After my 'ordinary' tuesday, wednesday has been kinda special. Why? Because after eight weeks of planning we delivered our first language lessons at Ngukurr School! Yay!
I was up this morning working my arse off trying to finish off the class lists and other info for the teachers at the school. The logistics of this language program are out of this world. There are nine classes at Ngukurr school. We gave each teacher a list showing which one of six language groups their students belong to. But we only had two of the groups ready to go, the other four had to miss out today.
So i made sure we had our materials ready, i made sure Baba G and Mami R knew what was going on. I went through the lesson plans, materials and language with them. Lunchtime came along and we went to the school: me, Baba G, Mami R, old B and old F. Of course, nothing runs that smoothly...
Firstly, on our way to school, we found out that parents had heard that one of the teachers had hit a kid... the angry march down to the school had begun and was flowing well. You see, when problems like that happen here, the word spreads and a big showdown ensues, with lots of yelling and very public displays of anger. So, when we got there, there was a fair bit of yelling and ruckus... i'm the sure the munanga teacher got the fright of his life. After that settled down R realised her husband had just flown 500kms away to another community and forgotten his things, including his medication, so right when classes were about to start I ran around the community with her trying to sort that out... gardi, talk about having to call on the stress management techniques.
Anyway, we set ourselves up for classes, on time. and they started. And the kids came. And the teachers taught. And some kids listened and some didn't. And some learned and some didn't. It happened and it wasn't disastrous, which in real terms means it was a success. I'm so happy it finally happened.
Even if classes were messy and half the kids were nuisances, just the symbolic fact that a bunch of elders are going to school and delivering classes in traditional endangered languages... well that sounds good to me. And if some kids are learning something too, then wow, that's so cool.
The other thing that i was so happy and proud of was that i really had only a small support role during classes. The Marra classes happened entirely without me and Baba G and the elders did it all themselves, with help from the teachers too. That's so cool... i'm really proud of my Baba - he was basically in charge of the Marra classes. I've given him more and more duties and responsibilities and he's coming through with the goods. That's great.
And my Mami, she did a good job with the Rembarrnga classes. Overall, it was a start and a fairly good one. Now we can keep going.
Well, after that, i was buggered. This had been eight weeks of work to put this program into action. I couldn't do anything more so I took the old ladies on an 'outing'. Me, old B, old F and old H, my cousin, went to Mission Gorge to see if there was still enough water in it to go fishing... but nothing, the water had dropped too much. We came back and stopped halfway to cut some bush medicine called Dumbuyumbu. We chucked it in the back of the truck and kept going. Along the way, the old ladies were speaking Marra and Alawa as well as Kriol. I know a bit of Alawa and could understand and join in a bit. What a good feeling. We went to a billabong called Warlan-ni and fished for a bit. I couldn't go in the water for fear of leeches so i sat there and blanked my mind out to compensate from three days of really hard work. After a while (and a phonecall - it's kind of surreal hearing my Usher ringtone go off when I'm sitting beside a billabong in the middle of Arnhem Land looking at water lillies and magpie geese) we headed back, fishless. Old B cut some Bulngu - a kind of bark - and picked up another bush medicine just called 'smelly grass'. And we went home.
I sat in the gutter again, drinking Iced Coffee and recovered from my day.
Now I'm here, blogging away and i'm going to eat dinner very soon.
Tomorrow, I'm going to go to Katherine after lunch to have a break from Ngukurr. It's Easter weekend this weekend. I hope the rivers are down. I would love to play some squash and go out dancing. I'm not sure if I want to drink. I'm trying to give up alcohol.
I need some recovery time because life here is very tough and I miss all the urban things I grew up with.
Oh yeah ... when we were leaving the billabong, old B picked some wildflowers for me to put in my camp. Gestures like that mean so much to me, because I work my arse off and have sacrificed a lot to be and don't get much thanks (not that I expect thanks, but i probably am deserving of it!). So I took the flowers as a thank you and it honestly did warm my heart much more than you'd think. Thanks magarra B.