Where the Refrigerator Clucks and the Coffee Moos

CharlemagneWithin a few hours of moving into the house we’ve been renting, we discovered something unique about the refrigerator. It sounds like a chicken. It squawks and clucks and murmurs like a worried hen.

The other morning I pushed the plunger down on my coffee press, and it moaned like a pitiful cow just as the refrigerator began another round of its fowl chorus. My teenager looked up from her breakfast and said, “I didn’t expect to live in a barnyard!”

We heard it over and over before moving here – Papua New Guinea is the Land of the Unexpected. The thing is that life here is unexpected in ways that, well, I didn’t expect!

I haven’t been surprised by the sickness and power outages and sudden changes of plans. What has caught me off guard are things more like this:

  • I miss take-out. Like intensely miss it. A lot of days are no less stressful and hectic than in the States, and there are some evenings I fantasize about having a pizza delivered.
  • Bird calls sometimes make me teary. They are exceptionally beautiful here, but that’s not what makes me emotional. It’s that they’re not the chickadees and cardinals and bluebirds that sound like home. And I know that the same part of me that feels homesick for those Carolina birds will be homesick for these PNG beauties when we’re on furlough.
  • I am forgetful, way more than I used to be. All of the new words and ways of doing basic things have crowded out my ability to remember details and schedules.
  • I am having to re-learn how to love people. The way I love somebody from the U.S. doesn’t necessarily come across the same to my friends from England, Australia, Germany, Korea, and Papua New Guinea. And when you throw in the wide variety of beautifully strong, independent personalities it takes to live here, at times it can feel a little like waltzing in a mine field.
  • Teeny, tiny ants can get into anything. Tupperware containers, clothes drawers, computer keyboards, microwaves, and even the chicken fridge. These same ants also have an interesting fruity flavor, something I did not discover intentionally.
  • Silliness is a critical life skill. Here, even more than in the States, it’s important to have fun, whether it’s a family movie night, walking umbrella-less in the rain, or pausing worship team practice for a minute to swing dance badly with a friend.
  • Saying no is hard. There’s always something more to be done, someone else with legitimate needs, and taking on all of it is a quick road to burnout. I know this, but looking people in the eye and saying, “I can’t help,” is incredibly difficult.
  • I battle anxiety more here than I have in a long time. I’m not sure exactly why, but I do know I’m not the only one. And having other people who get how overwhelming life can be, people who can pray straight to the heart of things, is more valuable than I could have imagined.
  • Art is not a luxury. It’s possible to function day-to-day without stopping to take the time to celebrate God’s creativity in the details, but my days are so much richer when they are wrapped in color and light, woven together with poetry and music.
  • I am weaker than I thought, and God is stronger than I knew. And when the refrigerator is clucking and the coffee is mooing and people aren’t behaving the way I expected it’s a freeing thing to know I don’t need to understand or even cope well, because God is in the process of making it all beautiful in His time.

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