“You are wanted here. You have to know that.” She told me. Her words weren’t in response to anything in particular, just kind and encouraging words spoken as we said goodbye.
We would leave the following morning to return to our home in Sentani and begin the second unit of language study. You are wanted here. Her words echoed in my mind.
Before we left the US several women told me that the hardest transition would be for me. Ben, in his work as a pilot, would experience all the glory of life in Papua on a daily basis. It would be hard work, but truly rewarding work. I had no such glorious task awaiting me and it was my transition to watch out for.
The awareness of a difficult transition didn’t hit until this week in Wamena. Back in Sentani I have a “job” to do and I’m good at it. Learning the language and culture are both tasks that I thoroughly enjoy. But as I stood in our future house in Wamena, realizing that I would be here alone with Isaiah while Ben was out flying, reality suddenly hit me. What do I have to contribute?
All my assurances were gone.
Earlier in the day Ben had joined another pilot on his last flight out to the interior. The pilot and his family are returning to Switzerland after 5 years in Papua. Their flight was primarily a medevac bringing in three people in need of serious medical care, but had also included visiting and dropping off supplies for some of the international workers in the interior. Ben returned from the flight so enthusiastic for the work he would soon be a part of. I celebrated with him as he talked about the trip.
After the flight we stayed with the crew for the Swiss pilot’s goodbye party. “Why am I so emotional?” Ben said, “I don’t even know these people.” I had to agree.
Listening to Indonesian, Papuan, and expats tell stories about the family my eyes also stung with tears. One man spoke of how the Swiss pilot had visited his village and how much that meant to him. Another spoke of how much he admired the pilot’s hard work and sense of humor. Story after story included not only the pilot, but memories of the couple’s children and admiration for the wife who had supported her husband.
“How are you adjusting?” The Swiss pilot’s wife asked me. “I remember those days. They were very hard.” She said and gave me a hug. “We’ve all been through what you are going through.” Another expat told me.
For me the hard days have not yet come in full force. This short trip to Wamena provided a glimpse into the challenges that lay ahead for our family. One thing is certain. While my husband is out flying and supporting the front line operations, I will be in the company women who not only experienced these hard days, but conquered them.
I too will find my place.