May 31, 2005

Hodgson Downs, football and camping out

Yet again, I had a good time at hodgson downs last weekend. I tell you, that mob spoil it for this Ngukurr mob by being so nice.

Alawa classes went well. I got in too late to do anything on Thursday but Friday we had a class that went well. I didn’t think it would because there was a community meeting on and I thought everyone would want to be there. But the two old men I work with to teach Alawa are so dedicated, they both rocked up after I thought I’d have to try and do something on my own. We ended up running a pretty good class. Some of the kids are actually getting into it. Their teacher made them make a little ‘pocket book’ that says on the front “Nanjal yemberli?” (what are you doing?). Then they stuck in a photo of one of the old men telling a Dreaming story. Then the old men put the caption to the photo which goes:
Ninda ngemberli wulunga Wuradbunggu-yi, gada arrganya, ala murru Yilayi, Wanggurlayi, yil-jijan yil-murrgu
which I translated (hopefully accurately) as
“I’m telling you mob about the Quiet Snake, where it travelled, and also the Night Owl and the Crow, three Dreamings.”
Neat, huh? And today I realised that there was only one word I needed to ask old A for the meaning… haha… smarty britches me.

Prior to the Alawa class I’d been asked by my lambarra C - also manager of the local football team the Nurralingi Tigers - to drive him and some others in for the Friday night game in Katherine. I was glad to because I like going to the footy and I like that mob, and my good mate, my banji J, was also coming with us.

Well, the Tigers were playing the only munanga team in the competition, the Tindal Magpies, the team from the local airforce base. They’re both at or near the bottom of the table. Both teams are so different though (not only in skin colour!). The Hodgson Downs mob are all smaller, leaner, faster and more skillful while the RAAFie mob are all about a foot taller, much bigger and play differently. It was a good game… especially cuz the Tigers won! …for the first time this year! I was so happy… they’ve been consistently messing up this year and I was so worried they’d do it again, but no. Go Tigers. Afterwards, I hung out with my banji J which was great because he doesn’t drink or anything so I had a quiet and healthy Friday night.

Me and my banji have talked about going out camping for ages but I was always somewhere else or too busy or too tired. But Saturday morning we headed back to Hodgson Downs (after shopping and avoiding humbug) and when we got back we collected a few guys and they took me to Bella Glen to camp out for the night.

It was really good. I’d been there before but it was fun to go there to camp and to go there with only young guys (all around 20). I tell you, it was so interesting to find out what they talk about round the camp fire. I ended up being pretty quiet and felt a bit on the outer, but only cuz I only knew a handful of the people they were talking about and also cuz I missed half the jokes cuz the colloquial Kriol was coming thick and fast. After making a fire, boiling tea and cooking up tinned meals to eat with bread we settled down to sleep under the stars. So nice. But bloody cold too. And in the middle of the night I woke up to the horrible discomfort of having a bug right inside my ear. I could hear and feel it crawling around. I was still half asleep and it must have crawled out not long after it went in because my trauma only lasted maybe 15 minutes.

In the morning we drank more tea, ate brekky (tinned beef mixed with spaghetti on toast) and then went for a walk around the place, which is actually a beautiful waterhole in a little gorge. We climbed the sides of the gorge (nothing too steep) and explored, then swam, then headed back about midday. It was great.

I was thinking today about camping out. I’m a bit proud at how acclimatised I’ve become to being out here. I was happy sleeping under the stars, happy being dirty, happy eating dinner out of a tin that had been heated on the fire, happy drinking tea out of a cut-in-half OJ bottle I’d found on the ground, happy being around these guys and happy that they felt they could be themselves with me there. I mean, none of those things are remarkable, but they’re nothing I would have been doing a year ago with any ease.

Oh and being a linguist, I couldn’t help being with these guys and wondering about what kind of place their traditional language has in their lives. Just as I was beginning to realise it has no place, my little banji A (all of 14) sprouts up with the Alawa word for ‘west’ (lurrunggadi) when we were talking about which way the sun went down. haha. He almost knew all the other directions too and was actually trying really hard to remember them. Of course, after that, the conversation went back to something like girls or kung-fu movies but still…

Going back to Ngukurr after camping out I realised why it was so nice hanging out with these guys. They didn’t whinge and they didn’t rely on me to do anything for them. I just can’t imagine that happening if it had been people from Ngukurr instead of Hodgson Downs.

sick today

i feel sick today. nothing bad, just under the weather with that general ache-y feeling.

so i haven't done much work today and had a good sleep this morning after watching the end of the Spongebob Squarepants movie.

but this afternoon I had to do a couple of jobs and the language centre mob all came over... not for long luckily because i wanted to have a lie down. but my baba stayed for a cup of tea... he's sick too... so after that we went to get some bush medicine so we can get better. it was the first time i've ever gotten bush medicine for me! pretty neat. we got some dumbuyumbu. I came back, boiled it up and made a tea out of it. but you know what? it's so gross! haha... i'm still trying to drink it.

But then again, it is medicine... and medicine always tastes gross. i'm gonna try and drink some more.

i'll blog more later.

May 23, 2005

senators, kangaroos and pubs

Friday was an interesting day. I was at Hodgson Downs and Alawa classes were cancelled. This was because there was an official opening of the new secondary school unit. The opening involved ‘important people’ flying in for the occasion: the big two were federal senator Nigel Scullion and NT education minister Syd Stirling. It was all a bit of a circus really. I ran around for a while thinking I should be trying to network and talk to people about language stuff, but then I stopped and sat down with local mob… at one stage all the teenagers, another point with the old people… and found that much more pleasant and satisfying. I don’t even know where to start with this lobbying and politicking business. It was good sitting down with the local mob… they weren’t fazed by the circus at all.

So while I was watching the ‘circus’ I was sitting next to an old man who humbugged me to go hunting that afternoon. It was about the best offer so after lunch we went off, me, two very old men – my banji and the old man who gave me my skin name - and one overweight middle-aged guy, my magarra. We had one gun and five bullets and drove about 50kms to a place where there were kangaroos, drove slowly, waited till we spotted some, then tried to shoot them. Well, we used four bullets and got one kangaroo. Not too bad really. I didn’t do anything except drive and lift the dead kangaroo into the back of the truck. I had to chuckle though, cuz I still had my good shoes and jeans on from being at the ‘official opening’. I was very well dressed for lifting bleeding kangaroos into hiluxs.

We got back to Hodgson Downs about 4:30. I dropped the men off and went on to Katherine. I got there at about 7:30, ate, had a few beers and then had an urge to hit the pub, partly because I hadn’t done that for ages and partly because it was J’s last weekend in Katherine and I wanted to have a fun nite with her. Well, I had a few drinks, got a bit drunk and went to the same old bar and pub and niteclub. Nothing new or exciting, but it was fun. But the best part… I still hadn’t changed my clothes and so in one day I’d dragged the same clothes across about 500kms and brought them into contact with senators, ministers, dead kangaroos, big culture men, and lots of drunks… hehe…

cracking it

Monday at work was another stressful day. again, it was just busy and relentless, one task after another interspersed with humbug and distractions. by the afternoon I must have had enough because something snapped. I got cranky and one of the people I work with and spoke semi-harshly to them, which I never do. well, that person got cranky right back at me and threatened to quit. I’m the kind of person who avoids conflict like the plague so this was pretty eventful for me.

I don’t really know why I cracked it, something must have got to me but I don’t quite know what. I mean, I know the specific thing I was cranky about, but I don’t know why I actually cracked it today instead of dealing with it as I normally do. I think maybe I just hit the wall or something.

so I was very worried about having that argument. I didn’t mean to upset the person and I was upset now too. And also worried about what the ramifications would be.

But everything actually worked out really well. The next day, everyone seemed to offer me support, everyone here knows I’m working hard and working well but seeing me crack it reminded everyone that it’s not easy for me either. And the person I cracked it at, well, we didn’t talk all day – kind of a tense standoff – but we apologised to each other at the end of the day and I felt good again. So cracking it was a positive thing in a lot of ways. All this mob now know that I do have limits and am capable of cracking it. And now I know that they do care and they do look out for me.

May 17, 2005

John Howard sux

Friday morning us language centre mob were invited to a CDEP meeting at the local council office. CDEP is the employment scheme that provides that bulk of employment here at Ngukurr and in every other Aboriginal community. In reality, it’s little more than work-for-the-dole, but it’s something.

Anyway, John Howard’s government is implementing changes to CDEP (along with every other scheme pertaining to Aboriginal people!) which will make it tougher for this mob to keep going the way they have been going. So now, the CDEP mob who work with me will either have to go into the ‘employment’ stream – where they have one year to be trained up to move into a proper job (which don’t really exist) – or they go into the ‘community activity’ stream – where they can keep going the same way, but aren’t allowed to get any top-up pay so have to be content working for $200 a week!

All the changes the Howard government are bringing in seem to assume that there is some kind of viable economy here at Ngukurr and some kind of oppurtunity for economic development. Well, you’d have to be a big optimist to believe that. A study done in 1999 found that 23 Aboriginal people at Ngukurr had full time jobs. (The adult population is about 500). Even if Aboriginal people took over all the jobs currently held by munanga, you’d probably have about 50 people in full time jobs. How does John Howard expect the other 450 adults to get decent jobs in a place with little economy and no scope for economic growth? Especially when they have poor education, housing and health and little scope to improve education, housing and health.

Come on man, give us a break.

Would you like the list of other schemes that have or will change under John Howard?

ASSPA funding: Before: local school councils received funding to spend on their students in ways that they wanted. Under Howard: bureaucrats now decide on how that money is spent (and so far $0 have reached Ngukurr).
Abstudy: not sure what’s changed, but some changes were announced in the budget last week. and I can’t imagine they were good changes!
ATSIC: gone. now everything is ‘mainstreamed’, which means that disadvantaged remote Aboriginal people are now competing with the rest of the country (who have massive headstarts)
Land Councils: no changes yet… but the government has starting dropping hints
Centrelink: Before: This mob were exempt from looking for work obligations because they live in a place with little employment. Under Howard: no exemptions. This mob are treated like everyone else (NB: ‘everyone else’ meaning people that actually have access to employment opportunities).

I’ve heard some city folk ponder, if places like Ngukurr are so badly off in terms of employment etc. why do this mob stay here? Easy. Because it’s home. Because it’s their land. Because their language and culture belongs to this land. Because their ancestors lived here for thousands of years. Because their amazingly huge extended family are all here. All these things tie this mob to this country. But John Howard and his government won’t give them a break.

May 12, 2005

me repetitive?

For anyone reading this, I must be becoming repetitive... yet again, i'm here to tell you that here I am at Ngukurr, still tired, stressed, overworked and badly in need of a holiday.

Yet, in spite of this, work is going well. If i was in a happier and healthier state of mind, i'd be able to be really excited about all the cool things were doing here, but as it stands, i'm just pooped.

Yesterday (wednesday) morning, my mami N had organised to have a big bbq lunch at the language centre. It was actually a really good morning, because it was N's thing and I was just helping. We did grocery shopping, picked up some bricks and a giant grill for the fire place, some empty flour drums for tea and cordial, and then went out to get some wood. Me, baba G, mari T and mami N went to get wood. I'm still trying to muster the energy to learn some Wagilak from mari N but it's not happening very fast. Anyway, back at language centre, we set up the bbq and in the meantime, i squeezed in some language work, helping baba G use the computer to make his Marra body parts book.

Bbq time and it was more work than fun. I knew that the time to go to the school for language lessons was fast approaching and that we'd hafta get a move on, but even tho i started to stress a bit, lunch was great and it was a lovely gesture by mami N to organise it all.

School classes went well, we had all five languages running this week and had some special guests from Numbulwar... some of the language teachers from there were in town. They are very qualified and experienced and it was great to have them helping a bit. Also, we had nunggubuyu classes this week and they went great! Yay. Hopefully, that's the way it'll be from now on.

Today, i woke up exhausted and managed to clean up everything from yesterdays bbq. By that time baba G had come round and we had some quiet time (a rare occurrence) to work on his marra book. We also printed out a whole bunch of revision sheets to go in each classroom at the school. But the coolest thing was that we saved a set and put them up at the shop too:

We made a sign that says in kriol 'yumob sabi yumob langgus?' which means "do you know your language?" and underneath we had five pages - one for each language - that ask 'what's this?" and names eight body parts. We put it up right next the tuckshop where nearly everyone in the community goes to each day to buy food and colddrinks. To me, putting the signs up feels like a bit of a bold move for a place like this... a lot of young people don't care about learning their languages here and what we did today was a pretty direct reminder that a lot of people consider it important to know your language. I wonder what the response will be?

This afternoon, we went an outing that ended up being a lot longer than i'd hoped for. We drove for about an hour to this beautiful plain country. We looked for some jupi (that's a Wagilak word) - a sweet little fruit - and then went to a billabong, got some maburpa (that's a Ngandi word) - a bushtucker/bush medicine... it's the root of the water lily - and then some more bush medicine, a tree called dumbuyumbu (that's a Marra word). You might think this would all be amazing and exciting for a city munanga like me to be a part of, but no... i'm just tired and it wasn't really anything new for me. I drove an awful long way, got back at 6:30pm and badly needed some food and rest.

Now it's 9pm, and i need some rest.

So that'll do for now.

May 10, 2005

A day in the life of a stressed out linguist

why am I so stressed?

today was a normal day. Normal, yet I still ended up feeling completely exhausted, stressed and overworked by the end of it. It’s no good. I need to do something about this because it’s making me unhappy, affecting my work and worst of all, I don’t know why really…

So in an attempt to find out why I’m getting so stressed, I’m gonna try to recount my day in step-by-step detail to figure out what happened, why it stressed me out and what I can do about it…

firstly, I didn’t go to sleep til 12:30am last night, so not having enough sleep isn’t going to help me do my job in a relaxed manner…

7:45am: woke up… had slept in (sposed to start work at 8am).
8:15am: finished yesterday’s washing up, ate my weet-bix, started reading my favourite ever book which I’ve just rediscovered.
8:30am: first phone call. mami N called and asked me to pick her up to go to the police station to check on a family member who was locked up during the night
8:45am: showered, dressed, packed my bag and I’m ready to go
9:00am: picked up mami N, went to police station. Filled in yesterdays timesheets while I waited.
9:15am: dropped mami N back at her camp, went to batchelor centre to get ready for the day
9:30am: chatted to mari A and her husband about language matters, including getting properly resourced language programs up and running, like they have at numbulwar. Had a cup of tea. Mari T arrived in the meantime.
9:45am: took mari A in the truck to look for someone. Picked up anti F on the way back, couldn’t find the person mari A was looking for, dropped them back at Batchelor.
10:00am: drove around to look for the language centre mob. Picked up baba G, mami N, went to look for mari T’s sister to get her involved in language centre work.
10:15am: back at Batchelor. Mari T started working on the Ritharrngu body parts book. I sat with his sister and explained some of the details of the language program to her. Baba G working on the Marra body parts book. Mami N helping him.
10:30am: Mami R and my barn-ga R and her baby arrive. I photocopy the body parts book for them so they can work on the Rembarrnga version. Mari t’s sister still looking at the materials, everyone else working on body parts books.
10:45am: Sit with barn-ga R and mami R. Show barn-ga R about writing down Rembarrnga and using the dictionary and the structure of the body parts book. Assist her and mami R with the Rembarrnga body parts book.
11:00am: still working with all this mob on body parts book.
11:15am: still going.
11:30am: check over baba G’s Marra body parts book. We discuss it and mami N talks about other teaching ideas. Listen to some audio recordings of the text of the book
11:45am: help barn-ga R add in another page to their book.
12:00pm: lunchtime. (oh my god, I get a lunchtime!). Drop Mami N and baba G back at their camps. Go to shop, buy my lunch and some groceries.
12:15pm: sit on a step in a quiet place and eat my lunch: one and a half sandwiches, juice and iced coffee. close my eyes and try and relax and clear my mind a little. find I am just tired and wired.
12:30pm: finished lunch. sitting quietly.
12:45pm: drive back to language centre, drop off groceries, go to Batchelor, quickly talk to barn-ga E about filming some of the Ngandi workshop.
1:00pm: print out two of our little storybooks to give to the visiting tutors from Numbulwar.
1:15pm: briefly talk to uncle E about making a Ngandi body parts book. Mami R and barn-ga R ask me to drive them to bottom camp to get a babysitter for the baby. We pick her up and I drop them all of at their camp.
1:30pm: Back to Batchelor. Barn-ga B comes for a ride while I pick up baba G. We also find uncle E and mari T and go back to Batchelor.
1:45pm: move our gear from Batchelor back next door to Language Centre.
2:00pm: sit down with barn-ga R and show her how to use the computer to make the body parts book, showing her how to change the font and font size, how to make the special letter ‘œ’, how to move the cursor around etc.
2:15pm: still supervising barn-ga R
2:30pm: talk to baba G about the Marra book. We transcribe a sentence from the body parts audio.
2:45pm: help barn-ga R print out the Rembarrnga book.
3:00pm: suggest making language materials to put up at the shop. set up the computer so Baba G can do the Marra one.
3:15pm: help mami R and barn-ga R add another page to the Rembarrnga book
3:30pm: help baba G finish his Marra sheet. help Barn-ga print out the final draft of their book
3:45pm: print out baba G’s work. adapt it into Rembarrnga. show barn-ga R how to use the laptop.
4:00pm: adapt the same worksheet into Wagilak with mari T, print it out. Drive to the office with mari T, baba G and barn-ga B to check the mail.
4:15pm: checked mail. waiting.
4:30pm: drive back with mari T, barn-ga B, anti F and baba G. Drop them home. Take anti F to the ranger office to talk to K.
4:45pm: wait for K, briefly meet woman from ICC (ex-atsic) and ask about ‘Shared Responsibility Agreements’ that are sposed to be the future for communities but so far language centre hasn’t heard a single thing about.
5:00pm: drop anti F at her camp. go back to language centre.
5:15pm: sit down with mami N and look at her university work. She ‘informed’ me today that I’m her tutor now. try and listen and find out what’s going on, but I’m too buggered and can’t listen anymore.
5:30pm: still trying to listen. fax goes off. replace fax cartridge and wait for fax to come through.
5:45pm: drop mami N home and go back to language centre.
6:00pm: change into shorts, ready for a bike ride. girl from across the road arrives asking if she can do cd-burning on my laptop. ‘maybe later’, ai bin la.
6:15pm: K arrives. I decide to water the garden while I chat to her.
6:30pm: bike ride to the Numbulwar turnoff and back. stop halfway and lay in the middle of the road trying to work out why I’m so stressed and what to do about it. Decide to try write this blog entry and see if anything comes out of it.
6:45pm: go to the shop for a colddrink. go back to language centre
7:00pm: start writing this blog entry.
7:32pm: that is the time right now!

Well, it’s clear that I’m busy, but it doesn’t seem like it’s too unmanageable. The factor that doesn’t come through on the above is that all this is happening in a cultural context that isn’t my own and in languages that aren’t my own. That makes all of the above just that little bit harder and demands that little bit more effort.

But the other thing that comes through for me about the above is that it’s just a relentless stream of task after task. I never get a chance to spend maybe a half hour or hour just doing one thing and I never get to do anything on my own.

I don’t know… if anyone’s still reading this, what do you think? Am a being a wuss and stressing out for no reason. Or am I actually really busy and need to take it easy. I know I do tend to stress more than the average person (as does everyone in my family!)… so am I stressing for no reason and need to change my perceptions or am I justified in feeling so run down…

All I know is… 51 days til I’m on holidays!

May 09, 2005

Ngandi course

Monday morning and somehow was stressing before work even started. geez i need to learn better stress management.

i was stressing because of the Ngandi course we've planned for this week... stressing firstly because i didn't know where the lecturer who is running the course was (he was due in last night) and secondly because i wasn't sure we'd get any more than a couple of students. anyway, i realised i was stressing for no reason and relaxed a bit, and by that time the lecturer had turned up...

seriously 75% of the rest of the day was spent behind the wheel... and i didn't even leave this stinkin community! (until 5pm when we went on a quick outing). firstly i was trying to find ppl to join in on the ngandi course, then i was picking up my usual mob, then running around on the usual errands, then it was lunchtime... geez i don't know what happened today, but i did a lot of running around.

The Ngandi course is going fine. It's being run by Batchelor college and they've brought in a munanga lecturer and tutors from numbulwar to teach some of this mob about Ngandi - language learning and reading and writing practice. Ngandi is very endangered so it's pretty special that this is happening because it won't be able to in a few years proabably. But there aren't many people interested in the course... a few, but not many. pity.

Unfortunately, i barely got to sit in on the course... and i hardly got to work with my regular mob either.... what happened to my day today? dunno... but something musta happened cuz i'm buggered.

oh and my weekend... uneventful and relatively humbug free! i spent saturday horizontal watching dvds and sunday was weirdly compelled to have a minor cleaning bee in my office.

May 07, 2005

Hodgson Downs rulz okay

My visits to Hodgson Downs are still really great. I got there lunchtime on Thursday and shortly after we - me, some of the old people and one of the teachers - took the high school girls (about 12) on a bush trip to a place called Renyen. Two old men sat them down and told them about the place – the Dreaming story for the place and a whole bunch of other stuff. I don’t know about the girls, but I thought it was pretty special. Some of them were being so bratty and not listening, giggling, whingeing, just acting like two-year-olds really. It’s a shame because some of the other girls are actually quite interested and want to learn. So apart from a couple of girls driving me nuts, it was a good afternoon.

I had a quiet evening then up for work again on Friday. I ensconsed myself into the world of sound editing for a while, then went to see if the old people wanted to come teach Alawa in the classroom. Well, there’s been a lot of arguing at Hodgson Downs lately, and it was just starting to flare up again as I was visiting people and seeing if anyone wanted to come to the school to teach language. It was getting a bit intense, but somehow made it back to the school, accompanied by two of the old men. They were upset by the fighting and were caught in the middle, but were still somehow amazingly calm and we taught some Alawa to all the high school kids for an hour and a half. I think they might have even learned something too. Except for the row of sulky older boys up the back who just think it’s a waste of time.

After that, I ensconsed myself in some more sound editing and transcribing for most of the afternoon. I feel a bit guilty for working like that because I should involve community members in that kind of work, but at the same time, it’s kind of a relief to be able to work solo and at my own pace for a while. I am making some efforts to get some of the younger people involved but I’m hampered by the little time I have to spend at Hodgson Downs as well as the amount of arguing that’s going and a general lack of enthusiasm.

And the other thing about my trips to Hodgson Downs... I'm actually learning quite a bit of Alawa, which I find very exciting.

May 04, 2005

four day weeks aren't that great

You’d think I’d be happy to have two short weeks in a row, but really it just means I’ve got four days to do all our work in instead of five.

Tuesday was interesting and lot of things happened. I had a run-in with the woman from Batchelor, talked to someone from Education Department about all the good work we’re doing at no cost to the Education Department, digitised some audio, helped Baba G start to transcribe some Marra, drew six large women on cardboard for tomorrow’s body parts lesson, a new worker started at the language centre, talked to Baba A about working on Nunggubuyu and started sorting out the Ngandi course being run here next week. And I finally got some printer ink cartridges after having no ink for two weeks!! hurrah.

I won’t go into more detail. The only other thing I did was go on a bike ride to the airstrip and come back all sweaty.

Today (Wednesday) is language classes at Ngukurr school. We’re still doing stinking body parts. Actually, it’s not a bad thing because it means we don’t have too much preparation to do but it also means the kids are learning very slowly which is a bummer. Anyway, classes went well today. We had four out of five languages being taught. Only the Nunggubuyu kids missed out. I don’t know what’s wrong with all the Nunggubuyu people… we’ll have to put a sign up at the shop to try and shame them into action. hehe.

I sat with my mari T today, who is the only Ritharrngu teacher. Poor thing, he’s there on his own. But he’s doing fine and luckily there aren’t too many Ritharrngu kids so he’s got a manageable group.

Actually, I noticed an interesting thing today when we doing lesson preparation. Most of the people doing language work here are men! It’s just about always been the case that language work is more a women’s thing, but not here. I know that people here are more comfortable working with someone of the same sex so obviously I’m gonna tend to work with the men. But there’s so many more women linguists than there are men linguists so that means historically it’s usually women doing language work. But today there was only my two mami, R and N and the other were all men: Baba G, mari T, wawa A, uncle E and JBJ was helping out too. I’m glad that were spoiling the myth that language work is typically women’s work.

Well back to my mari T’s Ritharrngu lesson. This is what he was teaching the kids today: liya (head), buthuru (ear), ngurru (nose), miil (eye), dhaa (mouth), jarrwalk (shoulder), gurrpala (knee), lukku (foot) and guung (hand). Nice work mari.

May 03, 2005

Long weekend number two!

This is the second long weekend in a row. Last one I spent in Katherine, this one in Ngukurr. And it’s been alright. I’ve been able to relax to a significant degree.

I didn’t get back from Hodgson Downs til 7pm on Friday and I just crashed out. Saturday morning I watched Rage and did my best to avoid humbug, ignoring the phone right-out. how rude! Well, I’d already been humbugged the previous day so at Midday I picked up old N and JBJ and went to pick up a washing machine for them and get their medicine from the clinic. After that, I snuck off to K’s… my only humbug free zone. Had a coffee, watched Degrassi and then we put on some music and turned her place into a mid-afternoon nightclub. Seriously! We danced non-stop for an hour and a half in her living room. It was quite therapeutic and put me in a good mood for the rest of the day.

Saturday nite I was invited to a munanga party. I still find munanga parties here a strange affair. You see, there are about 30 munanga living here at Ngukurr and there’s quite a social scene. I’m just not into it. It just strikes me as odd… I think because I don’t really have too much in common with most of the munanga here, and I’m not about to start being friends with someone just because there’s no other munanga around to be friends with. Well, anyway, I went to the munanga party and it was fine, but nothing terribly exciting. I was in the mood for dancing to r’n’b after my dancing session that afternoon but most of the others were into sitting and chatting and later on, fire twirling. Haha, that might be the other reason I’m not into the munanga scene here… because there’s quite a few hippie-types and I’m not much of a hippie. Um ah, that’s a terrible generalisation… sorry.

Sunday I did a few jobs and got humbugged to go an outing to get firewood. So my mami N, JBJ, old D and two of my favourite little kids from Hodgson Downs, N and M – we went to Mission Gorge. We got a bit of paperbark, collected firewood (snappy gum) and old N got some bush medicine – gulban. It was actually a lovely outing. We saw lots of brolgas and drank billabong water. It was nice to get out. On the way back, old D spotted a bush turkey (or bustard (or Jambirrina) on the road. But with no shot gun or boomerang there was little chance to hunt it down. But old D still had a go. He got out of the truck with a stick and a rock and ran up as close as he could then hurled the stick at it. He didn’t get close and we all had a good laugh. It was worth a try.

Monday I watched a DVD and cooked a lovely dinner for K: risotto with lemon and sweet potato served with lemon and rosemary grilled chicken. I really don’t get into cooking but I can still cook a nice meal if I put in the effort. And this was my first ever risotto and it was alright!

And that was my weekend. That’s about a standard weekend at Ngukurr but it was nice that this one went for three days. Oh, and Brisbane Lions won again finally.

And you know what happened? I actually got sad about the thought of leaving here soon. As hard as it is here, I’m still gonna miss it when I leave. Damn this kreisi komyuniti.

May 01, 2005

This week at Hodgson Downs

Thursday morning I headed off to Hodgson Downs again. It takes about two hours to get there. We’d planned to go on a bush trip after I got there but I found out that there were nurses visiting and giving all the kids a check-up and blood tests, so no bush trip. So I didn’t end up doing much that afternoon, did a bit of planning, talked to the teachers and visited a few old people.

After school I hung around with some of the kids and we kicked the footy around. Haha, I suck at football. No, I’m not too bad, but compared to these guys I am. They’ve got style and talent and were just shaking their heads at my kicking style. Oh well, I’m still learning.

Friday morning we have language class. I was a bit worried about it because I hadn’t reminded all of the old people about it and I knew some of them were going away anyway. But when I went up the road to see who was about, again there was a group of 5 old people sitting there. Two of them happily came along to teach Alawa. So deadly.

There weren’t many of the secondary kids attending school today so we decided to go on an impromptu bush trip. We all piled in to the school troopie and the language centre truck and went off to a local waterhole called Bella Glen.

The two old men sat all the girls down first and told them the Alawa name for the place, the Dreaming story of the place, spoke some Alawa and told them how important it is to learn their language. Then they did the same with the boys. I thought it was great. One of the old men in particular is a natural teacher and very determined to teach these kids about their language and culture. I just hope the kids think it’s important too and are learning something. It’s hard to tell. I mean, we’re talking about teenagers and language and culture isn’t the coolest thing to them. Actually, if you get them one-on-one they are really interested, but in a big group, well, it’s just doesn’t seem cool to care about that stuff.

On the way back, we stopped at a couple of places to look at some more Dreaming sites, and then returned. I don’t know what the others felt, but I thought it was a great thing to do. I spent the afternoon, writing up notes for the teachers and preparing materials for them.

I really like going to Hodgson Downs. I like the people there, I have friends there, I know the language and country a lot better. I told my banji that I’m going to bring my house with me next week and set up camp at Hodgson Downs instead of Ngukurr. I wish.

And now for some language (hehe). This is one thing the old man said to the girls: “Mayag-genu nda nanggaya nyamba? “Yo”, yil-mimbi!”. Which means ‘Do you understand your language? Say yes!’