After such a lovely time floating for a few days on the Indian Ocean, resting and reading, I’m now allowing myself the indulgence of writing. A friend of mine who is a writer has told me that every day she thinks about what to write about, plotting storylines, picturing scenes and describing characters in her head. I found that quite a foreign concept until now. My thoughts now become ideas for blogging!! Does this mean I’m becoming a writer?
Time. The concept of time is a baffling one. As a child time took so long. I remember quite distinctly my Mum dropping me off to have a play with a friend at the age of about 6. She said I had an hour. I remember feeling as if I had all the time in the world. A whole hour. Growing up I felt like adulthood would never come. It seemed to take a lifetime to get to 18. And now, well they warn you that the years go by quicker as you get older. Ryan will be 12 at the end of the month and soon Matthew will be 10. Instead of Richard looking towards his 40s, it’s now the 50’s. Thankfully I’m still well and truly on the side closer to 40!
But, in the village I felt that time stood still.
Most people didn’t know their age. To ask after someone’s age you said, ‘How many Christmases?’ Many just shook their heads and said they didn’t know. Life in the village followed the life of the river and the wet or dry season. Since returning to Perth I have been very aware of the pace of life here. In particular because I have felt the pressure from Vivien to post her books.
I haven’t done that yet! It’s not because I’m slack, it’s just because I haven’t had a chance. Yes, I could be doing it today instead of indulging in some writing, but I’m not in the mood and I want to write a nice letter to her as well. It’s only been 4 1/2 weeks since I was there. It seems like just yesterday and yet for her, it’s probably been forever.
I was thinking about this the other day. I remember that when I said to Gina, who had prepared all our evening meals and generally looked after us in Yamen, what will she be doing once we left, she said, ‘nothing’.
That was when Mike gently suggested to her that we all felt she would make a lovely teacher and perhaps she could start up the school againJ.
Yabru said to us that they (church and village leaders) are very concerned that there will be a whole generation of village Papua New Guineans who are illiterate. When the missionaries were there in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s there were schools in the villages and literacy rates went up. Pidgin and English were taught. Yabru is a result of that education. As were many of the people aged about 35 and above. He then scanned his arm around the village and said, ‘they have it too good here to do anything about it’. It is pretty good. Plenty of food and the life-giving river. BUT again, it looks idyllic on the outside, but if you are sick or you are a childbearing woman, the reality can be quite devastating.
Vivien has probably not got a lot to do. 4 weeks for her feels like an eternity whereas I feel I was only there the other day. I’ve had to recover from food poisoning, attend to school activities (choir event, sports carnival, music lessons, homework, basketball training), support my husband who is dealing with a lot of work stress, pay the bills, sort through insurances, keep in touch with people not just in my neighbourhood but right around the world! Phew, it’s a lot to do. And I still don’t do as much as some people I know.
Vivien is going to have to be patient and wait. I will follow through with what I said I would do and I have reassured her of this. In the meantime she will need to do what she can with the information and resources I left with her. When I post the books to Vivien I also want to write a note for her and give her some more pointers about starting some antenatal care in her village. That takes careful thought and time. I have done some more research and also received some useful documents from a colleague working for the World Health Organisation in PNG. As I’ve been reading through the material, comparing it with my experiences in Yamen, a picture is forming in my head about what I can do to provide practical help and support to Vivien and the other Village Birth Attendants. Keep it simple stupid, but sometimes simple takes time.
Village life as I’ve mentioned before is slow. It is very hot and humid so when the temperature is really hot, many people just lie around at home in the shade, on their verandahs watching the kids play. Many times I noticed the mothers with young babies at the house next to us, lying on the floor of the house playing with their babies, holding them up above them and making them giggle and squeal with delight.
Families live close together so staying in touch doesn’t take much effort. Getting food for dinner is a short walk to the plantation. The men have a lot to do to get meat or catch fish, and skinning a chicken is not the simplest thing to do, but if that’s all you have to do for the day, you can focus and give it all your attention and everyone knows that that is what you are doing for the day!
I think time does go faster in our part of the world. We have so many things to do and so many options of things to do. Doing nothing to us is reading a book, probably playing with the children or preparing a meal, perhaps even doing the gardening! I would suggest that our doing nothing is actually doing something! It’s just that those simple, repetitive, more mundane tasks of life have lost their importance in our world and so they are regarded as nothing.
Comparing life here in Perth and that in Yamen neither are perfect. I’d say that somewhere in the middle would be good. We need to slow down and not do so many different things (stretching ourselves between too many tasks is not good) and they need to step up and start doing things that will make a difference: to them as individuals (by improving self esteem) and to the community as a whole. Just little things like start some simple language and maths classes for the children, begin teaching some informal lessons to the women about having a healthy pregnancy and spacing babies.
Keep it simple stupid. But simple can take time.