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.


At 3:50 pm, Blogger Andrew said...

sounds like you need a holiday :)


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