Friday, February 25, 2005

The amazing adventures of Xena

Well, the on-going saga of Xena, Warrior Princess continues…

In today’s exciting new episode, I was awakened at 5am by the sound of baby kitten clawing its way out of cardboard box. It was her first night on the verandah since we decided she was too little to stay here – we had been bringing her over for visits after school, but she’s been spending most of her time with her mum and brother and sister back at Mrs Pilon’s house, to get that quality time with mum before leaving home…

Anyway, we had decided last night that we would keep her here overnight, because the night before a dog had got onto the Pilon’s verandah, and snatched the little ginger kitten. Mrs Pilon heard the mother cat fighting the dog in the night, and in the morning the kitten was gone (except for a bit of blood). We were so worried we decided we wouldn’t risk leaving her there in case the dog came back. So, I instead spent a sleepless night listening for the sounds of dog feet sneaking up the steps of our verandah. (We’d blocked it off by some fibro, but it would be pretty easy to push over) (although I think the effect of too many cold and flu tablets was probably just as much to blame for the lack of sleep as the worry – think I had 2 too many, as I was speeding all night on the pseudoephedrine. Not good.)

Anyway, I got out of bed at 5am when the sound of kitten mewing was getting too loud – I’d kept some gravy from last night’s dinner for her breakfast to quieten her down in the morning – but when I opened the door, there was not one, but two Xenas sitting on the verandah!

This was the second time her little sister had mysteriously appeared in the box on the verandah – when I’d come home to eat lunch the day before she was in there too – not our Xena this time, but just her little sister. I assumed one of the Pilon kids had thought she was dropping Xena off to play, but had brought the wrong one over – but when I asked later on that day, no one knew how she’d got there. And now, here she was again – with her sister this time – two kittens on the verandah, when I knew for a fact there’d only been one there the night before!

Very strange, I though to myself, and was wondering if I was dreaming (yes, they do make speed from cold and flu tablets…) – but Pia got up 30 minutes later and made the same exclamation – “How did you get here, little one?”

When I saw Mrs Pilon later that morning, she said that no one had brought the kittens up to us, and she had thought the worst when she got up and saw that neither of them was on her verandah.

The conclusion that we’ve had to reach is that the mother cat did it herself – she figured out where Xena was spending her afternoons, and after the dog took her other baby in the night she must have decided it wasn’t safe where they were – so she’d been bringing them up to us all by herself! Amazing, because the steps to the verandah were blocked, and it’s about 1.5m off the ground – she must have jumped up the tree with the kitten in her mouth and leapt onto the verandah.

So, instead of feeling bad that I’d taken her baby from her, I’m now feeling like mother of the year, because she chose us!!

Xena is very happy now her sister is here too. When we’d been calling her Buai, the other one had been named Daka (not sure how to spell it, but for the un-PNG initiated, daka is the mustard you chew along with the betel-nut – our absent 3rd kitty was cumbun - or lime – the final ingredient in that lovely red-making mixture). But now that she’s a warrior princess, well there’s only one fitting name for her companion…

They look pretty happy curled up together, don’t they, our Xena and Gabrielle???

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Chewing the... cat???

Well, in an ironic turn of events, Buai has now officially been renamed Xena, Warrior Princess, due to the fact that Pia could not cope with calling a cat after one of her favourite past times! (Chewing betel nut - or buai - is a PNG passion.) Seems funny to me that she loves the real buai, but thinks it's not a nice name for a kitten; and i think the real thing's rather disgusting, but thought that for a name it was pretty cute... but who said anything was logical in PNG? So, Warrior Kitty it is. (But I'll still be calling her Buai when no-one else can hear me!) Posted by Hello

Monday, February 21, 2005

Oh Brother!

Still recovering today from my big night out on Saturday night.

I went with some of the teachers to another Fundraising dance, this time at The Junction, the Holiday Inn’s nightclub in town. The way these things work is someone pays to “hire” the venue, and people pay the K10 or K15 cover charge at the desk to that person as they walk in that night. The venue earns money through the bar and from the cover charge – in this case, about K1200 – so, basically it wins either way because the cover charge must be paid by the hosts whether enough people come to cover it or not; it gets free publicity from the people hosting the event; and it makes money through alcohol as well. Not a bad little money-maker – for the bar anyway – I seriously doubt much money ends up with the people hosting the ‘fundraising’ dance!

Anyway, this was a dance to raise funds for my neighbour’s daughter-in-law to return to uni – and this being the neighbour who just gave me the kitten, I figured I’d better go along. And after my night of dancing with the girls at the Firehouse, I figured the time was ripe to test-drive what they’d taught me.

Well, it ended up being a fun night – though when we were driving out the gate at the start of the night, and our organiser leaned over to tell the security guards we’d be back around 2 or 3 in the morning I was having serious second thoughts about whether I should jump out of the vehicle there and then and run back to my cozy little chair and Saturday night Xena! (It was only 7.30 at the time, and I have to say the thought of 7 hours ahead of me was a bit daunting).

They’d organized a PMV as transport for the night, so here I was, hurtling down the highway in filled-up rusty old van, jokes and laughter in pidgin filling the dark air as the pot-holes sent the interior light on, then off, then on, then off…

When we got to the club, it was totally dead – we were the only people in there, and everyone headed straight for the seats. It was only 8 o’clock at this stage, and Lucy said “Don’t worry, when it gets past 10 o’clock it will really liven up”. Ten o’clock!!! That was 2 hours away!!! And even then I’d still have 5 hours to go!

But she was right – over time it slowly filled up, and people started hitting the dance floor. Me, though – I was freezing from the air-conditioning (note to self: next time wear jeans – even if they seem too hot at home!), tired and feeling very aware of once more being the only white chick in the joint. Dancing in the dark with the girls was one thing – but when there’s only about 15 people on the dance floor and everyone’s watching the white meri trying to dance RNB – well, I did a lot more looking than dancing, sadly.

But I did make it out there when they played my zodiac sign song (really got to be more hip and learn the names of songs/bands), and again later when some of the others dragged me up.

But the real highlight of the night was when the door opened and five of the Brothers from the Seminary waked in. They took one look over at our corner, saw me and Lucy sitting there, and ducked their heads immediately, knowing they’d been sprung! It took quite a while for them to work up the courage to face us, and most of them stuck by the pool tables in the other room for the rest of the night, but one of them came over and spoke to us, pleading with me in particular not to tell Neil (the volunteer who works at the seminary) or Pia (who oversees their prac teaching for RE lessons at school) that they were there!

I ended up spending the rest of the night either sitting or dancing with him (with Lucy and another teacher there too), and have to say I had a pretty good time! I haven’t really had the chance to talk to any PNG boys before, Marianville being a girls’ school, and my only contact with PNG men has been either talking with the husbands of teachers (or the few male teachers we have) – who are nice, but generally between 10 or 25 years older than me - or avoiding the few young ones I’ve met in random places (the Motor Registry, the Visa office, a policeman in the markets etc etc) who have invariably asked for my phone number within 2 minutes of talking to me and then refused to leave me alone until pushed off by the return of my protector-at-the-time. And the stories you hear, along with the statistics of domestic violence, and raskols etc etc really make you kinda wary of having any contact with the men at all! So it was really nice to have a positive experience with a Papuan bloke – and one about my age too!

And he was pretty cute…

Another thing to add to the list of things I never thought I’d be doing:
flirting with a Brother who’s snuck out of the seminary for the night!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Hello Kitty

Well I was woken up at 5am this morning by little cries outside my window.

Our neighbour's cat had kittens a little while ago, and unbeknownst to me, Pia claimed one before everyone else did, thinking I'd like one of my own. Well I kind of had a mixed reaction at first because I wasn't sure that having a pet was such a good idea, especially a kitten, with so many dogs around - but look at her little face! How could I not love her?  Posted by Hello

I've tried unsuccessfully all day to try and get her to drink, but all she does is suck on my fingers. I think I'll have to take her back to Mrs Pilon and insist that she has another week or so with her mum before making her permanent home here - she's just so little. I had thought that last night when they told us to come and collect her, but they thought she was ready, and the idea of having her was just too hard to resist at the time! (I was down in the dumps after missing Emma's call by about 10 minutes, and either offending or not hearing from others via email; and was starting to sink back into that all-too-familiar miasma of misery - so to suddenly have something soft and purring in my arms seemed like too good timing to pass up)

But I think another week or two at her mama's sousou will make a big difference - and she might even grow enough to be able to walk across our verandah without stumbling into the spaces between the boards!
 Posted by Hello

In the meantime, it gives me more time to come up with a name for her. I don't think Pia's too happy with calling her Buai - but I'm afraid the name might have already stuck...
 Posted by Hello

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Coconut and kaukau for dinner

Ow, I’ve got blisters on my hands from scraping coconut!

But at least I did a whole half myself! The little girls next door are teaching me - seems only fair after I taught them how to make gingerbread.

nbsp;Posted by Hello

Well, i didn't do all of these - but I'm getting there - no skin in the bowl this time, which is a marked improvement! (But Pia did report that one of the teachers walking by saw me scraping with the girls and commented on it to her. I assumed it would be along the lines of 'oh wow, she's trying something new and learning our customs!' - but no, it was apparently 'why is she sitting that funny way?' Seems like there's rules for how to sit on a coconut scraper that are similar to the rules for riding a horse - and i wasn't doing it the way ladies are supposed to. Oh well!!)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


The view from my window - everyone around us is complimenting me on the sea of marigolds I planted just before leaving in December, so the weeds would be kept down on the garden. (This is only about half of them too!) They do look pretty nice - too good to cut down, so the tomatoes and other vegies I'd planned on planting will just have to wait now. Posted by Hello

Sunday, February 13, 2005

New Year's Resolution

First Firehouse of the year last night, and I danced for about an hour with the girls!!!

I am SO going to kick that old phobia this year

Saturday, February 12, 2005

A week in the life...

An exhaustingly hot day today, but the end of a week of boarding duty for me, so a sweet reprieve all the same. Boarding duty, for the lucky uninitiated, involves supervising the girls from the moment they get up (5.50am) to the moment they go to night study (6.45pm), and all the work in between. Fortunately this year we share the duty with another teacher, so I didn’t have to be down at school until their breakfast (7am) – but even so, a 7 til 7 day in this kind of heat, when 2 hours in the afternoon is supervising work parade in the hot sun, is not the kind of day you want 5 in a row of. Especially when I also had night study duty on Thursday night (til 9.20pm) – some bad scheduling there. Needless-to-say I ended on Friday evening with a huge sigh of relief, followed by an even bigger sigh of exhaustion. And didn’t get up until I felt like it this morning!

And I thought playground duty was bad…

But as draining as it was, boarding duty does mean you get to know the girls better, and they get to know you. So all the little grade 9’s who were staring at me with semi-fear at the start of the week, and whispering about who I was after I peeked in to check on them studying in their classrooms, by the end of the week were greeting me with a smiling “good night Ms Conolly!” and wishing me a nice weekend. And I guess the same could be said in return - the shy Ms Conolly who waited around outside the mess hall while the girls had breakfast on Monday and Tuesday mornings, not really sure of the routines, was by Thursday nights calling out for the girls to hurry up and get into bed after they were late to evening prayers, and scolding the Grade 12’s at breakfast for not setting a good example to the new girls!

Some of the highlights of the week included being asked by Nita and another Grade 12 if they could go to Mrs Andrew’s house to top up their vial of holy water for the dormitory as they had run out. When I asked why they needed it, I was told it stopped the girls from having nightmares. My response of “Are you serious?” elicited a very solemn declaration that the dorm was haunted by the ghost of a girl who died in there years ago, and that they needed the holy water blessed by the priest to protect them against it at night. All you have to do is trace a cross on your forehead with it, and you’ll sleep soundly and sweetly. I wondered aloud if I should invest in some because I could never sleep at night – but we concluded that it probably wouldn’t work for me because I didn’t really believe in it. If I had more faith, then it would work.

Then there were the reports of clothes stolen off the clothes line, confirmed when the 2 Grade 10 classes overlooking the laundry saw a shirtless man sneak up to the washing and steal shirts and shorts in the middle of their maths lesson. They yelled, he ran – but Mary still lost her favourite shirt!

Or the doling out of daily punishments to one of my 10 Yellow girls who lied to me to get out of work parade by saying her class patron wanted to see her and 4 other of her classmates for being noisy in maths. Sounded suss to me, so I followed them and saw them disappear around a corner, and when asked, sure enough her teacher knew nothing of it. Neither did the other 4 girls she included in her story, so I set all of them extra grass to cut, and the choice to either help her finish it, or leave it to the one girl to do by herself. The wreaking of revenge was almost pacifying in itself, but the bit I loved best was the next morning when I walked into their classroom and asked for the girl with the Word of the Day to introduce it to us (a new game this year, to have one girl a day teach the class an interesting new word she’d looked up as) – and Grace strolled up the board, picked up the chalk, and printed out ‘mollify’ – giving me a grin as she told the class it meant to do something to stop someone being mad at you. I was very impressed, and am continuing to believe (hopefully accurately) that it was more than just coincidence, but some real insight and dry humour on her behalf. Certainly the class appreciated the example I gave of Henrietta cutting all the grass up the hill to the convent just to mollify me yesterday!

But the best of all was Tuesday (I think) morning, when I came down to a school already rife at 7am with rumours that a tsunami was coming. Apparently the people living on the villages on the water noticed the tide go out way past normal at around 1am in the morning, and immediately concluded that a wave of water was coming – so they started packing up their possessions and heading up the highway to the mountains. I discounted it when the first girl told me – but all morning the girls were talking about it, and when our builder drove in the gate he reported that literally thousands of people were flooding the highway, trying to get away from what they thought was an imminent tsunami. When the day students came, the stories were repeated – many by girls who had been woken up in the night to leave their houses and flee. Apparently entire villages were evacuated by 3am – and people were only straggling back to their homes by late morning, when the tide started coming back in as per normal.

It’s not every day you get interrupted in the staffroom by a student apologising for not bringing her journal to school that day because she’d been up in the night hurrying away from a rumoured tsunami, and didn’t have time when she found out it was a mistake to go back home and get it before getting on the bus!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Happy Birthday Joycie!!!!!! Posted by Hello

Monday, February 07, 2005


Check out this poem, written by one of my 10 Yellow girls for her journal. I just love those first 4 lines...

She came into this world
Not just to survive
She came here
To live
Because she had a purpose
To know life
In its multi-dimension
To know
Its right and wrong
In all variety
And when she lived
She explored all possibilities
She never backed off
From any challenges
She never looked back
Into her past
For she didn’t want
To regret any
She looked forward
For her future
For she believed
In herself

by Lilymord Gerari

Sunday, February 06, 2005

New water feature...

Saturday morning: next-door neighbours playing Posted by Hello

Lazy weekend

Well it’s Sunday night, and the edge of the weekend is slowly shuffling closer. The lights have just come back on after my first blackout since returning to Moresby, and I now have a new-found appreciation for the ceiling fan above me: it may not seem to do much when it’s been on all day and you’re still stifling, but when you’ve sat through 2 hours of humidity without it, well the sweet relief of having a breeze in a room that itself is almost dripping with sweat is almost holy…

It’s been a quiet weekend - so quiet in fact that I’ve only just broken the peace by playing music in the last 10 minutes – and that’s more of a reaction to having power again and wanting to use it, than actually needing to listen to anything ( and Pia requesting some Powderfinger to wash up to!). This place is pretty relaxing, and I guess you’d say it’s peaceful by the mere fact of having time on your hands to relax or read when you want to – but it’s not often that quiet: there’s dogs and children and noisy cars with mufflers dragging on the driveway, and music and TV blaring from 4 different houses around you most of the day or night. But this weekend, for some reason, it’s seemed like everyone agreed to pander to the quiet and just leave things switched off. Saturday morning was just pure bliss: once I’d got through the initial noise of the bus starting up and the mandatory 20 minutes of rumbling and talking and waiting for everyone to get on board (every 2nd Saturday is teachers’ shopping expedition), I seemed to have the entire compound to myself for hours. The house was empty, all my neighbours seemed to have vanished, and even the dogs had deserted the grounds. I just lay in bed reading, relishing the fact of having the place to myself, taking my time before going to the convent to put on my washing. I even enjoyed sweeping and mopping out the whole house because I knew that then I’d have the rest of the day to do nothing with a clear conscience – and after about 45 minutes of work I just sat on my verandah and watched the butterflies and enjoyed the breeze and my own thoughts for the next hour or so.

When the kids from next door came home I had the pleasure of watching them fill up and play in the little inflatable wading pool I’d brought back from Sydney – a hangover from Kindy days that Megan found in my old storeroom. I’d taken it over to their house one night after I came back, and was told by Doris the next morning that they’d blown it up and let Morris (her 2 year old) play in it in the house that night! This morning was the first time to use it outside, and he seemed to have so much fun filling it up with the hose, and then spraying his older sister with it that I was so glad I’d thought to bring it with me. Even funnier was watching Morris and Jasmine (who’s in my Grade 11 Computers class this year) with their mum telling me that Jasmine was just waiting til no one was looking so she could get in the pool too. I laughed and didn’t believe her – but as soon as I went inside to get a drink, I heard her giggling and I looked out the window – and true enough, there she was, sitting in the pool with Morris, splashing water everywhere!

I tried to be sneaky and take a surreptitious photo of them, but Morris is such a serious little boy I couldn’t get too close – so this is the best I have for now.

As well as reading and just day-drifting (mi salim ting ting) I also had a couple of excursions which added to the weekend: Airways with Neil and Mark last night for drinks and dinner; and to the Bluff Inn for lunch today with Leigh, an English VSO who’s relatively new to Moresby. I’d had a couple of back and forth introductory emails with him after he emailed AVI looking for people in Moresby, and today was the first time to actually meet him. Actually it was funny because I’d had these couple of e-conversations with him, but it wasn’t until last night that I found out whether he was a boy or a girl – I wasn’t really sure what the etiquette was on asking about gender when meeting someone via the net – Leigh’s kind of a unisex name, but somehow it seemed wrong when asking how long he’d been here, and what job he was doing to ask ‘oh and by the way are you a bloke or a sheila?’! But he called last night to confirm how to get here, and Pia took the call, saying a very British-sounding man had called while I was in the shower – so I figured that answered the question!

It was a good day, and despite a rather embarrassing and potentially damaging little incident involving navigating the driveway (let’s just say I learnt how to lift a car with my – and 2 other teachers’ – bare hands today!) I think I can say I’ve made a new friend.

And so the second week of school here at Marianville is almost to begin. I’ve met my two new Computers classes, re-established what I think will continue to be a good working relationship with my 2 English classes, and started decorating my new classroom. I’ve started setting goals with my girls for their School Certificate results at the end of the year, and feel reasonably confident that we’ll be able to meet them – their progress last year was really pleasing, and I’m hoping that will be proved in a swag of Distinctions and Credits in the national exams. I’ve got boarding duty Thursday nights this term, and all this week I think (swapped with Pia to get it out of the way) so I’ll no doubt be buggered by Friday – but I think I’m looking forward to it. A good start to the new school year – let’s hope it continues that way.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Hanuabada Pictures

These are photos from Hanuabada (the village on the sea), as promised back in December/November. I hope you can see the 2 kids in the window of the house, staring down at the sea - it was such a great photo op I had to pause in our walk around the village to capture it - although I have to say moments like that were frequent. It really was an amazing place to visit, and apparently I was really lucky to go because not many tourists get to see the place from the inside. I took the photos to school today to give Idau - I made her a copy of them because there were some lovely ones of her home, and I had some excellent ones of her family too. I might post one of her little niece as well - she just had the most gorgeous cheeky smile and loved having her photo taken. I hope I get to go back there sometime this year. Posted by Hello

Little faces in the window Posted by Hello

The last house Posted by Hello

Idau and Bele's places were near the end of their family jetty. Loved the washing blowing in the breeze - so colourful. Posted by Hello