Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sunday 20 March

Saturday 12 March - Sunday 20 March
We put Tiarna on the plane on Saturday morning for her to return to Australia.  She is sounding more positive which I 'm so happy about.  So she plans to go back home to Townsville and look for a new job and stay positive.    Steve and I spent most of the rest of the weekend relaxing and sleeping.  We joined a bbq at the haus wing on Saturday night which was lovely and then went to Fu Gui's for dinner on Sunday night.   We have made a pact to try new things when we go out, so we had a chicken dish, a vege dish, fried rice and "the new dish" = pork belly cooked in a plum sauce.  I have been watching chefs on tv cooking with pork belly and saying how very nice it is, and they are right except that I think that I would have enjoyed it more if it was roasted or bbq'ed for extra flavour.  It had a very soft texture which was weird with a nice pork flavour.   Steve left for work really early on Monday as he had a big day to get a heap of things done before flying out to Lihir the next morning.  I had a quiet day just venturing out to get a few bits and pieces at the grocery store.  We decided to go to the
yacht club that night to have dinner.  Steve ordered the oysters kilpatrick and a seafood pasta dish.  He really enjoyed both.  He is really getting into the seafood while here because it is so cheap.  We were driving to the shop one afternoon a couple of weeks ago and there was a fellow selling huge lobsters on the street.  So we pulled over and got one for K50.  Such a good price and it was so big.  But when the man went to hand it to me through the window of the car, I didn't want to touch it.  It reminded me of a humungous spider.  Ewwww.....
Anyway, I grabbed it quickly and threw it on the back seat.  So funny.  Steve was laughing at me and then chased me into the house once we got home.    Anyway, I ordered satay pork sticks with rice and some steamed veges.  It was ok.  I think the pork was just too touch, but the satay sauce was incredible.  So hot and spicy, it was almost painful.  Yum. 
Steve woke me up at 4.30am on Tuesday morning to drive him to the airport.   It was all good except for after I dropped Steve off, the front windscreen started fogging up and I couldn't see a thing.  So instead of doing the sensible thing of using the wipers, I winded down the window and used my hand.  Stupid huh.  I have been constantly astonished at how when you are in unfamiliar place and something out of the ordinary occurs, I really struggle to think properly at first.  It takes a few minutes, but thank goodness, eventually common sense kicks
in.  And it did this time, so I used the wipers all the way back home, raced back into the house and went back to bed - but couldn't go back to sleep from my racing heart and mind.   So starts my first day of my two weeks by myself in POM.  The day did get better.  At nine fifteen, Lealah and I headed out to the yacht club to meet up with the ladies from the All Nations Womens Group.  We were going to see the newly opened PNG National Orchid Gardens for the morning.  So we car pooled and headed out to fourteen mile which is were the gardens
are and spent a fantastic hot and sweaty couple of hours roaming the spectactular gardens and listening to a very knowledgable orchid expert.  There were also a heap of local birds in one section of the garden and I got to see a male bird of paradise for the first time.  So very impressive.  When we returned to the yacht club, Lealah and I had lunch (I tried the vege burger with chips and salad = yum) and then headed home.  I spent the afternoon with Maggie trying yet again to get a start to my bilum bag.  Lets just say I really suck at it.  But at least this time, I started the actual bag, but again I have to pull it apart and start again because it was too loose.  Oh well, next week.  I dropped Maggie home that afternoon which was an experience of its own.  I usually get Steve to go with me when I have dropped her off in the past, but I did it.  And then I headed to the yacht club for an hour and a half of rowing with the canoe club.  This time I was in a boat with 4 other women who were also new and the tutor who spent the time showing us how to use the oar correctly and pace etc.  It was great.  I can't tell you how very beautifully serene it is out in the middle of the harbour even with the tutor calling out instructions.  One of the canoes overturned but luckily there was a tug boat in the immediate  area and they were towed in.  Not good.  But still a great afternoon.  I met up with Les and Lealah afterwards for dinner so that I wasn't driving home in the dark on my own.  It was a great day all up.
Wednesday morning started out with my first committee meeting of Buk Bilong Pikinnini which was held in the apartment of one of the members.  I met a heap of ladies and was officially signed up as one of the book sort organisers.  This is going to be made easy very soon because the shipping containers are going to be moved onto our compound very soon. And I also said that I would help organise the fundraising.  What did I do that  for???????  What a daunting task.  I plan to do a bit of googling to get some ideas.   Oh well,  if you are
going to do something, aim high.  The morning extended into the early afternoon, so after I left, I grabbed a few bits at the grocery store and came home to get some lunch organised for Maggie and myself.  We spent the afternoon cooking another chicken dish, this time with Taro which was very nice.  I now plan to try it roasted. 

2 taro
8 - 10 pieces of chicken
2 tins of coconut milk
stock cube

Cut the hard skin off the taro and cut into large pieces.  Add to a big pot.  Wash the chicken pieces and place on top of the taro.  Put in a small amount of water, probably about 2cm, add some salt, cover with a lid or alfoil and put on a medium heat until the chicken is cooked and the taro is softish - you should be able to put a fork into it easily.  This will probably take an hour or so.  Add the coconut milk and some stock cube and allow to simmer for about half an hour on really low heat.  Eat.  Yum

Maggie and I watched a movie and then I took her home again, went for a quick walk at the yacht club and then came home.  I ate dinner and then went out for an hour or so with Les and Lealah to the yacht club for the key draw.  It was again a good day and night. 
I woke up on Thursday morning feeling a little off.  I hadn't slept well and almost phoned to cancel the plans to visit the hospital library with Lesley.  But I decided to go and I'm so glad i did.  It was the most heartbreakingly fascinating day.  I was to meet Lesley at her house which is near the Ela Beach Hotel, but I couldn't find her house so I stayed at the Ela Beach Hotel for her to pick me up.   She arrived shortly after with Leanne who is the head teacher librarian for the BBP.  Leanne works from head office and goes out to all the libraries
making sure that the staff have all they need and checks that everyone has training etc.  She is a PNG National, very educated and a thoroughly incredible person.  We also picked up Shivani, who is a young Fiji Indian woman, loves to chat and is enchanting.  We headed to the library at six mile which is where Tiarna and I went last week.  We only stopped for a very short time to drop off some activity sheets for the teachers there to use.    After that we went to the General Hospital which is another very sad situation in POM.  The building is
old and needs maintenance, it is very crowded with mattresses thrown on the floor in some wards to accomodate the sick.  They do not have enough staff, not enough medicine, and the people who are sick in the wards have to bring their own sheets and blankets, clothes and food, or they don't get any.  We went to one of the childrens wards which is where the library is located at the hospital.  This particular childrens ward is for those children who are malnutritioned, have TB or Aids.  Some kids have sheets, other sleep on the plastic mattresses.  Most had parents there, who sleep on mats on the floor beside them.  This ward had just had new beds donated by RH which is a Chinese company that owns a heap of grocery stores in POM.  They had also donated new bedside cupboards.  Let me say that while the bed frames were new, the mattresses were not, although they are kept as clean as they can be.  The temperature was terrible because the fans are not allowed to be turned on to save money which can be spent on medication and staff wages.  As a consequence, the smell was also awful.  What a depressing place for these children to "get better".  The windows do not have curtains, the walls are bare.  Right at the back of the ward was a little space set aside for the library.  On a little bit of carpet - which needs replacing with something much more hygenic = sat a group of the brothers and sisters and those patients who were able
and interested listening to a story read by an incredible teacher called Nara.  As we walked in, everyone smiled and said hello.  They were very excited to see us.  I sat on the toy box and listened to the teacher and the children and was so inspired to see such dedication and interest in learning.   The teacher told us that one of the brothers, a boy called Joe, who had been going to the library for months while his sister was in hospital,  had been sent to school.  He was the age to go into Preschool but because he knew so much, he was put into Grade 1.  This only came about because Lesley had spoken to Joe's father a couple of weeks before and said how very clever Joe was.   This story is why Buk Bilong Pikinnini exists.  Because of Nara, Joe will go to school (luckily his father has a job and can afford to send him) and get an education, have a better chance of getting a job, send his own children to school etc.  This is only one child's story and there is much enthusiam seen at each of the libraries which is so warming.  These children would not normally have access to books or teachers, as many of them from
desperately poor families.   I am so very happy and excited to be part of such an incredible group.   After leaving the childrens ward, we went into the womens ward which is located a fair distance away from the main part of the hospital.  This area is much neater and is better maintained due to hard work of the expat women through a group called the Sousou Mamas.  This group provides sheets, towels, and basic hygiene products for the pregnant woman and new mums, as well as some funding for the womens ward.  While it is neater than the main part, it is still very crowded, basic and sad.  We went into the special care nursery to deliver some baby clothes to the new mums there.  This is a tiny 4 room area that the babies who need special care are looked after.  The whole 4 rooms were terribly hot, sweat just poured off me the whole time we were in there.  One room is full of the tiniest babies you have ever seen in little cribs.  These are the really sick babies.   There are no fancy machines in this room, but the nurse told me that most of the babies survive.  This must be through purely the love and attention of the incredible nurses, because there certainly is no technology helping them out.   Once the little babies are considered not as sick, they are transferred to the second room which is right beside the mothers room.  This is where the babies are fed up to a satisfactory weight before being let go home with their parents.  There were two
babies in this second room whose mothers had died, and they were staying until the funeral and grieving ceremonies were complete before their relatives would come to get them.  If the mother is  unable to breast feed, the babies are fed with a spoon and cup.  The nurse said they don't use bottles because they would never be sterilied and would be very bad for the babies, so most mothers are encouraged to breast feed as this is the most hygenic way.  We spent some time talking to the mothers and giving them clothes and blankets for the babies.
I remember when I had Monique in the Cairns hospital 15 years ago and was not happy with any number of stupid insignificant things.  I can now say that I will never complain about any hospital in Australia ever again because we have nothing to complain about. Nothing..... When you see a child lying on a plastic mattress, sweating because there is no air circulation, being hand fed by her parents because she is too weak to feed herself and still able to smile as you walk past, and know how much better she would be in a hospital that was clean, cool and had access to proper medication, you really have to assess how you live your own life.  All of those times we get angry about waiting in lines, get frustrated because is takes 2 hours to drive to the airport in Brisbane, fight with our families because they say or do something we don't like.  So pointless when faced with such suffering.   You really have to remember that very little bit helps or you would go completely crazy with horror and grief.  So I have seen the results of BBP and intent to be fully involved for as long as possible.
After leaving the hospital, we went back to the head office to drop Leanne off, and then to have something to eat at Brian Bell.  I spent a heap of time talking to Lesley and Shivani nd really feel positive about what I am doing.  Shivani is going to help me with the fundraising bit of BBP and she is such a happy chappy, that I know we are going to have fun.  By the time I was dropped back at my car, and I had driven home, I felt totally shattered.  So I had a shower and spent the rest of the afternoon napping and watching a bit of tv,  thanking my lucky stars or whatever about how fortunate I am.
Friday is the day Lealah and I go to craft group at the Aviat Club.  We have both become avid quilters which is crazy because I have never felt inclined to do it.  But I plan to get all sorts of things in Australia for it the next time I go back.   Before Lealah and I went to craft group, I made a heap of chocolate muffins and raced around like a maniac giving them out to everyone.  Then we dashed off to the Aviat Club for craft group.  Marilyn, who is teaching us, is away but the other ladies were able to help us with any problems so we spend a lovely morning chatting to everyone.  It's a great social time as well as learning new things.  We stopped in at the general hospital afterwards so I could give some books to one of the new mums I had talked to the day before.  She had been telling me about enjoying Patricia Cornwell, so I gave her a JD Robb book and a Nora Roberts one as well.  I hope she likes them.  I had a quiet afternoon at home pottering around.  My seedlings are growing beautifully so i hope to get them into a big pot soon.   I am enjoying having all the orchids also.  I have never looked after orchids before, so it is challenging.    Les and Leahlah took me out to dinner at the Port Moresby Country Club.  It was packed because the Joker Draw was sitting at K62,518 which is huge.  We met up with Keong and Chloe and a couple of their friends.  It was an interesting evening, and a local girl won the Joker Draw which was so
fastastic to see.  It will change her life.  We got  home at 10.30pm and I pretty well promptly fell asleep.
On a sad note for this week, my sister messaged early in the week to tell me that my grandmother had stopped eating and her kidneys had failed.  She was on morphine and not expected to live for very much longer.  I am so glad that I spent some time with her not so very many weeks ago.  I pushed her wheelchair around her garden and we laughed and chatted for ages.  That is how I want to remember her.   I got a phone call on Friday night to say she had died.  I am booked to fly out to Brisbane early Monday morning for the funeral.  I will stay there until Monique has finished school for the term before returning with her. 
Saturday was spent cleaning up the house, packing my suitcase and cancelling next weeks plans.  I went out to get KMC for lunch and then I spent the afternoon up in the haus wing quilting while listening to my audio book on my ipod, then swimming.  It was a spectacular afternoon and I really enjoyed the quiet and my own company.  When I returned to the house, there was a message on my phone from Lealah asking if I wanted to go and eat dinner with them.  I did and we had pork chops and roasted veges.  Yum.  I also took the time to pulled out my two vodka bottles that i had put lemon skin and orange skin in about a month ago out of the cupboard, strain out the skin and add some sugar syrup to them.  So I now have a bottle of homemade Lemoncello and Orangecello.  They are so good.  I am going to bring two more bottles of Vodka back with me to do other flavours.  Not too hard to do.  Just waiting for the month while the flavours distill is the longest but it is so worth it.
Today, Sunday, is also going to be a quiet one.  I went to the grocery store this morning to get a heap of things so that I could invite everyone in the compound and Steve Lock n Load and Warren to an early bbq dinner.  I got sausages and onions, and made a curried potato salad and a lettuce/tomato salad.  It will be very simple but yummy.   I wandered up to see Lisa and chatted for ages, before going back home and getting some lunch.  Then it's chilling time while I do the final bit of cleaning and packing.  I plan to go to bed early as I have to be up at 4.15am to get to the airport.  I'm not sure what is happening when I arrive in Brisbane but I'll work it out when I get there.  The funeral is not until Thursday, so I have a few days to get to Bundaberg.
Stay tuned............................

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