Thursday, June 30, 2005

The butterfly effect

Well, actually it's not so hard to see how storms in Sydney can impact upon the arrival of a visitor for me here in Port Moresby. Sadly, Johnson missed his Brisbane-POM flight due to a delay from Sydney, and arrived at Brissie just in time to see Air Nuigini taxiing down the runway. They knew he was coming and would be there any minute - he was checked all the way through and Qantas was on the case - but nogat - they wouldn't wait. I've said it before and I'll say it again - BLOODY AIR NIUGINI!!!

It's a bummer, because by the time he gets here tomorrow, the girls will have packed up and gone home for holidays. So much for judging the marching girls... Looks like I'll have to do that job on my own.

Ah well, Tufi awaits and maybe I'll organise to meet up with the girls at the Botanical Gardens sometime next week. It's not every day they get to meet an extremely tall, so-white-he's-blue guy, and I'd hate for him to come all this way and not see the reason I'm here.

Try again tomorrow.

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And oh yeah - Daltron still buggered, so if I'm not emailing, you know why. Sori tru!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Well I still haven’t finished talking about the village trip, but I think that the photos will probably just stay unaccompanied by proper story until I get around to telling it in chronological order.

Life is very busy here at the moment – one day of classes left, athletics carnival on Friday, and reports due either tomorrow or the next day, plus student record cards to do and a mid-year report due on the IT department. Think that one will probably slip by the wayside… It can wait – reports can’t.

I told my magazine committee I couldn’t possible get the next issue of EmVille Express out by the end of term, but you know me – I’m trying anyway…

Jono comes tomorrow, and as well as picking him up from the airport I also have to take Sr Angela to a meeting at De La Salle, and then take the dog to the vet as well. Crikey. She didn’t know whether to frown or laugh when I told her “I’m not picking that bloody dog up”, after she’d just suggested I do that very thing. (Fortunately she went for the amused option!) I thought it was the rotten old thing that’s tried to eat me on several occasions, but it turns out it’s the latest acquisition I need to take, off to get neutered (apparently just living at the convent doesn’t do the trick).

I caught the bus into town last night to meet Lea at the Holiday Inn again, to later go to an AVI dinner, where we caught up with Chris (one of our PNG AVI manager-type people) as well as meet the new batch of vols.

Had to take the negatives from the Quest into town this afternoon to get the copies the girls have ordered before they go home, so I have to get them tomorrow as well.

No wonder Pia started writing me a list of things to do tomorrow this afternoon!

And bloody Daltron has buggered around with their email accounts – apparently they’ve upgraded the settings and we now have to re-arrange our pop server addresses – but they nicely failed to let any of their clients know this! For the last 2 or 3 days I’ve been totally frustrated, wondering why I can’t send any mail out – and even downloading emails is a problem. Hopefully sometime soon they might think to let us know how we can use our accounts again.

* * * * *

Haven’t mentioned the dance last Friday properly yet. It was a fund-raising dance (as they always are), supposedly put on by the ex-Marianville students – but none of them showed up! The bus went to get them too late, and their security guards at UPNG wouldn’t let them out! So, after getting all excited about a night on the town, Pia, a bunch of other teachers and I sat around for about 3 hours, complaining about the music (a live band, which I actually thought was pretty good) and waiting for people to arrive. Fortunately around 11 o’clock another bunch of people came (some staff, one ex-VSO who’s going out with one of our teachers) and that really livened things up. This Helen (from England) was so funny – she really got the party started by just jumping out onto the dance floor and dragging everyone else up too.

I had already made it out there twice before that – a couple of feet away from us was a bunch of 5 boys who were also sitting there bored. They’d obviously thought the ex-Marianvilles would be there, and I’d been feeling some eyes on me for a while (being the only white chick, and just about the only girl under 40 in the place at that time, you get that), and finally one of them walked over to us and pulled quite a confident little line on me (despite the dreadful beginning addressed to the group “I know you ladies are about twice my age but…”) – “I made a promise to myself that before I die I’ll dance with an American and an Englishwoman and a Canadian and an Australian” – and held out his hand to me. Well, what could I do but join him? No one else on the dance floor, mind you, and probably the worst song the band had played all night. Very stiff and awkward, and made even more so by his comment halfway through “I hope you don’t have any kids at POMIS” (POM International School). How old did I feel then?!!! I just laughed and said I didn’t have any kids at all. Then I made the mistake of asking him if he was from POMIS (assuming he was a teacher), and he told me he went there!! Oh dear. The song ended soon after and we shuffled our separate ways back to our seats.

But, nothing daunted, he came back again about twenty minutes later, and rectified his past mistake by saying “You’re not really a teacher at Marianville, are you?”, before telling me he was actually ex-POMIS and now studying law at UPNG, and was I sure I was a teacher… and were these all the moves I had? Hmmm.

Cute boy, very young, but definitely worth another dance later on in the night, in between getting pulled up by Joyce, our drunken policeman’s wife (who told me numerous times that night she wanted to go to Australia and go to a proper strip bar), several other teachers, and a couple of the blokes (husbands/staff). It was a fun night, in the end, even if we had to sit through several hours of boredom to get to that point. And not ridiculously late – home and in bed by 2am. Good one. Don’t think it raised much money though!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Overnight in Gabadi Village

Saturday was the big trip, my first time to a student's village to stay overnight. Mary had asked me to come to her place last year, but we'd had to cancel the visit at the last minute because of a death in her family, so this time I was determined to make it, no matter what!

We had planned for her dad to pick me up after midday, which was good because I was out late the night before at the dance (to be discussed at a later date). They arrived in the ute about 1.30, ready for the 1.5 hour journey down the Hiritano Highway to Gabadi village.

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The house we stayed in (Mary's uncle's), and the truck we travelled in.

Lunch on the verandah. Posted by Hello

Note the mug, which says "I love Buai" - Mary's aunty told her mum it said "I love sister", and was embarrassed at first to let me drink out of it when she realised what it said, but I insisted, and she ended up giving me on as a souvenier of the visit! (Baui is betel nut, the nut they all chew which with lime and mustard turns their mouths red.)

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The village, as seen from Mary's place.

All the family had fun washing in the river. Posted by Hello

These pigs thought we were coming with food. Too bad for them! Posted by Hello

Mary, her mum and a niece, making food in the 'kitchen' (a bench under the house, with a fire nearby) Posted by Hello

Mary's grandmother, the matriarch of a family of over 100. Mary's dad is one of 14 kids, and this amazingly spry woman spent the morning peeling then smashing bananas, then mixing it with suksuk (sago) to make pudding for us - PNG icecream, the family called it, and I liked it enough to have 4 pieces. Needless to say, it was nice and sweet. Posted by Hello

Crossing over

The first thing we did was go for a swim (or a wash, as they call it) in the river that separates Mary's little village from the rest of the village. It was quite wide and deep in the middle, and the current was much stronger than I expected. It was lovely and cool, and I loved swimming, even if it cuased much amusement amongst the kids watching us.

After we went back to the house and changed we were heading over to the other side for the birthday party of Mary's cousin. To get across we had to make the trip in the dug-out canoe we'd been watching people ride in while we were swimming.

Paddling over the river - except these people are sitting, and we had to stand because the canoe (which they'd only made 2 days before, in my honour!) was full of muddy water.

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Standing in a tiny rocking canoe while they pole is over sounds easy - let me tell you, I was shaking the whole time - especially the trips when I had my camera in my hands!

Unfortunately, when we got there instead of the singing and dancing we'd been anticipating, we arrived to the commotion of people yelling and running in every direction. The party had been going on since early morning, and it had now reached that noxious time of the afternoon when all PNG parties or events seem to deteriorate into fighting and brawls. Boys from another village had come, and with all the drinking that had been going on, "drunkheads" (as the girls write in their journals all the time!) began throwing fists and then bottles, and the party atmosphere collapsed into semi-chaos, and then silence as everybody raced first to verandahs of houses (or to where the action was), and then back home again when it became clear that the music was stopped for good. A shame, becuase Mary had really been talking up the dancing, and her sister-in-law (tambu) was really waiting for it, all dressed up in her tinsel (around her head) and plastic hula skirt - but madi, ol pinis - sorry, all over. Oh well.

Drinking the kulau Posted by Hello

Grade 10 girls, post-exam

Happy the exam is over! Posted by Hello

The 10Y wild ones Posted by Hello

Relaxing post-exam  Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Exam fever

Well tomorrow's the big day - the first Grade 10 National Exam - the Written Expression paper. I've really had it with marking and correcting past papers and am planning on going on strike as of tomorrow afternoon - no more marking for the rest of term. (Except the journals - I'd actually miss them. Well, some of them.)
I think I can manage a week of compulsory impromptu speeches (on the students' part, not mine! I never have any trouble with them!), especially as Friday will be the Athletics Carnival.

It took almost an hour today for the girls to organise their seats into position in the hall for tomorrow morning's exam. Seriously, how hard is it to line up pre-numbered desks into rows of 20? Apparently I'm wrong and it actually IS rocket science.

Let's hope the writing questions don't involve anything that needs consecutive numbering, or basic problem solving skills.

Gee, I really sound like a cranky school marm this evening, don't I?! You can almost see the steel frame glasses, tight little bun (sadly not buns) and wooden metre ruler being caned against desks...

Time for a nap I think

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


The tiny frangipani tree in our backyard has the most gorgeous mix of yellowy-pink flowers - kind of like a Peace rose, only with 5 petals. And the smell of the white ones along the driveway is heavenly. Ah, tropical paradise... Posted by Hello

Sunday, June 19, 2005

My mate Sal

Happy Birthday Sal!!!! (and to Tuppie, for a week ago, and who I'm sure will appreciate me leaving the one digital photo I have of her off this blog, rather than posting it!) Posted by Hello

2 weeks old

How cute is she!!!  Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Miss Marianville Quest 2005

The day of the much-anticipated Miss Marianville Quest finally dawned on Saturday morning – and unfortunately I dawned a whole lot earlier, getting up at 4.4am to drive Lea and Neville to the airport. An early start, but well worth it for the weekend of blissful solitude that would be its reward. But first there was the Big Event to get through…

It was a crazy day – another huge Marianville event (one of 3 I’ve experienced now) full of people, noise, stress and cheering – but so much fun! I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of it, but for me the day was a mix of being stage mum for Maria, our 10 Purple contestant whose cousin ditched her at the last minute, leaving her with no one to do her hair and makeup - and no equipment - so I ended up filling in for most of the changes... Then taking photos of the day for the Magazine committee, racing from the changing rooms around to the front of the stage, and not knowing whether to laugh or cringe as I sat near my noisy 10 Yellows who just couldn't shut up when the contestants walked out - especially when they were yelling at the escorts. They're funny girls and I get a real kick out of them - but the screaming and total boy-obsession did get a bit much after a while. And then catching up with my own escort during the break - the cute Brother I met at the night club that time, who just happened to be sitting at my breakfast table when I got home that morning from town - Pia had enlisted he and another young seminarian's help in carrying things down early to the Quest - so I found him again at lunch and sparked many a rumour by spending the next hour with him - "Ms Conolly's talking to a BOY!!! A NATIONAL boy!!!! A CUTE national boy!!!!" Had lots of stares, not just from students but from everyone around – sitting down near my girls, it was like there was a spotlight shining straight on us (or maybe that was just the sun reflecting off my comparatively lily-white skin). Shame he is a brother actually - extremely cute - but religion didn't seem to stop him from employing his clearly God-given gift with the girls…

The escorts were funny too. In a society where boy/girl relationships are strictly non-demonstrative (in public anyway), and in a school where boys are extremely rare and much-sought after specimens, I thought the boys would be far too shy to do more than look at the ground while trying to pretend they weren’t walking their partners down the catwalk. But once they got the hang of it, some of these boys were hilarious, playing to the crowd as the girls cat-called to them by either a nod of the head and raised eyebrows, or a downward glance below the sunnies, or even a direct stare, point or grin at the girls who were loudest (usually my Henrietta and Marjellah!). But the funniest of all were the subtle interactions between partners – when the boy looked back to glance at the girl as they crossed the catwalk, or when she let her hand drift over his as they passed each other on their separate struts. In the final round – the evening wear – several of the boys brought out flowers to present to their partners, and Emmanuel (our 10P escort) not only presented Maria with a flower, which she later tossed in my direction from the stage, but also got down on his knees and gave her another bouquet on their final turn and pose. He got a huge reaction from the crowd and I had tears streaming down my cheeks from laughing at these two show ponies, who backstage had seemed so shy! (A different set of tears to the ones I had on the first round, when Maria first emerged, nervous but beautiful after the girls and I had finished dressing her. I’m a hopeless sentimentalist, and I know “All my life”, her final song, will always have the same reaction from me whenever I hear it now – just as “Respect” will share a memory with Geita now, as well as Tuppie, and “Uptown Girl” will be Loa and her beautiful rainbow dress, not just growing-up memories of Sam and Dad and the record player in our Epping lounge room.)

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Maria, our beautiful contestant, with Genny (one of her dressers). Her contemporary outfit included Milne Bay face painting, a Highlands purpur (cuscus fur top), shell belts and armbands (like the belt I gave you, Marg - she really did jingle!), Manus leg bands, an Oro leather and tappa cloth bag and faux leather cap. Pretty gorgeous, huh?

Charlene, Miss 10 Yellow, who went on to win Miss Retro and Miss Charity - their class rasied over K6000!!! And i was proud of our K3276 (and 35 toea!). Their class were waiting for me to come in this morning, and had their trophy nicely polished and sitting on my desk, waiting for my reaction. Those cheeky girls just burst into giggles and gave a big cheer as I had to (graciously) concede defeat... Posted by Hello

The Line Up

The contemporary category (part 1) - a mix of traditional and Western styles
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and Part 2 Posted by Hello

Miss Marianville, and her escort - both of them cleaned up when it came to the awards. She was beautiful. Posted by Hello

Loa, one of my Grade 11 girls and her partner, in the Retro category. I loved this dress!  Posted by Hello

The retro category, where our escort really came into his own. Very glad I thought to give him my sunnies at the last minute as he made good use of them on the catwalk - very cheeky. Posted by Hello

Monday, June 13, 2005

Helluva Week

I don’t know about you, but this week for me really couldn’t have had a whole lot more packed into it.

Not only are we into the last few weeks of term, with all assessments due to be finished, marked and data entered into the computer by the end of this week, my girls sit their first Grade 10 School Certificate National Written Expression Exam next Thursday, so we’ve been getting as much writing practice done as we possibly can (with each piece we attempt resulting in 90 essays for me to read and correct). I have a pile of 180 essays next to my desk, and requests for more practice this week and next.

On Tuesday afternoon I caught the bus with the girls into town, to meet up with Lea and Neville at the Holiday Inn, so I could go with them to the farewell for 2 AVIs who were leaving this week. Jon and Fiona were working in the Diocese of Bereina, in a village about 3 hours from Moresby. Although we didn’t see them that often, I really enjoyed catching up with them when they were in town – they were about my age, and great to talk to. They’re leaving a little bit before their time is up because Fiona’s pregnant – an exciting thing for both of them, and probably a nice way to go back home again – while most of us will go back and find life boring and uneventful compared to the whole volunteer experience, they have something really exciting to go back for and look forward to.

I stayed with Lea and Neville at their place on the hill overlooking the harbour that night (Lea and I racing back to catch the end of All Saints!) and Nev dropped me at Gordons, ready to catch the bus in with the day girls again – always fun to watch their faces when they see me on the front seat!

On Wednesday this week we had the Funeral Mass for Mrs Nidue – a whole day event, starting (officially) at 9.30, realistically at 10.30 (after the priests and casket arrived) and going on for the next 3 hours or so. It was the longest service of any sort I’ve sat through, and very emotional. Her son spoke about her life, and several students, ex-students and teachers read poems or spoke about how much she’ll be missed. A few groups of girls sang songs too, and her casket was a mountain of flowers and wreaths after people were invited to pay their last respects. It was so sad to listen to her last class sing her goodbye, and many of them had to stop because they’d broken down in tears (or even an epileptic fit in one girl’s case). It was lovely though to see the enlarged photo of her on the table, a younger Mary, but still with her beautiful red turban wrapped around her head, smiling down on us, and assuring us that she was finally at peace.

I went with some of the teachers and her friends and relatives to 9 Mile Cemetery, where she wanted to be buried, to watch with the others as they laid her in the ground. I’d never been there before, and we had to walk quite a long way in, past the older graves with white headstones and ordered lines, to the newer section, which was just black dry earth, with roughly made wooden crosses scattered amongst the heaps of soil, littered with plastic stands of flowers – a sea of artificial colour, many bunches still in their cellophone wrap. We traveled with the school bus, and got there quite late, arriving just as the heavy thuds of earth were starting to fall, and we watched as three or four men shoveled the soil onto the coffin, the sight of a man in overalls stomping the heavy clay down as others backfilled the hole almost sacrilegious – but I suppose, an ending.

The sun was so hot, pouring down on us without mercy, and Mrs Hape and I eventually retreated to the shade of a tree, and finally made our way back out to the gate to wait for the return of the bus. By the time we got back to school it was half three, and I went straight to my room, stripped under the fan, and fell asleep for the next hour and a half, waking only when Pia returned around.

I had bought cakes in town the afternoon before to take down to the final haus crai (mourning feast) but I’d made the mistake of leaving them out on the bench, and ants had discovered them, so rather than joining the others at Mary’s house, I decided to wait in the house, because I was waiting on a phone call from Mum.

When I had arrived home that morning via the school bus, there was a note on my bed asking me to ring Dad before school. I’d called immediately, only to hear that Nan had had another stroke in the morning, and that although they thought it was minor, Mum had just gone to the hospital and they didn’t know how serious it was.

I kind of collapsed in a heap after getting off the phone, and although Dad had assured me that she would probably be fine, the shock and worry of it was with me all day, and to be going to a funeral service felt like a terrible premonition. All day the blackness was bubbling away, and I found it hard to meet anyone’s eyes or talk because if I did I knew I would break down. My girls knew something was wrong the moment I walked down to the school – although I’d hidden my eyes behind my glasses, and didn’t raise my face to look their way, one followed me to the staffroom immediately after assembly to see what was wrong. The only good moment that whole day was her kindness in wanting to let me know she was worried for me – I was incredibly touched that this girl, who only 2 days ago I had had to let know we’d replaced as our contestant, could find not only the compassion but also the bravery to approach me and touch me on the hand, to let me know she cared. Another one spoke to me later, when I dropped journals in the classroom, and she also let me know that she was worried, and hoped that everything would be ok.

When I read the pile of journals I was given the next day, many of the girls had written words of sympathy and kindness, and two had written out songs and prayers for my Nan, with love being offered not just to me but all my family. It’s a lovely thing to realise how much you are cared for, and how easily these girls can see when something’s wrong – and that they will do what they can to let you know they are thinking of you.

As it turns out, Mum called that night to let me know Nan was OK – that although the stroke was on the other side to her original one, that she still had mobility on that side, and could speak and was as chirpy as ever. It was such a huge relief, and even though I know that there might be more to come, I know what a strong woman my grandmother is, and I believe that I’ll be going home at the end of the year to a woman determined to keep on kicking and making as much mischief as she can.

So… where am I up to? Thursday?

Thursday afternoon was rehearsal time for the Quest on Saturday, with final adjustments being made to music selections meaning another afternoon of racing back and forwards creating a new cd for the Retro section of the pageant.

The Friday morning came with a call from Neville, with the most welcome promise of release I could have imagined – he and Lea were going to Milne Bay for the weekend, and would I like to babysit their apartment while they were gone?

It only took a second to say yes, and although the logistics of how I would get there, returning for the Quest, and whether or not I would be happy to drop them at the airport at 5am on Saturday morning, and pick them up again on Monday morning needed a bit of thinking about, the offer couldn’t have come at a better time. I got through the last day of the week, with rearranged exams, a pile of journals to mark, final organising for the Quest and a cancelled job as chauffeur into town finally being waded through, until it was time to pack my bags, and wait for my new best friends to take me into town, and sanctuary…

More about the Big Day later, complete with photos of my first ever beauty pageant.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Kitty Litter

Finally!!!! After months of anticipation, and some last minute worries that it was going to happen somewhere else (the mother cat having rudely taken off in the last week or so, after months of spending my precious kina feeding her and her in-utero babies as well as Gabrielle) today marked the advent of 4 new little lives here in Bomana.

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Very exciting - I've never seen anything being born before, and although I didn't actually see the birthing process (she seemed to have quite long breaks in between - almost enough to warrant oranges and Gatorade - when I first checked there were 2, and half an hour later there were 4), we were there while it happened. And although Pia insists on calling them puppies, it's actually very nice to know I'll have another set of little kitties to come home to - at least until they're big enough to give away.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Orchid Show

Pia, Sr Catherine and I decided to take a spin into town today, to check out the orchid show.
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The show itself was pretty small, but they had some lovely flowers, and it was just nice to get out

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One of my favourites