All photos and text are property of Dave Forney and may not be used without express permission.

Friday, December 28, 2012

PaUpan Festivities (Part 1)

A few weeks ago a couple of us MAF families spent a few days and nights in Pa'Upan for the big Sa'ban Christmas and cultural festivities they had going on there.  We always love spending time with our friends interior!  I flew schedules based from the interior, and enjoyed the activities with my family when I wasn't flying, and on my day off.

The atmosphere was very energetic, with lots of traditional music, dress, and dancing.  These guys are amazing!  They're playing traditional gongs--very old, and made out of pounded brass or something like that.  The guy on the far left, partially hidden, is playing a wooden drum with animal skin wrapped tightly around the top.  They all play a different part of the rhythm to produce quite a harmonious effect.  It always amazes me how they can go on like that for hours and hours producing an always-present, soundtrack to the festivities day and night.

There were other traditional instruments as well, which produce a very enchanting, twangy-Asian-stringed sound.  Assisted by the guy at the lower right, holding a microphone which was tied into a battery powered amp and megaphone, everyone outside could hear the great music.

There were all kinds of dance and singing competitions for kids all the way up to the oldest adults.  It was all very fascinating.  Notice Joy and the kids in the background taking it all in.

At the beginning of the opening ceremonies they had the four of us MAF couples come up to the front, and then they talked about how much they appreciate MAF and how much MAF means to them and to their villages.  Then they presented each one of us with a beautiful hand-made token of their appreciation--each of us guys receiving a handsome traditional vest made out of tree bark from one of the respected men in the village, and each of our wives received an absolutely beautiful, beaded necklace from one of the traditionally dressed ladies.  It was all very humbling, and quite an honor.  We count it a great privilege to be here and to be serving these people, and we couldn't be here without the prayers and ministry support of so many of you.  So thank you!  Their expression of appreciation extends to you as well, because we're a team!

Each day after a big, buffet-style breakfast of rice, various cuts of pork and other meets, and an abundance of various jungle greens, everyone would gather around the church building to watch the dance and music competitions.  The umbrellas are used to protect from the blazing sun--it's extremely bright and potent here, and will burn you in no time flat.  When out working in the fields, they all typical wear the woven, wide conical-shaped hats that you've probably seen in pictures from all over Southeast Asia.  But those aren't considered dress-up garb, so umbrellas do the trick at an event like this.

We didnt' have umbrellas, but we brought plenty of sunscreen!  We spent a lot of time out there watching the wide variety of dancing.  All very fascinating!

Notice the two parked MAF planes in the background.  We brought many of the people into this event from other villages and from Malinau and Tarakan.  Some had come from other parts of Indonesia, and from across the border in Malaysia.  There's no way most of them would have gotten there if not for the wings of MAF.

I like watching other people watching things.  I enjoy watching people at airports, or other public places--it's very fascinating to me.  When taking pictures I prefer to get most shots of people in a natural setting--often from afar.  If they know you're taking their picture, they usually put on some kind of non-natural face.  But I prefer the natural look that you can often capture only when they don't know you're taking their picture.  Like this.

This little girl was just about the cutest thing you ever saw, all dressed up in her fancy beads and traditional outfit. Joy doesn't normally ask me to take specific pictures--normally I'm the one taking pictures and holding everyone up, and she just assumes that I'll get enough pictures of the "right things/people".  But this time she specifically told me that I had better get some good pictures of this little girl because she was "just so cute!"  I had a wide angle lens on at the time which meant I had to get up pretty close, and she was too scared of the camera.  It didn't work.  So I switched to the 70-200, and meandered away, snapping these shots a few minutes later from afar when she had forgotten about me.  Later, we'll print all of these (and many other) pictures out and take them in and give them to the folks there.

Check back soon for the second post from this event.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas in the Dark

Here's our Christmas tree...all lit up and looking pretty.  We bought it in Bandung, Indonesia when we were in language school.  What you can't see in this picture is the fact that I've installed two pieces of PVC pipe into the "trunk" to help it stand up, and there's a zigzagging rope going from the base, all the way up to the top, tying it to the window grate behind.  It likes to fall over.  And it doesn't help that our cat thinks we installed it there for him to climb.  A number of branches are missing and we lose more "needles" every year than you can shake a stick at--but it's got a lot of character, and it's been our Christmas tree the whole time we've been in Indonesia--this will be our 8th Christmas since then. 

The decorations are minimal--some ribbon and a few simple things from the U.S. and some white lights.  Oh the lights.  Don't get me started on the lights!  I remember joking about Christmas lights in the U.S., how frustrating they were--how much of a pain.  Well, it's a whole different ballgame here.  The only lights we can get in town are LED lights that give off an eerie, metallic bluish tinge, or colored lights that blink and flash like there's no tomorrow.  

We're much more "traditional" and reserved, preferring instead, plain white, incandescent-type lights, that don't blink.  Can't get those here.  So over the years, starting in language school, we would buy a string or two anytime we were in one of the big cities--in Java or sometimes in Balikpapan, IF they were available.  They're much more expensive here than in the U.S., a LOT more expensive! If we were lucky, one of the strings would still be working by the time Christmas was over.  I would have to snip and mend wires, and jerry-rig bulbs and generally just continually fuss with the lights day after day.  I'm always afraid they're going to catch on fire.  In fact shortly after we got the tree, I snipped an end off one of the branches and took it outside and intentionally tried to set it on fire.  There's not really many safety "regulations" here like there are in the U.S., so I just wanted to make sure we didnt' have a beautifully decorated, tall pile of kindling, waiting to burst into flames.  Thankfully, I couldn't get the thing to burn, even with a blow torch.  So that was good!

But back to the lights--last year we were finally totally out of working lights.  Nada.  Zilch.  No more nice white lights.  I could no longer repair our old ones--my Fluke and me were at wits end, and all I wanted to do was put those nasty strings of lights into a bucket and stomp on them until there was nothing left.  Alas, we broke down and bought a string of LEDs.  But it just wasn't the same.  Aren't traditions weird?   I mean, who cares about a tree and lights--that really has nothing to do with Christmas--yet, in a place where it's tropical, and there's no outside indication that it's approaching the Christmas season,  our little tree brings a bit of nostalgia and Christmas ambiance into our home.  Well, our good friends, Paul and Beth happened to be going to Balikpapan around that time and they picked us up three new strands of lights--it was our most well-lit Christmas tree ever!

And that brings us to this year.  We're down to one working strand out of the three.  I had to use the other two to cobble together parts in order to keep the one remaining one working.  Someday I'm going to invent a string of indestructible Christmas lights with a lifetime guarantee--right after I solve nuclear fusion and perpetual energy.  But let me tell you something, you never really appreciate what you have until you don't have it--or at least until you have to work hard to get it or keep it.  So we're very thankful for our lights this year!  And don't they look grand?

Well, here's what our tree looks like, all lit up with our single strand of 100 lights.  Well, at least this is what it looks like on some nights.  But on other nights... looks like this, lit only by the beautiful back-glow of our neighbors generator-run porch light, and our motion-activated, battery-powered security light.  That's because, the power is often out here.  In fact,  it's been nearly a year now that we've had scheduled outages every two or three days, lasting 5 - 8 hours at time.  But lately it's gotten worse--with many unscheduled outages as well.  Any time of the day or night, the electricity can and does go out--sometimes for 15 minutes, sometimes for many hours.

But you know what?  Just like the Christmas lights, I guess the power outages have helped us realize how to be more thankful for electricity, when it IS on!  There's always a silver lining!  And besides, Christmas isn't about a tree, or lights, or electricity...It's about celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus!  And we can do that anywhere, with or without a tree or lights or turkey or whatever!  We have so much to be thankful for--first and foremost that God loved us enough to send His Son, Jesus, to earth, to be born as a man, and then later to give His life for us, so that we can live!  That's the greatest gift of all, and indeed the real "reason for the season"!

Oh, and just in case you're wondering--yeah, we're scheduled for a power outage starting at 5:00pm on Christmas evening and lasting till 10:00 or so.  :-)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Say Hello to Mike Echo Foxtrot (MEF)

Earlier this week I flew our newest Kodiak, Papa Kilo Mike Echo Foxtrot (PK-MEF) from Sentani, Papua to Tarakan, Kalimantan.  Kees, from the MAF Wamena program, joined me on the ferry flight.  We left Sentani bright and early at 5:30am (below).

To be honest, the weather was not really all that great the first half of the 1,500 mile trip.  It was mostly cloudy with off and on rain.  Most of the pictures I have from the first five hours are gloomy and dreary looking--which is odd, since these are some of the most beautiful, tropical islands in the world.  Below, we're passing by the Raja Empat area, which is supposedly one of the best diving places in the world, but very hard to get to because it's so far from everything.

We only stopped for fuel once, on the gorgeous volcanic island/city of Ternate (below).  About 20 minutes before landing the clouds opened up and the sky and sea took on a beautiful deep blue color.

Here we are passing along just to the south of Manado (in the distance, under the big clouds in the below picture), in Northeastern Sulawesi.  It was pretty neat to see how the sky was mostly clear above the ocean.  However almost every island had clouds directly above--which makes sense if you understand how the weather works.  It was pretty fascinating to see it so consistent like that.  I like watching weather, so long as I'm not fighting it too much!

As we passed to the south of Manado we flew just abeam a volcano that was still smoking a bit.  Last week this sucker produced a pretty big eruption.  Indonesia, located right along the Pacific "rim of fire," is home to over 17,000 islands, and many of the most active volcanoes in the world.  We thought we might have to divert around this one after hearing the reports of it's eruption last week, but it was mostly quiet by the time we passed by.

The Celebes Sea was a deep, surreal, endless blue, interrupted only by the occasional shipping vessel.

As we approached the east coast of Kalimantan, we flew along several expansive corral reefs and small islands, still pretty far out to sea.  These are pretty much untouched, as they're too far away from any city or town to be disturbed.

There's absolutely nothing like this anywhere near the island of Tarakan where we live.  You may remember from previous posts that we've taken some trips to some islands to snorkel once in a while.  It takes about 3 to 3 1/2 hours by speed boat to get to those islands, and these reefs are quite a bit further south (meaning further away) than those.  But it's absolutely beautiful to see this sort of thing from 12,500 feet above.  It made me want to jump out the window with a snorkel and see what's swimming around down there!  Notice the deep blue channel cutting through the reef at the bottom, center of the picture.  Keep in mind we're over two miles high when I took this shot--so that gives you some perspective as to it's size--the reef was huge!

As we paralleled the Kalimantan coast going north, we approached the islands of Maratua and Kakaban, barely visible in the distance, just below the clouds on the horizon.  Those are two islands that I've been to, but I've never seen the huge reef in the foreground until I flew over it on Thursday.

We flew right between Maratua and Kakaban.  Here, to the left was the island of Kakaban--the famous volcanic island that has a huge lake in the middle.  It may not look big in this picture, but it's several miles across.  The lake is famous because it's neither fully fresh nor fully salt water--but somewhere in between.  In the lake live millions of jelly fish that are harmless b/c they've lost their stingers.  It's very surreal to swim in there because you can swim among the jellies everywhere and hold and touch them without any danger.

And to the right of the plane was Maratua, a very long, but narrow, horseshoe-shaped island with reefs surrounding it on the outside and inside.  There are several villages on Maratua and a few dive resorts, but they're too expensive for us.  

Well, the flight went well, and we praise the Lord for safety, and for tail winds.  We were able to arrive in Tarakan just before 3:00pm after about 9 hours of actual flying time.  You may notice I have a beard in the picture.  That's not my normal "look".  My kids have been asking me to grow a beard for some time now, and I've resisted.  However, a month ago when our previous attempt to ferry this plane was cancelled at the last minute due to further complications with clearances, I decided that I would stop shaving until the Kodiak finally arrived in Tarakan.  So now I guess I get to shave it off. :-)

We arrived in Tarakan to a large group of MAF folks and people from the community, who cheered as the engine shut down, and then gathered around to hold hands in prayer, as we dedicated our newest plane to the Lord.

After some quick maintenance checks and tweaks on Friday, and a host of minor program mods and checks, Mike Echo Foxtrot will go right to work on Monday, joining our other Kodiak, Mike Echo Bravo (MEB), and our three 206's.  We're very thankful for our second Kodiak, as our first has been working very hard (it's the highest time Kodiak in the world) serving the people here in Kalimantan, and is our most-requested plane.  Thanks to everyone who made this possible, from the donors who gave money to purchase the plane, to the folks at our headquarters and hangar in Nampa who did a lot of work prior to the trans-pacific ferry flight, to the MAF folks in Papua and Jakarta who worked through a bunch of stuff to complete the importation process, and also to our own amazing maintenance guys and office staff here in Tarakan who've picked up the baton and will carry it from here on out.  It's a giant team effort, and will be greatly appreciated by the people whom we serve!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

This and That

We just got back from four days interior in the village of PaUpan where we had the privilege of attending a Christmas and cultural event.  I also flew schedules, but started and ended the days in PaUpan, where my family and a few other MAF families were hanging out.  I have a bunch of pictures to share with you from that, but the power was out when we got home...again, so I'm just going to throw out some random shots from the past few weeks.

Here's a shot from our neighbors yard as the sun sets over Borneo.  The mosque in the foreground is a few hundred meters from our house.  The buildings and flat area in the middle is Tarakan, which is separated from mainland Borneo by a much of muddy coastal waters.  The foothills and mountains in the distance, are on mainland Borneo.

Here's some random shots from flying around and serving the people of Kalimantan, along with a few shots of the folks whom we serve.

Yep, it's still rainbow season here...with challenging weather, but almost daily sightings of multiple rainbows of all various shapes and sizes.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Very Special Co-pilot!

A few weeks ago I had a very special co-pilot fly along with me all day long.  We flew the Kodiak all around Northeast Kalimantan to several different villages.

Wherever we landed Hannah was an instant celebrity.  Of course, as her dad, I think she's just the most cutest girl ever...but I'm a bit biased!  However, with her blond hair and blue eyes she's an absolutely intriguing and mesmerizing sight for the kids (and adults) interior.

Everyone wanted to get their picture taken with Hannah...not just the kids, but the ladies too.

The ladies just couldn't stop feeling Hannah's hair and rubbing her cheeks and nose, almost like they had to confirm that she was real, and not just some fairy-tale, human-sized doll, come to life!  Of course, many of these ladies and kids in Long Sule remembered Hannah from our ministry trip there back in February, and were just so excited to see her again!  (See Long Sule Part I and Long Sule Part II)

In Mahak Baru we picked up a group of passengers heading to Malinau for a big cultural festival.  They had a few traditional wooden musical instruments ready to take along.  One was gigantic, and one was tiny.  So they wanted to pose for pictures with Hannah and the instruments.  Mahak Baru is the only village in the area that has a cell phone tower, and it cracked me up to see how many of the passengers were gathered around taking cell-phone pictures.

We've had the chance to spend some time as a family in Mahak Baru, (see Trip to Mahak Baru 1 and Trip to Mahak Baru 2) and Hannah was so excited to see our dear friend Ibu Tinan Kule again.  Check out this post over on Joy's blog, that she did about Tinan Kule.  I think you'll find it inspiring.  She's a very sweet lady who loves the Lord and always shows that love in and through her life.  She also happens to be one of the village agents that helps us pilots with the loading manifests and passengers.  As usual, she had fried rice and drinks waiting for us, so we ate lunch there.

Also in Mahak, Hannah got to hang out with her sweet friend, Marlince, who gave her a little water turtle to take home as a gift (in the plastic jar).  Marlince was featured in a photo with her brother and our other kids, in front of an MAF airplane in last year's MAF calendar.  That photo can be seen in the Trip to Mahak Baru 1 post.  It's the third picture down from the top.  It's so fun for the kids to have friends interior, especially when they can re-connect with them.  

All in all, despite some very challenging weather on the way home, it was a great day and I was so glad to have Hannah come along as my co-pilot!