December 10, 2005

Kriol kos


melabat iya la Ropa bin dum Kriol kos blanga munanga mob. Imin gudwan du. JBJ en im waif bin abum fan la tharran en tharran main magarra du. Imin ran fo 8 wiks en imin finish Wednesday. Dijan foto shoim yu ola pipul bin la thet kos. Anyany. Alabat bin gajim certificate du. :-)

December 01, 2005

an annoying question

Now that I've been working with Aboriginal languages for quite a while now, there's one question that I've lost patience for. It usually goes along the lines of:

"So are they really different languages or just dialects of the same language?"

At least that's a more intelligent version of:

"Is there, like, more than one language?" (Try about 300 throughout Australia!)

Then there's the downright shudder-worthy:

"So do you speak Aboriginal?"

I don't want to start getting snobby about this because it's not like any whitefolk in Australia were ever taught anything about Aboriginal languages in school or anything, so it's not their fault they are uninformed. But unfortunately, my patience for such questions has worn thin.

Moving on from there, I'm continually amazed at actually how diverse the languages I work with are. In a way, it's quite absurd. At Language Centre the other week, we made a chart that goes in the kitchen area. It has the words for tea, sugar, milk, water and biscuit (lit: non-meat food) in five languages - Marra, Ritharrngu/Waagilak, Rembarrnga, Ngandi and Alawa. The words (in that order of languages) are as follows:

Tea: Rimbirr, Marra, Worrh, Gu-manjarrh, Lerrin
Sugar: Nalwurr, Djulka, Jolkko, Gu-jolko, Balga
Milk: Gunyan, Ngamini, Bippi, Gu-ngam, Ngabulu
Water: Ngugu, Gapu, Jurla, Gu-jark, Ngugu
Biscuit: Mama, Ngatha, Me, Ma-ngitj, Mama

You can see that there are a couple of shared words and a few closely related words, but a lot of them just simply aren't related at all. At least with English and German and French you can usually see how words are related.

If you wanted to relate the diversity of those five languages here at Ngukurr, to European languages, you'd probably want to say they're as different as English, German, Italian, Romanian and Hungarian.

No wonder Kriol has flourished here.

November 22, 2005

feeling slack and getting a present

I don't know what it is but me and everybody else here seems to be feeling slack at the moment. I partially blame the lunar cycle. I believe that for the few days after a full moon, you generally get a slack and unmotivated feeling. Full moon was last wednesday. But I also think it's because the end of the year is nearing and maybe we're all winding down. I know that I'm certainly looking forward to my xmas break. Do you know that right now is the longest I've ever been away from Brisbane. I can't wait to see that place again and some of the people in it.

Besides feeling slack things are still rolling on. Last friday was a slack day, but a couple of people I work with were trying to sell some stuff they'd been given by family from Numbulwar. They had necklaces, didjeridus and woven baskets. They were trying to sell the baskets so they could afford to throw their 2 year old granddaughter a birthday party. The baskets were absolutely stunning I tell you. And even more impressive when you realise the amount of work that goes into them. They sold one for $200 (it was massive) and gave another one for free to the person they sold it. I was thinking... man those baskets are beautiful I wish I was given one! but oh well.

Anyway, no need to feel hard done by because those two, who are ultra kind and generous and accommodating, offered me one of the didjeridus later on. It's a really nice one too and my first didjeridu. I might have to learn to play now!

Deep down, I think I was still wishing they'd have offered me a basket. And then I realised - of course they're not going to offer me a basket... baskets are for women and didjeridus are for men. Haha... silly me.

November 19, 2005

fulmun


wednesday bin fulmun. ai bin luk thet mun en imin brabli purdiwan. imin gloglo en imin luk beautiful. dijan foto im lilbit dakwan bat maitbi yu gin luk thet glo la ola lilwan claud en that tri jeya la bodom.

November 15, 2005

sharing

Ai garrim wanbala gajin iya la Ropa en im hambag la mi nomo lilbit. Im oldei askim mi 'Gajin! Wotaim yu gon hodgson downs?' en, 'Ai kaman gada yu?'. Dijan gajin main, im sotava handicapped wan, bobala, bat im sabi hambag, ai dali yu.

En ai nomo laigim wen im hambag mi. Samtaims mi brabli rud la im. Kapula taim ai bin jas ranawei from im en gu la Hodgson Downs misel en imin apset la mi bla tharran.

A couple of weeks ago, i finally took her to hodgson downs with me. I wasn't happy about it, but after saying no for so long, i was obligated to take her at least this one time. But you know, my gajin, who is slow (is mentally handicapped the right word?), a terrible humbug, and has always frustrated me for 'getting in the way when i'm trying to work', well, she put me to shame. I took her to hodgson downs and brought her back, and she wasn't anymore trouble than any other passenger. On the way back, she asked if we could stop in at roper bar store (a slight detour to the only shop along the 2 hour drive - more humbug!). She asked me if i wanted anything and i said an iced coffee and a bag of chips. And she bought them for me. And told me that she liked sharing, it makes her feel good inside. Didn't I feel small and selfish?

That was a few weeks ago.

Today, I did something nice for someone else and it did make me feel good inside. My anggurl E, an old man who does seem to have much family or anybody looking after him much, has been working at language centre all year without any complaint or humbug. When I went to katherine a few weeks ago, I bought him a tree for his yard. It's a tamarind tree, and will hopefully grow into a nice big shade tree with tucker to boot. I planted it in his yard for him today and i feel good.

Thank you gajin. You taught me something important.

November 14, 2005

thinking about work too much but having a good day

going to sleep last nite, my last thoughts were all about work. not only that, they weren't good thoughts.

i was thinking about some of the local people I work with here and how some are being a bit slack or not taking the job seriously enough or that they need to work harder or be more motivated. i was thinking, right, tomorrow maybe i'll have to lay down the law (in a gentle way).

along with these thoughts were the counter-thoughts - doubting my rights to impose a western work ethic on this mob or that i'm too tough on them when they've come a long way and continue to learn and worrying about if i rock the boat will people turn on me (or will i make this place as inhospitable as certain "learning" institutes next door to me).

but regardless, today at work, when i felt the first few hints of skiving, i felt my cranky face coming on. but i didn't need to worry because today was a good day. maybe i didn't need to be explicit about my concerns of these guys' work ethic. this mob aren't stupid and can easily respond to the things that are not being said.

so today, some special things happened. after nine months of working here, my wawa used the computer for the first time. pretty big event i reckon. he's 50 or so and not very literate, so i reckon it's a pretty big thing. but i wonder if it's pure or slightly perverse, to get so much joy from showing someone how to make letters appear on the computer, how to use a space bar and how to delete a letter and then watching them concentrate for the next half hour on typing six sentences. well me, i was proud of my wawa.

that was just after my baba, who can use the computer reasonably well, typed up some Marra verb declensions, which is also quite a big step to be starting doing more abstract language work that looks purely at grammar.

and last nite, when i was thinking too much about work, i was thinking about how i need to start pushing these guys harder to learn to read and especially write, their languages, so that they're not dependent on me all the time. so, after doing some writing activities, my mami told me to give her a spelling test. i was already thinking would be a great thing to do but wasn't sure if these guys would be ready or receptive. so good on you mami.

i gave her and my wawa 20 rembarrnga words to write down. my mami got 8 right and my wawa got 5. on the one hand these are low numbers, but on the other hand, to have these guys writing down language (instead of copying) and taking chances on spelling words they're unsure of, well, that's pretty significant. i reckon a year ago, they wouldn't know where to start.

so it was a good day.

November 13, 2005

big news

i forgot to tell you my other big news, although some people already know...

... i cut off my ratstail! bobala. a year n a half n it's all over. it was time.

i'm not a bogan anymore. (well for a while anyway).

November 12, 2005

back at Hodgson Downs

I didn't go to Hodgson Downs last week. I was too worn out and too demoralised by what was happening with the school program. Here's a story which contrasts the week before the language program was cut in half, and then the week after.

Week before:

Friday after smoko - Alawa class. We continued revising the first few song cycles from the ceremonial songs the old people has taught a few weeks ago, and that I'd recorded, transcribed and burned on to CD for use in the classroom and at home (I did this at the elders/community request). The boys and girls separated into their own groups and listened to the recordings with old people and other community members encouraging and helping them. They also had the transcriptions of the songs as a written prompt. After an hour or so, the boys and girls recombined to show the other group how they were going.

The songs the students are learning are part of the circumcision ceremony. In some neighbouring communities, this ceremony is not performed anymore and may not ever be performed again. At Hodgson Downs, elders still hold this ceremony and parents from neighbouring communities look to them to perform it so that their boys can still go through the ceremony. Elders and community members at Hodgson Downs are very concerned that after the most senior elders pass away, no one will be able to hold the ceremony anymore. They are wanting to teach and record as much of the songs as they can and that's why we started working on this in the school program.

The students understand how important this is and understand that they have a responsibility to learn these songs and contribute to the survival of the ceremony for future generations. However, learning language and culture is not popular and most students are reluctant participants. For many, even though they are aware of their responsibility, it is just too great and/or they don't have the confidence to think they can learn the songs. For a few of the students, they realise the importance and responsibility and are trying to make the most of the opportunity.

Week after:

Friday after smoko - no Alawa class:

With the Alawa class cancelled, the secondary teachers, still upset that the language program they worked hard on is in trouble, are asked by their students if they have Alawa today. They say, 'no', to the relief of the students. The teachers ask if the students would like to join the primary school children to sing christmas carols. They say yes and for the next hour or so they are singing songs like 'hark the herald angels sing'. The teachers who are critical of the Alawa Language Program are pleased to see the high schools students joining in enthusiastically with the rest of the school.

murru.

Interesting story, no?

Not only does it show that we are still very much in a colonial (as opposed to post-colonial) environment, it also shows how huge the issues of maintaining minority languages and cultures are in the face of such a dominant other culture, and how deep it goes and how it manifests in the attitudes of young people caught in these changes.

And yesterday, when I was telling this story to one of the senior elders, his comment was something that hadn't occurred to me before. He said something like, 'and where will those teachers be at christmas time? they won't be here, they'll be on holidays'.

November 07, 2005

tough times at Hodgson Downs

Earlier this year I was writing quite a few posts about how great it was working at Hodgson Downs. Well, recently my experiences there haven't been that great at all.

It's a long story, and to be honest i don't quite know where it starts or ends. But it does feature the following:

- some teachers putting the language program under the microscope after a year of barely taking an interest
- the same teachers cutting the program in half and showing very little support of language and culture
- the same teachers not acknowledging the commitment and effort that me, community members and the two teachers involved in the program put in... without any specific funding from the school or ed. dept.
- the cutting down of the program at the very same time it was starting to grow... we'd just started working on teaching the high school kids traditional songs, which is really quite special

my job is already hard enough and working for these endangered languages is already a very steep uphill battle. to have these extra obstacles placed in front of us was very difficult and upsetting.

last week, i didn't go to Hodgson Downs because I needed a break from it.

Now I feel a bit better and this week I'll go back and start re-assessing where we're at and what to do from here.

All this isn't a disaster. If it means that I now work purely with the community and not with the school at all, then we'll be able to do some great stuff. It's just an absolute shame (and also a bit of an outrage) that the school will have no language and culture content in it's curriculum.

October 23, 2005

bedrum bla main



dijan foto im shoim yu wotkain main rum. ai bin teigim det foto wen ai bin jidan la main sweg. yu gin luk main telibijin en postamob en futon main du. trai luk det neks foto du, im shoim yu main rum burrum nathasaid.

bedrum bla main


sambala bin wandi sabi wotkain main kemp iya la Ropa. Wal, tudei ai bin klinap en tjenjim main rum. En ai bin teigim foto so yumob gin luk du. en dijan foto, im bla sopi du, so sopi garra luk thet futon wen im foldidapwan.

That's my futon newly folded into a couch and next to it is my swag which i sleep on. i have been sleeping on the futon laid out as a bed, but i find my swag more comfy.

October 11, 2005

ebribodi bin wek gudwei tudei

ebribodi bin make me proud tudei. ebribodi bin dum rili gud job tudei.

laik, main barn-ga R, im onli yanggel, bat imin yusimbat kompyuta tudei en imin lisin langa wan olgomen talking garra Rembarrnga la thet kompyuta. Ai bin dalim im ba trai raitimdan thet langgwij, en imin dum... onli slobala dumaji imin had job bla im, bat ai bin hepi bla tharran.

en aftathet, mela bin dum skul program, bat mela bin dum nyuwei tudei... tudei bin onli blanga ola big children. ola boys first, then ola gel bin kaman. en imin rait... thei bin ol jidan en lisin gudwei, nomo ranaroun ebrijeya like usual.

yuwai, imin gud dei tudei.

October 10, 2005

mo lilwan stori

wal, mi bek iya la language centre. tudei, mela bin finijim tu mo lilwan stori blanga skul tumorra. det festwan, im bla Ngandi. Main anggurl E bin dum. Im gu:

'Wugu mirri nurudhung?'
'Ngarudhungi natjuh."
"Juyh. Nurudhung."

Im gudwan, especially because Ngandi im brabli endangered language bobala.

Det najawan im blanga Marranbala. Main baba G bin dum garrim im deda, ol Ngamayang (danja im Marra skin).

Marranbala tok:

"Nanguni gana ni-jurra-yurra?"
"Ginya wayburri nga-jurra-yurra."
"Yo. Guda mingi."

kila ngabi?

Onli Nunggubuyu mob garra dum na. Melabat garra dum dislot lilwan stori la skul tumorra, bla meigim ola students jandap en toktok gija. Maitbi gudwan! I'll let you know. :-)

October 04, 2005

didei

Didei ai bin jidan garrim main maari T, main wawa A en main mami R en ai bin tok la alabat blanga this skul program. Mela bin prektis wanbala activity blanga lenim ola kid bla tok 'wanim yu skin?', 'main skin im ______', lakijat. Aftathet, mela bin raitimdan lilwan roleplay, blanga ola secondary students. Im onli isiwan bat im gudwan. Mela bin pudum la Rembarrnga en la Waagilak. Iya thet Rembarrnga wan:

"Yeneh-gah nginy-rongara?"
"Nga-rongara gutta."
"Mah. Nginy-rongara."

En burrum Waagilak:

"Nika-wala nhii waani ya?"
"Ngumbala rra waani."
"Waani nhu nhii."

Ai bin kopi thet lil stori burrum Alawa. Alawirryunu yil-mumban:

"Galagala yarla?"
"Galunyindi."
"Murru winya."

Gudwan, ngabi?

En burrum Ingglis, thet stori im gu:

"Where are you going?"
"I'm going that way"
"Alright, keep going."

Ii, manymak. :-)

September 23, 2005

a conversation in Alawa

so one bloke points to a black cockatoo and asks his mate:

Nganjini-nda ninda?

his mate answers, Ninda-nda lirrarduma

so the bloke says Ninda-nda jijan wulunga-nya

and his mate says, Mandi, ngayi ngaba-nya. Yilunga-nya.

Good one, eh? This is what we (tried to) teach 20 teenagers today. Perhaps they learned something.

September 20, 2005

What a day!


Hey everyone. Sorry i haven't blogged a decent post for ages. I haven't felt like doing it, so ... well... i haven't.

But today was such a big and special day that i'm springing back into action (and maybe I'll go back and fill in some of the past two months sometime too).

Today we had the official opening of the new extension and verandah of the Ngukurr Language Centre. It was really really great. JBJ and others had organised for there to be bunggul - traditional dancing - for the event. So late afternoon, people gathered, the dancers came, the songman was there and the bambu player too (didjeridu man), it all came together in it's laboured and deliberate way. Our new boss is out here for the opening, she's only six weeks into the job, but a lot of people here know her, they all knew her dad and she lived here for a while when she was a little girl. So the bunggul mob (dancing, singing, playing music (clapsticks and didj) slowly escorted her around the building, danced for her and finally led her up the steps to officially open the verandah.

dammit, i just realised there's no way words can do the event any justice. for me though, it was fantastic. nothing like this has happened at language centre before. to me it shows that the community is really getting behind what we're doing here. all the language centre mob were chipping in and helping and we're all proud of what we've got here. i've posted one photo to give you a bit of idea, but still, you can't hear what it sounded like. in the photo, our new boss and my mami R, who works here at Ngukurr Language Centre, are out front and the bunggul mob are following them. There at the back of the language centre, where the new extension is.

after the opening part, our chairperson and our new boss said a few quick words, then the chairperson announced that I was going to read a story in Marra language. We'd only just written it yesterday and there I was reading this story for about 50 people, half locals, half white people. Hehe... everyone seemed to enjoy it. I think they're proud of the fact that there's a munanga here learning their language. Keep in mind, there's probably only about 15 people in the world who can speak Marra fluently, so it really is something special that things like this can happen.

Ah, anyway, we had a big bbq after and I've had a long, exhausting and fantastic day.

And i've only been back in Ngukurr for 9 days. How far away my two months off seems already!!

September 18, 2005

banji en nis


DSC00069
Originally uploaded by bump77.
dubala main banji (brother-in-law) en main nis. ai bin luk dubala la Malaysia. ai bin teigim dijan foto wen ai bin redi bla gu la eyapot bla kambek langa Australia. Ai bin brabli sed dumaji ai bin abum bigis mob fun la Malaysia. Im rait thet foto, ngabi? :)

anyayn


DSC00068
Originally uploaded by bump77.
anyayn means something like 'awww cute' in kriol. this is another photo of my niece, taken while we were on Langkawi.

September 13, 2005

My sister's family


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Originally uploaded by bump77.
While I was in Malaysia visiting my sis and her family, they took to Langkawi, and resort island not far from Penang. It was amazing. So lovely. I felt spoiled and wondered what I'd done to deserve it! This is us having lunch on the beach - my bro-in-law, my niece and my sis. Good times.

Main nis


DSC00065
Originally uploaded by bump77.
This is my niece. I went to Malaysia to see her and her mum (my sis) and dad (my brother-in-law/banji). What can I say except that meeting her was fantastic. She beautiful and I love being an uncle. She was starting to feed herself. Room for improvement it seems. aww...

September 11, 2005

Nganapparru


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Originally uploaded by bump77.
Nganapparru is Rembarrnga for buffalo. Me and mum saw this one from the helicopter (see next post).

Katherine Gorge from the air


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Originally uploaded by bump77.
My mum came to visit me in the NT and she paid for a helicopter trip up Katherine Gorge. It was fantastic, exhilarating and beautiful. Photos don't do it justice, but this might give you an idea.

August 25, 2005

View from the front door


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Originally uploaded by bump77.
While in Melbourne, my good friend Nikki put me up at her place in St Kilda. Leaving her apartment each day, I was greeted by this wonderful view (and lots of screaming from the people on the rollercoaster). How can you not smile when this is the first you see when you leave home?

Full-time


DSC00054
Originally uploaded by bump77.
After the game, we all got to run onto the field, which was actually very hazardous due to the hundreds of footies being kicked around. We all got hit at least once! hehe. In the photo is Anth, Richie, Me and Dave. (I had the best time that day!)

Me at the MCG


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Originally uploaded by bump77.
Having at the game, with Anth and Dave. So many ppl! Photo by Richie Bauer.

MCG


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Originally uploaded by bump77.
At the MCG. St Kilda v Western Bulldogs. Awesome.

July 04, 2005

I'm in Melbourne!

Hello to anyone I know still reading this.

As you may have gathered, I've left Ngukurr now. I'm on holidays!

I don't feel like writing in this blog much anymore... sorry. I might start up with regular posting again, specially when I go back to Ngukurr.

But if youse wanna know anything... ask me something in a 'comment'.

Anyway, Melbourne is good. I'm staying with my lovely friend N in St. Kilda. My good mate R came from Adelaide to see me yesterday. We met up with my old friend A and my old nextdoor neighbour D and guess what we did? We went to the footy!! At the MCG!! It was incredible. Best ever. I'll hafta post the photos. St Kilda beat the Bulldogs in a close game. Hehe... loved it.

So yeah, holidays are good, but I'm missing everyone in Ngukurr and Hodgson Downs and Katherine too. Doesn't matter tho', I'm gonna enjoy my holidays while I gottem.

June 15, 2005

Barunga Festival

I mentioned in the last entry that lots of kids from Hodgson Downs had gone to a nearby community for a big festival. Well, the community is called Barunga and is home to the ‘Barunga Sports and Cultural Festival’. I spent the weekend there and had a good time. People went there from all over… heaps of people from communities all over the region, people from Katherine, lots of tourists… it really is one giant get together. It’s fun for me seeing people I know from Ngukurr or Hodgson Downs in a different place, especially when they’re happy and having fun.

The Barunga festival has lotsa sport. The girls’ big sport is the basketball (the Ngukurr girls won) and the boys are all involved in the footy carnival. I watched keenly as the Ngurralindji Tigers (from Hodgson Downs) competed but sadly were wiped off the field by the home team. Poor things.

At sunset, on both days I was there, the Red Flag dancers from Numbulwar performed. They are so good. They perform traditional dances about when the Macassan people from Sulawesi used to sail into Nunggubuyu country in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The dances are about their boats and sailing and other stuff… I don’t really know, but I know they’re fantastic to watch.

After sunset on both nights, the music kicks in. Saturday night was for the up and coming bands – a real mixed bag – but Sunday night was for the big guns. Yugul band from Ngukurr played (a band that’s been around for decades, released a CD last year and has toured the country) but the best band was Yilila. They are sensational. They’re basically the same mob that do the Red Flag dances, but they’re a noisy rock’n’roll band that have maintained but adapted the traditional songs and stories of the Red Flag into a noisy and spectacular show. They’re so good. They’ve just released a CD and will have a DVD coming out soon. They’ve performed at Womadelaide and the dancers have performed everywhere. They’re so good! hehe… everyone was up dancing and having a great time. And it’s so good to see community mob going off to other community mob.

Anyway, Barunga festival was good. No grog too, so the atmosphere was good. And, I bought a digital camera on the way there so hopefully as you read this you can look at some pics too! yay!

DN's Clearance kick


DN's Clearance kick
Originally uploaded by bump77.
Action shot! DN's clearance kick during the game between Minyerri Tigers community team and the team from Belyuen community.

Brolga at Mataranka Shell


Brolga at Mataranka Shell
Originally uploaded by bump77.
On the way back from Barunga we pulled up at the Shell servo at Mataranka and there was this brolga hanging out in the driveway, unfazed.

Bigibigi on the footy field


Bigibigi on the footy field
Originally uploaded by bump77.
While the Tigers were playing the Crows, a pig ran on to the field. Haha. Stupid pig.

Ngurralindji Tigers v Arnhem Crows


Ngurralindji Tigers v Arnhem Crows
Originally uploaded by bump77.
At Barunga Festival. The Tigers are in yellow and black of course. They lost.

Red Flag dancers


Red Flag dancers
Originally uploaded by bump77.
Red Flag dancers from Numbulwar at Barunga Festival 2005

Re-entering white society

I’ve had a big and interesting week. The biggest thing that happened was that S arrived to take over my post at Ngukurr Language Centre for the next three months. That means that time is swiftly approaching for me to be out of here, have my holiday and re-enter white society for a while.

It’s been good having S here. It’s kinda re-invigorated me a bit. Having S take over also means that I can have my holiday with a clear conscience. There’s no way I could easily leave this place if it meant everything I’ve been doing this year was about to fall over.

We had a good week at work. The Ngukurr language program went really well this week. We had all 5 languages going and we had a bunch of new people join in this time. One guy in particular was rather enthusiastic about getting involved in the language program which was lovely. I call him brother and he’s only about 35 or so. He’s a Ritharrngu speaker and it’s just so good to have young people keen to teach their language.

S and me also scooted off to Hodgson Downs for Alawa classes at the end of the week. There were hardly any kids there because they’d all gone off to a big festival at another community. (I’d like to say ‘at a community nearby’, but the community is still a good 230kms away). Classes went really well though because we seemed to be left with some of the best students and they actually listened, participated, learned and wanted to learn. how nice!

Oh, one other thing we did at work this week was start testing the kids at Ngukurr to see if they’ve learned anything. I really enjoyed doing testing, partly cuz I’m a dork and partly because it was good to see the language centre mob learning about assessing kids and good to see kids realising what they know (or how little they know and that they need to try harder). Doing this testing is all part of trying to get this language program taken seriously so that we can get some stinking funding.

Well, I’ve only got a few days left here at Ngukurr and a list of jobs as long as my arm. I’m looking forward to having a break and a holiday and escaping humbug for a while, but I know that as soon as I’m gone I’m going to start missing this place and the people like crazy. Bobala mi!

June 02, 2005

change of season

this week you could feel the season change. It's proper dry season now. It's cold now and you feel the air is just dry. It's had some kind of effect on me and everyone else too... most people I work with feel a bit sick or off colour and everyone is lacking energy and motivation. It's weird.

so yeah, i've been a bit sick this week. The dumbuyumbu i had might've helped a bit, but not a lot. And I later found out that I made it way too strong and that's why it tasted so gross! haha... stupid munanga.

This week was actually my last week in Ngukurr going solo. My contract finishes up in a month and I'm not coming back just yet. I need a good break from here. And I don't have to worry because I've got a good replacement coming next week. Her name is S and she's the one I took over from last October, so she already knows all about this job. She's had a good break now and is ready to come back. She comes next week and then we'll work together here at Ngukurr for a couple of weeks and then I'll leave her to it. After that, I'll still have a few weeks of work at Hodgson Downs and in Katherine and then holidays.

But it feels so weird that this week is my last on my own at Ngukurr Language Centre (on my own as in the only munanga). I've spent all year trying to get used to being here and now I have to get used to not being here! I'm gonna get sad too. I already had a bit of a soppy moment thinking about my wawa A. He's been so nice to me and taught me lots and has had such a positive effect on my time at Ngukurr. I'm pretty sure it'll be the case that although some people here can drive me nuts, as soon as I'm away from them I'll miss them like crazy and think the world of them.

Work has been slack this week. Like I said, we're all feeling unmotivated. We still had language classes at Ngukurr school, but only three out of five langauges were running. Most of the secondary students were away anyway because there's ceremony on at Numbulwar, a community three hours up the road.

Well, that's all my thoughts for now. I don't what's gonna happen in the next few weeks. I'll be going through a lot of changes... but I'll easing down and working up to giving myself a well-earned holiday.

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 ‘ล“’, 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!’

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?