Thursday, September 29, 2005


Just to clarify, according to EMTV News tonight Princess Anne was welcomed by students waving the PNG Flag and the Black Jack, not the Union Jack as I earlier reported. My apologies for this misrepresentation...

Nambawan Pikinini Meri

Well there was much excitement at Bomana this morning as the girls started arriving early, ready to welcome nambawan pikinini meri bilong missus qwin, Princess Anne, to our part of the world. She was coming out to Bomana this morning to lay a wreath at the Australian War Cemetery, as part of her 22 hours of duty in PNG (a week late for the Independence Day anniversary, but better late than never, I suppose).

The girls had been asked, along with the De La Salle boys and the students from Bomana Primary, to come and be an honour guard to welcome the Princess as she traveled down the road. Being school holidays, we didn’t get a huge number of girls, but the ones who came were excited to be showing the orange and white while waving their PNG and British flags.

We had been told to be ready and waiting for the car at 8am, but at 2 to 8 we were still waiting for students to get changed, standing around Mrs Andrew’s house. I was sure we were going to miss the whole thing, but it seems that the organizers took PNG time into account when telling people when to be where – either that or they were suffering from it themselves as we were still by the side of the road at 9.30, waiting for the sound of sirens to let us know the moment was finally here.

The firetruck had been by a bit earlier, spraying the road with water in an effort to reduce the dust, but it dried again within minutes, and every time a car sped down the road it sent up showers of dust, accompanied by loud yells from the honour guard of “esi, yah!” Everyone was covering their face with their flag, and people were starting to get impatient when finally, we heard the sirens.

It took about 20 seconds for the police vans and motorbikes and official cars to pass by, and we were left wondering if that was all there’d be when we saw the people further down the road rushing to get to the cemetery gates. We decided to hurry too to see if we would be allowed in before they shut them, and I had to giggle at the students chattering about “yah, I saw her white gloves”, and “she was really smiling, yah!” Luckily the uniforms got us through the gates, so we moved on up to the lawn to watch from a distance the officialry and ceremony – though not much action – as the girls strained to figure out which one was the Princess.

The best was yet to come though – just when it seemed like that was as close as we’d get, the police pointed us in the direction of the pathway down from the memorial, and the girls and boys formed a line that would soon be a real honour guard because the Princess would have to walk by them to get back down to her vehicles. They were so excited to see her coming, and had their flags waving, and were not sure whether to clap or sing or stand still!

Again, it was all very quick, and she didn’t take long to walk by, but she made a brief stop at each new set of uniforms, and afterwards you should have seen Gloria (our new school captain)’s face – “I spoke to the Princess! She spoke to me!” She’d asked when the holidays would be over, and Gloria told her next week. Wow - I think that made her year! To have spoken to a real live princess would have to be a huge moment in any kid’s life – and what an amazing coincidence, that the girl she chose to speak to just happened to be the one who’d been elected Head Girl for 2006. Couldn’t have picked a better representative.

A big moment in the life of Bomana, and even though I’m no monarchist (at all!) it was fun to be a part of and worth the wait, if only to see the reaction of the girls and how excited they were by all of it.

Reminded me of my father-in-law’s story of going to see the queen when he was a little boy in Australia – waiting with the huge crowds to line the streets of the official cavalcade’s route through the city, and being excited even though all he saw was a few seconds of a car and a wave through the glass - then walking home later on in the day, to see the car passing by him again, all alone, and to see her face with a wave and smile just for him… (or so he says)

The Emville maids of honour, waiting to welcome Princess Anne with the red, black and yellow (and the Union Jack) Posted by Picasa

The honour guard, waiting for their moment Posted by Picasa

The lady herself Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Day of lasts

Lunch at Ela Beach Hotel Posted by Picasa

Em with her multi-coloured braids Posted by Picasa

Josepha, Xavier and the beautiful engraving they gave Em Posted by Picasa

24 hours old

Em's favourite Posted by Picasa

Families and friends

A sad and feeling-sorry-for-myself day today after having to say goodbye to my little sister. It was a fantastic 11 days having her here – everyone loved her, as predicted – and it was so much fun to hang out with her again. Same with everyone who came and visited me – it’s so cool to be able to share what life here is like with them – for them to be able to actually see all these places I keep on talking about – to meet the people I’ve come to love - to laugh with them and listen to their stories so that when I talk about them they can actually hear those singsong voices in their head and memory. This blog and the photos and emails become real instead of just pictures on a screen. And my family become everyone’s family – the girls and teachers and Pia claim them as their own now, and tell me stories about them. Pretty cool.

I haven’t done a whole lot of e-ing while they were here – this blog is sadly out of date and my email correspondence has been reading only sorry – too busy making the most of having real people here to talk to!

So, a brief update on the activities of the last few days of Em’s visit…

Friday we said goodbye to Lindie, and came home from the airport to a deserted school because the girls have all left for their week of holidays (or study, as my grade 10s should be doing).

Saturday morning was Ela Beach market – Em really chose a good time to be here, because this is the best market in PNG I reckon (me, who’s such an expert on PNG markets now!!) – it’s clean and well-organised and safe – and has lots of stuff to look at. I still remember my first Ela Beach Saturday - I’d been here about a month or more and this was the first time I had walked anywhere by myself – first time anywhere without a bodyguard! I loved the freedom of it – wandering by myself in a crowd where I could actually get lost and not feel like the odd one out, because there were so many other tourist-looking-types there too. I’m proud to not just be part of the expat scene or a tourist – I love feeling like I’m part of the local PNG community - but every now and then it’s nice not to be the only whitey.

Anyway, we were both excited to be heading off to Ela Beach because we’re both big marketers from way back – but unfortunately I couldn’t stay there too long because I was going to a funeral. Em and I had a quickish spin around, sussing out the shells and necklaces (and I got another painting by my new favourite artist) and then it was time to pass Em over to Neil, and head off to Boroko.

It was the funeral service for one of my classgirl’s mums. Roberta is the youngest daughter of the late Mrs Morlin, and my class and I had arranged to meet at St Joseph’s to be with her and show our sympathy and support. It was a sad thing to go to – my second PNG funeral, and the only one outside our school – but it was really nice to see so many of our girls there to be with Roberta and her family. And it was lovely to hear the Nth Solomon’s band and choir singing and playing in celebration of her life and family. I was very glad that I went.

After the funeral, we all went our separate ways, but I collected one of my girls who lives out at 9 Mile to give her a lift home, and another student who had organised her family to make mumu that day, so Em could see and taste some traditional Highlands food. Lapieh had written me a note in class after the Yellows had interviewed Lin and Em, offering to cook a mumu for them, and she told me after the funeral that it was ready – did I want to come and get it? Such a lovely gesture from a really lovely student. I was sorry that Em wasn’t with me to come and see it, but we decided I’d drive Lapieh home and at least I’d get to see the mumu pit and bring the food back to M’Ville and Em for our lunch. We made a brief detour to Malouro so I could stock up on kulau (Em still hadn’t tasted it yet – and I figured I’d make use of my two girls with me!) and then we went to Lapieh’s place. I met her family and had a bit of a laugh with her mum and dad, as we agreed that it was Lapieh’s task over the holidays to learn how to climb the coconut tree to collect the kulau herself. They explained how the mumu was made and cooked, and invited me back sometime to make it with Lapieh myself. Really friendly people and I’ll definitely take them at their word and go back sometime for more stories and cooking.

Then it was time to drop Genny home at 9 Mile, and I went in to her place and met her family too, which was also really nice. She was telling me stories in the car about the white woman who lives on the farm behind her house who according to her and her brothers is really a devil in disguise – a real one, even with a tail apparently – and I giggled with her, especially after I realised I’d met this woman on a couple of occasions – and told her I’d look more closely for horns next time!

It’s lovely knowing my girls are now comfortable enough with me to want me to come to their places and meet their families – and lovely that despite language differences and colour differences their families are comfortable enough to sit and tell stories with me and see that I want to be there too. Papua New Guineans are so welcoming and open and generous in this way – it’s a really warm feeling seeing that the shyness is going – like I’m not a visitor anymore, but part of their lives. And makes it even nicer that I can share mine with them too, as my family come here.

Sunday was an even bigger and better day for this sharing of families and lives, as Em and I got picked up by Norma Jean and her family in the morning, ready to head off to their village. Norma had mentioned in her journal months ago that her family often went to their pontoon at Bootless Bay on weekends. I wrote back that I’d love to come and see her place sometime, so we planned it for during Em’s visit so she could come and see village life too. It was such a great day – one of the best I’ve had here, and I was so glad that Em had stayed an extra few days so she could come along too.

We got picked up by her mum and dad in the truck in the morning, and Em loved the chance to sit in the back of the ute again as we went back to Hohola to pick up the rest of the family, and then drove out to the Bay. I’d met her mum and cousin before as one of the other AVIs had worked with Veronica and had brought Rita out with us one night, so we were already easy with each other – and all the family were so friendly. And of course Em’s so open and ready to meet people we all got along like a house on fire. They had a couple of other white meri’s coming too – colleagues of Veronica – and a whole bunch of family members came for the day trip.

We had so much fun there – walking through the village along the Bay, climbing down to the boat and being pulled along by the rope out to the pontoon, exploring the pontoon and fish farm, then jumping in the water – the water was beautiful and it was fantastic to swim when it was so hot.
Posted by Picasa

Climbing back out of the water was another matter – Em cut her foot on a rusty drum, and I thought I’d be stuck trying to pull myself up forever! – but it was so worth it for the fun of swimming.

We had a nice lunch with all the fam under the house, then went for a walk our to the Point, collecting shells and comparing tatt’s and telling stories (an unbelievable one about what the youngest sister gets away with when she’s angry – I should be forever glad Em’s never had an axe handy when she’s mad at me!!). Em got to see someone climb a coconut, and drink the kulau, freshly husked, straight from the shell. It was a shame when the day was over and we had to drive back – we were all sorry to go. Em couldn’t stop saying what a great day she’d had, and I was so glad she’d been able to be there for it.

But the fun wasn’t over yet – when we got back home, we saw at once that Em’s wish had come true and Gabrielle was no longer a pregnant pussycat – there was a bundle of 5 little kittens waiting for us on the verandah!

Needless-to-say there was much cosseting and fussing over them for the remainder of her stay here, and she even chose a favourite – a little black one with a ginger patch over one eye. Very cute.

Monday was a day of lasts – although it started with a trip to the doctor and a tetanus shot for Em after that rusty cut to the foot. We went back to Tabari Place for a final craft search, then to PNG Art for Em’s beautiful wooden bowl, then Ela Beach with Pia for a goodbye lunch – Mussels el Moresby – yummo. A final shopping run after a brief stop at the jewelry store for a PNG charm (man climbing coconut – appropriate) and then a well-earned rest at home before wandering down to see Pia’s new place for next year, and a look at a real-live baby-in-bilum at Mrs Steven’s place. A surprise visit by Fr Lawrence and Neil, which was welcome even if the reason for his being in town wasn’t so good.

Last night we had all manner of guests coming to bring gifts and say goodbye – Neil and Father Omero (though I think they came to watch SBS Sports as much as to say their farewells!), Josepha and her family with a bilum and some beautiful engravings, Mrs Hape and the girls with a Madang bilum, and Mrs Pilon with a woolen highlands bilum. It was the most visitors we’ve had in one night! Then Dorothy and Vanessa got themselves settled with the little girls in front a movie while they began the long task of braiding Em’s hair so she could go home with PNG plaits…

It was so good having my small sister here as long as she was, and there were tears a-plenty saying goodbye – but it won’t be long now til I’ll be back there. And it was nice to have a reminder of all the good stuff I’ll be going back to, at a time when mostly all I can see is how hard it’ll be to leave this place behind…

Norma Jean, her cousin sisters and the pontoon in the background - a floating raft of boardwalks on barrels, with a shelter, fireplace and netted fish-farms (where they keep turtles too) Posted by Picasa

walking the plank Posted by Picasa

The fish farm on the pontoon Posted by Picasa

We made it into the boat! Posted by Picasa

Lunch with Norma and the family under the house Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 23, 2005

Love ya L1!

Lindie, learning how to scrape a coconut while she was here. Being the all-round genius she is, she picked it up in about 3 seconds, as opposed to my 18 months... So much for showing off my expertise!
 Posted by Picasa

We farewelled her at Jacksons Aiport today after a lovely slow lunch at Airways. She should be landing back in Sydney right about now... It was SO good to have her here - thanks Lin so much for coming and for an excellent week, and hope you enjoyed the Malaysian Swiss rolls on offer by Air Niugini on the flight back!

as requested, Mrs Bo Peep Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Bomana Days

Well despite the business of the staffroom at Mville these last coupla days, we've been managing to have a pretty good time. Last night we went out to dinner with the AVIs to Asia Aromas (which pleased the readers of Lonely PLanet PNG as it got a mention as the best eating place in POM) and stayed the night with Lea and Nev - my favourite hotel! (Those two have been the best in-loco-parentis home-away-from-home I could imagine - and their pool's not bad either!)

Lin and Em have been hits at school, and we even managed to sort out the order of hello's this morning with 10P - they always stand to greet you, and the "Good Morning Ms Conolly" is always chirpy and they want to welcome Lin and Em too, but never know quite what order to use, so it ends up sounding rather chaotic and fades away as they relaise they've said the opposite name to the person next to them. So today we decided on alpha rather than age order! (sounds a whole lot better in unison)

We've been doing a lot of work on Romeo and Juliet. We watched the Luhrman version last week, but Em brought the Zefferelli one so we've been doing comparisons of different scenes, and Em and Lin are getting first hand experience of watching movies with these girls of mine - very amusing! Tomorrwo we may venture into reading aloud frm the script - we'll see how we go.

Better head off now - they've already started "Bend it like Beckham" without me... Lin's last day tomorrow - very sad - but she's had a good time.

A very happy birthday to Kerry and Doug too for Tuesday - meant to post a happy day to them both but got caught up in convincing Lin to watch All Saints with us...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Goroka Girls

I told Pia I'd be coming home with a basket!!!!! Check out Chuk with her squirt of a basket compared to mine! Posted by Picasa

And yes, I've already tried it out - I can fit inside it!

With Monica, enjoying one of her yummy lunches on her verandah.  Posted by Picasa

Hostess extraordinaire!

Em and Lin, on our walk back from town on Monday. Monica had to goto work, but we had a lovely day getting up when we felt like it, then strolling from her home to town to explore the street market again (bilums and baskets galore!), find the coffee shop (the real to-buy Gorokoa coffee), and then enjoy a cup of it at the Bird. Posted by Picasa

The Show

This boy caught me grinning at him just as I lifted my camera to snap - or maybe he was just one of the many laughing at me in my plastic poncho, trying to save myself from the rain! Posted by Picasa

Cynthia was very chuffed today when I told her that the Hagen faces were the most spectacular... Posted by Picasa

We thought these West New Britain boys were poster boys for the Mardi Gras! Fabulous headdress, darling! Posted by Picasa

beautiful shells Posted by Picasa

This lady let me take her photo - but I wish I'd caught the laugh after she finished posing for me. It's a serious business, this snapping! Posted by Picasa

I should have visitors more often

Lindie and Em are busy in the kitchen, and here I am, kicking back in front of the computer, Missy Higgins playing cooking (and typing) music from the lounge room while my tummy rumbles appreciatively, anticipating the prawn stir fry Lin shopped so scrupulously for this afternoon. (BTW, just for those who may need to be in the know, never make the mistake of assuring your aunty you have light soy sauce at home unless you are ABSOLUTELY certain, because my mushroom soy did not meet the required standards of this particular gourmet…) Smells good though.

Today was a fairly chaotic day for me, realising upon my return to school after a 4-day-legal + one-day-extra-long weekend that I have a whole heap of assessment marks still to enter into the database – and first I have to collect them – and before that I have to have a marking criteria – and now only 3 days to do it. Bugger. Not going to be the relaxed week I was hoping for while my visitors are here, but they did come down to my English classes today and had fun meeting the girls. Once again those Yellows played possum, pretending to be quiet and shy, but the Purples were more relaxed and got a bit more into question time.

Lin and Em talked a bit about our weekend and the Show up in Goroka. It wasn’t as big as last year’s, but it was still amazing: magnificent bilas – the paint and feathers and fur and skirts; the smells of pigs grease and betelnut mixing with the steam from the hot rain; the little kids all dressed up and following their mums and dads around, trying to copy the dances and chants; the face paint of flags and flowers spouting over all the spectators… It’s so hard to describe because we have nothing like it in Australia. Sure we have crowds for footy games, and celebrations with traditional Aboriginal dancing and costumes, and even big shows like the Easter Show – but nothing compares with the spectacle of a PNG Cultural Show, with so many different groups so totally different from each other yet all from within the one country, and all competing with each other for the most incredible costume. It’s something unique to this country, and an experience that I’m sure will become the benchmark for everything I ever do for the rest of my life - hard (impossible?) to beat.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Love Goroka

Well, we're back safe and sound - had a fantastic weekend - thank you SO MUCH to Monica who made our stay in the Highlands just perfect. More details + photos on their way...

x L1, L2 + E

Thursday, September 15, 2005


As well as being Independence Day tomorrow, it's also the day Em and Lin arrive!!!!! Wahoo!! Can't wait for my next (and final) 2 guests: my small sister, and my mum's small sister. Not only am I excited about having them here, but we'll also be going to Goroka for the Show on Saturday. Gonna be a great weekend!

Hiri Moale

The AVI girls, lucky enough to score front-row seats for the Hiri Moale festival today - part of the celebration of PNG's 30th Annivesary of Independence. The Hiri Moale festival celebrates a traditional beach-side ceremony, and is held at Ela Beach. Posted by Picasa

The festival symbolizes the traditional Hiri trade between the Motuans and the people of the Gulf province. The Hiri Motuans would leave in their boats with clay pots, which they traded for sago from the Gulf.

We trekked down there early this morning, eager to be a part of the spectacle - and we were not disappointed. There was a canoe race, lots of traditional dancing and singing, the Police band, many (long-winded) speeches, a (somewhat out-of-place) Carribean drum band from Townsville (?!), the arrival of the lagatoi's and then the long-awaited Hiri Queen contest, with 20 beautiful young girls making their way down to the centre stage.

A little Hanua girl, waiting for her turn to dance. The tattooes are traditionally made with thorns and rubbed-in ashes and the juice of a special leaf - but these ones are applied by magic marker just for the day. Posted by Picasa