Friday, 20 July 2012


    Even though we live in an age of ever increasing access to communication, human nature stops it always being instant or easy. Even in PNG access to mobile phones is increasing, but that does not always mean communication has improved.
    On our recent trip to Ghayavi we sent a letter a month ahead of us with the dates of our trip. It arrived a few weeks before we did, but sat unopened on a desk. The owner of the desk were certain they had told the recipient the letter was there. The recipient was certain that they’d asked if there was any letter and been told no. Communication breakdown! Regardless, the community was very flexible in making time for us and the work we came to do, even though it was the end of campaign season and other work was underway.
    A mobile tower has recently been established near Ghayavi. For months it was being turned on ’tomorrow’ and actually had been turned on the week before our visit. We collected mobile numbers for making contact in the future, but communication is still fragile. A phone needs to be charged. Some people have little solar panel chargers, others rely on someone else’s generator. This in turn requires them having the generator functioning and enough fuel to run it. Neither of these is a given. If people are to call us, they need credit, which requires money and someone to sell them credit. Once again, things which are not always available.
    Here in the big smoke of Alotau, we have internet but it is slow and expensive. 3G is being turned on ‘tomorrow’ but we are not holding our breath. Slow internet, plus having the pictures turned off to save expense and time, takes the fun out of facebook, so I find myself using it less and less. Sorry if I’ve missed anyone’s important announcements, you’ll need to contact me personally.
    I am a person with a foot in both e-mail and snail mail camps, seeking to balance the two. My thoughts do not flow as well at a computer, yet the instant communication is convenient. If anyone reading this blog thinks some things are very like a letter they received, that may well be the case. Often I’ve thought of things in letter writing that are then reshaped into a blog. The letter may take weeks to reach you, in which time you’ve already read the blog, but I said it personally first.
    Balancing a postal budget has lead to my rediscovery of aerogrammes. These quaint pieces of paper which fold to become the envelope are much cheaper than sending a letter, but long enough to say a decent hello. You can send them from Australia too…
    This blog is a good example of the balancing act I try to do, with not only fast and slow communication, but with personal and bulk communication. This blog is probably mostly read by friends and family, so I would like it to be a true reflection of who I am and how I am doing. At the same time it could be read by anyone, so I seek to protect my privacy somewhat. Sending out newsletters each quarter and prayer updates each month require similar balancing acts, although in each case the audience is smaller and more personal.
    My favourite communication available to me at the moment is the occasional phone calls home. Hearing the voice of people you love makes them seem so much closer. The poor internet connection means video skype in not an option as much as I would love to see the faces of my family, especially as I have a brand new nephew.
    Regardless of the method of communication, it can still get messy. What one person thinks they are expressing and what the other reads or hears can so easily be a mismatch. All of my correspondence (both incoming and outgoing) is best read with a patience filter. I try to read things in the best possible light and not respond immediately to things that upset me. Maybe on a second reading I can see them in a better light.
    While I receive international sms about my nephew’s birth and wait impatiently for a parcel of photos I know is on the way, the other communication I enjoy is thousands of years old, yet still personal and relevant today; the Bible. People have not changed much in thousands of years. We still need to hear that we are loved. We still need someone to encourage and correct us. We still cry out in anger, grief and frustration as well as in wonder and joy. Like with other correspondence, we need to apply filters of culture and time and read critically, not taking texts out of context. There are fancy words for the complexities of these filters such hermeneutics and exegesis, but it is still a letter of love that speaks to us today. Of course, if we leave that letter just sitting on the desk unopened, there is a communication breakdown once again.

1 comment:

  1. My dear friend, warm thanks for this beautiful meditation. It's always a pleasure to see your blog posts appear in my feed. I read them slowly, thinking of you as I sip my tea.

    Love and blessings from Melbourne, Julien and me.