Thursday, July 28, 2005

Thanksgiving for Helen Beatrice Clark

Today was the thanksgiving service and funeral for our beloved Nan.
It was a beautiful sunny day, and although it was incredibly sad, it was lovely to see so many of her friends and extended family coming to say their goodbyes, and to be with us and share our grief but also our pride and gratitude for the years we had with her.

It was a difficult thing to do, but I volunteered to give a brief eulogy on behalf of us 5 grandkids - Tash did such a great job at Pop's funeral (as did Dad) and I figured that if Lin thought she could manage it for Nan, well then I could too. Maybe it would help make it seem a little bit more real, but more than that, it was a way to say goodbye when at the moment I can manage little more than sorrow that I haven't been here to share the last 18 months with her. I knew when I left for PNG that there was a possibility that Pop might get sick, and also knew that in going there would be lots of sacrifices I would have to make.

But I never thought those sacrifices would include the last few months of his life, or the last year and a half of Nan's.

I could never regret the time I've had in PNG, and the decision to go when I did was much-deliberated and carefully considered. It was definitely the right time for me to go in terms of everything that was happening in my life, and I can say without a doubt that being at Marianville and living in PNG has been one of the best experiences I've ever had. I also know that both Nan and Pop were very proud of me being there, and wouldn't have had me reconsider for the world.

But looking at that decision now, and knowing what I've lost by being there rather than here...

I don't know.

I wish things were different. I wish I'd been here.

I really don't know what else to write - lost for words - all there is is sorrow.

Here's my eulogy. I plagiarised myself and this blog in the beginning - apologies for that. They told me not to make them cry, so I went for gags instead - a wise move I guess as it helped me get through it - and I think Nan would have approved.

Eulogy for Nan

I wanted to speak this morning, on behalf of my sisters, Samantha and Emma, and my cousins, Adam and Tash, to honour the the life and memory of the amazing woman that we knew as Nan.
I have an internet journal, and earlier this week I was trying to think of what to write about our Helen Beatrice (or Beetroot, as we affectionately called her) Clark.

Eternal rest?

I don’t think so!

Not if I know that grandmother of mine - she'll already be elected God’s first Secretary, and be organising a cake sale and white elephant, and more than likely she’s volunteered Pop to be a runner in some heavenly second-hand book stall, because she figures he’s been sitting around long enough by now – ‘Come on Speedy, what have you been doing all year, waiting for me?’ And I wonder what kind of bus tours they've got organised up there in Paradise, because I’m sure she’s already itching to plan out the next 12 months worth of excursions.

Those of you who knew Nan as her mate would recognise this penchant for organising and being involved – it’s a pretty sad case when your grandmother has more events written in on her calendar than you do, but that’s the way it always was with Nan – she was a social butterfly and the life of the community wherever she went. I’m sure our family is not the only place where her absence will be felt – her liveliness and sense of joy were remarked upon by just about everyone she met, and there’ll be a lot of places that feel empty without her.

She was a sprite, our Nan – tiny (or as a good friend of mine might describe her, a short-arse!), and with a devilish sense of humour and love of pranks that she passed down through all the family (fortunately her height was passed down only to her daughters – oh yeah, and to Sam!). Wherever she went you could expect snorts of laughter, and she was always making mischief, even just days after her first stroke when she was encouraging her nurses to bow to her, and would answer only to Lady Clark. She loved a good joke, and refused to take life too seriously, playing up even to her doctors and generally living up to the nickname on the jumper we found for her and she wore with a grin – cheeky monkey! She certainly was that.

Life is meant for living, and everything Nan did or loved spoke of her zest for life.

She loved bright colours – ruby red, teal blue and mustard yellow will always be Nan to me, and you can see from her rainbow of girls here today that she passed that love down to us too. “Love you in red” she’d say with a smile and nod, and you’d know your outfit met with her approval – the brighter, the better.

Animals were one of her greatest passions. She was batty about dogs – not just her dogs, anyone’s dogs –as well as cats, otters, her canary Josh, the ducks that came to visit her, the wild birds she fed wherever she lived – she loved them all, so much so that her favourite painting in all the world (she who was a lover of art) was not a Monet or a Van Gogh as you might expect, but a painting of cows in a paddock at dawn.

Her garden was another passion where again her love of colour showed. She instilled in me a love of flowers from an early age, both the English garden varieties she grew herself, and the Ausralian wildflowers she named as she and Pop took us for walks in North Epping. Her green thumb and encylopedic knowledge of the names of plants seem to be a part of the genetic code that make up us Clark women (though in Marg’s case I think the code for naming plants got a bit scrambled!). Just Joey roses, heliotrope, pansies, pink, purple and white primulas – all of these will be planted in honour of her in every garden I ever have, and I’m sure her voice will be heard correcting us when we’re out on a post-lunch dogwalk, and Marg’s busy mixing up tibucina with cappucino, and her sons-in-law are naming every plant they see as either ‘gorgonzola’ or ‘gordonia’.

There are so many happy memories of Nan from when we were children – cold Sunday mornings with breakfast in bed before church – Nan’s froggy feet under the covers as we waited for Pop to bring us tea and toast; summer afternoons swimming in the pool at 308 after school; walking the dogs in the steamroller park; and the infamous holiday at the beach where she got dumped by a breaker and came up spluttering with her hair drenched and full of sand (sorry Nan, but you had to know that story was coming!). And so many traditions that continued as we grandkids grew up into adults – the family picnics by the water for any and every special occasion, loud and raucous storytelling accompanied by shouts of laughter and spilled red wine, accusations of disrespect and threats of no Christmas presents as we giggled at her food dripping all down her cardigan, the promised ‘big hit’ that was forever coming our way… I remember getting into trouble for telling a nurse that yes she needed a bib, but no it had nothing to do with the stroke, she was just a messy eater, always had been – the laughter echoing through the rooms lasting even through her final days when she was a silent co-conspirator in all the fun. I’m sure she was giggling and wagging her finger when that nurse came and told us to keep it down – and probably wishing she could have been the one to voice the line that it was the cricket that had finally bored her to death after waiting through her last morning with just my dad, the TV and the Australian test team keeping her company.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I refuse to believe that anything could stop that little woman from laughing or loving, and I know that although we are going to miss her physical presence more than we can possibly imagine at the moment, nothing will keep Helen or Bob Clark from continuing to be a part of this family that they created – the most amazing, rich, strong and loving experience of family a person could ever have. Thank you Nan. We love you, always.

Lin's Eulogy

She was quite a character, our Mum, our Nan, our dear friend Helen.

Despite all that had happened to her over the past 12 months, she invariably had us – and the entire staff of her nursing home (the Donald Coburn Centre) – smiling. It’s hard to remember a time when she didn’t have a cheeky remark or a kind word on her lips. Over the space of a year she had lost her husband Bob, much of her physical capacity, and the home she’d shared with Dad at Mowll Village. And yet her first words on seeing any of the nurses (or any one of her many, many visitors) pop their head into her room to see how she was doing was invariably, ‘Oh I’m fine, but how about you?’

And when we say there were many visitors, we mean many, many visitors. In fact, the staff at Donald Coburn always reckoned that Mum had a much better social life than most of them! There were all her wonderful friends from Mowll Village, and many from her and Bob’s days at North Epping as well. The Wilkos, the Fabulous Five, Flo, Alison, and all the gang. John Butler and his pastoral team, and the new friends she’d made in the nursing home itself. And, of course, her family: her daughters, her sons-in-law, and her five lovely grandchildren. We were often there visiting her: not just because she wanted (sometimes needed) us to be there, but also because we just loved being with her – we loved her and enjoyed her company with all our hearts.

Every Monday Jen and Marg, and often one of their daughters, would take Mum out to lunch. She’d have had her hair set that morning, put on some snazzy outfit, and instructed one of her devotees to pack the essentials for the outing. These consisted primarily of a back-up jumper, cardigan and rug (she always did feel the cold) and at least one box of tissues, preferably two – just in case of emergencies. (This may count as insider trading, but with her passing, the family expects a major downturn in the share price of Kleenex!) Thus equipped, the happy party would venture forth from Castle Hill to explore the world and to compare the relative merits of its various cappuccino machines. From Lane Cove to Balmoral, from Hunters Hill to Chatswood Chase (a favourite for the takeaway Chinese!), from Manly to Balmain … wherever the fancy took them.

On Monday nights I’d be there with Mum to hear all about where she and the gals had been, what they’d seen, who’d had what for lunch, what the coffee was like, and how many dogs they’d patted along the way. Then Mum and I would read the Herald’s Column 8 together. She’d try to remember all the best stories from the Column so she could come out with them during the Trivia session at Cooking Class (held just after the Music Hour) that she would always attend of a Friday afternoon. Mum would attend that class with Jen, having also, earlier that week, been to Gardening Club, Creative Writing, Exercise Class and Chapel; having probably had at least another outing with one of her girls, gone for a wheelchair ride around Mowll Village with Marg, done a spot of painting, and perhaps been on a bus-trip to Palm Beach or Woy Woy. There was just no stopping her: she always wanted to be involved in everything – and everything was always the better for her being a part of it.

It had been ever thus, of course. At North Epping Helen and Bob were always engaged in a myriad of activities. The church at All Saints, the kids’ schools, the North Epping Bowling Club, Meals on Wheels, Bush Church Aid Society, Chesalon ... the list goes on and on. Doing this or that for a neighbour, taking someone to a doctor’s appointment, visiting friends and family, planning the next big trip overseas … there was never a dull moment.

Nor had things slowed down that much when they moved to Mowll Village some 9 years ago. Helen and Bob quickly became active members of the congregation here at St James, and they were big participants in all manner of community activities – including the Annual Fair at which Dad was a ‘runner’ (the thought of which always cracked Mum up!) While Dad served on the Residents’ Council, Mum was involved in the Social Club, in Probus, in working at the library, and generally in doing for anybody anything that needed to be done. She was the most other-person-centred human being that you could ever hope to meet.

All this was squeezed in between the odd chinwag with Jean & Arnold and Alison & Bill (conducted over a gin & tonic if it was Happy Hour), lunches with a lovely group of ladies dubbed the Fabulous Five, as well as the regular family get-togethers to celebrate birthdays and other special events. There was no denying that Mum and Dad lived such happy, healthy, full and independent lives.

Of course, that independence came to an end this time last year when, quite out of the blue, Mum suffered the first stroke – the stroke that left her completely paralysed down the left side. (It won’t surprise you to know that, even as Dad was frantically calling the Sisson Clinic to get emergency medical help for Mum – while she sat slumped on the couch – she was telling him to stop making such a fuss and offering to pop into the kitchen to get him a soothing tonic!) Within a month of Mum’s stroke, our dear, dear Dad had himself succumbed to the advanced pulmonary fibrosis with which he had been diagnosed only a year or so earlier. Over 50 years of married life came to an abrupt and devastating conclusion. It certainly was a very grim time.

Not that you’d know it from Mum’s demeanour and attitude, however. As she was shifted from hospital to hospital, from nursing home to nursing home, she never complained or grumbled (unless, that is, the cup of tea we made her was too weak!) She seemed to view each new environment as an opportunity to get a little bit better (for she was completely determined to walk again) and as a chance to meet and make new friends.

Of course, what we were all hoping for (in that first couple of months after the stroke) was that she’d finally be able to make it back here to the Anglican Retirement Village at Castle Hill. And when Geraldine Tattersall, the then Manager of Donald Coburn Centre rang us on Melbourne Cup day last year to tell us that there was a spot free at the nursing home for Mum, we were all completely delighted.

As well we might be. You couldn’t ask for a more caring complement of staff than those at the Donald Coburn Centre. Mum really did get to know and love them all over the past nine months: the sisters, the nurses, the diversional therapists, the physiotherapists, the kitchen and ancillary staff ... they all took such wonderful, loving care of our wonderful, loving Mum. As a family, we really can’t thank them enough for that. In fact, many of the staff are here today, and many more wanted to be. We really are so terribly grateful to you for all you did for Mum: you made her time in the Donald Coburn Centre very, very special.

The same goes for John Butler. John, you have been an enormous support, both to Mum and to the rest of us in the family. We will never forget your warmth, your kindness, your heartfelt words, your comforting presence. Thank you.

One learns a lot in life – from teachers, from experience, from books, from friends and family. But it was Mum and Dad who have taught me, by example, the two most important things I know: the fulfillment that comes from caring for others; and the love, support, comfort and joy of family.

Helen’s most wonderful life is testament to both.

Monday, July 25, 2005


Nan passed away peacefully yesterday morning.

She never regained consciousness after the stroke, but the nurses told us that one thing they do know for sure is that she could hear what was going on around her - so she knew that she was never alone - that at least one (and often more like 8 or 9) of her family were around her the whole time, telling stories, reading out crossword clues, snoring on the floor, laughing (and being told off by the nurses for making too much noise) and generally letting her know that she is loved and will continue to be loved, always and forever.

It's cold here and an incredibly sad time, but at least we're together - and our family is strong. Helen and Bob Clark may not be sitting amongst us anymore, but nothing about their spirits could ever die, and knowing they're together and with us and all around us is enough to keep us warm.

eternal rest???

not if I know that cheeky monkey - she'll already be organising a cake sale and white elephant, and have volunteered Pop to be a runner in some heavenly second-hand book stall. And I wonder what kind of tours they've got organised up there in Paradise?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

calling me back

I meant to write yesterday, but because I've been so whacked since getting back I didn't get around to it. I had wanted to mention something I thought was kind of funny/strange since returning from East Sepik. The night I got back I thought I'd sleep like a log, having walked so much the last few days, nd not having managed to sleep much while I was away - but in the middle of the night I was woken up by a strange sound - not quite animal, not quite human - that wouldn't go away. It was coming from outside my window, and finally after hearing it for about 15 minutes I got up to explore, to see if one of the kittnes had fallen over the ledge and was yawling. But no, when I counted, there were still 4 kittens there, and all asleep - and yet the noise continued. So I turned on the outisde light, unlokced the door and went out. It stopped suddenly but I still saw nothing. I went back to my room, listened for a while, and then fell asleep.

The next day when I was off to school for Day 1 of Term 3, I told the other teachers about it and jokingly mentioned I thought I'd brought a Sepik ghost back with me. PNG is a land of mystery and magic, and I should have known better than to joke because they took me quite seriously and asked me to describe the noise, telling me someone must have used a spell on me while I was there, or because I was new to the place a spirit must have decided they liked me and followed me home.

That night before it got dark, Mrs Pikon brought a jar of holy water over to the house and told Pia to sprinkle it all around my room and outside, because otherwise the spirit would be back tonight. I kind of giggled, but let her do it while I was in the shower, and went to bed expecting nothing but sleep. But that night I was woken again, this time by a knocking outside my window, and then a low moan. Now the groaning probably was the kittens, and even though my rational mind knew that, my half-asleep imagination immediately took off and I lay there listening to the noise come for the next half an hour, too scared to check what it could be. Stupid I know, and I must have eventually fallen back asleep, but my heart was racing. I couldn't believe it when I woke up and remembered how I had reacted, but I guess a tired mind is easy prey to stories and suspicions - and I've always been easily spooked.

When they asked me at school if the night was quiet I told them about the knocking, and they shook their heads wisely, as if to say that this was proof that spirits were indeed trying to send me a message.

While I was away in the Sepik I had been dreaming, dreaming every night, mostly nightmares about my family, and I had told Josepha about this while in her village. The whole time I was away I was thinking of home with a longing I haven't felt in ages - this year while I've missed family and friends, I've been pretty happy where I am and basically looking forward to the prospect of having a full year here, with visitors coming to me instead of the other way around. I don't know if it was just the hardness of life in the village, and a longing for familiarity and comfort in a place where I was such a stranger, but every day I was away I was thinking of home and Sydney with an enormous sense of homesickness and yearning, and desire just to be there. This is probably why I was dreaming so much at night - but all the dreams were bad ones, about fighting with family, and danger, and the worst one of all, a plane crash with mum, Sam and Emma inside. I told Josepha the morning after that one, and she was worried for me, because here in PNG dreams and visions are taken seriously - and she was glad to hear that I'd spoken to my family the night I got back and that everyone was ok.

But still I was longing to be back home, and my nights were full of interrupted sleep.

Today I got a call from my dad telling me that Nan had another stroke at about 10.30 last night, and that she still hadn't recovered consciousness.

He was booking a flight for me to come home at 7am tomorrow morning because the doctor said things are not looking good - if she hadn't woken up by now, then chances of a recovery were slim.

That's why I should have been at home. That's why I've been dreaming. That's the restless spirit coming to call me at night. There was no question about that in any of the teachers' minds when I came to them in tears today, telling them I'd be leaving in the morning.

I don't know what I think about all of that - I don't know why I was hearing things outside my window at night - but I remember the phone ringing in the middle of the night with no one on the other end of the line the hour Granny died, and I've been here long enough now to pray that there's no phone call tonight.

Please let me get home in time.

Monday, July 18, 2005

At Wom Beach, Wewak - dragging Josepha in Posted by Picasa

My Sepik Adventure - Part I

It’s almost too big an adventure to write about, this Sepik trip, so I think I might just start in point form, otherwise my unfailing ability to turn a 5 minute event into a 500 word thesis might prevent this blog from ever being written (see what I mean? Just re-read that sentence!!)

 Thursday night - the night before the big adventure begins, and Josepha comes to our place to scare me with stories about what I’ll have to do and eat and climb and crawl through and sit in… Pia and Jono are rolling with laughter as I begin to just roll my eyes. What am I getting myself in for?

 Friday morning – a sad farewell to Jono, who by unfortunate timing was leaving on a flight about 4 hours after mine. After a morning of waiting around, we eventually pile into the school bus to drop me and Josepha at the domestic airport before taking Jono to Airways to wait until the afternoon to fly to Brisbane. (It was a great visit, BTW, and for some of his photos, incl our trip to the Botanical Gardens to catch up with my girls, see his website)

 Joseph nearly gets hauled away by airport security for trying to carry kitchen knives onto the plane. (slight exaggeration)

 Arrive at Wewak to be greeted by Father Lawrence, Josepha’s Indian priest friend, who is also good mates with Neil and very young to be a Parish Priest (about 30). We pile our cargo into his ute, jump in the back with a few other people from his parish, and start our 3-hour trip down to Angoram, his station.

 A LONG journey, deafeningly windblown in the back of the ute, and extremely uncomfortable despite sitting on a foam mattress with a cushion at my back. The first of 10 days of learning how to disappear into the bush with a toilet roll when nature calls (my bladder seemed to be on perpetual speed dial), with Josepha warning me to dodge the Japanese bombs of where other nature lovers had been before me! BEAUTIFUL countryside, from jungle-filled mountains to swooping hills and savanna - almost like the Kiama-Berry landscape but with coconuts and palms instead of gums, and gatherings of bush houses every few hundred metres. Well worth the discomfort for the views.

 Finally arrived at Angoram Station, where Josepha and I would be staying with Lawrence and Sister Jaqueline, an Indian nun who was taking advantage of our being there too to come along for a visit. Angoram is an old missionary station, and so has quite a lot of permanent buildings as well as the bush houses, and is positioned right on the Sepik River. My first glimpse of the river from the road was a shock - it was so huge! The sight/site of the town on the water conjured up the word delta to me, but my geography is so bad I could easily be using the wrong word there – but whatever the correct geographical terminology, the tourism brochures certainly got it right when they call it the mighty Sepik – you could barely see the other side – it was HUGE!

 Arrived at the Haus Pater (the priest’s place) (ie Lawrence’s pad) where we’d be staying, and was pleasantly surprised to find a shower, an inside toilet, bed, linen and - wow - my own room. After all J’s talk this seemed like luxury – even if electricity was only a generator at night, til 9.30pm. But far better than any of the above was the sheer indulgence of having 2 Indians who love to cook (Fr L and Sr J) - those 2 spent hours in the kitchen and even if I didn’t sample all of their cooking (they always had a hot and a not-hot dish prepared) what I ate was enough to make me realise that rather than losing weight this holiday I’d be gaining it – during this bit of the trip anyway!

 Saturday morning we ventured down to the local market – the first on-foot touring and a taste of the staring that would be coming my way all the 10 days. They’re just not used to white people coming I guess, and when they do come it’s either as nuns/priests or as a group of older/wealthy tourists on the Melanesia Discoverer – certainly not young women on their own with the locals. Everywhere I went the mothers were whispering ‘lukim misus’ (look at Mrs) (the alternative to ‘white meri’) to their children, and pointing at me – which I returned with smiles and waves and ‘morning’s that were mirrored back at me. I stocked up (predictably) on kulau (drinking coconut), and both Josepha and I bought big white and green woven cane baskets, which I don’t think were usually sold – I think they’re really just what people carry their produce in and no one buys them because they make their own – they were a bit confused when I asked how much they were but more than happy to part with one for the princely sum of K3.

 After another delicious and huge lunch we made our way down to the docks, where Lawrence had organized a banana boat (a dingy with an outboard motor) to take us up the river. As we walked along the logs over the mud (it was low tide) we passed a man carrying a pukpuk – crocodile – in his hands. It was just a baby, with its mouth tied with string, and we stopped him and asked to have a look. My first pukpuk!!! He asked if I wanted to hold it, and much to the other’s surprise I leapt at the chance.

 Boat ride on the Sepik for about 30 minutes. It was fantastic. The river is enormous, and so fast – apparently it flows at about 10km/hr. According to Lawrence, if you wanted to go to Madang all you’d have to do is float and in 6 hours you’d be there – provided the puk puks didn’t get to you first!

 Stopped at Kambramba, the first main village up from Angoram, and wandered through the village for about an hour. When we first got out we had a few curious stares, and within a few metres we’d managed to collect a small gathering of followers. By the time we reached the haus lotu (church) it was quite a crowd, and we met who I presume was the village leader and shook hands and had a tok tok. Lawrence was well known to them of course, and they had a chat and then we were accompanied by basically the whole village on a grand tour to its end and back – a real snowball effect as we made our way through. I took some photos and had crowds gather round to view the pictures on the tiny screen of the digital, and when one was too dark the father decided to rearrange people into a better position for me to get a better one in the sun. Lots of children everywhere in varying degrees of rags/second hand clothes, and a man with a net over his face because his child had recently died – a local mourning custom.

 Stopped under the haus lotu for more talking, and they brought their kundu/garamut maker (drum maker) to come and play for us while they chanted. They sang a few songs, and Josepha surreptitiously made enquiries about how much the drums could be bought for, so I later walked away with a new crocodile skin kundu drum, as well as a storyboard that the maker brought out and presented me with as a gift.

 Sunday morning mass with Lawrence conducting the whole affair in pidgin – I gave up trying to translate the Bible readings, but was happy that I managed to get the basics of his homily which was about the parable of the seed sowing – the gist being that God is happy when we are good. Some amazing murals on the walls – I wish the light was better so the photos would work better.

 Got all bilased up in Lawrence’s Sepik gear – he took us to his smaller residence to see his collection of artefacts and it basically turning into dress-ups for the rest of the afternoon. Pretty funny, but he was incredibly generous in handing items over to me to take with me, so I am now the proud owner of a huge kina shell necklace (traditionally used in bride price ceremonies) as well as an elaborate shell belt and headdress, and a beautiful finely knit string bilum.

 Monday we piled back into the ute to visit one of L’s out-stations – one of his many smaller parishes. He said that this particular outstation has about 1200 people in it, as opposed to the 800 or so in Angoram (although it seemed smaller coz it was in the bush and the village hamlets were hidden). This place was his paradise – he has a little house in a clearing after a shortish bush walk that while basic had the most amazing reading room I’ve seen in ages. I could see why he loves it.

 Got all dressed up again in his most spectacular set of traditional gear - the stuff he wears when he says mass here, although how he manages to keep his head up while wearing that headdress I don’t know. It was so heavy – and way too tight for me. When I first put it on, the people didn’t think it looked right so one of them came to push it lower down on my forehead. OW!!!!! I could barely keep my eyes open it hurt so much, and I had 2 little bruises on my forehead from where it dug in for the rest of the week!

 Rode home in the front of the ute as by now I was feeling pretty crook – carsick as well as an infection that started on Day 1 and went on to bother me for the entire holiday – yuk and a constant pain that really put a bit of a dampener on the whole trip – especially the traveling bits – but at least sitting in the cab was an easier ride as the roads were incredible. Bumpy doesn’t come close to describing it. Pot holes like gorges and mud so thick it flew everywhere on the way up – close to being bogged several times – but we made it.

 Watched Bride and Prejudice and then Indian VCDs on his laptop via generator in the evenings after the nightly ritual of downloading and viewing both our digital photos. Neither of us could get a good shot of Joespha, and there was constant laughter about the spak meri (drunk woman) who appeared in so many snaps (despite the fact she barely touched the altar wine she opted for instead of our SP!)

 Tuesday morning, a sad goodbye as we packed up, ready to go back to Wewak and start Part II of the Sepik adventure. Almost came to blows as there was a tussle for the front seat between myself and Sr J (I thought my reasoning of infection, carsickness and sunburn with my white skin far outweighed the objections to the wind blowing her veil) resulting in me and Josepha being seated in chairs in the back of the ute and the complete embarrassment of looking like the Queen of Sheba until Father L made a less subtle suggestion at our first quick stop. The ensuing swap-over helped me last the 3-hour trip without too much misery – but I was glad to see the back of that ute!

 Once at Wewak we had lunch at Sr Jacquline’s house, and then said our goodbyes to her and we went on to the market, the supermarket and then to Wom Beach, where I gave in to temptation, got changed in the car and jumped in the water. I thought I’d be swimming alone as none of the others had their swimmers, but Lawrence decided to brave using a wrapped-around towel and joined me in a swim. We tried to pull Josepha in too but she slyly managed to have one or the other of our cameras in her hand the whole time and used up both our batteries taking endless photos of our dark heads floating in the sunlit sea. A great end to our time with Lawrence (who I had by now taken to calling Coackroach instead of Father – his own fault for admitting to Neil’s pronunciation of his last name), who really was the most welcoming and relaxed priest I’ve ever met (in my vast experience of priests!) and basically a whole lot of fun to have as our holiday host. It was sad to see him pull away as he left us at the Rosary Novitiate (hidden at the back of the Catholic Church’s vast complex of about 16 different Orders’ houses in Wewak town), ready for a night’s rest with the nuns before the next installment of the great Sepik tour…

At Kambramba village - the second family shot Posted by Picasa

The ute and its cargo Posted by Picasa

the girls Posted by Picasa

My kina shell Posted by Picasa

Xena, Gabrielle and Joxter Posted by Picasa

Father Lawrence in all his splendour Posted by Picasa

Baby pukpuk Posted by Picasa

proof that I did it! Posted by Picasa

Travelling the mighty Sepik River Posted by Picasa

On the way to Kambramba Posted by Picasa

Storyboard Posted by Picasa

Bishop Lawrence Posted by Picasa

Crowning Posted by Picasa

Queen Riss Posted by Picasa

room with a view Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Well, Xena the Sepik Princess (as I was constantly called, whenever I was 'bilas'-ed [decorated] up by people) has returned! Totally exhausted and not at all feeling like teaching tomorrow, but duty calls... So, more photos and stories tomorrow and throughout the week - need to rest tonight - what a trip the last 2 weeks have been!!! A once-in-a-lifetime experience - with all the implications that phrase could have. Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 08, 2005

Adventure Riss

About to head off to the Sepik, so this will be my last blog in about 10 days... Here's hoping I live to tell the tale - between mozzies and crocodiles and grubs and beetles I've been told I have to eat, who knows?

I'll be the first white meri to go to Josepha's village (apparently) so gearing up to be a local celebrity. Just hope I don't do anything stupid like fall into the pit toilet...

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Tufi photos (reverse order)

Tom and Warren kayaking in the fjord. The water was so clear and soft - the best swimming I've had in ages. Posted by Picasa

Boating down the fjord Posted by Picasa

After they left there was only us and the Daniels family at the Resort, so the managers nicely nicely decided to upgrade us. When we came back from the village we'd been moved to this luxury room, courtesy of Shippy (from the Carbine Club) deciding we were honeymooners, then progressing on to telling us he'd MC at our wedding after we corrected that little mistake... After that it seemed everyone was eager to marry us off. If only they knew!  Posted by Picasa

How cute is that?? Posted by Picasa

We then walked through the village and saw their houses and gardens and the guest house they've built for people to come and have village stays in. Posted by Picasa

Gilchrist, the most gorgous little boy I've met in ages, who absolutely loved having his photo taken and was fascinated to see it on the camera straight after. Posted by Picasa

We were welcomed by this fantastic old man who danced down to us in his traditional Oro finery, playing his Kundu drum and singing. I wish I could blog the video I got of him welcoming us. He then sat down with us and explained all his bilas and told us stories of the village and traditions, and how he was a teacher for 34 years and has now come back to the village to help the young ones learn their traditions and keep them alive. An amazingly entertaining man Posted by Picasa

Davison, the elder (I guess) with his village behind him Posted by Picasa