We hope you’ve enjoyed Part 1 of the “What does a MAF pilot do?“ series.
Part 2 takes you beyond the flying job of Ryan Cole. The accounts below, written by his wife Siobhain, give you some glimpses into their life on one of MAF’s outstations.
Being an Excellent Handyman
Ryan is not only a highly capable pilot, daily dealing with challenging terrain and weather systems whilst serving the people of PNG. He is also an excellent handyman! Living in Telefomin, an isolated community, we receive plenty of support from the MAF PNG headquarters in Mt Hagen, but some support is just not regularly practical as we are over an hour’s flight away from them. After we moved into our little cabin in the mountains we made a long list of improvements and fixes which were needed. Anything non-essential (a desk extension for me), cosmetic (moving some wall-mounted cupboards and shelves) or urgent (like when our water tank sprung a leak after the big earthquake in February 2018) Ryan does himself, with a little assistance from me and our kind neighbours.
In the picture above, we are standing in front of our brand new, hand-made by Ryan, veranda GATE! Just a simple thing you might think, but as we need to be sure we keep our dog, Ray, safe and stop him from chasing the neighbour’s chickens or getting bitten by local dogs, it’s pretty important. When we moved in, there was just a board to block the way which we could just about climb over, but now we have a self-closing gate, with a latch! And Ryan made and painted it all himself! I’m a very proud and blessed wife!
Being a Hobby Gardener
Ryan’s been planting all sorts of flowers and vegetables in our garden. Tomatoes were some of our first edible harvests, sadly the tomato plants didn’t seem to last long in our soil. We’ve since planted cherry tomatoes which seem to be lasting better, we’ve had several crops so far and they are still producing.
We also have ginger, pineapples, beans, corn, rhubarb, strawberries and even avocado, a lemon and a guava tree, all of which Ryan planted.
The rhubarb is doing really well, we’ve harvested enough for a couple of crumbles (My fave!), but everything else is growing rather slowly. We’ve never had more than three small strawberries in one go, the bugs seem to get to them first.
Pineapples take a year to produce fruit and it’s likely to be at least four years before we see anything from the fruit trees.
However, we did have a pumpkin plant which self-seeded from the compost heap and has given us two small pumpkins, (one is pictured with our Haus Meri, Mama Cathy) so that’s not bad! One of the pumpkins we gave as a gift to our closest PNG neighbors, along with some cookies and some money, when their father died in early December. The giving of cash and food is traditional when someone dies as the “Haus Krai” (funeral) can last a week and many friends and relatives come to mourn during that time and they need to be fed.
As the fruit and vegetables available in our local market are limited and unpredictable, we wanted to plant a few things to supplement our diet and avoid sending too many veggies via the MAF plane. However, our gardening efforts aren’t really good enough to sustain ourselves, so we are blessed to have the option of getting a few items of fruit, vegetables, and fresh eggs, flown to us most weeks thanks to the MAF Papua New Guinea aircraft and our wonderful friends in Mt Hagen.
Being a Tree Surgeon!
In Telefomin, the three pilot families are all blessed to have a solar system paid for by some kind donors in the Netherlands. With a bit of management, this provides us with 24/7 electricity. A huge blessing! However, a few months after we moved in, our neighbour noticed that the lovely Eucalyptus tree next to our water tank cast a shadow over our solar panels in the mornings. This was preventing the panels from working efficiently and resulting in our system running out of power overnight a few times. Eventually, Ryan had the time and the weather to go up the tree and cut down the high branches. We didn’t want to cut the whole thing down as it is a lovely tree and it’s very close to the water tank, the house, and two fences, so it would be really hard to drop it without it breaking something. So Ryan got out his saw, climbed up the tree and solved the problem!
Being the Bin Man!
Just another thing that outstation pilots have to do: No government refuse or collection facilities here in Telefomin, so each family takes it in turns to drop the rubbish off at the local “dump” when it’s needed.
We do our best to reuse as much as possible. Any containers with closable lids get washed and given to our local friends who use them to keep bugs out of their sugar or for carrying water when they walk into the bush to tend their gardens.
We burn all paper, cardboard and thin plastic. That might sound bad giving the carcinogens that are released when you burn plastic, but everything that gets „dumped“ is just thrown into a valley and potentially washed into the river. So we really try hard to reduce the amount of waste we generate.
Being Part of the Local Church
Ryan even found the time to share his testimony in our local Baptist Church recently. We even occasionally join our MAF neighbours in singing a song together for the congregation on a Sunday morning. Contributing a little something makes us feel closer to our local PNG neighbours, and we are so blessed to be a part of this remote community in the mountains of PNG!
These are all the kind of things which every pilot living in a remote community, far from headquarter, is required to do on occasion. Well, baking bread is not a requirement, but as the next bakery is 20 flight minutes away we have to do our own and I am just proud that my hubby can use kitchen tools too!