For the next two weeks, I will be traveling to Sandaun province and traveling to set up the next Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) workshop. What will the next two weeks look like?
To be honest, there are a lot of things that are unknown. I will get on a plane tomorrow (Monday) and fly 1.5 hours to Green River. From there it is a 1 hour hike and a 2 hour canoe ride to Yabru. This is where the course will be held and it will be my base of operations. I will meet Stanley at Yabru and he will be my canoe driver and my guide for the two weeks I will be there. We will leave and attempt to visit roughly 10 villages along the Sepik River. That is about the extent of what I know.
There is no phone coverage in the entire area. There is power and a HF radio only at Yabru. None of the villages know we are coming. I do not know where I will sleep or what I will eat along the way. There will be no stores or guest houses or permanent houses along the way. I plan on taking a bag of rice and a can of tuna for each day.
Each day I plan to visit a new village. I will wait until the leaders of the village are able to be assembled which could be later in the afternoon when they come back from gathering or planting food. I will then gather information from them such as language dialects, language boundaries, related languages, and the strength of their language and bilingualism. I will also share about OBS and attempt to gauge their interest in OBS. They will be invited to send 4 people from their language and told they need to work together with all the villages in their language group (I think there are a max of 10 villages in these language groups) to pick these 4 people for the OBS workshop.
Wherever we end up for the night, there will be a place offered in one of their village houses to sleep and someone will most likely cook us food. It may or may not include the bag of rice and can of tuna I give my hosts! I and the people will talk into the night following whatever interests that we have. After hanging up my mosquito net and rolling up in my sheet on a thin foam mattress or wood floor, I will get the sleep I can until the sun peeks over the horizon. After rising and packing, I will continue on to the next village. Sundays will most likely be spent in Yabru.
I imagine that to some people this sounds terrifying and to others it sounds exciting. I fall into more of the excited camp and I allow for a very high degree of flexibility, change of plans, and decisions as needed. My plan is to invite two new language groups to join the OBS course that starts in Yabru in June. Pray I can make the connections I need to make, communicate clearly, and have health and safety along the way.