Week Beginning 27th April 2009
Happy Birthday Dad for 30th and hope you had a safe trip back to Blighty from Thailand.
Congratulations Lisa and Bradley with arrival of second-born Hettie Lilymina in NZ.
Our landline telephone is working again!!
Some things never change wherever you happen to be: we still have a cup of tea in bed at 6.30 a.m; we have egg on toast (alternate days for scrambled/poached) followed by peanut butter on toast for breakfast; we still have dinner at 6.00 p.m. prompt - a legacy of the Munro family habit; Alison still has her feet rubbed several times a day; Mike is still as fussy as ever, continually wiping down surfaces to his heart's content; we still give anything away to anyone who needs it - medicines, food, books - though Mike so far has managed to hold onto the money!
However some things are very different…..
Work started in earnest again this week after the Easter holiday. In week 1 they don't really get started. Students don't arrive back as there are no lessons and teachers don't teach because there are so few students - and then they moan that they can't fit anything in!
We worked at Boromil school (where we spoke to 109 students and their teachers on the reform curriculum!), Rosary school and then made our first visit to Karaweri school. Our last visit was aborted due to the road conditions but this time we were told the roads were okay. Famous last words!
The first hour was okay - relatively good even. The second hour was manageable. The third, fourth and fifth hours were a nightmare. We were held up three times with villagers demanding money to compensate them for repairing the road. The first time rocks were put in the middle of the road and the car was surrounded by 20 or so men. We explained that we were volunteers etc. so they reduced the amount but still insisted. The chief stood in front of the car with a large bow and arrow and looked pretty mad. We said we'd turn back but they wouldn't let us do that either. Eventually they said two of their men would come with us and that we should bring money back from the school. Alison was sitting in the front and had to get out to make way for one of the newcomers. It was pretty intimidating and scary. The last hour of the journey the locals and our escorts had to find rocks to make a road or to cut down bush so we could get through that way. Then we came to a landslip where we had to get our stuff and walk down to the school. By this time it was 12.00 and we thought we'd stay overnight - we had blankets, clean underwear and toothbrushes.
As soon as we got into the school we were rushed into classes to speak to students, do lesson observations, meet with the senior leadership team all before being offered a drink. We felt quite sorry for ourselves until we heard that the staff - 12 of them - walk up to 8 hours before they can pick up the PMV to Kundiawa once a fortnight to pick up their pay cheque and then walk back - sometimes in the same day - no wonder they didn't feel sorry for us. They still have manual cheques which they have to go and cash at the bank.
The Headteacher then asked if he could have a lift back with us as he was due in court the next day. One of the Governors had defrauded money from the school and he had to go and testify. We said we thought we would have to stay over but as he needed to get back we left after taking an abbreviated staff meeting. We are used to that. Sometimes we are in the middle of a staff meeting and the driver interrupts us and says the rain is coming and we all make a dash for it!
Going back was no easier and eventually we were travelling in the dark - something forbidden in VSO. The Headteacher had no-where to stay but luckily Ben (the third member of our team) offered him a bed for the night.
The car dropped us off and we were bruised, battered, achy, hungry, thirsty and needed the loo so made our way up the garden when Mike realised he hadn't got the house key. Frantically calling to Maria - the landlady - to no avail we then phoned Ben - still in the car - who searched the floor of the car with his phone light and lo and behold found our key. We had been thrown around so much that the key had escaped. Joy - loo - shower - sandwich - tea and straight to bed!
As we are travelling along the person in the front has the responsibility of waving and saying 'moning' or 'apernun' to everyone. The children cheer and laugh and the adults mostly stand up and wave. Mike, in his white shirt, long grey hair and cherubic face waving from the front seat confuses the children and they mistake him for a Catholic priest. Shouts of 'Father' or 'Papa' follow us. When Alison sits in the front seat shouts of 'white meri' follow us.
On Saturday we had our first conversation class with the neighbours' children. Eight giggly, shy girls turned up but we soon settled to some language games and chatter. Mike taught them 'She'll be coming round the Mountain' and they seemed loathe to leave. One of the girls, Pauline, who was about 15 had never been to school. She was very homely and stayed behind to put the house back in order etc. You'll see a couple of photos from this Saturday too - baking lemon sponge cakes with Alison which they enjoyed eating with a glass of tropical juice - and you may notice that one boy has joined the group too. This week we sang 'If you're happy and you know it', making up their own verses and they loved it and giggled all over again. Then they insisted on 'She'll be coming round the mountain'. Imagine singing those songs with some 15 year olds in England!
Alison went to the Catholic Church for the 8 a.m. service on Sunday. It was all in Tok Pisin but very nice. It was crowded out and another service followed at 9.30. Some ladies in the congregation wore knitted hats to which they attached price tags in case anyone wanted to buy them! Either that or it was designer label stuff.
Our garden and animals continue to thrive. The dog was on heat and every dog in the neighbourhood was around fora while so no doubt she is pregnant. One of the cats is pregnant, the chickens are laying well (eggs that is) so we get fresh eggs every morning, The oranges are delicious and plentiful and tomatoes are ripe everyday - if the chickens don't get them first.
Missing you all and England and Leigh on Sea and Pipasha and Vie and even Essex
Lots of love
Mike and Alison