26 February 1984

Letter: New Ribbon

Letter 26 / 2 / 84

Kids permitting, I thought I'd type my letter this week, and try out our new ribbon. We had to type a report for our administration in Darwin, and they wanted to then be able to photo-copy it ... so they sent us a new ribbon! (no doubt we'll get the bill!) But, this is amazing, you can actually see it. The other one was faint right from the time we bought it. Now all I need to do is work out how to stop the 'a' from jumping ...

Talking of 'jumping', number 3 is busy jumping these days, all very encouraging. A young lady doctor came out this week for a holiday plus clinic (to make up for the missed clinic last week) and she insists that I'm 18 weeks or more. But I feel well. My weight is beginning to creep up, and she has promised to get me a spring-loaded finger-pricker so I can test my blood sugar without doing major surgery on my fingers.

Peter is well, though rather tired these days, its very hard for him to get going.

Alison is full of bounce. Still prefers to crawl (its faster and safer than walking) - but gets around a fair bit with the little wooden trolley.

James has his usual round of problems - a runny nose and cough again. He is going through a little rebellious patch too, feeling insecure again, I guess. Its 'in the wind' that we are going again sometime and he also hears talk of a new baby - we are pretty careful, but he's always quick to pick these things up, and its always hard to discuss things with him and get him all excited when its such a long time away yet. He's got his English talking and Creole all mixed up. We try to insist on good English at home to help him keep it straight. He's just so over-sensitive to everything. He still enjoys kindy, and after kindy likes to go and play with Marissa and Danielle. I don't mind him going, but it means unless I go with him for a chat with Sue, Alison really misses him, and we hardly see him either.

I have a feeling that last week's mail didn't go, so you may not have received our last letter. I may even ring you before you get this, but I'll write it anyway. Our May 5 flight is not definite, but we have to leave it partly up to Ron Kusch (who will be flying us down to Cairns). He usually flies on a Saturday, and he will be influenced by any possibility of other passengers and/or cargo.

We have just discovered (quite by accident) that we can now dial direct to Cairns and its a local call - 20c, talk as long as you like, instead of "3 minutes, are you extending?" every 30seconds - 20minutes (depending on how busy they are at the exchange)! The change was not announced, we are not even sure if it was supposed to happen, but it means we can talk to our friends in Cairns quite readily, as long as it lasts. Unfortunately we have not had any success with dialling direct any further south than Cairns, the phone chokes as soon as you mention an area code. So I will have to reverse charges for now - trying to get hold of enough 20c coins otherwise is nearly impossible, this island always has a cash flow problem.

Its been a good week for fishing, after all the bad weather. The other day Peter caught a 26lb travally! He said his hands and arms were a bit numb and shaky after pulling that one in by himself. That wasn't to mention the three 6lb coral trout he caught as well. And there have been a few sizeable ones since then.

We picnicked over at Dawar Island yesterday, came back all sunburnt. Peter saw some large trevally in a feeding frenzy, several of them being left high and dry flapping on the reef every time the wave went out ... but he couldn't get to his fish spear in time. He threw a line in and caught a nice one for our tea.

I was talking informally to the young lady doctor this morning and she says the head doctor wants to have me in hospital for the last few weeks on insulin - not keen on that! It won't be up to him in the end because we'll be in Darwin, and we hope they can be persuaded to let me come in for a daily test and/or injection rather than languish in hospital for weeks while the family goes up the wall.

Alison is in James's room, up to I don't know what. Soon it'll be time to get James from kindy. Its very sticky today, the ocean has that 'doldrums' look about it. We have reasoned that maybe the best way to catch some language is to spend most of the day sitting in or near the store ... but when Peter got there this morning everyone seemed to get up and gradually dribbled off home. We have some spare mangoes which he offered to someone and they said they would come and get them, but of course they didn't. We keep getting these bright ideas - "Right, today I'll try this..." and we head off all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and come home all disappointed again. And after a few days we don't feel like getting up in the mornings (but we always do, with a little help from the kids!)

Oh dear. Alison has found the box of tissues. They make such a lovely "phut! phut!" noise as you pull them out of the box ...

19 February 1984

Letter: Wet Season

Letter 19 / 2 / 84

Sunday afternoon on wet, windy Mer. It started raining on Tuesday, and didn't even pause for breath until Thursday afternoon. Then this NW wind came in. At night there is a full moon, so the extra high tides combined with this wind are chaotic.

Suddenly we are relieved to be on the side of the road away from the beach. Everyone on the beach front builds bamboo fences and buries all their rubbish behind them to protect against these tides - but it didn't do any good yesterday.

We decided to spend part of our 'day off' shell collecting ... until we found the water was right up in some peoples' shade houses and there was no beach to walk on. The ocean is pounding and roaring - its usually so quiet!

We are missing the fish in our diet too - its not exactly good fishing weather.

Our Ali

Alison has found her feet - but she still needs a little more confidence. She charges around with James' trolley. Sometimes when she thinks no one is looking she'll quietly walk half a dozen steps ... but as soon as we look she sits down.

She is so "talkative", we'll be wanting to put a cork in it when she learns the words.

And climb! She almost climbed out of her cot this morning, her foot was right up on the edge.

Our James

As for our little James ... Peter constantly checks his language, tries to make him speak English at home. He has so many quaint little sayings.

He's constantly asking when "our plane" is coming and when he'll see all his cousins - but he especially wants to see Uncle Mark. He's really taken a shine to Mark, just from photos. (I think its mostly the one of him holding a fish.)

Exocet chickens

I got tired of chasing our chickens with James' grasshopper net every time they flew away.

They love to fly about head height, straight at me like a missile, and then I would reach out with the net and phht!

So Peter clipped their wings, and we put them in with the ducks.

At first the ducks hissed at them, but in no time the chickens had taken over, running between the legs and under the bills of the ducks and stealing their food.

When things had settled down a bit, we opened the gate once more, and in no time the chickens were pecking around outside with the ducks following. (The ducks wouldn't even come out before.)

At night the chicks pop into their flour drum inside the duck hut, and the ducks huddle in their favourite corner.

Its all very pleasing ... except for the present lack of eggs.

Baby news

The doctor didn't come for his monthly visit this week due to the inclement weather.

Our baby is moving about already, and that along with size would indicate I'm about 18 weeks, but I think I'm about 15 weeks. It would be nice if I'm wrong about the date, but its probably just another jumbo, or two.

Anyway, I feel really well, sickness cleared up a couple of weeks ago. James commented this morning, "Big tummy, Mummy", so I guess he could start asking about it soon when it occurs to him.

No fish

No fish for tea tonight. Peter and Peter S braved the wind for a quick outing yesterday, but although they claimed a number of "good bites", they all got away.

Friends on TI sent us a packet of dried prawns, I guess I'll try and create some sort of a meal with those.

Never on Sunday

A plane came in a few minutes ago loaded with all kinds of fresh fruit - pity it's Sunday and they won't open the store!

I hope the rats will leave some for us to buy tomorrow.

04 February 1984

Letter: Hot Weather

Letter 4 / 2 / 84

Hot, sticky Sunday - today must be the first day in a couple of weeks that it hasn't rained.

They say the wet doesn't last very long - I hope it hasn't gone already. Oh, well, when it does, the SE season can actually be quite pleasant.

Language work

We are very busy these days - that's good.

We asked Fr Tabo for some advice about people not coming when they promise to. He thought about it and decided it was laziness, so he gave everyone a sound telling off.

Since that we've had some good informal sessions with Sam Passi, George Passi, and Jack Wailu.

Jack looks like developing into quite a good language helper. Unfortunately, as soon as the season changes he is moving around to Las, around the back of the island. It's not that far away, but compared to anywhere else on the island it seems so.

He has a sizable piece of land at Las, and he has said he would be happy for us to build a little holiday shack there for a break every few weeks ... lovely place Las, really rugged and "free"!


I still can't find anyone suitable to help care for Alison. She's a delight, and people enjoy her, but no one wants to be responsible for her.

Island babies aren't allowed to crawl etc, they sit quietly between mum's crossed legs ... this one is hopeless! I guess I may have to offer decent wages - we get a subsidy for language helper wages, but not for babysitters - even then I may get no offers.

Our "big Aunty Kathleen" would take her but she is employed in the clinic 9-12 each day, which is when I'd like to do language work rather than afternoons. Besides, I'd like to use Kathleen as a language helper somehow.

Climbing baby

Our Alison is very much a climbing baby.

We had an old foam rubber mattress and we cut it into four, and made bright covers for these scatter cushions which we arrange and rearrange around the room. Often we make a little sofa, two cushions high with another one for a back rest.

Ali loves climbing on and off that. But she took me by surprise yesterday when I found her sitting up on top of the upturned play cubes (you know, those plastic crates) which we were using as a baby gate. So much for that idea.

Later I found her up on top of the potty chair with her little pink feet firmly wedged in the potty.

Dumb ducks

Still no eggs from our ducks - all we need now is for someone to tell us that ducks won't lay when they live in the tropics.

But we are enjoying them. The drakes were so aggressive, but the ducks are so timid.

We've been leaving their gate propped open all week. It took about three days before they would even venture out after food. (And ducks are such greedy critters, worse than chooks).

Then they finally discovered that in the afternoon the long grass of our back "lawn" is cool and shady ... but then we went and cut the grass.

Damp chicks

Our four chicks are doing well - we found two of our six were roosters (you can tell by the wings!) and got rid of them.

But they have no sense in the rain. They will not shelter, would rather stand and "cheep" insults at the rain as it hits them.

The other day they got so wet and cold we wrapped them in tissues and put them in a little esky until they warmed up a bit.

Dinner time

Well, its time I started cooking some tea. The evenings go so much better for us if we can manage an early tea.

The Islanders don't generally eat until 7 or 8 pm, and some of their kids just don't make the distance.

Alison eats - or at least tries to - just about everything these days, un-mushed. She loves fish.


Did I tell you about Margaret getting beaten up? She's coming back on Tuesday ... she took 8 yr old daughter, Bai, and 9mth old baby, Helen, with her to the hospital, leaving Wilfred to cope with Kakam (3), Melpal (4) Dadaboy (5) and Lenwat (2). Its been a good experience for him, I guess. But he has palmed them off onto us a few times - what a nightmare! The "story" is that Margaret will return accompanied by two white police - but that's probably not true. They will tell something as if it's true if they really want it to be so.


The Melbidir is due Tuesday.

Everyone thinks it will be carrying 400 cartons of beer, and I guess some of the men will have their tongues hanging out ... but we have heard via the white grapevine (the Islanders don't know yet) that there won't be any beer on board at all.

It may be to do with the recent trouble with Margaret, though we don't know if drink was actually involved there.


There is a chap here to build a new clinic, complete with living quarters so doctor's visits needn't be a rushed 10am-4pm job but they could actually stay overnight. And its rumoured to be going to have a new super-duper bed with everything that goes up and down - even TI hospital isn't equipped thus. Crazy isn't it. (You should see the present bed - talk about ex war-time!)

Peter just picked our first 2 corn cobs. Very skinny cobs, but the kernels are full.