By Kathy Klopman
It sounds like a fierce intestinal disease or a flamboyant Mexican salsa dance. The first time I heard it uttered, I was a passenger in the front seat of a Hilux traveling with several families up a steep rut-riddled dirt road surrounded by thick jungle. I had been in PNG less than 24 hours. And the brutal blast of scorching sun and high humidity left me constantly tipping my water bottle and longing for relief. The 40 minute ascent hugged the mountain minus the guardrail but offered unobstructed views of palm trees, thick rain forests and the jeweled Pacific Ocean. I was mesmerized by the feast set before.
During the weeks that followed as we shared our stories with each other, one -time strangers became forever friends, I discovered that the final destination for the majority of my comrades was a place called Ukarumpa. Its description was as magical as its name. In a region referred to as The Highlands it boasted of rolling hills set high in the mountains with cool temperatures at night so low on the Fahrenheit scale that one required a sweater to keep warm. Oh and some of the two hundred residences that formed the fenced-in compound even had built –in fireplaces that were actually functional during part of the year. Well, I vowed then and there that I needed to experience that part of PNG.
My wish was granted this past weekend. Similar to my first introduction to this tropical paradise –land of the unexpected, my companions were casual co-workers several months ago and are now trusted friends. The cool temperatures were a reality and I was thankful that I prepared for the journey by purchasing a sweater (with pockets) and borrowing socks. Days spent reconnecting with friends, walking the hills amidst lush landscaping, sharing meals, afternoon naps and deep sleep under thick quilts—ahhh, it was heavenly!
Kathy serves as an assistant to administration and branch care facilitator.