Happy Special Birthday Dave. Happy birthday Molly & Mark.
The end in nigh!
Incredibly we're nearing the end of our placement here in PNG.
And so begin the goodbyes, the speeches and the presents!
Last week the other volunteers were up from Madang and Goroka for a moderation conference, so suddenly our number more then doubled overnight and the people of Kundiawa must have wondered what was going on with this influx of more ex-pats appearing in their town.
Thursday night was an opportunity to have a social gathering with some of the provincial officers in attendance. All those who would be leaving over the next few weeks (6 of us) were invited to sit on top table - in fact we were the top table. After the food, presents were handed out, cake cut and speeches made. Alison nearly cried when she explained how much she had missed family and friends in her speech. Returning home suddenly seemed a possibility and a reality.
On Saturday we'd organised a leaving party for friends, neighbours and Kundiawa VSOs. At 6.30 a.m. some of our helpers were waiting outside the gate! No chance of a Saturday morning lie-in then. By 9.00 a.m. banana cakes had been baked, lemon cakes ready for the oven, pasta on and all sorts of other preparations. By 9.30 we had a houseful, preparing veggies, salads, fruit, coconut scraping, grating the cheese, killing the chickens, making benches, erecting a tarpaulin etc. with Alison giving out the jobs at the same time as entertaining the babies and toddlers. At one point Mike just had to hide in a room with the crossword!!
The promise was that the family would kill 'scraggy neck' - the ugliest and noisiest cockerel in existence but when the time came he could not be found - typical. He's under our bedroom screeching all night and in front of the veranda screeching all day but when the time came he managed to disappear.
At 2.00 p.m. the garden was crowded and the Saturday Club children sang, danced, played pass-the-parcel and gave a speech. The mass of food which had been prepared disappeared in about 10 minutes. There was not a crumb left. It was embarrassing as some latecomers arrived and there wasn't any food to offer them. We saw children with 4 pieces of chicken, 4 pieces of cake, sandwiches, 3 bananas, rice, pasta, pineapple, oranges etc all piled up high on one plate. There wasn't any waste and the three dogs cleared up the bones. Thank goodness we didn't have alcohol on offer!
One of the neighbours was keen to take one of our sweet, affectionate, tiny kittens as she has a big rat problem! The rats are bigger than the kitten and I'm not sure who would win. We explained that the kittens weren't ready to fend for themselves but she felt that 5 weeks was plenty old enough.
It was very touching hearing all the good wishes of the neighbours and their appreciation of the time we had spent with their children. They felt their lives had changed and they had learnt a lot. They were very appreciative.
The VSO crowd stayed up chatting and drinking wine on the verandah to the ungodly hour of 10.30 p.m. (normally in bed by 9.00 p.m.) and went to bed shattered - only to be woken by men taking down the benches at 6.30 the next morning.
About three weeks ago there was a huge argument that lasted from our arrival home - 4.00ish- till 3.00 in the morning. A piglet had gone missing and Willie, our neighbour, accused two youths of stealing it. They denied it and eventually there was a fight where Willie was injured with a bush knife. The police were informed and said everyone had to keep the peace until a village court session was held. Things seemed to calm down 'til Saturday evening when the village court session was held. All the locals sat in the area outside our house where the two factions were meant to apologise to one another and shake hands. Unfortunately they couldn't agree and a fight broke out. The brawl was quickly contained as there were so many people around. The two youths have to pay 200 kina compensation (£50) for the injury and Willie has to pay 50 kina for an unsubstantiated allegation. It was all calm when we went to bed!
Our weekly 'You couldn't make it up' slot from the Letters Page:
If you ask me which church denomination should be our National Christian Church, I would vote for the SDA (Seventh Day Adventist) church. They do not smoke, they do not drink and they keep the Sabbath.
The prisons are full of Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and United Church members. All the corruption that we hear in government are committed by the same group of people.
The car park at my SDA church is full every Saturday whereas on Sunday the Anglican church car park is empty....... I can only say that the difference is that Anglicans cannot afford cars which God would have given them if they stopped drinking, smoking and if they kept the Sabbath.
A good Christian attitude then with a guaranteed place upstairs.
We have given away most of our things - including clothes, books, shoes, cooking equipment, tools etc so that we can make room for our mementoes and handicrafts including 46 bilums (guess what you're all getting for Christmas and birthdays for the next 2 years!). The annoying thing is we have to carry them through Australia, New Zealand, Thailand until we finally get to our homeland.
Never forget how lucky we are to be born in a developed country. We will be glad to be back to constant running water, an unfaltering electricity supply, real sealed roads and paths, access to medical facilities, choices in the supermarket, an internet connection that doesn't take half an hour to get online, etc. and that's with us are living in the comparative lap of luxury from the lives of the locals.
We thought we might be able to slip away on Thursday without anyone noticing, but it seems highly unlikely that that will be the case - everyone has promised that they'll turn up to wave us off at the airport! We're just hoping that we don't get any more bilums given to us.
Anyway, love to all
Alison & Mike