I’ve only just realised that I haven’t blogged about OE (Outdoor Education) this year! I guess in my head I meant to, then forgot I hadn’t actually done it…
Being my last OE made it a bittersweet event. I adore OE and I wouldn’t miss it for anything, and knowing that it was my last made a little melancholic at times. I was trying to absorb every experience and not take for granted all the opportunities God was giving me, both with the people I’d come with, and with the local people.
Going into a remote village for 2 weeks with our entire high school is quite the experience! We don’t have electricity, running water, bathrooms, showers, any of the modern conveniences we’re used to, and 88 people is a lot of people to cook and clean for! Scrubbing clothes by hand, showing in freezing cold rivers, sleeping on hard floors, and storing food is challenging. Having said all that, we had a much easier OE this year than we’ve been used to! We had a generator that was turned on for a few hours in the early evening, and 3 shower stalls were built for the girls where we could use a bucket filled with water to wash!
On day one we took a 45 bus trip out of Wamena (which we’d flown to from Sentani) before hiking 2 hours into Ibele. It was actually a really lovely hike, and we arrived right as it got dark, so we were pretty happy about not having to hike at night!
We had a bunch of projects that the 8 groups rotated through over the 2 weeks. We built a road, cooked meals, ran medical and dental clinics, painted buildings with oli kotor (dirty oil, which preserves wood and kills anything living in it), planted trees, ran kids’ clubs, as well as some other miscellaneous things.
It’s such a great experience getting to help local people in practical ways. We get to spend lots of time with them, building relationships, playing volleyball/soccer, talking etc, but it’s also great to be able to actually do something that helps their communities. 88 people can get a lot of stuff done in 2 weeks!
In the first week groups 1 – 4 hiked out to a small village up to 6 hours away, for 3 days. Each pair of groups (1&2, 3&4, 5&6, 7&8) goes to a different small village so that we can serve more people in the local area. It’s a really important part of the OE experience and it tests you mentally, physically, socially, emotionally, spiritually, in every way really.
Typically we meet morning and night as a group to talk through social and spiritual issues. OE is a time when you are forced to put your faith into action, and it’s good to articulate that and focus on the things God is teaching you each day. When you’re tired and sore and sick you have no choice but to rely on God.
Yes, that is me having pulled my first tooth! I pulled out two teeth. I did dental work. Oh my goodness. It was both amazing, and it totally freaked me out. It was under the supervision of a qualified dentist, and there was anaesthetic involved; lots of our students did the same thing. When else am I ever going to get the chance to do dentistry?! Wow!
This is the tiny kitchen we used to cook for 88 people, 3 times a day. Joan was our amazing kitchen runner who does the unfathomable! We’d die of starvation without her!
The local people were so lovely to spend time with. They braided people’s hair, played volleyball & soccer with us, helped our students with their anthropology assignments, taught us local skills, helped with our work projects and much, much more. It is always so moving to see the generosity of the desperately poor. They wanted to share their food with us and give us what they could; it was truly inspiring.
Saturday night was a big youth service with heaps of people from villages all over the area. It was so amazing to see how, regardless of how different we are, God is still God. He is relevant to all people and can intervene in all circumstances and create meaningful change in people’s lives no matter their situation. The prayer time at the end was so moving! The front of the church was FULL of people (our people and local people alike) responding to God and wanting to live for him. It really was incredible!
The next morning was a church service where we sang, they sang, we spoke, they spoke, and we all ate together at the end. It was a great way to spend time sharing our lives.
I was the group 8 leader and we hiked out to our small village (Tipalok) the next morning. Having hiked out during both weeks over my 3 OEs I can safely say that it’s harder to go to your small village in the second week. After a week of no proper showers, quite serious sleep deprivation, and having to work 24 hours a day, hiking for 5.5 hours over rough, mountainous terrain (the hardest thing I have EVER physically done!) to a small village where conditions are even rougher, is not something that is an easy ask. The small village is challenging as I’m now the one in charge of everything (along with my co-leader, Pete, who led group 7, our sister group), there is less structure, things never go according to plan, and it’s just plain tricky.
We met so many wonderful people in Tipalok who were so grateful for our presence; it really made it all worth it. We are probably the only group of people who will EVER visit that village, and they couldn’t believe that we had. There was crying and gratitude by the bucketful. All the girls were given hand made grass skirts, and they gave us all hand made jewellery, it was amazing! These desperately poor people kept cooking us food and giving us presents. We were so blessed!
On the left is Pete & I with the village pastor Darius. On the right is a lovely woman I met who gave me her pig tooth necklace that she’d made.
Josea and Seun with some local kids before we hiked back to Ibele.
I got sick while we were in the small village. The hike there pushed me over the edge. I ended up with a nasty flu like thing and a minor stomach bug. I even threw up a few times, including on the trail on the way home. That was less than fun…
I was glad we still had a couple of days in Ibele after our small village experience. It almost feels like coming back home, like coming back to ease and luxury, which is demonstrably ridiculous! It’s always nice to be reunited with the big group though and to have other leaders to share the burden.
On Thursday afternoon it was time to hike the 2 hours back to the road to meet our buses to go back to Wamena, ready to fly back to Sentani.
We spent the night in the MAF & Helivida hangers at the airport so we were ready to take the first flights out the next day to head home.
All in all it was an unforgettable and brilliant experience, as always. I am so incredibly sad that I’ll never get to go on another OE, but I’m so grateful for the 3 that God has given me the opportunity to be a part of. Seeing such wide and varied cultures and unique parts of the world is a truly humbling and eye opening experience. I am so thankful to have seen such variety in God’s creation, both in people and in nature. The people and the places will always stay with me, and hopefully will make me forever grateful for all the blessings in my life.