April 27, 2005

reluctant

Tuesday at Ngukurr and the relevant adjective is 'reluctant'.

I just didn't really want to be here. I had such a lovely and relaxed weekend in Katherine and I didn't want the stresses of work to come back so soon. And yes, much of Tuesday was spent dealing with humbug: trips to the shop, trips to the office, giving lifts to people, letting people use the phone. I somehow managed to get some time to myself to have a bit of lunch and then (after another couple of interruptions) even had a quick nap. I started to feel better after that.

What was interesting was that in the face of my distinct lack of motivation, we still got stuff done. I started working with someone new on Ritharrngu and that was good. We sorted out this week's language class and without too much fuss.

Today was a better day. I was a bit more enthusiastic and content about being here. Thankfully, I was also much more relaxed than last wednesday. (Wednesday's represent a peak in my stress levels because it's the day of language classes at Ngukurr school).

I thought we would have four out of five language classes going today, but we ended up with only two: Ngandi and Marra. Oh well. They still went pretty well. Actually, now that I think about it, our language program is going to start looking rubbish if we can't manage to get most of the language classes happening. Damn.

I was thinking again today about community health and how it affects the language program (and in turn, language maintenance and revitalisation activities in general). Out of all the people who worked on the language program today, there was a 50-year old man who needs glasses, has a bad heart and can't really do much physical activity, an older lady (about 55?) who is just getting over a bad case of pneumonia, has hearing difficulties, has diabetes and a bad heart, two 75-year-old women, one who is healthy and the other who doesn't get around very well and a 60-year old man who doesn't get around much either. And out of the other language workers, there's a lady who needs glasses badly, a man who's heart isn't great, an overweight man with terrible feet and ankles (maybe gout?) and someone else who seems healthy. And then there's those that could be doing language work if they were healthier but they can't: the lady with terrible ankles who just can't get around, the woman whose husband died too young from a heart attack last year and she's still getting over it and a deaf and frail old lady who speaks a lot of languages. Pretty unfortunate that the fate of language maintenance activities is so affected by the health of people here. Or maybe it's also that language work suits those who aren't fit enough to do something more physical... either way, it makes me worried and sad to see the general health levels here, specially compared to cityfolk.

Well, I'm off to Hodgson Downs again tomorrow. We've got a bush trip in the afternoon and a language lesson on friday.

9 weeks til i go to melbourne!

weekend in katherine

Yeah, well, like I said, I left Hodgson Downs to go to Katherine. I watched the Hodgson Downs mob lose their football game, poor things. And after that, I had no plans except to chill out and take it easy – eat, sleep, watch DVDs, whatever I felt like. R and J were away and kindly offered me their place to crash at. Thanks guys.

It actually turned into a lovely weekend. I met up with my banji (brother-in-law) from Hodgson Downs and ended up hanging out with him all weekend. He’s a lovely guy and one of my few good friends out this way. What’s really nice about hanging out with him is that he doesn’t drink or go to the pub, so I ended up having a healthy weekend and went to bed early and got plenty of much needed sleep.

I’m still pretty amazed that my banji doesn’t drink or smoke or even drink softdrink. It’s almost unheard of, as far as I know, to find young guys from communities who are like that. Anyway, we just hung out all weekend, watched DVDs, went to the movies (Million Dollar Baby… very good) and went to Edith Falls for a walk and a swim.

It was kinda cool going to Edith Falls with my banji. Edith Falls is in a national park that is managed by Aboriginal people, but it's a big tourist destination. So my poor banji was the only blackfella walking the tourist trail and swimming at the waterfalls. He wanted to do a little bit a climbing but was worried that he might get into trouble by someone. I laughed and said that everyone there probably thinks your a traditional owner and that you're the one that will rouse on them if they do something wrong. None of the munanga there would have known that my banji is from a different country. (By country, I mean different traditional land... e.g. my banji lives on Alawa country, but Edith Falls in on Jawoyn country).

There was a band from Ngukurr playing in Katherine on Saturday nite at the pub. If my banji wasn’t around I probably would’ve gone, but I’m glad I didn’t. The humbug would’ve been out of control and I would have ended drinking and not resting.

Well, Monday rolled around and I headed off in the morning. I was very sulky. Like I said before, being in town is so easy and there’s so much less stress and pressure. The first half hour I was on the road back to Ngukurr I was pretty filthy because I just didn’t want to go back. I gave my banji, his dad (I call him lambarra) and another lambarra a lift back to Hodgson Downs and then back to Ngukurr for another leap into the world of the community-based linguist!

April 26, 2005

First Alawa class of 2005

Well, it was Friday morning at Hodgson Downs and I was organised. How did that happen? I didn’t really have anything more to prepare and no urgent last minute jobs so I waited to smoko and picked up old Cleo, old Stephen and old August to go and teach the high school kids some Alawa.

The class went really well. Or as good as can be hoped when your audience is a bunch of teenagers, most of them sulky teenagers. The best part of the lesson was that old Stephen really was the main teacher. I was merely his assistant. Often, it’s the munanga – me – who ends up taking the leading role because the speakers can be a bit tentative about taking the leading role, but not today. Stephen and the others spoke Alawa, and I wrote down what they were saying. Stephen and the others made the kids speak up and repeat after them and I just pointed to the words on the board. Eventually, it was Stephen who was up at the board pointing to the words and making the kids say it. If only the kids had’ve made the most of it, because the lesson worked pretty well.

The hot topic around Hodgson Downs today was the first game of the football season. The Nurralindji Tigers were playing in Katherine tonight against the Arnhem Crows. I was off to town too, for a bit of R & R and to swap vehicles, so I headed off to the football too. I got to town and went to the footy with another linguist, J, and his wife, C. They are from America, so I got to explain the rules of AFL to them. We also ran into old Stephen and old August there and had a chat. Well, the tigers lost, but played well. After that, I went to R and J’s camp and went to sleep early. What a treat!

Here’s some Alawa from today’s lesson:

Nanjal yemberli? (What are you doing?)
Wulaguli jirr-ngeni (Nothing, I’m standing.)

Nanjal wurrberli? (What are you two doing?)
Wulaguli jirr-ngurreni (Nothing, Us two are standing.)

Nanjal wulberli? (What are you mob doing?)
Wulaguli jirr-nguleni (Nothing, we’re standing.)

Crikey, I still can’t believe the number of languages I have to work with.

April 21, 2005

week flying past

It's only thursday and i can't even remember what i did on tuesday... lemme think.

Tuesday we did planning for the Ngukurr language program. That went okay, although it's not flying along like last week. We didn't have anyone to help out for Nunggubuyu or Ritharrngu. Everyone else was a little distracted or something too, but we did get a fair bit of work done. Oh, one of the committee members, E, came to ask about that bloke who I was having problems with (see the previous post). He was asking why he was being a bit full on and reassured me that everything was fine and I've got everyone's support. That was lovely.

By the end of the day, we had lessons planned for two and a half languages. But somehow I was still working at night, making worksheets n flashcards... just little jobs. crikey, i need to take it easy. I didn't get to bed til late, and didn't feel very refreshed in the morning.

So the morning of language classes, and it was erratic at best. Mami R and Wawa A went to pick up some people and were gone for most of the morning. Still nobody was interested in Nunggubuyu and Ritharrngu. One Baba G had to go to Katherine for an x-ray and the other Baba G was off somewhere too... I later found him playing cards and was rather cranky. I'd ordered lunch for everyone so that we could all stay there, have lunch, then go to class... but lunch was late, I drove around to gather who I could and finally we were sorted and were set up at the school on time, ready to teach three out of five languages. I tell you, it's only me that gets this stressed and exhausted... I wish I could just chill out more, or I wish the other mob would stress a bit more!

Anyway, no kids came to start off... i don't know what happened, but we just waited there. So the little kids missed their lesson. Then the next group came, and then the big kids too. Everything went reasonably well. At least we were pretty organised. Overall we're doing a good job. The school is happy and community mob are happy and the kids are having fun too.

I was bloody buggered by the end. I just cleaned up and went home and laid down for about three hours until i got too hungry. then i ate, and slept.

And today I woke up, still tired. And packed up and went off to Hodgson Downs again. By the time I got here, I felt okay, but you should have seen the last hour I was in Ngukurr! First Mami R and Wawa A come to Language Centre while I was still packing. I gave them a lift to the shop. At the shop, my gajin J asked for a lift to Hodgson Downs, my uncle E asked me to help him read a letter, auntie F wanted to know where I was going, Baba G wanted to talk to me about his financial problems, J told me to go see Mami N, Mami N asked me to buy her Kangaroo tails in town and to pick up someone to take to Hodgson Downs, her husband J told me he wanted to have a language centre meeting next week, my other Baba G asked me to get his cds at Hodgson Downs, S wanted to talk to me about Language Centre business and E wanted to have a chat too and my Mulri asked where I was going too because he wanted a lift to Katherine.

Anyway, I got to Hodgson Downs and worked quietly in the school for a while... yes, quietly!! what a treat. Everything's still quiet. So nice. I'm going to cook some tea and relax some more.

Here's some more language from this weeks lesson: Rembarrnga this time! eyes: moermoe-na, ears: ganam-na, nose: giya-na and mouth: dala-na. So now you can sing "eyes, ears, nose and mouth":

moermoe-na, ganam-na, giya-na, dala-na,
giya-na, dala-na, giya-na, dala-na,
moermoe-na, ganam-na, giya-na, dala-na,
yarra-jalji langoe burrh-a.


All together now! hehe....

April 18, 2005

nomo hambag

A munanga who works at the shop here, A, is making a Tshirt that will say 'no humbug' on the back and I told her how it's spelt in Kriol - 'nomo hambag'. That's going on the front. Haha... can't wait to see it.

Speaking of humbug, I had a tough weekend. Well, in one way it was a good weekend because I didn't go anywhere and chilled out at home all weekend. But in another way it was tough to avoid the humbug. For example, at 9:30, my good friend K asked me over for a morning coffee. I arrived an hour and a half later. Between 9:30 and 11, N and J arrived and needed to call Gove hospital, R came and asked for some toilet paper, G came over to use the phone and the R came back wanting me to help her get a tyre off a rim. Ah, but somehow I managed to do not too much. I even managed to watch two dvds, one was totally rad: Princess Mononoke, an anime movie... very good, exciting yet beautiful. I never thought I'd get into anime movies but this one director is amazing. He's done 'Spirited Away', 'princess mononoke' and more... they're lovely movies.

I also finalised my holiday in July. One week in Melbourne. One week in the NT with mum. One week in Malaysia with my sister's family. How's that for a holiday? Can't wait... only ten weeks.

Today wasn't too bad for a monday. In the morning we did some language work on Marra. It was fun. We did some videoing with 3 old people and my 2 baba - G and G. The old man who was there speaking Marra lives in Doomadgee in Queensland but is here visiting. I hadn't met him before today. It's funny... the longer I hang around, the more speakers there are that come out of the woodwork. Before I probably thought there were about 5 people who speak Marra... now I know about 10 and there's more out there. Imagine if you somehow got them all together... you'd actually have a speech community again. That'd be neat. Who wants to give us money to make it happen? :-)

This afternoon seemed to be spent driving around for various errands for various people. But we got stuff done too. Baba G started planning for this week's Marra lesson... 'body parts - lesson two'! hehe... These are the four keywords for this week: magur (eye) guwarda (ear) jirri (nose) and ngarndal (mouth). Good work Baba.

Speaking of praise, the teachers at the school here wrote us a letter congratulating us on running language classes so well last week. If only the education department gave us some damn money. But it's not all praise. There's a fairly influential guy running around town who is on a few important committees of big Aboriginal organisations. Before I had a chance to talk to him, I heard that his opinion is that local people should be doing my job. That in itself isn't bad, I agree with him... but his sense of urgentcy about it is bordering on a 'i don't have a right to be here, because i'm not a local/Aboriginal' kind of opinion. That doesn't make me feel nice... even if it is understandable. It's insulting to me. I don't appreciate anyone making a snap judgement about my work or about my right to be here. I don't actually know if this guy was really thinking this way, but it's the impression I got. Well, actions spoke for themselves because he came to visit language centre and the place was abuzz and it was plainly obvious that we were busy, all happily working together, and actually getting somewhere with our work.

Now I just wish I had an extra two hours a night so that I can eat, shower, stretch/exercise, play on the net and do some homework and be in bed before 11pm. I'd love an early nite.

April 17, 2005

part 2 of my Hodgson Downs trip

well, I'm only staying here for one night. And I only came to talk to the school and community members to see if they wanna start having language classes again. I didn't really have any actual language work planned. But the old people are so keen that they basically organised themselves to do some language work with me. After the usual stuffing around and to-ing and fro-ing, a group of old people were patiently sitting together, all interested in doing language work. So I came along and luckily had improvised some language work we could do.

Five Alawa speakers all helped put language to a little fishing picturebook. It was pretty cool. A couple of younger people also took an interest. One of the best things for me was that one of the old men who was helping has never worked with me or spoken Alawa to me before, even though I knew he could speak the language. So it was great that someone new felt comfortable doing language work. (The other good thing about this guy doing language work is that he still has all his teeth so his pronunciation isn't hampered!).

It's pretty cool that there's such a strong bunch of old people at Hodgson Downs who are fluent in Alawa and keen to do language work. The only bad thing is that they tend to bag out the younger generations who haven't learned the language.

And while two of the teachers at school are really involved in developing a language program, I'm not sure how the others feel. One teacher asked me why it is good for kids to learn Alawa and what function it will have for them, because they won't be able to communicate with anyone outside their community. This is a fairly typical opinion so I didn't pay it too much attention, but afterwards I got kind of angry about it. Alawa language belongs to that part of the world, not English, so in a very simplified way, you can argue that it's by no means an automatic 'given' that English should be the only language these kids are taught, because it's a foreign language. Also, this teacher asked me how many people spoke Alawa. She thought there were only about two. I told her there were quite a few. Then she asked if are fluent or do they only know a few words! I told her they knew the language right through! Pretty ignorant. And she's educating these people's grandchildren! I tell ya, it's a funny world out here.

Anyway, after doing language work with five (not two!) Alawa speakers, we ended up going on a bit of a bush trip. We went out for a bush tucker called blackcurrant or yarragaga. I went with old C, my number one Alawa teacher, and some younger people. It was pretty cool. Everyone's crazy for this bush tucker at the moment. And I can see why. It's pretty neat when a delicious fruit is fruiting all over the place. All you have to do is drive there and you've got a good feed (as well as purple fingers, lips and tongue). After picking lovely sweet black berries off trees and eating them, we drove all the back to Ngukurr and arrived after dark. Oh, that was after I ran over a stick and popped a tyre.

So I had good fun at Hodgson Downs. I really like all that mob. If I ever do a PhD, it will be with this mob. I can't imagine doing that kind of work with anyone else.

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…

April 14, 2005

it went really really well

I woke up this morning and had that first moment of the day when your mind is clear and serene… and you know how after that, you start processing your day and becoming aware of what’s going on… well, first thing I remembered was ‘oh my god. we’ve got language class today and we’re teaching five languages!’.

I managed to remain a little bit calm and old N came round early. She’s really sick at the moment but still pushing on. At 9:30 we were at the Batchelor building and old N was scrubbing out the toilets because they were too dirty. We both cleaned the men’s. There was frog poo everywhere. We opened up the tank-part and old N kicked 15 green tree frogs out of the home they’d made for themselves. Haha… she was flicking those frogs everywhere.

Soon, the language mob started to join us and we started preparing. The Nunggubuyu mob sorted out their lesson. The others were doing fine. Except for my poor old uncle E. He’s the only one who’s been working on Ngandi. And he’s old and his knowledge of the language isn’t great. It’s one of the most endangered languages here. So I worked with him to try and get the Ngandi class ready.

We found a few words in the dictionary and that was fine. But we got stuck on some of the questions and sentences. So like a trooper, he jumped at my suggestion to walk down the road to find someone to help. I followed him as we went to one really old lady who is barely mobile anymore but speaks Ngandi really well. She helped us out and we were fine after that. It doesn't sound like much, but I found it remarkable. My old uncle E must be in his 60s. He’s shy and doesn’t talk much and doesn’t do much – mostly because he’s old and he doesn’t really have much to do. He’s had an infected or sore foot for 4 months now too. But seeing him take on the role of being the sole teacher of Ngandi in the school program and doing it with such determination, well I was proud and impressed. I realised I had underestimated him.

So with everyone prepared, we broke up for lunch and were ready to go to school after lunch to run five, countem five, language classes. Actually 15 classes, because each language group runs three classes – one for each age group. I somehow gathered everyone together and then…

It went really really well. I still can’t believe it. Halfway through the session I stood up and looked around and there were kids sitting with parents and elders and they were all behaving, learning and having a good time. It went smoothly and everyone had fun and learned too. I’ve never seen anything like it!! I’m trying really hard not to get over excited because it might all fall apart next time, but I’m not going to think negatively either. My boss didn’t think what we did today was possible. Actually, I’m not sure that anyone did, including me… but we did it!

And my poor old uncle E. Well, I sat with him because he needed the most help. But with just a little help, he did a great job teaching all the kids a few Ngandi words. And playing games to help them learn.

So what did we do today? We taught kids words for ‘head, shoulders, knees’ and ‘foot’ in five languages. Three language groups also worked on the matching song. And we did some short questions like ‘what’s this?’ ‘this is …..’. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s so important that these languages have a place in the school because they’ve been put down, denigrated and have been on the out for about a century now. I know we’re barely even scratching the surface but at least we’ve started scratching.

As you can see, I’m feeling inspired today. And tomorrow, I’m going to Hodgson Downs – another community two hours – to try and start up the same thing there! I’ll tell you all about it soon.

PS. I’m so inspired at the moment I have to teach some of the language to anyone reading this too... here’s head, shoulder, knee and foot in Ngandi: gu-rlong, gu-merlepbeh , gu-mo and gu-dheng. And if you want to say ‘this is a foot’, it’s guniyung gu-dheng. And if you want to ask ‘what’s this?’, it’s anja anihyung?. Neat, huh?

April 12, 2005

wanim na?

Well, I haven't posted for a couple of days and I've had a busy couple of days.

Today, we held a special workshop to try and get this Ngukurr language program working properly. I was a bit stressed about holding a workshop because we don't normally do things on a big scale like this but I didn't have anything to worry about. It went well! We had a bit of funding for it from a federal government 'indigenous women's leadership' program that one of our language workers is a part of. So we had stationary and catering (sandwiches, tea and biscuits :-)) and we used the flash Batchelor adult education building. We had people from each language group there, which was a first, and the support and interest seemed good. All very promising. By the end, everyone said they'd be ready to go to school tomorrow to teach language so fingers crossed and our language program will be happening properly! Now I just wish education department or someone could give us funding to do it properly. A lot of the workshop was videotaped so we can send it to the education department now see they can see how serious we are... pretty cool, huh?

After that, I my brother - or from Rembarrnga, wawa - A and his wife - my Mami - R went to cut warlan. old ladies here cut the bark off it, turn it into ashes, mix it with tobacco and chew it. We also got some freshwater too. The tap water here tastes gross.

And tonight, my dear friend K and her friend are cooking a roast and i'm invited over for dinner! what a treat.

Yesterday was a good day at work too. One of the strongest languages here is called Ritharrngu but we haven't had any Ritharrngua or Wagilak people working at language centre this year. (Wagilak is almost identical). Until yesterday. One middle aged guy, T, who i'd met only once before came up and expressed an interest. Next thing he's at language centre and we'd already prepared this week's Ritharrngu lesson. pretty neat. Only thing though, I think my brain is full and i just can't fathom working on another language. Ritharrngu makes number 7!!! and that's not including Kriol. And the languages here are so bloody different too. It's not like just making a few adjustments.

For example, at language centre, I've grown some pandanus plants and we've put signs there with the language name on it. So we've five different names for pandanus which are: mu-rok (ngalakgan), ma-gun-ga (ngandi), ruwana (alawa), dayarr (rembarrnga) and mugarra (marra).

After that, I did something totally different. As an aside, let me just say that although my job title is linguist, in reality I have to be so many things in this job... lemme think: 4wdriving expert, IT person, video and sound editing guru, a bit of aged care, diplomat and liason person, manager, teacher/trainer and more... oh and i sometimes get to be a linguist too! But yesterday i added another one to the list: logger. haha... not blogger, but logger... as in treecutter and timberman. I went out bush with an old man who wanted to cut some trees to build something. we found a patch of the right kind of tree - lancewood - out came the chainsaw, and next thing me n him are carting around logs and loading up my truck. my poor little truck had logs sitting on it every-which-way but we managed. hard work, i tell you! but at least i can add 'logger' to my list of duties as a linguist.

so i've had a fun and successful couple of days. can you believe it?

April 09, 2005

saturday nite dinner on the fire

Saturday evening at ngukurr and I’m doing something a bit different. I’m sitting outside my little shack in front of a fire with a giant bream cooking on it (well, a big bream, maybe not giant).

As with most Saturdays I was humbugged for this n that. Saying no isn’t an easy thing at all. Today’s ‘lucky winner’ was old B, my cousin or ‘magarra’. (NB. she was the ‘lucky winner’ because there usually at least 4 or 5 different groups of people wanting me to take them somewhere). Anyway we left late which suited me so at 2 we set off for to a place for fishing. We tried a couple of places and caught a few fish and the country was beautiful. Unfortunately, it didn’t feel like anything I hadn’t done before and I could’ve easily stayed home, but it was still a decent way to spend an afternoon. I couple of nice people came on the trip. Actually it would have been really lovely if I didn’t have a negative attitude and am eternally thinking about getting out of here.

This morning was much more domestic and involved watching tv, doing my washing, eating and writing postcards.

Yesterday, work was okay. We did some videoing – which we rarely do here. Mami R and my brother, or wawa, A put a few bits of Rembarrrnga on video. This was good. We did a few other bits n bobs, but I also got cranky again. Seems to be happening rather often. By five o’clock, mami R was still keen to transcribe Christian songs in Rembarrnga but by that stage I’d had enough. It was five o’clock and working on Christian songs isn’t my favourite thing to do at all. She even asked me today if we could keep going. Crikey! not on a Saturday.

Well, not much else to report. Everything’s okay at the moment. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. There’s very little chance I’ll have a day of peace and rest… well, my idea of a day of peace and rest anyway. (I mean, going fishing is lovely and relaxing for everyone else, but my idea of lovely and relaxing is lolling around home all day doing whatever the hell I want to do).

Oh, and thanks to anyone who’s reading this blog. I like the fact that people are reading and finding it interesting and thanks too for your comments.

April 07, 2005

thursday

Thursday already?

This morning i had a quick chat to old B - my cousin, or 'magarra' - cuz i hadn't seen her for a couple of weeks. She was sitting next to her sister, old G. They told me they were going to paint me black. 'What for?' i asked. 'To make you into a blackfella so you won't go away', old B joked. That was pretty flattering. I must be doing something right here.

Meanwhile, some other whitefellas (munanga) aren't giving Aboriginal people a fair deal at all. Mr John Howard is who I'm referring to. I'm so scared about what's gonna happen when the Howard government has power in both houses. Today I heard that they're considering changes to the Land Rights Act so that Aboriginal land owners automatically have to grant leases for people to use their land. I can't even begin to express how the thought of this government pushing through a change like that makes me feel... talk about blood boiling. That John Howard scares the shit out of me. First he got rid of ATSIC which no one minded too much... now they're messing with CDEP (the work-for-the-dole-type-scheme that provides the bulk of employment on communities)... they brought in the retarded Indigenous Advisory Council or whatever it is, which is made up of ppl that the government puts there... now they're messing with land rights and i've heard that changes to Land Councils are on the cards too. It's so wrong. I am exposed to the effects of past attempts to destroy Aboriginal people, their culture and languages every single day in so many ways and the thought that John Howard wants to make things even worse is totally abhorrent.

I can happily rant on about this more later.

But back to my day. With no bush court, I was back at Language Centre working with my CDEP team. my Baba G - the other Baba G - got me cranky for no real reason. I'm down on him at the moment. Mostly because I haven't appreciated his humbugging lately. I can deal with humbug if it's within reason... like if i feel like that person has been doing or will do stuff for me, but when I feel like it's too one-way i get shitty and don't appreciate being asked to do stuff for them. Sounds selfish I know, but I'd much rather spend my energy doing things for people who deserve it and who are willing to help me out if I need help with something. haha... i sound like a selfish brat.

On the positive side, me and my Mami R and Baba A worked well today. We sat down and recorded some Rembarrnga so soon we'll have a little cd to go with the little book they made. They also got me to write down more stories for more materials. That was good. After that, JBJ and Mami N and my old Dedi, D, and me went out to get more paperbark. That was great. I've now got a rather large pile of paperbark sheets sitting out the back. Tomorrow we'll be digging holes in the backyard and maybe going to get timber. Today, we went east, to where to old mission used to be. Ngukurr used to be a christian mission, set up in 1908 down the river, at the place we went to today. Old D grew up there so he was telling lots of good stories along the way and JBJ had his own to tell too. Mami N, who is really sick at the moment, but too stubborn and determined to stop doing stuff, came and she helped me dig up a vine called Ngurrudin which is a bush banana - a bush tucker. We took it back to the Language Centre and planted it. I hope it grows!

It's funny tho, cruising round with Old D and JBJ telling stories from the old days and talking about animals and dreamings and stuff, I can never start to build romantic notions of what Aboriginal people are like because next thing they're talking about DVD players and the pope's funeral.

Did you know that horses, buffalo and cows eat paperbark? They spoiled half the trees we went to!

April 06, 2005

Easter Monday at Katherine gorge




good photo no? it's courtesy of C... thanks C! and no, i didn't scale a steep cliff-face, i arrived top-way and then took one step down to the next ledge and then stepped back up again... hehe

happy for the time being

dammit! i was sposed to be posting regularly but now look at me... so much has happened in a week n a half and i may never write about it... well, i'll start with today...

i got a new cd today! what a treat. it's a soul/rnb singer called John Legend and it's lovely. it's nice to have a new cd. so i've just put it on after eating a kangaroo green curry and i've watched will n grace too, so i'm winding down nicely after a busy day.

bush court was on again at Ngukurr today and i was busy there helping out A who is a Kriol interpreter. it went fine, which in Ngukurr terms means it went really well... hehe. Then, at 4:30 i went for a trip with my Mami N, her husband J and an oldman, D, who I call Dedi. J is the chairperson of Ngukurr Language Centre and wants to build a bowshade out the back. It's a traditional kind of shade structure with wooden poles, rails and is then covered in paperbark to make a nice outside shade. you see, language centre is very small, and ppl prefer sitting outside, so having a bowshade here would be great. so, we cruised around and various bushtuckers were pointed out to me. We reached the river and old D got his axe out and started cutting giant sheets of paperbark off the big paperbark trees on the riverbank. it was very cool. he's a very skillful old man and still strong and fit. I carted back quite a few loads of paperbark back to the truck. man, i hafta get a digital camera so i can start documenting some of this stuff. anyway, we drove back to town with a truck full of giant paperbark sheets and i was happy. we're on our way to building the bowshade and i didn't even have to humbug anyone to make it happen!

if today was a good day then yesterday was a totally different story. i was utterly miserable n depressed. firstly i was a bit sick with swollen glands and then nothing at work was going right in the morning. it got the best of me and i took the afternoon off to sleep, get better and not inflict my depression on anyone. seriously, i was lying there and i couldn't think of one single good thing about my day. i was miserable. i wanted to leave ngukurr, runaway and do something completely different. so unhappy.

it's like that here - very up n down. i spose it's good in a way because when i hit rock bottom like yesterday i can be pretty sure that it will turn around again soon. but i don't think it's a good thing overall. the constant up n down is taking its toll on me... it's not a good way to live really. i know that things like that can lead to serious things like depression. well, i'm pretty much decided that i'll have a good break after june. i've at least got a three week holiday lined up. can't wait!

and before yesterday? well, i had an absolutely brilliant weekend, a good week at work and a great end to my easter weekend. i spent about 10 days in katherine and it reminded my how easy life can be when you live in a town or city or within your own culture. i'd forgotten how simple everything becomes. i really didn't feel like coming back here but i made it and it's okay.

my brilliant weekend? well, i drove up to darwin on friday afternoon to go to an art exhibition opening. the exhibition was for an old man, B, from Hodgson Downs (I call B uncle). it was really good but took me a while to adjust to. i mean, art exhibition openings are strange enough affairs but when it's for an old man who you're used to seeing cruising around a dusty remote community and all of a sudden he's at a flash art gallery in the middle of Darwin surrounded by his bright paintings hung beautifully on the wall... well... it's kinda strange. old B would be over 70 but he's still sharp as a tack and knew how to put on the charm to all the munanga who asked questions about his paintings. the best part was when he wanted to go down the road and look at the contemporary art gallery that featured obscure 'installation art' which comprised of felt covered green blobs on pillars. old B gave a cheeky smile and later said that it made him embarrassed! (his words were 'make me shame'). haha... good one uncle!

after the exhibition there was pizza and then i tagged along to a bday party at a bowls club. we went straight for the bowls green and played bowls for two hours and had a great time! a really great time!! it was so fun!! after that, i went out dancing and got drunk (so much for not drinking this year) and it was all good.

next day, i hit the markets for some yummy lunch n coffee and at 2 met old B again and drove him back to Katherine in my little red early 90s sporty mazda. it was kinda fun cruising down the highway at 140km/h with old B in my lil red car listening to Saltwater Band really loudly... hehe... so back in katherine it was time to get ready to go out again... this time it was to see a touring band called Cat Empire! oh my... they're completely famous, talented and brilliant and i still can't believe they were in katherine. it was such a treat. the show was soooooooooo good and everyone danced their feet off and couldn't wipe the smile off their faces. it was so good! even better than lawn bowls! what a good weekend.

apart from that, i've watched some dvd's, worked, chatted, played pool, seen a few katherine sights, been swimming. but now i'm here at ngukurr... happy for the time being.