In many ways, I was an unusual little German girl: I herded goats in Nepal as a four-year-old and spoke multiple languages before the time most children start school. Yet, as many little girls do, there was a superhero I idolized. My heroine had a name: Aunt Janet. In my mind, she was the most beautiful, talented, and awe-inspiring person I had ever met. I was about eight years old when I first met her: between times we were not in Foida with the Fayu, we lived at a forward staging base called Danau Bira on a small lake in the hills on the edge of the Mamberamo Lake Plain. Aunt Janet had long red hair that reached down almost to her knees. She had a soft voice, and when she spoke to me, her eyes would sparkle. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.

I’ve now known Janet for almost 40 years; I still want to be like her when I grow up. Janet works as a linguist in Papua. She has spent the past four decades creating, documenting, and refining, a written language for Iau, one of the tonal lakes plain languages along the Van Daalen river. She is now seventy years old and has no intention of retiring.

I was thrilled when she invited us to spend time with her in the village of Faui, where she has lived and worked for the past several decades.

Faui is a beautiful little village set next to a cool mountain river that flows into the much larger Van Daalen: a perfect place to begin our trip through the utterly remote lakes plain jungle and swamp to reconnect with my childhood and teenage home and people.

Lake Sentani

Elliot and Evan in the PC-6

Faui Airstrip

Wings equal Shade

The walk to the village from the airstrip

Faui homes

Dugout canoes at Faui

2 thoughts on “Faui

  1. How. Very special to connect with the woman that was such an inspiration to you. You certainly would make her proud for you too are a woman to be admired. I love you.


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