave David the ultimate bird insult.  After a whacking session he walked in with a large black blob of bird poop on his shirt, which only galvanized our resolve to rid ourselves of these birds once and for all.

And their feathers!  I haven't mentioned their feathers, which are all over our yard, and the little downy feathers make their way into the house, leading me to find a new meaning for the phrase *exercise in futility* - trying to sweep up feathers!

The past two nights the birds have swooped through the yard, and passed us by to go roost in a neighbor's tree.  We are hopeful, but I'm not ready to say the bird saga is over just yet.  The baseball bat sits by the door, ready to be grabbed and whacked.

If that doesnt work, does anyone have any ideas as to how we can rid ourselves of these birds???