April 16, 2005

thursday night at Hodgson Downs

It’s bedtime now, but I’m not at Ngukurr, I’m at hodgson downs, a community about 2 hours from ngukurr. This time last year, I’d just arrived here at Hodgson Downs and started doing two months of fieldwork for my honours thesis. It was the first time I’d ever lived on a community, but that 2 months was overall just fantastic and nowhere near as difficult as my time in ngukurr seems to be. So coming back to hodgson downs gives me a good feeling and I usually find being here a breath of fresh air.

But I was a little bit nervous about coming here today. It’s been four months since I was here last. That’s a long time. Ngukurr is now more familiar to me than Hodgson Downs but it never used to be like that.

But after a day here, I’m happy. A lot of people were happy to see me – old people, parents, teachers and kids from school. Not before long, two old people were speaking Alawa to me and teaching me again. Unfortunately I could barely understand what they were saying! I’ve been working on so many other languages that I’m slack with Alawa now. However, it’s so nice being back and learning again.

It’s funny though. From an outside perspective, Aboriginal communities all seems really similar. But today I’ve noticed how different Ngukurr and Hodgson Downs are in a lot of ways. I can’t quite work out how and why but it’s things like size, level of western education, strength of traditional culture and more. It gives Hodgson Downs a different pace of life…. not exactly slow … just more considered. I don’t know…

Anyway. I’m sleepy. I’ll write more tomorrow.

PS. Before I left Ngukurr I phoned the bureaucrats who didn’t fund our School Language Program. I was furious by the end of the phone call. I’ve never had much to do with bureaucrats before, but I didn’t enjoy today’s experience of them being unhelpful and vague. Luckily I managed to be nice but persistant on the phone. It seems like there’s a real skill to dealing with government people. I wonder how you learn those skills…

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