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.


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