15 August 1983

Letter: The Boat Cometh

Letter 15 / 8 / 83

There's a boat due this week but its the smallest one, the "TSI" (Torres Strait Islander) - so I guess our rainwater tank won't be coming this time.

Duck hut

Our ducks are due to arrive on Kuch's next flight from Cairns. There's a rusty old rainwater tank out the back of our place, and we managed to turn it into something like a nissan hut - not as easily as we expected. When we cut it in half - against the direction of the corrugations - the silly thing unraveled and whipped around like a snake. Anyway, its 'dug in' now and reasonably under control. There are a lot of dogs around these days (although periodically the health department thinks of a reason to come and kill a few) so we'll have to completely enclose the ducks with wire. We are using birdcage mesh to try to limit the rats a bit too.

We've more or less decided not to go south in December or January, we'll stay here until next June or July. We are feeling comfortable and settled, its not worth $800 for a few hassling weeks in Cairns.

Lnguage helpers

Now we have a paid language helper - just an hour a week for starters ($5 an hour, but the government subsidy pays $4 of that) - lets hope he turns up for his first session tomorrow. His name is George Sallee, and he's not a church-goer, bit of a wayward sort in fact, but we see him as having heaps of potential.

I wasn't intending to get a language helper too until Alison is quite a bit older. I had my eye on Bal Gee - young friendly girl with a big smile. She's done some courses at the School of Australian Linguistics so has a basic understanding of grammar and phonemics. She's offered to come and show me some of the verb charts she's worked out.

Water supply

The water situation is still desperate, but we have had the most surprising help. Barnie Day has been living at TI hospital caring for his sick wife, but he came out here for a week's holiday. He knocked on our door and said he couldn't sleep at night for thinking about our baby having to drink well-water. (Although she's a sturdy 4 month old, her exceptionally white skin does make her look very delicate). He has a full, hardly used, rainwater tank, so would we please fill our 44 gal drum from his tank. Peter has made himself a little 'dolly' trolley from some old pram wheels off the dump, so he trundled back and forth carrying water to fill our drum.

Yesterday we spent most of the day at a feast. We really enjoy feasts these days, find we can really just sit and relax with the people. James can hold his own with the other kids so we are not 'on edge' watching him all the time either. And we love the food - never thought I'd enjoy some of that stuff!

. . .

Well, Peter's fishing, the kids are both on a sleeping bag at my feet. They've both got wet nappies on from last night, and I haven't finished preparing James' kindy lunch. Its village work day and the men are supposed to be coming up to work on our outside guest room / study, so I need to put some jugs of water in the fridge for them ...

...oh and Peter's just got home with a good-sized trevally for today's meals!

08 August 1983

Letter: Dirty Washing Train

Letter 8 / 8 / 83

Our water situation is desperate. Somehow we just keep managing. Its really discouraging to climb the hill and see the pump sitting there all in pieces and no one working on it. Those in positions of leadership have their own full rainwater tanks and a good well down the other end of the village. Our well is dry. If we get there at dawn we can just jiggle the milk tin between the rocks at the bottom for a bit of muddy water. We use that for washing dishes and nappies, and every second or third day ourselves. About every ten days we spare a bit of water to rinse out a few clothes. Sheets and towels just have to go and go for now. In our bedroom is a "dirty washing train" - seven cardboard boxes full of clothes, sheets, tablecloths etc etc. I guess some will be hopelessly stained by the time they get washed. Every now and then we get a light sprinkle of rain which just keeps us in drinking water.

Floor paint

We've been painting the floors of the two long rooms. Jet Dry is okay, you can walk on it in two hours. But after using 1/2 a tin on the first little section we realised it needed undercoat (the chap in the shop told us it wouldn't) and that takes four hours to be touch dry, and 16 hours before we can paint over it. But after we tried the next bit and it still wasn't very good we decided to try primer under the undercoat. That takes 24 hours to dry. We've been trying to do the kitchen in patches - but what a nightmare with 24 hours + 16 hours + 2 hours of no walking - and keeping James off too. Still, it is lovely and bright and clean when its done. Its going to be so nice with all the walls and floors painted and the ceiling in. With no more government travel subsidy - they were paying 70% of our travel - we wonder if we will ever go back to Cairns once the house is nice. We could do a lot of other things with that $800! Maybe we'll stay here till July 84 when we are required back in Darwin for the conference.

James at dindy

James continues to enjoy kindy. We find we get to missing him (always in the way when he's around!) by the end of the morning. All the other kids have their lunch and a sleep session at kindy, but we feel he may as well come home for that - he's only such a little kid to be off at "school" 9am to 2pm, so we bring him home at 12.

I've started Alison on solids - a bit of "mixed cereal". She's certainly keen on the idea - James never was. I guess I'll soon start using the "Mouli-baby" and doing her a few of our non-existent veges. Our beans look hopeful, so do the cabbages. The corn is dying. The lettuces and strawberries and citrus cuttings have all dies. Tomatoes are doing well. Don't know what's happened to our ducks on order from Cairns.

New flights

Things are 'hotting up' with the two new rival companies now flying small planes out from Cairns direct to here.We hope one of them will be able to get us some citrus seedlings and bring the ducks too. One chap, Ron Kuch (Kuch Aviation) is willing to do shopping for people in Cairns and charges $200 fare, or $2 a kilo for freight. "Outback Air" have now lowered their price to equal his. Avdev, the regular mob who fly from TI are working out how to get these guys thrown out - reckon they don't have licence to land on these islands. Hope they don't succeed.