Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wamena: Part 1. Expectations Are For Fools

For a trip 10 years in the making I certainly expected to feel differently. After a decade of anticipation this was it, we would finally be in Wamena. I would stand in the Baliem Valley, 15,000ft mountain peaks circling around me, isolated tribal communities only a short helicopter flight away, and feel some sense of crossing the finish line. Some sense of fulfillment of desires long stirring in my heart. Some sense at last, after so many transitions, of finally being home.

Instead I arrived in a cloud of nausea and stomach cramps. I didn’t care where I was, just as long as there was a bed to lie down on. This was not how it was supposed to happen.

Our Plane To and From Wamena
I had begun feeling ill the day before our flight and hadn’t slept much at all the night before. Frequent trips to the bathroom, I wondered if I should get on the plane at all. Finding a Zofran pill I managed to let enough of it dissolve in my mouth before vomiting the rest and it eventually calmed the nausea. I could at least travel.  

We smooshed into the plane, my knees jamming into the seat in front of me, and I closed my eyes attempting to block out the world, if only for the short plane ride.

45 minutes later I woke with the plane bouncing down on the runway and squinted bleary eyed out the window. No deep meaningful thoughts only, Oh, the sun is so much brighter here. What a headache. The plane stopped and we shuffled along with the other passengers to disembark.

A Papuan man helped Isaiah down onto the tarmac and Ben and I followed with the hand luggage. Walking over to the airport terminal building, a small tin roof covered structure with chain link fence walls, I thought the mountains seemed so far away and ominous, much more distant than our close and faithful mountain at home in Sentani. 

Spotting our expat friends we walked over to say hello. A “Gourd Man” stood just in front of our friends waving and giving me an enthusiastic toothless smile. “Selamat pagi, Bapak.” I greeted him with a nod and weak smile in return.

After seeing so many pictures and videos of this type of traditional dress it was still a shock to see a man standing there with nothing on except a gourd somewhat covering his privates and a feather wreath in his hair. “He’s not a real gourd man” my expat friend remarked, “He’s a professional for the tourists.”  I managed another smile, thinking if I had felt better I might just have paid for a picture with him anyway, and we wandered off to find the luggage.

Baliem Valley and Wamena from the air
The luggage didn’t come, it would be on the next flight so we headed off, Ben and Isaiah both ready for adventure and I only wishing for a place to lie down. As we drove away from the airport, the vehicle almost bouncing down the road as we went, I prayed and cared only for one thing, a well body.  

10 years in the making. I had hoped and even expected to arrive in Wamena with some great sense of burden for the people we would soon live among. I anticipated some powerful and meaningful revelation. Some deep knowing way down inside that this was home, the place I was meant to be. Instead, my only thoughts were for myself, for my nauseous, cramping stomach and pounding head.
Driving through the streets of Wamena I prayed for recovery and clung to the hope my expectations would eventually be fulfilled. Foolish girl. I know better. Expectations, especially in the life we are living, are emotionally dangerous things. 

Tomorrow: Part 2... Finding Home

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