Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Village on the water (taken on our first week in Moresby, back in January) Posted by Hello

Hanuabada (village on the water)

Just a quick entry about my weekend, when I visited 4 of my students at their village. Hanuabada is the biggest village in PNG, and it literally means “big village” in Hiri Motu, their language. It’s right next to town, on the edge of the port, and most of the village is actually built on the water. (I had thought all of it was, but we did a brief tour of the on-land part of the village too – apparently everyone used to build on the water because it was too dangerous “with all the killings” to be on the land, but since the missionaries came they’ve begun building on the land too).

It’s the home of four of my Grade 9 girls, who are all cousins. Idau is my 9P class captain, and Silona Ani is in my 9Y class. The other 2 girls (Bele and Edea) are in 9W, and I teach them Library once a week. So it was very exciting to plan this visit with them – my first trip to a village, my first visit with students.

Idau came to pick me up from school with her cousins straight after their church in the morning, and we arrived at their village around 1.30. We went to Idau and Bele’s “wharf” first – each clan that lives on the water has their own wharf or jetty, with all the houses coming off it. The walkway is planks of wood, and you can feel it rocking as you walk – the stilts or supports of the walkway and the houses are built straight into the mud below, and although they assured me they were very stable, you could definitely feel swaying both on the jetty, and sitting in the houses! It was a bit like sitting in a boat. And the walkway had a lot of planks missing – I was amazed how quickly these girls raced along it – I spent the whole time watching my feet!

The houses themselves were basic but nice, and had electricity and water. I don’t know about sewerage/sink plumbing – there were frequent sounds/sights of water gushing from under houses into the sea below, but I didn’t actually ask about that…

And yep the sea was a little smelly, but nothing like what I was expecting. The mud was covered in garbage, and I’d hate to see it at low tide, but really, sitting on the jetty or in the “hall” (the covered space between Idau and Bele’s houses) the place was just gorgeous – sunlight dancing on the water, weathered wooden supports holding up lots of little houses, strings of gleaming washing hanging on lines all along the jetty, fresh sea breeze, kids running around and playing – I could see why the girls missed it so much when they were at school. It was a really beautiful place, and to have all your family around like that would be lovely. A really tight community, with built in friends and support.

We went for a long walk all over the village, where I was stared at by everyone, but felt very safe. The girls told me Friday nights were kids nights and the streets and jetties were crowded with children, and they walk around all the time at night. This was Sunday afternoon so it was a lot quieter, but we passed several kids’ worship sing sing groups, kind of like Sundays school. This was real village life, and just the sight of so many houses sitting over the water was amazing. There’s nothing like that in Australia. I loved it.

It really was a great day – it was so nice to just hang out with the girls, and to meet their families, and their little brothers and sisters and nieces especially. I think they enjoyed showing off me as they showed off their village (she’s our teacher!) and I certainly loved seeing everything, and feeling like I had a right to be there with them, even if I did do the tourist thing and take my camera. As soon as I convert to digital I’ll post some…

Thanks so much Idau, Bele, Silona and Edea – what a fantastic day out!

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Love you always Pop Posted by Hello

Happy Birthday Pop

Thinking of you on what would have been your 84th birthday Pop. Wish we were both there to share it with the family - a picnic in a park somewhere, blankets set up all over the ground, wine and lemonade in falling-down cups, teasing Nan about spilling dip all down her jumper, wondering what we'll do with all the left over food before taking a walk by the water - and maybe if we're lucky you'll do your Jesus imitation again so we can all laugh at your hat floating on the surface of the pool and see how long it takes for people to notice you're dripping. Posted by Hello

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Card collage

The growing collection of cards from home on my wall, thanks mostly to mum, but also from others. I think by the end of next year I'll have covered the entire wall. Posted by Hello

Birthday Spread

The table Pia set for me on the morning of my birthday Posted by Hello

Class Party

Our 9 Purple class party on Friday afternoon, with the girls singing under the trees as practice for their item at this week's graduation ceremony. Posted by Hello

Staff Photo

Our staff photo, taken this Thursday, with Sister Angela constantly complaining about having to sit in the heat, and wait for various "turkeys" to come out of the staff room and join us!! Posted by Hello

Going to the dogs

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned before the proliferation of dogs around the Marianville campus, but most households seem to have at least one, unchained and running all over the school. It’s not infrequent that you see a pack of them roaming around the school gardens, or two or three males chasing a bitch in heat and barking up a storm as they’re yelled at by students and disappear under classrooms. And I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen students throw rocks at animals after Angie’s seen one and yelled out “Somebody kill that dog!” (even though her two monsters are by far the most feared in the school, and have been known to take chunks out of visiting Fathers’ bottoms if they venture near the house when Tipi and Lulu are off their chains).

The newest addition to the Marianville canine family is the black puppy my friend Neil brought the Sisters while I was back in Oz – his howling could be heard all over the school when he was first locked up away from the girls’ affection, and now that he’s allowed to run free the air is frequently punctuated by the sound of his name being called by students or staff as he makes trouble all over the school – “Ville! Ville!” (I originally thought his name was Bill - an odd name for a dog - but it turns out he’s actually named for the school!)

The two dogs that live near me are Billy (shared by 2 houses on our right) and Benji, who belongs to the neighbours on our left, but is fed largely by us. Our reward for our kindness is fleas, usually. And a little bit of protection, I suppose, as he does occasionally bark if unknown people come near the gate. The dogs usually get along ok, and fights are not really fierce, although they have taken to combining forces against that mischievous Ville who doesn’t seem to know his place and has started wandering down to our yards. But this happy little family might soon be broken up, as Billy’s rightful owners are a little bit tired of him. Apparently he’s too friendly, and that’s a problem. So they’ve been making a few enquiries, seeing if anyone wants to take him off their hands.

And with the Christmas season drawing near it seems that maybe they’ve found the solution to their problem because one of the other teachers has offered to take him – with the holiday season drawing near they’ll have a lot of family around, and apparently dog is even better than chicken.

Bye bye Billy.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Birthday Second Installment

Well this has been a great week, one of the best ones I’ve had in ages. It’s getting so close to the end of the year now, and I’m really looking forward to going home for Christmas, but I’m also feeling very positive about coming back for next year now, a point I certainly didn’t think I’d be at about a month ago. For most of October I was seriously contemplating returning to Australia at Christmas time and staying there, rather than coming back for the second year in PNG, but I think I’ve turned a corner and am starting to get enthusiastic about 2005 in Moresby now.

The school week seems to be getting smaller and smaller as my number of on-class periods keeps dropping. I’m now down to 16 periods of English a week, tasol – and those 9 periods that were once Library and Computers make a huge difference when they’re gone – it’s now only 3 or 4 periods a day – which sounds great, but in reality leaves a lot of thumb-twiddling time. Though not so much this week – not with 180 Library assignments to mark (which, BTW I should really be doing now. I’m using my birthday as an excuse to procrastinate still further.)

English this week was all about debating – we’d been working on it for last week too, with me giving out model speeches and working on vocabulary, structure and a whole class debate. But the girls then had the chance to brainstorm different debate topics, and choose the one they wanted to be in. I put them into teams I thought were evenly matched, and they had to prepare their speeches, ready to ‘perform’ this week. And it’s been fun!! These girls – some of them have really surprised me. The debates have been about everything from whether or not Makoma (a very popular African gospel band, who just toured here last week) should be played in nightclubs; whether Marianville should be co-educational; whether bride price is outdated; to whether abortion should be legalized. We even had debates on whether or not condoms should be freely distributed, city life vs village life, and whether or not clear-felling should be banned. Some of them were a bit disorganized and nervous, but there have also been a few students whose performances were brilliant, inspiring their audiences into spontaneous cheering and standing ovations. One of my favourite moments so far was when Eileen, so passionate in her conviction that work parade should not be compulsory every afternoon (ie cutting grass / cleaning etc) that she needed to pause for breath in the middle of her diatribe, punctuating her speech by picking up her pencil and shoving it fiercely into her ponytail!

This coming week we’re having a State of Origin, where 9 Purple and 9 Yellow each select a squad of 9 players to form 3 teams who will face each other in 3 debates over 3 days. Should be a lot of fun. (Wish I had Tash here to give them some professional advice and coaching!)

It’s also been a good week in terms of getting out and about because I’ve actually managed to get out of Marianville on two separate school nights!

On Tuesday night we took all the Grade 11 boarders, and the Grade 9 class captains to see the Moresby Amateur Theatre Group’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was their dress rehearsal, and they called and offered us 70 free tickets, along with the City Mission boys. So that meant Sister organizing Keith to drive us there in our big orange and white bus, with a police escort there and back! (Sounds serious, but it was actually our resident police officer, just as a precaution.) If this seemed like a big deal to me, you should have seen how excited these girls were! Not only was it their first time to see/hear Shakespeare, for most of them it was their first time in this theatre or at any kind of play at all. As well as their first night excursion!

When we got there I gave them a very quick run down on what the play was going to be about, because I was anticipating that they would find it very hard to follow. And for the first 10 minutes as the actors warmed up it seemed like maybe it was going to be a very long night. But they soon got into it, and I don’t think I’ve ever been in an audience that laughed so much! They just had an absolute ball! Puck was a short and tubby woman in overalls who was very dramatic and enthusiastic and bouncy, and Oberon was an older ex-pat man with long-ish Dracula-esque grey hair and painted on sideburns and eyebrows, with leather pants and a leather jacket only partially zipped up (Aging rocker, eat your heart out). Of the group of bumbling players, all were excellent, and the one who had to dress up as Thisbee (man dressed as a woman) was a young Papuan bloke who hammed it up so well all he had to do was ponce out on stage, and the crowd were hysterical. But the best of all was Bottom, who was absolutely fantastic: grotesque and funny and self-important and an all-round brilliant entertainer. Even better was our realization (about half way through the play) that this man lying on his back kicking his legs up in the air, bum to the audience, or cavorting about on the clamshell hee-hawing while pressed up against Titania’s sensuous Papuan bosom was actually the (Aussie? English?) Anglican Bishop!!! The girls just loved it. Needless to say, it was a fantastic night out.

Then the next night was an AVI dinner at the Holiday Inn because Christine (one of our PNG ‘managers’) was in town for a few nights. I had to figure out how to get myself in there, and ended up catching the school bus into town with the girls in the afternoon, and being dropped off near the hotel so I could wait there til dinner time. A couple of hours wait, but I figured if I took my swimmers and a book I’d be perfectly alright lazing by the pool. And I was, but even better, when I walked inside I saw Jennifer, one of our Goroka AVI’s waiting in the foyer – she was there for a conference, was about to go out, but gave me her room key so I could more legitimately pretend I had a right to be at the pool, and even better, have a shower afterwards in her bathroom!

Dinner itself was delicious and dessert – bliss! And I went home with Lea, our most recent Moresby AVI, who invited me to stay in her spare room, and would drop me at the bus stop in the morning to catch the school bus back to Marianville. The girls thought it was very funny to see me sitting in the front seat as we did the rounds of Gerehu and Gordons to pick them all up (Lea had dropped me at the stop just as they were pulling up to begin their rounds – perfect timing). A fun night, and a fun morning.

So, all in all, it’s been a great week – fun times with friends, and fun times in class. Some excellent teaching moments – seeing how well some of those girls had prepared their speeches as a team, taking into account all the patterning and rhythm stuff I’d taught them about public speaking; seeing Miriam, my 9 Purple mouse, who I had almost let just be a helper rather than an actual speaker in the debates because I was sure her shyness would cripple her, stun us all by reading an excellently prepared speech outlining the advantages of having a single-sex education because it helped boost young women’s confidence in expressing themselves in the classroom (proving her own point so conclusively with her totally unexpected confidence and conviction that she brought the entire class to thunderous applause and enormous grins of amazement as she finished – seriously one of those moments teachers live for); and watching Hua, one of my most delightful students, bring the whole school to tears of laughter as she auditioned to be a Rotary ‘ambassador’ (they asked us to select one girl to be in the running for a trip to Australia, and I had to help the 9 girls we were choosing from to prepare speeches to give to the whole school). She didn’t win because there was some debate amongst the selecting staff about what criteria to judge by, but in terms of public speaking she just blew me away. I knew she was an excellent writer, but I really just put her name forward because I believed she was intelligent and would really benefit from a trip away if she was chosen (she’d come to me the previous week with some real doubts about herself and troubles at home) – I had no idea just how talented and confident an entertainer she was. She was fantastic.

And a great week for feeling as though I had friends here, both at school and in town – a night with friends in Moresby, laughter in the staffroom, and my girls cheering when I told them I’d be teaching them again next year. Yup, a good week.

Birthday morning

Well, against all my expectations, so far it has been a very happy birthday!

I woke up to the smell of ham and eggs frying, and found Pia cooking me a lovely breakfast, with the table set with flowers and cards and a beautifully wrapped present – a gorgeous basket I’d admired at the POM Grammar Market last week, and which Pia had snaffled up before I could get my wallet out (to which of course I had thrown a minor tannie to myself before realizing that she probably had pushed me out of the way for this very reason!)

As I was eating, there was the giggle of a chorus of girls outside the window, who after a bit of whispered deliberation called out a loud “good morning Ms Conolly!” before launching into a Happy Birthday song. I had to go out in my pyjamas and wild-looking bed hair (courtesy of unwinding the braids one of the girls had plaited into it yesterday afternoon) to say thank you, and a couple of them had made me cards either using glitter and texta, or using Publisher and printing them (VERY exciting for them, who’ve only been introduced to the computer for about 6 weeks!). So that was a lovely wake up call (lucky for them I was already awake!! Might not have been quite as receptive had I not been up early in expectation of a call from home)

And then I’d just finished wolfing down the toast when the phone rang, with Sam and Mum singing Happy Birthday, karaoke style, to the old Romper Room record we’d loved when we were kids! Oh it was nice to hear their voices and giggles – it’s just not a birthday without home, and they brought that all the way into our spare room in Bomana. I’m looking forward to hearing from Dad and Em tonight, when they get home from Kiama.

And then another fantastic surprise – a call from L1, all the way from Birchgrove! Excellent to hear from her, and to know she wasn’t entirely buried alive under the weight of uni paperwork.

And then, as I was writing this, a call from Daddy Joyce! Rod’s own version of happy birthday is always unforgettable, and it was great to hear from him and all about how Meagz and Brianna are doing.

So now we’re waiting for Neil to come and pick us up and take us to Airways for lunch - a kind of last minute thrown together birthday celebration plan that seems to just be growing. It started off with me and Pia going for lunch in town, then Neil said he’d come, but could he bring 2 Aussie seminarians he was looking after for the weekend; so then I rang Mark to invite him too, and he’ll probably bring his girlfriend, and then Amarino from school will also meet us there, and Jon and Fiona just rang to say they were in town too… So it will be a much bigger lunch than I planned, and I’m looking forward to it!

Then later on tonight we’ll be going in to say goodbye to Justin and JoAnn who leave PNG this week – farewell drinks at the Holiday Inn, where I’ll catch up with Rick too (who couldn’t join us for lunch because he had not one, not two, but three commitments today!! And he doesn’t agree when I tell him he works too hard!)

So, all in all, it’s been an excellent morning, and I’m looking forward to writing the second installment, with stories about this last week too, later on tonight.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Breaking the spell


The Dry has finally broken, and it’s amazing how GOOD the cool and the water feel in the air and on your skin. I think I could have danced out on the driveway this afternoon, but as the girls were still watching and waiting in the big orange and white bus for their bus driver to arrive I settled for twirling under my umbrella as I walked up the hill home.

God I love the rain!!!

And we’ve got a real treat today – we’re off to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Moresby tonight – it’s an amateur production and they rang Sister to say they had 70 spare tickets this afternoon. So the Grade 11 boarders and a couple of lucky Grade 9s are coming with us for what will probably be their first experience of the Bard. Can’t wait!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Another week

Welcome to the world, Brianna Michelle Joyce!

What exciting news to wake up to this morning! It’s a weird thing when all your old mates are either contemplating names, or contemplating schools… Seems like most of my friends have either got married, got engaged or got pregnant this year - what a year I picked to be away! Wonder if that means next year will be totally event-free? Somehow I doubt it.

Well we said goodbye to another bunch of girls this week – Grade 12s finished their exams, and finished school. It’s going to be an empty old school the next 5 weeks. Very hard to keep the girls motivated. And the teachers! I’ve lost my computers and my library classes because so many teachers have no classes any more so they needed to spread out the remaining ones. More non-teaching periods, more time to use up so I can avoid sitting in the staffroom. Aside from being hot and kinda boring in there, it’s also mosquito heaven, and I’m fresh meat. But luckily the tropical-strength Aeroguard seems to work a little better than Rid (Brand Power, here I come). You know you’ve been here too long when the smell of the insect repellant seems a lot more familiar than your favourite perfume.

Got all dolled up for the Melbourne Cup this week, even wearing black and white feathers in my hair in place of a fancy hat. Got quite a few quizzical looks in the staffroom til I pointed out that this was yet another great Aussie holiday I was having to be school for (my first day of school this year was Australia Day)(didn't point out that today was only a holiday in Vic either!), so I was going to celebrate it anyway. And the girls thought it was pretty cute to see me excited about something that was my culture (although I'm sure some of the ones who aren't in my class and therefore didn't get an explanation of the feathers thought I was trying to be a bird!). And I got the big TV in the AV Room all ready for the big race at 3.20, and the staff were all coming to watch with me. And then i realised at 2.40 that I'd forgotten about it being daylight savings back in Oz now! Doh!!! I bolted over to the TV, only to see that the race had been run, and there was a microphone being pushed in a jockey's face as the rain was streaming down. But, at least the right horse won - Dad had placed a $10 to win and $10 each way bet on Makybe Diva for me - so even if I missed the actual race I could go round telling everyone proudly that my horse won!

Had a nice relaxing day today lazing by the pool at the Holiday Inn. Rick had a meeting there at 2 this arvo, so he nicely came and picked me up this morning for coffee (or milkshake in my case) at his favourite hang-out (the café in Foodworld – he’s known there by name, and I joke he should just bring a pillow he’s there so often) before heading off to the hotel for a swim, and later leaving me to lie back on a lilo under the shade of a frangipani tree while he toddled on down to the café there (yet another coffee!) for his meeting. Hard to beat, really.

Going for a drive up to Sogeri in the mountains way behind our school tomorrow. Sister’s been promising me this trip since I first arrived, and she figured she’d better make good on it before the rains come and the road is washed away. Should be fun, though apparently the road is windy, and Angie’s a bit of a lead foot. Might be saying my Hail Mary’s on the way back down… Will let you know how it goes.

Monday, November 01, 2004

My new man...

hunting the flowers on our table Posted by Hello

Bedroom scene

Check out the new mat I bought from a street stall the other day! Gorgeous colours, made from pandanas fibres. This one is definitely coming home with me Posted by Hello

Meri Dress

My new PNG gear! Hard to believe I'm actually wearing it, but it is cool (temperature wise, that is!) Posted by Hello