Where I Grew Up

Orchids by rivers low-resI grin every time I find Senggo on a map! It is such a tiny place…or it was… But if you type in the address on Google Maps, or Map Quest, it comes right up! (If you click on the link, zoom out to put it into perspective).

When my parents first arrived at Senggo in 1972, it was really nothing more than a small clearing in the jungle with the village of Tamnim at its center, and the doctor’s house, out of which he ran his clinic. The mission built a compound and a medical complex (puskesmas) that was more than a clinic, but less than a full-fledged hospital. The Indonesian government built offices. Padagans, or merchants built their families homes, and operated stores out of their front rooms. The village of Senggo had been located out by the Wildeman River, in a flood zone that was almost always covered in water. They relocated closer in, on high ground which was better for them, but it was a long walk to the Diaram River and their fishing.

Soon after the mission built the medical complex, an oil company survey team from Australia decided to build an airstrip because they liked the idea of having easy access to the medical facilities. They brought in heavy equipment which immediately bogged down in the thick, soupy white kaolin clay which is found locally. They worked for months, but the airstrip wasn’t working out for them. Finally, they talked to the mission doctor, and he arranged for men from the Dani tribe to come to Senggo and work on the airstrip. The Danis knew exactly what to do! Two months later, that airstrip was properly built and could be used for air traffic.

Now, Senggo has roads and electricity, and even satellite dishes and television. But I still remember when it was a small place, and every night between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m., the generator would stop running, and the night-time noises of the jungle would swell to a deafening chorus as I drifted off to sleep.