Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Who's the Goose?

Unfortunately another tale of woe: limping around like an old granny today because I buggered my knee again today playing Duck Duck Goose with my girls! I had this inspirational idea in one of my late-night bouts of insomnia that I hadn’t taught my kids the procedure text type this year, and wouldn’t it be fun to teach them some games, and get them to write up how to play them, as a process-writing activity.

And yeah, it was a good idea – they had so much fun yesterday breaking into 5 groups and receiving an outline of a game they would have to work out how to play and then teach to the rest of the class. Lots of laughter and yelling as they ran around in circles playing chains, red light, stuck in the mud, duck duck goose and fruit salad. And today was the big day for 10 Purple to teach each other the games (probably the ‘funnest’ double English of the year!). I took them down to the bottom oval, the furthest away from the rest of the school because I knew they would be extremely rowdy – and they were. I haven’t laughed so much in ages – nor have they, I bet!

Unfortunately, it came at a price – for me, anyway. I had worn shorts and thongs, planning to join in all the fun, and survived playing chains without incident. But in the first round of Duck Duck Goose I just knew that Agnes would pick me to be the goose as she made her way round the circle – and that hunch came true, in more ways than one… As soon as she tapped me, the class burst out laughing, but I jumped up to join in: head down, out to prove I wasn’t an old fogey but could run as well as any of them… but my moment of glory didn’t last long. Within 2 seconds I’d slipped on the mud, taken a major fall and ended up sprawled all over the ground, mud all over me, head to toe! Goose, indeed!!

My poor girls were so sorry and worried – me, I didn’t know whether to laugh or hang my head in shame – but you can probably guess which one won out! I spent the rest of the day giggling about it with everyone as they stared at my mud-stained shorts (7 periods straight, no time to change at all), but it wasn’t so funny by the time I got home and found an icepack. My poor old knee has taken a bit of battering over the years, and it looks like it belongs to an elephant right now, and feels like it belongs to a 90-year old woman!

Remind me not to join in tomorrow when it’s 10 Yellow’s turn…

PS: Oh yeah – another priceless moment in my PNG teaching career: when I was writing on the board in Yellow today, Henrietta left her desk in the front row and came to stand behind me, hand raised. I turned around to find her there, and I was totally bemused, and asked her what on earth she was doing. She just looked at me and said “mosquito”. I just stared at her and said “what, you’re going to hit me?’ – and she did!! She slapped my arm with a sound that I swear echoed throughout the whole building, closely followed by an outburst of laughter from the rest of the class (and myself) that continued every time they saw her handprint on my arm – and believe me, it lasted a while! She certainly killed it – but not before it left a HUGE bite mark! I looked at it again after the shock of what just happened wore off, and just shook my head, telling them all it just wasn’t my day – first I fall over in the mud and get covered head to toe, then I realised I’ve buggered my knee, then I get hit by students and covered in mozzie blood – what on earth would happen next?!

Tune in for the next exciting installment of ‘misadventures in paradise’ tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Hard workers

My boarding girls and me - their word parade task this afternoon was to chop up this tree that fell in the night. As you can see, we didn't quite finish it... Posted by Hello

Monday, March 28, 2005

Happy Easter

Happy Easter, everybody. Hope you had a nice weekend.

Mine was less than wonderful, but after a day of sleeping in, reading and lazy shopping with Pia today, I’ve started to recover.

I know this blog has been full of crappy stories lately, which doesn't seem fair because life here is generally pretty good, but there seem to have been a lot of mis-haps lately. I know its meant to be the Land of the Unexpected but i think whoever came up with that theory pushed it just a little bit too far over this weekend...

I went into town with Roselyn (a new M’ville teacher) this weekend, to stay in town with her at the house of some Australian Youth Ambassadors she knows. She met them at her old Province when they came for holidays, and I'd actually met them once or twice in town/at functions, but never really spoken to them for long. She's been going in to town a few weekends and staying with them, and has asked me to come a couple of times before - and each time I've either been busy or sick - but really I wasn't feeling much like going either because I don't really like turning up on people's doorsteps to stay if I don't know them very well, and the idea of more than a night away from my home is a bit much for me (I'm getting very tragic in my old age, but i'm exhausted by having to be sociable for extended periods!)

Anyway, she asked me to come for Easter, and i figured I'd better say yes this time, just for a night, to be sociable. So she came over on Saturday morning to say she'd got us a lift into town in an hour, so would I still come? I was a bit worried coz I'd made plans for Sunday to meet the other AVI's for lunch, but hadn't been able to get in contact to organise where/when/who etc as our phones have been out for a couple of days (only just back tonight), and wasn't sure how I'd get from the Youth Ambassadors (AYADs) place to the other volunteers - but Roselyn convinced me I'd sort it out, so i packed, and went into town with her. When we made it to their place, it turned out that they were going out (they'd thought we were coming the day before, but with no phones we couldn't call to let them know we couldn't get transport til Saturday) - but said there was enough room for us to come along.

That bit was actually quite fun - we went to a village about 45mins out of Moresby - there were 2 AYADs (Mark and Lara) and Lara's boyfriend (a PNG bloke - very cute too!), and his mates and another PNG girl - and it was one of their villages. We went to look a the village briefly, then went to the beach to swim. Unfortunately it was low tide, so where we drove to was all mud - so we had to walk over rocks to get to the swimming bit. Normally that would be cool, but I had only my sandals with me, and they were already falling apart, and very slippery, so it was a real pain in the arse walking about 20 mins over slippery rocks to get there in these bloody things (and i couldn't taken them off coz it was too hard and sharp).

But once we got there, the beach was great. Not like Kiama of course, but to be in the water was heavenly - and we stayed in for hours, just paddling and telling stories and drinking beer (well, i had one or two, but between them a case disappeared v quickly, along with a bottle of rum and a 12 pack of whisky mixers too). I knew they were going there to swim and drink, but i had thought it would prob'ly end when it got dark. But we just moved location, back to the car - after navigating those bloody rocks again, where this time the shoes actually did break. When we got back to the car, there was another case of beer waiting... We ended up staying about another 2 hours, with the car stereo blaring (mostly) country crap from the 80s, loud enough for the whole village to hear!

Now this is the point where you, dear readers, realise as I had about 3 hours ago, that yours truly is really getting very old and boring. Sitting around drinking beer and beer and more beer (or watching other people drinking anyway) just for the sake of it with a bunch of people i don't really know and who don't know me, and while mosquitos are treating me as an all-you-can-eat, is not really my idea of a good time. So i was pretty ready to be getting home long before they were. And getting quite worried about the state of the blokes. I was assured by Roselyn that our driver had not had much and was used to it anyway, but when they finally ran out of beer i was very happy.

Until the driver realised that he couldn't find his glasses. We spent the next hour (i kid you not) unsuccessfully trying to search the beach in the dark with no torches because he needed them to drive and wasn't leaving til he found them.

In the process, he decided to reverse his 4WD so he could turn the headlights onto the beach. Seemed like a good idea - until he got totally bogged in the sand. And I mean totally - you almost couldn't see the top of the back wheels. And no matter how often or loud we yelled at him to stop revving it, he couldn’t stop putting his foot totally to the ground. After trying with all of us pushing the back, then the front, we all had to search for rocks and branches to lay under the wheels to get traction - and then that didn't work either. More searching, more revving. Finally, about 20 mins later he finally got it free.

Then he found his glasses - IN HIS POCKET!!!!!!! Never thought to check earlier. ARGGHHHHH!!!!! But at least we could leave then.

But first we had to stop at his mum's house in the village for about half and hour, and then navigate a road that was mostly 1m deep ruts and 2m tall grass (i have NEVER been in a jerkier ride - I whacked my head on the window about 3 times, and on the roof handle once) (and we were 4 across the seat because there were so many of us) to get back to the highway. And from there he played the stereo, that same bloody country CD we'd already heard 5 times or more, the whole way home - louder than a Powderfinger concert - the stereo volume control was at 60.

Needless to say by the time we finally made it back to town i was exhausted and cranky (but still trying bravely to smile whenever anyone looked at me, realizing I was being a very poor sport!) The others were planning on going for a swim in their pool and then going out to Lamana (a nightclub) (it was about 11ish by the time we got home) but I knew i wouldn't last that, so was planning on staying at the house while they went.

But when we got back and started unpacking, Lara realised she couldn't find her house keys.

We turned the car just about upside-down searching, and emptied every bag about 5 times - but nothing. She must have lost them at the beach. They spent the next hour deliberating who they knew who could possibly have spares (no one who was in Moresby - all the other AYADs were on holidays in other towns), or how to break in (impossible - security grills on every window, deadlocks on every door + security doors). The compound they live on has 2 houses - Lara and a couple of others live in one, and Mark and a couple of others live in the other. Mark had his keys, so we finally ended up all staying in his house, but all our gear (well, mine and Ros's) was in Lara's place. That sucked last night as we had nothing to change into or toothbrushes etc, but sucked even more this morning when i knew i had to contact my AVI mates to go to lunch, and i had no other clothes or undies, no keys, no contact numbers, no money, no nothing - it was all in the other house (no iron in the house either, and my clothes had spent the night in a ball in my bilum).

I’d made plans to meet the AVIs for lunch, and had to get to Mark the AVI’s place by 11am. It was now midday, and I was still stuck at the AYADs place, trying to get to the right place. When I finally got in contact with AVI Mark, he and Neil had already decided we'd go to the Crowne Plaza for lunch - the classiest place in Moresby - and here's me walking in in yesterday's totally crumpled and smelly clothes, my hair a frizzy mess and fuzzy teeth/chip breath - with no money! To make it even better, I managed to drop grilled eggplant down my front on the first round at the buffet - just in case i didn't look and feel dreadful enough.

And I still had to get back to the AYADs place to get my stuff - IF they ever got into the house - Easter Sunday: good luck finding the landlord or real estate agent.

Yep, it was a shitty day, all round.

Never again will I take for granted the simple luxury of being able to clean my teeth, or wear fresh underwear.

As it turns out, lunch was nice, I borrowed money from Mark (the AVI), and i went back to his house to watch a DVD while waiting for the AYADs to tell me their place was open so i could get my keys etc - and we'd made plans to watch the finale of Outback Jack at 5pm - he knew i was a fan. But that meant I'd be stuck in Moresby again for the night as Neil went home after lunch. I nearly cried realising I'd have to stay in someone else's place for the night when all i wanted was my own bed and privacy- even if Mark (AVI) had been really nice in offering to let me stay at his place. But Neil (my hero) rang around 5.30 to ask if I wanted him to come and get me so I could go home tonight. The AYADs had finally got keys from the landlord, so we went and got my stuff, and then drove back home to Bomana. He even stopped at Foodworld on the way back so I could get food for dinner (didn't think we had anything in the house). It was SO good of him to do that, because i knew how much he wanted to rest in the afternoon, but he knew how exhausted i was, so he drove all the way back into town just to bring me home. He's a bloody saint!

Land of the Unexpected... oh my god!!!

I am really getting old, and way too used to my isolation out here, because i never want a 24 hours like that again! I'm exhausted.

Anyway, sorry this turned into a kind of mini-novel. I sound like too much of whinger i know - the AYADs really are lovely people - very welcoming, and so sorry about the way things turned out. It was just a bad run of luck, and I coped with it a lot less well than I should have - I'm blaming that on tiredness, old age and PMS! And the swimming at the beach bit was great. It was just once it got dark that it got bad! An unfortunate experience - but a very PNG one.

Hope everyone else had a much better day than mine (and considerably more chocolate!), and looking forward to hearing about it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Back again

Just quickly:

It’s been a while since writing as I’ve had major computer disasters. My user profile was destroyed by the well-meaning but ultimately devastating attempts by our computer administrator to hook me up to our network, and I’ve spent the last week or so trying desperately to restore the settings and re-download my Norton security programs that I’d only just paid about a hundred bucks for and which were lost in the process. It’s been an unbelievably frustrating experience, and I’ve looked up more dialogue boxes and help indices and system functions that I ever thought I’d have need to. It’s been a learning experience, and I think I’ve finally solved the problems (though I’m downloading Norton for the 3rd time as I speak, so who knows?) but the biggest lesson I’ve learnt from all of this has been the one that should have been most blatantly obvious:


Other than that, Gabrielle is still safe and well (although increasingly psycho) and is beginning to get used to spending her nights inside the bathroom. The mother cat drives me crazy as I go to bed, and early in the morning, but at least the little one is safe.

Unfortunately, the mother is looking suspiciously round-bellied again though… I had hoped that I was mistaken, but Mrs Pilon said she thought it was pregnant again too. Oh no!!

I looked up the gestation period in the Encyclopedia, hoping I had a few months up my sleeve. 60—65 days is all it takes – they can have up to 5 litters a year.


I really don’t’ want to spend the money on a trip to the vet for a cat that isn’t mine and maybe take off and leave within the month. But i don’t want another 5 kittens every couple of months either…

Saturday, March 12, 2005

A dog in the night

Well it was what I’d been dreading since the moment Pia said Mrs Pilon had a kitten for us.

There were noises about 4 o’clock in the morning, and then a sudden crash and hiss and lots of mother-cat yelling-noises, and both Pia and I raced out of our rooms to get the door unlocked as quickly as we could, but we were too late. A big black dog had leaped up over a metre onto the verandah and taken Xena, and she was gone.

Pia found her underneath the tree outside – between the two of us and the mother cat we’d frightened the dog into dropping her, but she was hurt badly and at first we thought she was dead. Then it turns out it was worse than that – she was hurt but still breathing, and we had to figure out what to do.

I was a total mess, and Pia was almost as shaken as I was, but we got her up to the verandah and tried to see what could be done. It seemed that she only had one deep cut on her head, and because she was blinking and moving a bit we hoped it might not have been that bad – just shock. We cleaned her up as best as we could, and wrapped her up and put her with her mum in the hope that we could take her to the vet as soon as they opened in the morning. But by the time it got light we could see that her neck wouldn’t support her head, and we knew there was nothing that could be done for her – except to put her out of her misery.

Neither of us could face doing it, and neither could Mrs Andrew (our neighbour), but eventually Cornie (her son) was brave enough to kill her quickly, and bury her in the backyard for us, while I stayed on the verandah, bawling my eyes out and feeling like a complete and utter failure.

I know that in the face of some of the terrible things others I love have had to cope with this week or these last few months, this is really pretty insignificant – and certainly I feel pretty stupid to be sobbing over a kitten I only had for a few weeks – but she was my little ball of comfort, and it was such a horrible way for it to happen. I loved her already and I wish I’d protected her better.

And I’m dreading the same thing happening all over again with her other little sister – first the ginger one, now Xena. Please let that dog stay away from Gabrielle.

Xena's first night. Posted by Hello
and now her last.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Life in PNG

Aside from at least 3 people trying to sell me Viagra, and another 5 people trying to offer me pirated software over the internet, I can usually rely on opening my inbox and finding at least one great “Life in PNG” story from the other volunteers in PNG each week.

This week I got not just one, but two:

From E... (teacher – recently made principal by default! - in Kavieng):
I had an interesting experience today. I was discussing a child with his mother. This child is a bully and one of the most bossy people i have ever met even for a child. He also has no self control and will often be disruptive in class. Basically he is a brat. When i was talking to his mother she admitted that it was a problem and that she had trouble controlling him at home. She also made him appologise and then started to explain to me her theory as to why he was like that. Apparently while he was a baby they were living in the village instead of in town. There was another woman in the village who had many daughters but no sons. When this boy was born she was jealous because he was such a good baby. This woman pretended to be friends with the mother and would babysit for her. While she was babysitting she took revenge on the mother for having such a wonderful baby boy and she used black magic to put a curse on the baby. Ever since then the boy has been a bighead apparently. So while she was talking the child was there and she turned to him and asked him to tell me why he was such a bad boy. He dutifully replied that it was the black magic that made him do it. Then she made him go and sit in the playground and told him to say his memorised scriptures and to say a prayer to ask god to take the black magic and send it back to the jealous woman.

How do you argue with that?

From Mark (Operations Manager at Port Moresby City Mission):
SITUATION : I get an email from a staff member saying that someone has removed the telephone line because they can’t connect to the internet?
I think to myself “well this is going to be a fun conversation”. I pick up the phone and call the staff member.

Mark “Sharon, I just received your email, did you send it from your computer?”
Sharon “Yes, you said that we spend too much money on the phone, that is why I emailed you”
Mark “But Sharon, you say you can’t connect to the internet ……”
Sharon “That’s right, I think the phone cord is missing”
Mark “But you sent me an email…..”
Sharon “That’s right”
Mark “Ok, if you sent an email, then you must have connected to the internet”
Sharon “Oh …. (Giggle, giggle) …. Ummmm”
Mark “I’m just wondering Sharon, why you even sent an email if you didn’t think you could connect to the internet?”
Sharon “(Giggle, giggle). The internet is working now, thank you Mr Mark”
Mark “That’s ok Sharon, have a good day”

Ahhhhh, my head shaking episode for today completed, all before lunch too.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Remind me again why I'm here?

another wonderful day full of positive interactions with staff...

half of 10 Yellow had to write me 100 lines of "I will complete my homework for Ms Conolly" last night and hand it in today (guess why?)- and 3 girls still didn't do it!! (and then looked surprised when i gave them another 100 to do tonight, and even madder when I gave them yet another 50 because they did the first lot during my lesson, and tried to hand it in at the end of it)

had to tell my own class off because one of them had left a betel nut shell on the teacher's table (how stupid can you get?!) and their commerce teacher found it. (It's banned at school, and I'd told them just 2 days ago that I knew the boarders were getting day students to bring it to them, and they'd get in big trouble if found out.) So now that girl is writing me a page summarising the negative health and educational impacts of chewing buai (which she was just thrilled about!)

nearly got bitten by a Papuan Black while supervising grass cutting during work parade (that's a snake, BTW, not another potential suitor)

AND I've got night study tonight


Wednesday, March 09, 2005


OK things are getting to the ridiculous stage now. I've had bouts of insomnia most of my life, but it's getting to the point where I'm lying in bed for hours before finally getting off to sleep, and then I'm waking up early in the morning, dreaming or thinking, and finding myself unable to clear my mind sufficiently to nod off again. I was even adding up the total scores of students' test papers in my sleep the other morning!!

Now I know I should be able to force my mind to switch off by meditating or counting sheep or repeating Hail Mary's over and over again like a mantra (or test out the girls' holy water to ward off evil spirits, as I've described in earlier entries), but I'm now officially sending out a plea to anyone out there who knows a naturopath or a chinese doctor or a chemist - hell, I'll even take a vet with tranquilizer darts at this stage! - to find me some sort of remedy before I lose my mind!

Pia has a Brother friend called Valerian, which I've heard is good for helping you to relax. I may have to take desperate measures with this poor soul if someone doesn't find me an alternative - and soon!

Thursday, March 03, 2005


still sick

yuk yuk yuk yuk yuk

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Well, today was the first day of publication of our brand-spanking-new school student newsletter EmVILLE EXPRESS – and it sold out 10 minutes into lunchtime!!!

The Magazine Committee and I had been working for the last 2 weeks to put together this first edition of what we thought would be a monthly newsletter, full of stories written by the students, ads for and by the students and teachers, photos, student poems, and a month-ahead calendar. We’ve got a committee of about 15 girls, all of whom have contributed something to this month’s edition – and they were just so excited to see it put together – and girls were racing to get their copies at recess and lunch today! Even with a price hike from 20 toea to 50 toea (we had to use the expensive photocopier as the fast one doesn’t print A3 – bummer!!!) girls were queuing up to get copies, and were excitedly reading about the first firehouse, and the new prefects, and interviews with 2 of the new teachers etc etc. And we already had requests from 2 of the teachers about possible articles for the next issue, even before they’d seen the first one!

A very successful first venture into the world of publishing – just wish I could add it as an attachment to this blogsite, because I’m pretty proud of it too!