March 06, 2005

february report

time for my next report... haha...

well, i've been trying to maintain a bit of sanity and sense of self over the past month. i've been busy and overwhelmed by my work and by life here.

I mean, while i usually talk about some of the cool and amazing things i get to do here, it's also very hard being here. and it's getting to me. it's hard to motivate myself when the job we're trying to do (support endangered languages) is just enormous. and i'm trying to do this job on top of all the other general difficulties of living in a little shack a long way from where i grew up and a long way from most of the people i love and i'm living within another culture too. so yes, i'm finding life tough at the moment.

last weekend i ran off to darwin. it was good, but not great. going to darwin's a big effort (it's over 600kms away). and while i though it'd be great to just run away from here and have a break from everyone it wasn't really the case. firstly, when i ran into a whole bunch of people from Ngukurr just out of darwin, much to my surprise, i was really excited! i thought i was sposed to be sick of everything Ngukurr! and secondly, i find that it takes me a good while to be comfortable in the city again... especially coming straight from Ngukurr... so i felt like an outsider in Darwin (there's also a lot of snobbery in darwin towards anything to do with Katherine). i did go out dancing though and ate some nice food, stayed at a nice hotel and spent some money (it's hard to spend money at ngukurr!). i also practiced my front and back flips into the hotel pool... i'm getting good at them!

work's been okay but hard. we've got more people working here at the language centre. it's good to have support and help, but it also means i'm committed to supporting staff and don't have so much freedom anymore. it also means that with so many people coming to work i have less space i can call my own (because work is also home!) and that's a big reason why i'm finding life tough here... because my living arrangement isn't very desirable. we're still trying to sort out running language classes at the school here... it's a mammoth job and we've got little support from the school and none from the Education department/government. the community is totally behind it. it's pretty frustrating that the community has to struggle with this school. there's very little culture or language stuff happening at the school... everything's focused on English literacy and numeracy. and the current government isn't making things any easier. ( i don't like John Howard). The community would really like more language and culture in the school curriculum, but they just seem to be continually disempowered or something.... i don't know...

(... maybe you can sense why being here is getting to me! nothing's easy! ... however before you go feeling sorry for me... imagine what it's been like for people who are from here who have been fighting all their life!).

i have done a few exciting things lately though. there was a big funeral on and i was asked to video tape the dancing at the end of the ceremony. that was pretty rad. and a lot of people came into ngukurr from other communities for the funeral too. one of the women i work with wanted to do language work with the visitors while they were here. so i helped out and had this crazy afternoon where i was writing down what one lady was saying in a language called Rembarrnga (which i know only a tiny bit about) and then the other lady translated it straight into her language called Kune (which I know next to nothing about but still tried to write it down!). it was pretty neat translating from one language to another and not using english much at all. Also, while the funeral was on, i got to meet three old ladies who live at a tiny place on the Gulf of Carpentaria. they are about the last people in the world who use a language called Marra on a day-to-day basis. pretty special huh? so yeah, my brain is busting trying to get my head around all the languages here... an old man was starting teaching me a bit of another language called Ritharrngu the other day but it was friday afternoon and it just went in one ear and out the other because i just couldn't think anymore. it's a pity that i'm surrounded by all these languages but don't have time to learn them properly.

well, that's my february news!

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