The airport in Wewak consisted of a few lazy little buildings, deep in a midday nap next to a solitary runway. Joe waited in line at the Air Niugini counter, remarking to no one in particular on the fact that in his country, people had to fly from one city to another because there were no roads or railways.

“What do you mean, no roads?” The objection came from the elderly man holding a large red sack instead of a suitcase. “There’s a road from Madang to Lae. There’s a road along the coast near Port Moresby, so I’ve heard. But who needs roads, anyway? Cars pollute the air.”

Joe looked around the terminal. On chairs set up in rows, women sat waiting, baskets of live chickens on their laps. A man was sprawled on the floor, asleep. On the walls of the waiting area, close to the high ceiling, were murals in the Papuan style. Lots of tribal masks, lots of eyes, all in hues of brown, white, red, and black. And no air conditioning.

Joe looked at his watch again and made his way to the desk clerk. “Shouldn’t we be boarding?” he asked.

“You can’t,” the fellow said. “The plane hasn’t come back to the airport yet.”

Joe shrugged and headed toward the chairs. His phone rang just as he was settling down for the wait.

“Hey, Bernadine! Regards from the Pacific Ocean!” he answered cheerily, and went on to tell her proudly about resisting the temptation to take Elson to school.

“It’s pretty obvious that kidnapping isn’t right,” Bernadine replied. “And neither is encouraging a child to rebel against his parents. Were you expecting me to clap for you? But tell me, how’s it going with the cataracts?”

“I’ve got 38 patients! I took pictures of all of them. There’ll be a feature about us on the news this weekend, and then we can start a massive fundraising campaign.”

Instead of answering, Bernadine suddenly started to cry.

“What’s the matter, Bernadine?”

“I… I don’t know what I’m going to do, Joe. I can’t stay in the apartment anymore. The people from One World told me my time is up, and I have to move out by the end of next week, because they’re putting a new group of students in the apartment… and anyway I’m finished with my courses here…”

“You’re finished? But you told me you have at least another month of internship. I thought it was all arranged with the scholarship fund.”

She was still crying. “I thought… I thought they’d give me rent for another month… even though I didn’t do enough hours….”

What was she saying? This didn’t sound right… “What’s this about not enough hours? You mean they miscalculated how long your internship would take? What about the other nursing students — what are they doing?”

“They all completed their internships,” she said, pulling at her nose with a tissue.

“And you’re missing how many hours?”

“Umm… a lot.” More than a hundred, actually, but she wasn’t going to tell him that. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 706)