31 July 1983

Letter: Pump Problems

Letter 31 / 7 / 83

The day has a gloomy, clammy feel to it - if only it would rain. The water situation is little short of desperate. We have 25 litres of slightly murky drinking water left, and about 40 litres of murkier washing water. The well is dry, at least for the next few hours. The pump has been broken for weeks ... now they've fixed it but apparently the rods that go down the well are broken. The Melbidir came the other day with replacement parts - the wrong size! They can't be carried by plane, we have to wait for the next ship. Its going to be "soon" - only another 10 days or so.

We've heard that there are plans afoot to update all of the islands' water systems. Last year they installed a solar-powered desalination plant on Coconut Island - maybe all the islands will get one. Or maybe just a newer, bigger pump.

Church is on, but James is sick so I'm home and Peter has gone along to the AOG this week. James has his usual chest complaint by the sound of it - we all had a rough night.

The last of our mailed boxes arrived on the Melbidir the other day, and our floor paint and ceiling parts. We've painted a little bit of the floor - it looks lovely, but we realise we don't have enough paint, we'll have to try to get some more.

James has been going to kindy every day and loves it - Saturdays and Sundays are disappointing for him!

Communal living

We've had lots of 'people contact' lately. A lady died in Cairns a week ago Thursday and it took until Thursday for the body to arrive here. So its been quiet communal eating (not really feasts) every day, and its still continuing in less quiet fashion since the burial on Friday until the big feast tomorrow. We've been going along for the evening meal (about 7.30pm). James loves it, Alison is not so sure. We find we are liking island food more and more. There was turtle meat there yesterday - turtles are mating three months early this year (?) . And mackerel are running already. Mango trees are in flower too. Does this mean that we'll have an early wet season, or just that the seasons are all mixed up these days - ?


The kids are asleep. I've just been down for a swim/wash. I haven't had a freshwater shower in 2 or 3 days. It still hasn't rained, its still threatening to. The water is "freezing" (relatively!) but its so muggy out of the water. The temperature is actually 27deg C - its been up to 29 - 30 deg the last few days. Before that it was 26 deg by day and 23 - 4 deg by night. We put winter pajamas on the kids.

Alison is a lovely little button these days. Still smiles a whole lot. She blows raspberries and spits a lot because her gums are sore. When she wants "up" she lies there going "brrr" and splatting her arms hard against her sides - I'm sure one day she'll fly! We let her try some cereal, thought she might enjoy a new texture on her gums, and she loves it - grabs the spoon and pulls it into her mouth. She's also very ready if a cup is proffered.

James is doing well with his reading. He knows quite a few letters. 'J' he reads as "j - mine", then there's: "M - mummy", "d - daddy", "a - babby", "b - babby", "n - nanna", "p - papa", "t - teddy" and "o"! It all happened quite by accident, but he even picks them out of small print when we read him his Bible Story. Its fast getting to the stage where he can read but not talk. But his talking is increasing every day. He loves to say "Eeyore!" (his version of the hello/goodbye greeting "yawo") to people passing by the house. And he is at last toilet trained. All of a sudden he was willing to go outside and pull his own pants down - no more puddles in the house. He is so funny when he comes and announces "anana di ga, di bleh" (I didn't wee on the grass, I went on the dirt). Of course no one except us understands him. Funny thing is, he manages to hold it in for the whole three hours at kindy.

I need to go and wring the saltwater out of the nappies and rinse them in some well-water. James keeps waking up and whimpering - looks a bit feverish again. He has what the people call "bad cold-sick".

Hey, its raining - ever so tentatively. If only it would slosh down and fill our barrel and the well and water the plants. There, its stopped already. Wasn't even enough to run into the gutter. Maybe if I go and hang the nappies out it will rain ...

23 July 1983

Letter: Hoy! and Darts

Letter 23 / 7 / 83

The kitchen is painted at last, and what a difference that makes. We are just waiting to get the floor painted and the ceiling up now. So we are just continuing slowly with our house-fixing - waiting for Peter Dunstan to come and help in September - and concentrate on language for a bit.

Peter had a discussion with a (drunk) Anglican fellow yesterday, and was being criticized because we haven't been joining in with "Hoy!" and darts sessions - we see it as encouraging gambling, they see it as supporting the church in their fund-raising. Drunk or not he had a point and we feel we must start being a part of these activities.

I took James to Kindy the other day. Its been closed lately for renovations, but just opened again. The (new) principal's eldest daughter, 3 year old Marissa, had been going, but with a new teacher there who "makes you do things" no longer likes it. They are supposed to only take 3-5 year olds, but they are fairly flexible. So, anyway, I took him down there and came back after an hour - and he loved it. They let him paint! The next day was a holiday, so we have to wait until next week to give it another go. We are all looking forward to him being down there a few hours each day for some companionship and mental stimulation.

He loves the daily "Kindy of the Air" - sits riveted to his seat and stares hard at the radio! I try hard to remember the rhymes and songs to do with him later, and we've been trying to tape the programme too.

Alison is growing fast. She rolls over at will now - in her cot, I never put her down on this floor - and she spends a lot of time in her bouncinette. And she grabs everything. And she's teething, so everything goes straight into her mouth and gets thoroughly dribbled on. Fortunately we have some 'Bonjela' for her gums as she's been pretty miserable with the pain. A spot of Bonjela soon brings back her sunny, smiley disposition!

Father Tabo's sister died in Cairns on Thursday, so half the village, all the relatives, are in mourning in the "Parasol" (shade house) next to our place, eating together, "sitting quietly" (except for the drunk ones) until the body arrives and is buried.

James is finally toilet trained. He comes running in and says:

"ananya" (ie negative, shaking his head) "di" (wee) "ga" (grass), "di" (wee) "bleh" (dirt).

17 July 1983

Letter: Time for Church

Letter 17 / 7 / 83

Another Sunday, another crucifix-stamped wafer (slightly mouldy tasting) and a sip of wine for us, and a pat on the head for James (it does amuse him) and Alison, and a long, rambly, mixed-up sermon to sit through. Last week we did our duty at the AOG church - the fellowship was closer but the teaching just as mixed up.

Growing kids

James has grown up a lot since the last photos we sent, but he's changed more in abilities than looks. He slimmed down so much when he got sick in Cairns, but he's eating well again now (after about 6 months). "Eat" is one of his favourite words. You hear a little voice after he's been put to bed, "Mummy ... eat?" He's so independent these days - sets the table and clears it etc, when I make bread he does a little one too ... but at certain times he swings right back and wants to be dressed on Alison's "change table" (converted fridge crate) - lying diagonally because he's so big. Or we find him "lying" in the bouncinette. He also likes to have his turn with his mum in the rocking chair.

Talking of growing up - that Alison! We call her "button" these days, because she's as bright as a button. Full of gurgles and smiles and a funny little laugh. James was amazed when she picked a teaspoon up off the table the other day ... later we heard him screaming when she got a fistful of his hair. She's gained control of her hands and is so grabby and strong. And she's teething and so dribbly and wet! She enjoys those "water-cooled" teethers you can get. And last night I heard her grunting in her cot, and there she was lying on her back, having turned herself over, giggling at me. So we've reached the roly-poly stage too.

Climbing the hill

Last week for our day off we set off on a walk and ended up going right around the island. That was rugged! Its very beautiful around the back. It would be lovely to have a hut there to escape to occasionally.

The good news is that our solar generator is working. Every day for more than a week we tested it and watched the charge creep up despite the cloudy weather. Then Peter mounted it on the roof and fixed up some lights inside. What a difference from hurricane lamps!


Well today we climbed the hill behind our place, then went on up the ridge to the highest point on the island.

Peter walked on to Gelam's Pit. "Pit" means "nose", "Gelam" is the Dugong in the MI creation legend. It was way too hazardous for the rest of us. Then we climbed down and walked the long way home via the airstrip and road.

Once again we were impressed with how incredibly beautiful this place is. And, as usual, we went barefoot. The hill is covered with knee/waist high grass, but underneath its rough and rocky. You just can't see the ground and need to feel the way with your feet. Can't you just imagine us leaping barefoot across rocky crags ... carrying two kids?! Although we do it for enjoyment, if things ever turned nasty here (and we have no reason at this stage to believe they will) its good to be both fit and to know our way around the rest of the island.

11 July 1983

Letter: Around the Back of the Island

Letter 11 / 7 / 83

Today we walked right around the island. My legs are aching - I'd love a deep hot bath ... but the water is off, pump is broken again, and I haven't even had a shower for four days (just swims).

The back of the island is very beautiful, rugged, and we had quite a few breath-holding moments leaping across rocky holes where the water way down below gurgles and spouts, me carrying Alison in the sling and Peter was carrying James. We didn't start off intending to go right around, so we didn't have much food or water. Fortunately the tide was way out or we would have been caught when we were almost all the way around, but that did make it slippery in places. It was about 4 1/2 hours hard slog.

Solar kit

A week ago the ship came. We got our solar lighting kit (now outside soaking up rays, but we've had solid cloud all week and the battery hasn't built up enough charge to start using it), rocking chair, bed, ceiling (though the important bits have gone missing), wardrobe (or rather linen closet), paint - the floor-paint went missing. We received it all by mail, we sent it to ourselves. We guessed we had sent about 50 boxes but didn't expect them all to arrive at once. But they had been saving them up on TI for us. There were 44 very large canvas Australia Post mail sacks, with one or two (10-20kg) boxes in each. There was absolutely no room to move in our tiny house. It took hours to bring them all indoors, and most of the day to get them out of the bags, let alone open the actual boxes. Peter had to make three trips carrying the empty mail bags back to the store. And - our boxes aren't all here yet.

What a week its been. Each night we flop onto our new bed, aching all over from the physical exertion. But we have 3 shelf units and the cupboard (all arrived flat-pack) erected and fully loaded, and almost all of the boxes have disappeared. And two rooms are nearly painted - it takes so long with un-lined walls, raw wooden frames (very uneven and rough as well as absorbent) to coat as well as the back side of the fibro to paint which is very absorbent.