November 14th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

On the move again today, with so much to do + so little time to do it.  The day did not start very well either – young Antony was in a foul mood, screaming + screaming until he got his own way, + then screaming some more.  I think Ann makes things difficult for herself, by giving in to him – saying no 2 or 3 (or 4 or 5) times, but then saying yes to grant herself some peace.  It seems to me (not that I have any kids yet of course) that one should try to set definite ground-rules for kids, which shouldn’t be broken, + if a child decides to scream + bawl because he doesn’t like it, then let him.  Preferably in his room, of course.  I think all 3 of the little Budds are rather spoilt, not necessarily in a material sense, but by being allowed to have their own way.  I’d also reckon they’re a little overweight, but I’m not exactly sure of that.  My favourite is Kerry-Ann, but that could well be just because she is not at such a difficult age as the others.

I was going with Kerry to school, so that I could call in on her headmaster.  Jim + Katie had given us his name – he used to work in Popondetta – so that provided me with an introduction.  But I was also interested in seeing round the school, + discovering, if I could, the means of obtaining work in PNG.  I am quite struck by the place, + would like at least to explore the possibilities.  In fact tho’, Mr Horsfield turned out to be a little distant.  He was helpful enough, + showed me round, answered my questions etc, but he certainly wasn’t warm, + in less than 45 mins the interview was over.  I had been able to obtain the English address of the International Schools Council, so may well pursue that upon our return.

When I returned to the house, Eddy had not yet left with Val to take her on a tour of the factory, so I was able to go with them.  It was interesting.  Although the main part of the place could not really be called a sweatshop, in some ways it wasn’t all that far off either, with rows of girls bent over sewing machines.  It was hot too (tough the offices + art room were air-conditioned.)  I was impressed by the artist they have working for them – he seemed to be able to turn his hand to anything, from cartoons to intricate native designs.  Val bought a hand-printed lap-lap (= pareo, = sarong) which Eddy offered us at a bargain price – we could hardly refuse.  We then said goodbye to Eddy when he dropped us back in town.

Much busy rushing around now.  We had to send Val’s basket home, so had to procure boxed, wrapping paper, + tape.  Next came our regular trip to the bank, and a trip round Burns Philp, buying up last-minute provisions to last us on our trip to Wewak – we were determined not to be so poorly prepared  as we had been for our last boat journey.  And then, almost the biggest headache of all, finding a present for Eddy + Ann.  We finally settled on a book, a pictorial history of PNG – probably not entirely suitable, but the best we could manage.  Nobody was home when we returned to the house, but we packed everything away, + were about to set off once again, when Eddy, Ann + Belinda returned (Belinda had been unwell, so Eddy had taken her to the doctors.)  This was fortuitous since a) we didn’t have their PO Box no., and b) Eddy gave us a ride to the wharf.  It wasn’t far, but it was very hot, + somehow our bags were now of stupendous weight, even heavier than when we’d first arrived in PNG, so  lift was much appreciated.  Goodbyes once more at the dock, after which we lugged our bags aboard.

We deliberately avoided going in to the office – when we had checked things out on Saturday, we had been told that “ex-patriates” weren’t allowed to travel deck (ie cheaper) class (it smacked of racial discrimination to me) but we planned to take matters into our own hands + simply position ourselves on the lower deck.  It worked too.  At some stage (I was sleeping at the time) a crew member informed us we should move upstairs, but Val pleaded poverty + presumably flashed her eyes at him, + no more was said.

One small hiccup in our arrangements came when we discovered I had left my swimming trunks hanging on the veranda rail, but from the looks of things the boat wouldn’t be leaving at its appointed time of 12, so I strolled back to collect them.  I was also able to use a decent toilet + have a cold drink, so it wasn’t entirely unpleasant.  I had a sleep upon my return, + then spent the rest of the day writing my diary, while Val busied herself with her bilum.  She’s getting on well with it, tho’ it’s a slow business.  She was even able to teach the rudiments to Kerry, tho’ I don’t suppose that will last long after our departure.

We left at around 2, + it was an uneventful trip.  The worst thing about it was the noise – as we were right over the engine, it just throbbed + throbbed – + the heat.  During the early part of the evening it began to rain, so all the windows were covered with tarpaulins.  Unfortunately, they remained that way for most of the rest of the night, so the heat built up + up.  Val in particular found it unbearable, but the noise bothered me more.

On our way again, and actually on our way out of PNG,by slow degrees. It had been a pleasant and enjoyable enough time, but actually I think I dodged a bullet by not getting a more positive response from the headmaster at the school, as I have decided that, while there are some superficial advantages to that sort of life, (in strictly financial and immediate quality of life terms)I do feel that the expat life is essentially empty, most often filled by alcohol. But Eddy and Ann were very kind, and proved excellent hosts.

There is an interesting postscript to our visit, when the whole family turned up in London a couple of years later and got in touch with me, clearly expecting me to return the favourI am not sure whether their PNG adventure had come to a close, or whether it was just part of a short visit home. I was happy to do my best, but at the time I was boat-sitting a small houseboat on the Thames for some friends, which really did not allow me to offer more than a walk around Richmond Park, and then putting them all up on the floor!

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