Monday 21 March - Friday 15th April
I flew to Brisbane on the Monday morning and was picked up by Dad and Rhonda. I stayed at Dad's place for 2 days catching up, checking out the Patchwork Factory Shop that is three doors up from the house and gotsome material for a quilt project for both Tiarna and Monique, and celebrated Dad's birthday which was on the Tuesday. I bought him a stack of eggplant and Beetroot seedlings for his garden and we went to the fabulous Italian cafe in Gympie for lunch. Yum. I had the roast vegetable wrap which was pretty spectacular while Dad and Rhonda both had some really good salads. I checked out the rhubarb plant that I had given Dad in February, and it was huge. It had been a little seedling when I first saw it and now it is about 40cm high. Can't wait to be able to pick some stalks and cook them up. Rhubarb and icecream. Mmmmmm..........Rhonda gave me an Italian Gluten Free Cookbook and I decided to give making the pasta a go. Yum. What else is there to say. It was so good. Fresh pasta cooked with onion, garlic, baby spinach and a bit of bacon, olive oil and chilli. (I feel I am returning to my original track of always talking about food - but what can I say, I love it) Yolander and Sylvia (Syl had flown in from Cairns that morning) picked me up on the Wednesday morning (23rd March) and we drove to Bundaberg, giggling at each other all the
way. It's amazing how stupid and hilarious the conversation gets when my sisters and I get together. A few hours later, we arrived in Bundaberg at Grandad's house where Tamara was waiting with Grandad. Tamara had driven down on the weekend and had helped get the funeral organised and looked out for Grandad. We spent time with her and Grandad, had some nice meals, and giggled a lot more. We checked on Bernice (the neighbour) who was getting the food ready for the following afternoon after the funeral when everyone was
going to go back to Grandad's place to catch up and celebrate Grandma's life. All Wednesday afternoon and night, relatives arrived from Coffs Harbour/Armidale area for the funeral. We hadn't seen most of them since Mum's funeral nearly 20 years ago, so there was much conversation and catching up to do. The atmosphere was quite light and cheerful even though we were there for Grandma's death, but she had been sick for ages and it was a relief almost that she wasn't suffering any longer. I have this image of Grandma and Mum dancing around in a daisy field, happy to be together after such a long time. The funeral was held on the Thursday, Patrina (our cousin) read the eulogy and did a great job. The afternoon was very long making sure that there was drinks and food for everyone, but at about 5pm we were able to clean up the tables and chairs and go inside for dinner and an early night. Tamara and I left early on Friday morning as Tamara had to get back to the Gold Coast to pick up her kids from school that afternoon. She dropped me off at Esther's place where I spent the night. We had lunch at an incredible cafe on Sunrise Beach. It was tiny and furnished with all this mismatched secondhand furniture and plates, glasses, cuttlery etc but it really just worked. The food was incredible (some very excellent gluten free options too), the atmosphere fantastic and the company excellent (Chrissy had joined Esther and me and we chatted for hours). We had dinner at the Sunrise Beach Surf Club which was nice and I was able to catch up with a Mount Isa friend Linda who had moved to Bundaberg and was visiting her daughter at Perigian Beach. It would have been great to go for a walk on the beach before bed, but I was exhausted, so we just went straight to bed, where I slept well and was fresh and ready to go again the next day. We woke up early to drive to Caloundra to take Jed to his Rugby Union game. His team won. Jed is such a changed boy from when he was in Mount Isa. He is loving his school and has been accepted by his peers at school and at the football club. He has lost heaps of weight from playing so much football and is so confident now. Such a difference from hating school in Mount Isa because of bullying and not really fitting in anywhere. He now has heaps of friends and is really happy. I love seeing that. After the game, Esther dropped me off at the Landsborough train station so I could go to Roma Street in Brisbane. Once there, I hired a little Nissan Micra and headed up to Toowoomba for the night to see Steve's family. I hadn't seen them for ages, so it was great catching up with the goss on what was happening, and letting them know how everyone was going at our end. Steve's nephew is so cute. He is two and a half and is so clever. I left the next morning (Sunday 27th March) to go back to Brisbane and stay with Yolander before flying back to POM on Monday. My plans to stay in Australia until Monique had finished school for the term had changed for a couple of reasons.
1. I thought it was only 2 more weeks of school, not 3 weeks - when you are not looking at dates etc everyday, you can get so confused about when things are happening - yes, I can hear some of those thoughts saying that I forget most things and that is right, but I'm usually better at working out where I need to be.
2. Our house sale in Mount Isa was almost finalised and the solicitor needed the original paperwork, which was in PNG (some in POM and some in Lihir at the time of my departure)
3. Steve was due back from Lihir and I had some time on my hands, so I decided to spend it with him.
Consequently, I was flying back to POM for a very quick 3 day stay before flying back to Cairns. Let me say at this point that I am sick of travelling (did you ever think you would hear that coming out of my mouth?????) It's not so much the travelling part that I am sick of as much as just wanting to get into the swing of things here in PNG and explore all the adventures waiting to happen and that is hard to do when you spend so much time going back and forth between here and Australia. I must also point out that it's a bit of a kick to have so many stamps in my passport. I would love for them to be from lots of different countries, but one step at a time.
I spent most of Monday afternoon sleeping, and then because it was a short stay and because I had already cancelled all my plans, I spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday doing a bit of cooking, cleaning and chilling. Steve flew in from Lihir on Tuesday so we had dinner at the Aviat Club on Tuesday night, the Yacht Club on Wednesday night and ate at home on the Thursday night. We had bought a bushell of about 20 crabs on the Wednesday afternoon from a fellow on the street outside of the SVS Harbourside shop and Steve wanted to get into them. So after consulting google about cooking time, I cooked the crabs, cleaned them, cut them up and put them into a tomato chilli sauce for Steve's dinner on Thursday night.
I had a salad. Steve had come home from Lihir with an infected hair follicle so on Thursday morning, we went to Paradise Hospital to see the doctor and get some medication etc. That was a long and oddly comforting process. Steve was muchly amused at what he had to do to see the doctor which he relayed in fits of laughter to his parents days later. We are loving the PNG experience. (Mostly anyway - a couple of weeks later, we were not so amused but that story later). On Friday morning, 1st April, I flew back to Cairns to mail documents to the solicitor and wait for Monique to finish school for the term. Actually, when I say morning, that is when we was scheduled to fly to Cairns but as it turned out we had three different delays, and hours of waiting before a plane was ready/available to take us. So instead of leaving at 9.30am,
we flew out at 12.50pm. Long wait, but as my friend Lesley was catching the same plane with her husband to go back home (Margaret River area in WA - so envious) we had a great time talking about everything and it seems to go quite fast. Sylvia picked me up, then we headed to her place. Brenton was picking Monique up so she could spend the weekend with us. The weekend was good. Syl and I cooked lots and Monique spent time (lots of time) on Facebook chatting to her mates which I believe she does every weekend. On Sunday night, I dropped Monique back to school for the last week of term and then Monday morning, headed to Townsville to spend time with Tiarna. Townsville was fun, and spending time with Tiarna again was great. We shopped, ate lunch on the strand, watched movies, talked, cooked, and generally had a fantastic time. I stayed until Thursday lunchtime. Tiarna is still looking for a job but I think she is also kind of enjoying catching up with her friends that she has been too busy to spend time with recently. I know that she really does want to find a job again as her car is broken down and it doesn't look like it's worth fixing, and she would like to have the freedom to buy a new one and have money to go out a bit. But it's all good so far. And I'm sure a job is just around the corner for her. On the way back to Cairns on Thursday, I stopped in to visit Christine Eckhardt who was a really good friend of my mum's so she is like a mother to us all. We talked non stop for two and a half hours to catch each other up on what has been happening in each others lives since last time we met up. It was late and already dark by the time I left for the extra two
hours driving I still had to do to get back. So at 9.30pm, I arrived at Syl's place in Cairns. And went to bed. On Friday morning, Syl and I went for breakfast at this little cafe in the city called the Lilypad. I had a wild omelet and Syl had bacon and eggs. OMG. (Yes, I can do letters like my daughters). YUM YUM YUM. The omelet had roasted capsicum, sun dried tomatoes, feta, onion and greens inside it, and a really good piece of gluten free toast on the side. YUM. Afterwards, feeling very full, we went for a bit of shopping, then home to chill before all the kids had to be picked up. Dinner that night was simple but good and we had an early night because Monique and I were travelling back to POM the next morning. So on Saturday 9th of April, we flew back home with no delays this time and the plane was fairly empty, so it
was a good flight. When we arrived at the airport, it was chocca full of people. Planes from Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney had all landed and there were people everywhere. Fun. When we finally got through customs, Steve was waiting.
Esther arrived for a week visit on Monday 11th April with Jed. We drove to the airport to pick them up and here's the story of why we don't always like the PNG experience. Before Esther left, I told her to wait for us inside the terminal as being a first time visitor, she wouldn't know what to look out for outside. So we went to go inside the terminal, and the guards had decided that today they were not letting anyone in except those departing. No exceptions. This rule changes on a daily basis depending who is on and what mood they are in. So even though Steve had been allowed in 2 days before to wait for us, we weren't allowed in that day. Boy was there steam coming off Steve's ears. Anyway, we waited just outside the doors hoping to see Esther as she came through the customs area. We waited, and waited and waited. While waiting Steve and Monique amused themselves by imaging they were Steve Martin out of The Pink Panther when he was dressed in the skin tight suit that blended with the wall. Steve reckons he was going to get one in green so that he could blend in with the' plants at the doorway and then when Monique makes a distraction, he was going to slip in past the guards. I'm not sure that I would want to see that scene but it was highly funny.
Anyway after waiting for ages there was still no Esther and Jed. So we went back to the entrance door and asked again to go inside. No, not going to happen. So we went back to the arrivals door and waited some more. Finally Esther and Jed came to the door to see where we were and we yelled out to them
to come out. Drama, drama, drama. But all ended good. We showed them around the town, and went to some shops. Actually, Esther and Jed arrived just in time to go to the opening of Brumbys Bakery. We were the second customers served. How very cool. Well for everyone else but me, cause I can't eat anything from there, but it was good anyway. We had dinner at the Italian restaurant, Japello's, that night. We hadn't been there before and it was lovely. Steve flew out to Lihir early early the next morning.
So for the rest of this week, Esther and Jed have been exploring what it's like to live in PNG. On Tuesday morning we went to Airways to do a book sort for Buk Bilong Pikininni, Wednesday was a meeting for BBP and visiting the gallery, Annie's pottery and the Lamana street markets in the afternoon. Thursday we went to the General Hospital library and Hohola libraries where we did Easter activities with the kids and then book sort again in the afternoon, and Friday we did craft group in the morning and bits and pieces in the afternoon. There were lunches and dinners out and about for some meals and other at home. It was a very busy week but really great to show Esther and Jed our new stomping ground. Unless you have
been here, it's really hard to explain exactly what it is like. The General Hospital is getting some renovations done so half the front of the hospital is closed off, so when we went to the library in the childrens ward, we had to go a new way which was very confusing, but we had a great time reading and doing colouring in and glueing with the kids there. The library at Holola is located inside a Disabled school so most of the children are either deaf or have some form of mental disability. Even Noah, the teacher librarian is deaf, so we
had a bit of trouble at the beginning communicating with him and the kids but by the end of the activity we knew some very simple sign language and were able to communicate ok. It was a really interesting process and I think I'll try and get an AUSLAN sign book to learn some sign language so that next time I go, I can talk to them. Very interesting. One of the boys was told to put some glue on the paper and then stick some cotton balls down, but the translation got somehow mixed up so he stuck the cotton balls to the glue stick and stood it up on the table. Some of the other boys thought that was hilarious, and we all just laughed for ages about it. So very cute and so very funny. What a wonderful morning. On the trips to the gallery, Esther and Jed were much amused with the penis gourds so they got two to take home. Monique wanted a bow and arrow set. What is it about my children that both of them want the bow and arrow set. Is it something lacking in our parenting skills? So funny. Tiarna even got a wooden knife. Anyway, Monique got the bow and arrows. At the street markets, Esther got a billim bag and a couple of paintings. We bought a couple of sets of salt and pepper shakers from Annie's pottery, one set for me and the other for Esther to
take home. Annie has a man down from the highlands to make all the pottery. He does the turning work one day and all the art work the next. Annie is a local lady and she has a little shop set up at the back of the disabled home called Cheschire Home. I have met her a couple of times through the All Nations Womens Group Activities, and she is also a neighbour of Shivani, so I imagine that I will meet up with her more often. She had some beautiful stuff, mostly with birds of paradise, frogs and geckos painted on them but so very lovely. Monique and Jed were up giggling one night at midnight because Monique was pretending that she was a ninja and was sneaking around the house (not very well but it was very funny). She would
hide behind a door and then sneak to another corner, dive accross the floor and crawl along the end of the bed. So funny. Eventually, everyone went to sleep. I also forgot to mention that Esther and I went to a shop known not so affectionately here as "Stab and Grab" although it's official name is " Stop and Shop". I hadn't been there before because of its unsavoury reputation but Shivani said that she wanted to have a look at it and as we were in a group situation, we decided to do it. It was great and i will be going back
there again. The main reason. There were locally grown asparagus and snow peas. I have not seen them for sale anywhere else here. There is some imported stuff but that is so expensive it's not worth getting. So yum. It's been a lovely time having Esther and Jed here with us, and they still have the weekend to go before flying back to Australia, so I'm sure there will be more adventures to tell about
in my next edition of this blog. Later...........
Saturday 16th April - Thursday 21st April
The weekend was great. We went back to the markets because Esther wanted to get a basket and another painting. So we pulled up intending to get 1 basket and 1 painting and left with 2 baskets and 4 paintings. Excellent. On the Sunday, we were invited to follow Les and Lealah out to the University markets out of town where we got a heap of vegetables. The two kids got donuts which were not very good and ended up being fed to the fish at the lake that we stopped at later on. Esther also bought a cassava cake (I had been given a taste of Cassava cake in Mount Isa made by a Phillipino lady. It was sooo good. Anyway, I took a small piece of the cake that Esther got and OMG, yuck. I wanted to get a scrapper and clean my tongue. Yuck. Esther spat hers out but i wasnt' that forward thinking and swallowed. Eeewww.... No more cakes from the markets. We also visited the orchid gardens which was again stunning. We chatted to one of the nationals at the gardens who told us that one of the cockatoos had been taught to swear in Tok Pisin (which I have found out is the official name of what we call Pigeon). So funny. He was taught to say "kaikaicock" of which I will not completely translate other than to say that kai means eat.... Use your imagination... Then we went to the Bomona Memorial Cemetary. So very lovely, sad and haunting. Afterwards, we adjourned to KMC for a double icecream. Yum. We then chilled for the rest of the day as Esther and Jed had a very early flight the next morning.
Monday morning at 4.30am we woke up and hurriedly had breakfast and drove to the airport to drop off Esther and Jed. The international airport doesn't open until 5am so even though the plane was scheduled to leave at 6.15am, we didn't have to get there until 5. So they checked in and we took them up to the departure lounge, I checked the forms that Esther filled out and finished filling them out as she had forgotten half of the information (she needs to wear her glasses more) and then said goodbye. Mon and I went back home to bed for a couple of hours. We have been taking it easy the last couple of days together as Mon is flying back to school on Sunday. Today we went and got a heap of groceries for the easter weekend so that we don't have to go out again. It should be very relaxing. I finally convinced Monique to go and have a look at JMart which you might think is similar to KMart in Australia but it's not. It's more like Coles and I really like it as its clean and they have a good range of goodies especially in the gluten free range, but Monique had it in her head that she didn't want to go there because it was too scary. Not at all. With much convincing and forcing, we went today. I think she is now converted. But she still will not go to Stab and
Grab for a look. I'm not sure why.
I am so enjoying my time up here. There are new adventures and stuff to be amused by most days. This morning I was woken by Tetkos the gardener knocking on the door. He had gotten the two coconuts off the tree that we have been eyeing off for a while now, and had stripped them down ready for me to smack them open and drink and eat the juice and coconut. Where else would you have that done for you. As I may have mentioned before, are not Steve and I living the dream on a South Pacific Island. A couple of things could be different to make life a bit more amazing such as Steve not being away all the time, and doing some travelling and adventuring into other parts of PNG, but that will all come. Soon I hope.
Anyway, I'm going to finish this bit of the blog by telling you that I am sitting out on my front verandah (yes, we are still in the temp house while our floor is being fixed, walls painted and bathroom renovated) in the dark, listening to the rain falling gently while typing this. It's very peaceful and lovely and I know that I am so very lucky to be experiencing such an amazing place. Bye for now.........