Painting a house in Papua New Guinea

Posted on Posted in Mixed Nuts

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By Jill Riepe

I’ve never had to paint a house in the States, but I imagine it’s quite different from painting one in Papua New Guinea. You can’t Google “Painters available in the Aiyura Valley” and get a list of possible people with ratings and customer comments. You go by word of mouth. You notice who is getting their houses painted and ask how it went. That’s how I met Andy. He was painting my neighbor’s house.

Andy working on houseThe house that I live in when I’m in Ukarumpa (mission station in the highlands) has needed painting since I moved into it. First, I had to decide on the paint and ship it over from the States. That took several months. You can get paint in country, but it turned out purchasing it from the States was the cheaper option. Once the paint arrived, I had to wait for Andy, the painter, to be available. He’s a good painter so he’s in high demand.

Then I discovered my responsibilities while he and his crew were working on the house. I had to supply a morning snack and coffee and a lunch for him and any of his crew. I never knew if he would have a crew with him until he showed up that morning so it was impossible to have things made ahead of time and know if it would be enough. Sometimes the crew only worked half a day and I had to be ready to pay them their wages when they were leaving.

Since the house has needed painting for so long, Andy discovered several places of rotten wood. I needed to be available to drive down to the lumber yard and purchase the appropriate piece of wood and any other supplies that were needed, like paint brushes and sand paper. I had to supply the ladders too. At the very beginning of the paint job, Andy informed me that my longest ladder was not long enough to paint the highest point of my house. I tried to borrow a longer one, but all my neighbors’ ladders were about the same length as mine. Eventually, I discovered that you could rent ladders from the Construction department. All in all, it took 5 weeks to paint the house and there are still some things that have been left unfinished. The house looks much better and, hopefully, it will stay that way for a long time. I’ve never had to paint a house in the States, but now I know what it takes to paint one in Papua New Guinea.

Jill serves as a Bible translator.

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