Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Munay-Ki in Carins

Just when I thought my time in Cairns was complete I was asked to facilitate another Munay-Ki workshop. And, in a short space of time having agreed to the proposal I found myself with another six dedicated students ready to take the next step along the path of their respective spiritual journey. My time was flexible as was the weather patterns thus we were able to weave our workshop within the natural landscapes; parks and beaches on the outskirts of the city retreating to Alexi’s veranda at times of rain.

Perched on a hillside on the edge of a National Park behind Smithfield Alexia’s space proved the perfect venue, with mother earth the ultimate partner, for a magical journey with the Munay-Ki. Submerged in the tropical rainforest we were blessed with incredible interaction from the surrounding birdlife and reptiles, as well as Alexi’s interesting and ingenious neighbours that came and went from the upstairs section of the house she rented.

On my first morning at Alexia’s I met Kelli Craig, originally from Northland, New Zealand who for the past +/-20 yrs on assignment (her own) in Queensland Far North. Working with Aboriginal communities through circus (circle us) Kelli has developed the legacy of Blackrobats.

"Circus arts teach kids confidence through physical co-ordination and fitness alongside the value of co-operation and can help improve the health and education of the whole community."

Blackrobats aims to expand the horizons of the young people from the indigenous communities in Far North Queensland. Through workshops and performance opportunities, the young people are encouraged to develop their skills and experiences.

For anyone who may be interested in learning more about or supporting Blackrobats Kelli may be contacted through the following links;

Website: www.northerncircus.com

Meanwhile our weekends spent in workshop felt more like being on a goddess retreat than anything relating to work. And as with all my workshops I learn from teaching, my initiates are very much my teachers and I love the challenge of being absolutely present all the time so that I am able to source the correct words or practical exercises to help people better understand our multi-dimensional reality. As through realising this, combined with learning where our energy comes from how we hold it and where we expend it, we are better able to access our unlimited power and potential taking full responsibility of what we are creating in our lives.

And once the self-healing tools and techniques had been mastered and the theory understood there was no better way to end each day than through the ritual of sharing the Rites and the honouring of these unique gifts through Fire Ceremony.

"If you want to learn something, read about it.
If you want to understand something, write about it.
If you want to master something, teach it."

Yogi Bhaja

I am currently in Queensland, Australia however am happy to travel to anywhere in the world to facilitate both Munay-Ki (www.munay-ki.org) and T5T: The Five Tibetan Rites, Core Stability and Energy Breathing (www.T5T.com Workshops) in addition to offering my services as a live-in Holistic Life Coach and/or Private Healing Sessions. For further information please contact me by email; earthwalk.project@gmail.com.

Friday, September 24, 2010

What it means to be family in PNG.

Celebration, Initiation and Farewell

It was our last day in Tanhum and I decided to give the market excursion a miss in favour of my yoga and meditation group as today I also needed to make time to fulfil my promise to the children, that we would learn something new. The idea had been born by Isaac’s (age 9) insatiable appetite for reading. Without having any books of his own in Tanhum he had discovered the one I was reading; THE MINDMAP Book, Radiant Thinking by Tony Buzan. I figured the best way to help him understand the concept of mind-mapping would be if we shared one of the exercises and of course his siblings were not about to miss out on the opportunity of playing with paper, coloured pencils and felt tips!

At first I explained, as best I could to a group of 7 – 11 yr olds, what we were doing and then we began to create our own mind maps, or so I thought until I very soon realised that the way they had been taught to learn was by re-creating the same information in the same way that it was given to them. Instead of creating their own mind-map they were recreating their interpretation of mine, exactly the process of learning that mind mapping was designed to undo. Through the use of colour, symbols, drawing and writing mind mapping is a tool that encourages us to think outside the square, to step beyond linear thinking and access and utilise more of our brain’s capacity and creativity. To assemble and refine ideas by separating thinking and writing according to Tony Buzan, “allows us to be more creative and more efficient when interpreting our ideas into words”.

Wondering how I might go about helping the children to change their programming I decided that they would probably have much more fun if we changed our lesson into one based on Origami, creating shapes from paper. The situation reminded me of an experience Niki shared with me when she was Ops Manager on Lahir. She said that whenever she or any of her staff were teaching a new operator she or they had to make sure they got it exactly right first time as if they didn’t 9 times out of 10 the trainee operator would continue to make the same mistake over and over again. I cannot think of a more obvious example of imprinting or blue-printing that supports why we must “walk our talk”, the days of “do what I say and not what I do” are over! If we want to teach the next generation; love, compassion, honour, respect, equality, gratitude, joy then best we “practice what we preach” as they seem to learn far more from what we do than what we say.

Aisha, Niki and Nick returned from the market a little disappointed with the lack of produce available. We were evidently expecting somewhere between 50 and 100 people to feed this evening and Kelly’s pig was not going to be enough on its own. Stephen and his friends were taking care of the butchery dept while Mama, Papa and a few Aunties took charge of rest of the food preparations. By mid morning a number of different delicacies from palm nuts to doughnuts began to appear and although everyone was browsing from the table the intake managed to stay above the off-take.

As the day evolved and to my delight I found myself responsible for children’s entertainment, which certainly made a refreshing change to the old theme of “you will always find me in the kitchen at parties”. This meant completing our origami class and cleaning up the mess, preparing a salad for lunch, playing frisbee in the mud and rain and an afternoon off while the children congregated at Louisa’s house to practise their song and dance for their evening performance.

As the kitchen was under control, I decided to take myself off for my last walk through the Copra Plantation. The week had flown by and I had learnt a little more about myself and a little about life as a Bougainville National living on Buka Island. It was hard to imagine that malaria remained the major killer of a population that lived predominantly in rural areas on less than $1.00 a day on an Island so close to so called ‘Western Civilisation’. Especially when, PNG have such a wealth of natural resources that are currently being extracted by predominantly foreign mining companies.

Two of the girls met me on the road as I was returning just before sunset. I thought this was a little odd and figured that something must be up and when I returned to the house I found out what . . . I, as one of the distinguished guests for the evening, was late for what I had not realised was to be my own initiation ceremony! Oopps . . . a thousand apologies, time for a quick pee and a glass of water before I raced upstairs to get my Merry Blouse on and get back down in time for opening speeches and to be presented with my shell money; necklaces made of coral from the Solomon Islands. It was an honour that I had neither expected nor anticipated and felt very privileged to receive.

As the guests of honour Niki and I were invited along with the chief and elder gentlemen to lead the way to the table that was laden with fish, pork fruit and every possible starch you can imagine. The ladies were next followed by the children and by the time I came back to see if there was any fish left there was hardly a scrap remaining. Yet, seeing that I was looking for more one of the ladies took the remaining fish from her plate and placed it on mine. I wanted to refuse her offer but realised to do so would not be good manners so gracefully accepted.

That is one of the distinct differences I noticed about living with Aisha and Nick’s family compared with life in middle world western society and that is the feeling of being seen and heard without the use of words. People always knew where I was and what I needed without having to ask. There was an awareness beyond self where communication took place on many levels. That doesn’t mean that there was no village gossip as that remained as the main form of media in the rural areas, it was more like the 6th sense was still very much present and utilised.

Once the feasting was over there was time for the children, led by aunty, to share their music and songs. Then, the man who had introduced himself to me as Nelson Mandela did a little shape-shifting to become (according to him) Slim Dusty, and on guitar and vocals led the ladies on to the dance floor beneath the southern starts, a perfect way to end our visit to Tanhum. And as it seems, by the number of Orbs in my photo of the moon rising we had plenty of company from other realms to support the occasion.

Niki and Papa had made the most of the reamaing home brew that our visitors had not consumed leaving them a little worse for wear the following morning. This left the children and I with the wise choice of entertaining ourselves elsewhere and on that note an outing to the beach accompanied by Uncle seemed like a great idea. I have never needed an excuse to swim and our venture down to the beach also revealed a few more WWII stories and sites of importance. These included the caves where Uncle, as a child, took shelter during air raids and underground caches that were used to bury weapons and ammunitions.

We were back at the house in time for a late lunch after which I suggested we make a plan to leave by 3pm so that I could stand true to my offer of preparing supper for everyone on our return. And the best news of all was that as Aisha and Nick supported their extended family in the village that they would take care of cleaning the house. This is when Niki began to explain to me the one-talk system that society in the islands throughout PNG is predominantly based upon and, according to some, is what restricts the evolution of the culture as it attempts to integrate certain western values.

According to Niki, family are able to ask other family members for, ‘within reason’, anything they need or want and if you as a family member are able to fulfil that request then you are expected to do so. Niki explained that a certain amount of filtering does go on and as a queen in her particular clan Aisha and her mother fulfill this role. Therefore if anyone in the family asked Niki for anything she would first have to check in with Aisha before she went ahead and purchased it.

After a week at the village and a long drive home, children were tired and adults were relaxed although in some ways I felt they were perhaps also a little reluctant to come back to town living. Babies needed bathing, beds needed to be made and I had a dinner to cook, a large pot of beans and vegetables in a coconut curry. I always knew when people appreciated my creations as there were always many words of gratitude, compliments and requests for recipes. As a result I also knew when I was exploring foreign territory and our last night was one of these moments. Coconuts although used for drinking and eating were seldom used as part of the ingredients of a cooked meal and I soon realised why as I observed those who had dedicated much of their life to chewing betel experienced a little difficulty chewing the grated coconut. The flavour however was approved and I am sure with exclusion of the raw coconut the recipe will be revisited in Aisha and Nick’s kitchen on Buka.

On our last morning in Buka Town Nicole, Issac & Isaleen Aisha and Nick’s three eldest children, took us on a shopping trip to the local market for fresh fruit and souvieners. As Buka is not yet a major tourist destination it was quite surprising how expensive woven baskets and handicrafts were. When discussing this with Aisha and Niki they explained that inflation on the Island had been about 300% in the last 5 yrs and continued to rise. An example of this was the bus fare from main town Buka to Tanhum which now cost Kina 20, the equivalent of almost AUD 10.00, not cheap when held next to the average income of $1.00 per day.

It is a time of change in Buka and perhaps also Bougainville and greater PNG and what is encouraging is that Aisha and Nick, having decided that six children are enough, are ready and willing to fulfil their roles as leaders within their community and make conscious choices that better serve their island as a whole. We also had an opportunity to discuss the earth changes that are beginning to take place, information that was at the time new to them yet perhaps not to uncle, the story teller of the family, who carries many of the old stories.

I suggested uncle might like to do a little of his own research into any stories that people may still recall from the last turning over of time on our earth so that they may better prepare themselves for the one that is coming. It also made me wonder if the vision I had had the day before we flew from Cairns to PNG of a volcano erupting had anything to do with the one that erupted in Indonesia the day before we left these beautiful tropical Islands that sit on the rim of the Pacific Tectonic Plate???

Time to head to the airport and uncle arrived in his truck to do the honours, after all how else could you get 18 adults and children to the airport and back without it costing an arm and a leg in taxi fares of hire vehicles? There were many hugs, tears, and invitations to come back as we said our goodbyes and exchanged last minute gifts of gratitude. I am glad that I brought a Ponamu (NZ Jade/Greenstone) to gift to Aisha, Nick and family and they appreciated it from the cultural aspect of the meaning that it carried, that one day they too would travel to the land of my birth.

Due to torrential rain in Far North Queensland our return flight from Port Moresby to Cairns was delayed. This meant a few hours wait at Port Moresby International that was made all the more comfortable by Niki’s QANTAS platinum card which allowed us access to the executive lounge. Here, ‘coincidently’ we ended up sharing space with four men who were on their way back to Australia having just visited Lahir Island and the very mine where Niki used to be operations manager. This was my opportunity to see Niki in work mode as she rolled up her sleeves, cracked open a beer and began to talk shop with the boys.

It was interesting to listen to the conversation and learn a little about Niki’s world. It was also interesting listening to the silence that descended when, after sitting quietly for the first half an hour or so, I was asked what I did. I figured it best to speak my truth so introduced my line of work as conservation which effectively I guess it is, only now on a more planetary scale. I spoke a little of where I had been and what I did now and answered a few curious questions before the conversation reverted to mining and I found a common interested with the mine doctor. Eventually our gathering dispersed as everyone got called away by their mobile offices and I found a quiet space in the corner under a story board to begin recording my journey to PNG, a journey that I would like to thank Niki, Aisha, Nick’s and their extended family for making possible.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Village Life, Tahum, Buka Island

Slipping in with the rhythm of the land and the people brought to the fore the simplicity and beauty of village life. Rising with the sun I would step out on to the deck and do my morning yoga while the rest of the house and village woke from their dreamtime and went about their morning ablutions. Organically, my morning yoga and meditation class of dedicated young students would assemble themselves, joining in for as little or as long as they liked.

There was always plenty of hot water for tea, food to eat, and betel nut for chewing, and very rarely was there not someone from the house or neighbourhood to share this with. In fact eating was so much a part of life and it did take conscious effort not to eat just for the sake of eating, especially when Nick brought back some banana leaf packages filled with steamed banana and ground palm nuts from the local market. Betel on the other hand was much easier to resist especially when taking into consideration that the catalyst for the process was nothing more or less than pure unadulterated lime, the same stuff you get warned to wash off your car after passing through certain road works, and that was what people were dabbing into their mouths . . . http://www.wikihow.com/Chew-Betel-Nut-in-Papua-New-Guinea

Time was never really discussed unless we actually had to be somewhere early-ish such as on the one occasion I can recall which was the Saturday morning market prior to the evening Mumu (traditional feast cooked underground similar to that of NZ hangi). Otherwise the intent of the activity for the day was given and when all those who were interested in participating were ready to go we would make a movement. An almost organic process unless I thought I had ‘time’ to do something before the main party departed and Aisha would quietly yet quite clearly mention “that’s OK, we will wait”. Then I knew I was pushing the boundaries of natural law and matriarchal order to the limit . . . I guess I was not too good at sitting still when there was so much to explore.

We had a fun family outing to the ‘old house’, Aisha and Nick’s original house on the beach. A wooden house on poles that formally belonged to Mama and Papa now housed Aisha’s younger brother Kelly and his family. There was a huge gathering of people including the village chief and our visitation was the instigation of much feet washing and celebration. We paid our respects at Grandfather’s grave and were subsequently introduced to the majority of the extended family. It was a shame that the tide was out as I would have loved to have taken a swim although saying that, it didn’t seem right to take myself off to the edge of the reef during our first official family visit. The children however had nothing to worry about and made the most of the cool pools of spring fed waters at the edge of the sand.

As Aisha had said “your visit to Tanhum is the talk of the town” and this was clearly obvious when I took the children, or perhaps they took me, out later in the afternoon for a walk up the main road though the Copra Plantations. Here, although everyone knew exactly who I was and where I was staying, found it a useful way in which to open a conversation either in English, occasionally pidgin or in their local dialect through the translation of the children. Although there are over 850 indigenous languages throughout PNG the most common language I heard during my stay was pidgin and as it wasn’t too far removed from the English Language, although I could not always follow the detail of the conversation, by listening and paying close attention to body language I could usually get the gist of it.

Our first afternoon walk together began as an adventure which for the younger kids soon turned to boredom so I asked myself how we could make a game of it. Recalling endless hours trekking in the Himalayas during my earlier years with Encounter I figured that I had better quickly come up with a participatory song before I had a mutiny. And sure enough the boredom vanished, the energy shifted and, much to the amusement of our fellow villagers, the walking was forgotten and we sang and danced our way in and between the pools of water along the dirt road that ran through the Copra Plantation and our walks from then on became part of our afternoon ritual.

During our wanderings we were invited in to the local copra factory to learn what one of Buka’s main industries was all about. Coconuts were everywhere but what the problem was, according to both Aisha and Nick, was that Buka did not have its own processing plant and as a result the island earned very little for exporting its raw product. It did however provide a dozen young men with a regular job and income and our visit provided them with enough entertainment and stories to last for a few betel nut sessions with Bob . . . Reggae was clearly the music of preference on the island and dreadlocks were a common adornment on many of the men.

On one of our evening walks we bumped into uncle pushing his lawnmower down the road on his way home. And, as the sun began to set through the copra he shared with me stories of his childhood experiences during the Second World War. I must have either missed or forgotten that particular history lesson at college as until then I had no conscious recall how much PNG had been involved in the war, having first been invaded by the Japanese and then occupied by the allied forces. And, as uncle recalled these memories, I could feel the fear that was still being carried not only from WWII but also from the more recent Bougainville Crisis, a topic that to this day remains as one that is spoken of in whispers.

On our flight over to PNG Niki had mentioned that she once met Francis Ono, a former employee of Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) and the instigator of the Bougainville Crisis. She described him as a man without a soul and the words of his she recalled from their brief meeting were “that although he did not regret what he did, he did regret how he did it!” Briefly, through what I understand from the few conversations where I was invited to talk about the crisis was that BCL, the mining company were prepared to compensate the local people for the losses they were claiming yet the PNG Govt would not allow this to be done. For more info on the Bougainville Crisis; http://epress.anu.edu.au/sspng/sspng_13_ONLINE.pdf

Meanwhile back to the story . . .

We woke on our second day in Tanhum to the sound of rain, thankful that it was not the day for our island journey I figured that we would have enough entertainment watching Papa and Niki create their ‘home-brew’. This meant Papa taking an early morning trip to the local markets to purchase a pineapple, perhaps the only organic ingredient that would go into the cauldron of sugar, water and yeast! And while Papa and Niki perfected the art of home brewing the girls made the most of the opportunity to play with my long hair and weave their own magic.

Having not visited a hairdresser once in the last 20 years it was the longest time I have ever sat still and allowed myself to be groomed. Even Raffiki, our little vervet monkey in Ethiopia, didn’t have the dedication these girls had! At first I was a little restless wondering how I might endure having my hair pulled into plaits during the course of the morning however the girls could not have been more gentle and did a great job that lasted all the way back to Carins.

Back to the business of food . . . I did my best to produce a balanced meal made of local ingredients for lunch each day. Although there was always plenty of food to go around, the balance seemed to sway very much in favour of carbohydrates with little emphasis on protein or fresh fruit and veg. And what surprised me was that there was no cheap source of vegetarian protein as found in many of the developing countries I have visited over the years. Perhaps this was because most people had access to fresh fish or perhaps it was simply because people were not aware of the importance of protein in our diet.

I also offered to prepare a Banana and Coconut Cake to take for our picnic lunch to Hitou Island the following day. It was a team effort and a roaring success all the way from the measuring and mashing of ingredients and licking the mixing bowl to preparing and supervising the fire for the camp oven and taste testing the final product! And, as it so happened, Niki and Papa also did a great job of their creating which kept the two of them (including us by default) awake well into the wee hours of the morning, and not in any particularly fit state for our excursion to Hitou Island the following day.

Nevertheless our journey to the Hitou, an island off the north east coast of Buka where Mama spent much of her childhood prior to being married by arrangement to Papa, ran remarkably smoothly. Nick ran two shuttles between Tanhum and the beach at the north where we boarded our boat to Hitou. It was a big day out as none of Aisha and Nick’s children had ever been to Hitou and Aisha hadn’t been since she was a child. It amazed me how well behaved all of the 12 children were but then I realised that there were just as many adults as there were children and everyone quite naturally took care of whichever child was closest to them.

Upon arrival at the island we were greeted with the customary foot washing right next to a turtle that was being butchered. I was wondering if this might be a special delicacy in our honour and was very relieved when lunchtime came and we were offered fish. Lunch however was the least of my concerns as before that happened I had an opportunity to explore the reef and take a swim off the edge and into the blue while Louisa and Aunty collected shellfish. Oh, how I wished I had brought a mask and a snorkel with me as where the reef around the main island of Buka had been destroyed by locals fishing with dynamite during the earlier years of mining in PNG, the far reef off Hitou was completely unspoilt.

We eventually made it back to base where having just finished lunch, dishes and tea were the priority, that was for everyone except Niki and Papa who both badly needed their siesta even more than they needed tea. We figured this gave us just enough time to indulge in our second green drinking coconuts for the day, consume our share of fresh fish and still have time to explore the rest of the island before we had to leave. I was beginning to enjoy hanging out with the kids and as much as I was teaching them they were teaching me how to live lightly with a beginners mind and a sense of fun and playfulness.

Our journey back took us via the island of Maloulou which although predominantly a fishing island provided us with a sheltered sandy bay that was perfect to take the kids for a swim before returning to the mainland and an early night for a house full of sun and sea weathered travellers.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Island Time, Buka, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea

A 3.00 am alarm, 4.00 am taxi ride and 5.30 am flight saw Niki, I and 70 kg luggage on a QANTAS Link flight from Cairns to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Only problem being next flight was a domestic one with Air Niugini that came with a luggage allowance of 16kg per person and a huge bill for excess. Taking presents to her extended family in Buka was becoming an expensive occupation however, as she said, it didn’t add up to too much if she divided it by the 10 yrs since she had last seen everyone.

Buka & Bougainville Islands

We landed at our scheduled time and enjoyed the simplicity of Buka’s arrivals hall and Baggage Claim while waiting for our ride. A quick phone call to Aisha, Niki’s ‘sister’ brought reassurance that Nick, her husband, should not be too far away. Sure enough we were soon greeted with a warm smile and huge hug by a very well dressed Bougainville National. Niki had met Aisha during her time on Lahir Island where she worked as Operations Manager on the mine from 1994 until 2000. During this time Niki and Aisha had become close friends and just prior to her departure Niki had been initiated into Aisha’s clan.

Buka Arrivals Hall

Isa and Nick rent two rooms in main town Buka where they live with their family. This includes their six children aged 11 yrs to 2 ½ months, their 9 yr old niece who has pretty much been part of their immediate family since birth along with Aisha’s mother (Mama) and father (Papa) without whom two full-time working parents would probably not be able to consider such a large family. It is also perhaps good reason why they had organised a room in the guesthouse next door for Niki and I to stay for the night before we headed north up to Lemankoa and Aisha and Nick’s home village of Tanhum.

After introductions and distribution of gifts to immediate family we were taken on a walk around main town Buka to meet the rest of the extended clan that resided in the main settlement of Buka Island. This is where it came in very useful to learn that is was absolutely OK to refer to all extended family as aunty or uncle and be referred to as aunty or sister.

Ferries to Bougainville

Niki had a very emotional reunion with Papa, Aisha’s father. During her time on Lahir Island Papa had gone missing at sea. He had always told family never to concern themselves if he should be away for 2 – 3 weeks however after this length of time Aisha and Niki both had major concerns. Aisha had taken leave from Lahir to return to the village while Niki stayed on so that she had access to international communications. And, sure enough, Papa and his friend eventually turned up in Honiara, Solomon Islands after 44 days at sea living off, rainwater, the odd coconut they found floating in the ocean, raw fish and sea birds. Niki sent her credit card details to buy Papa a ticket home and shortly afterward was initiated into Aisha’s clan.

Niki & I in our Merry Blouses from Aunty

On return from our wanderings Aisha, a queen in her respective clan, as are her mother and first born daughter in this matriarchal society, filled us in on the basic program for our week with family. Tuesday would be spent shopping and travelling to Tanhum, Wednesday visiting old house and grandfather’s grave, Thursday was reserved as home-brewing day, Friday boat trip to Hiku Island and Saturday would be a Mu Mu, a traditional feast family gathering and celebration in our honour before returning to main town Buka on Sunday.

Niki took us out for supper across the road at the Kiva Resort, which we had been recommended was the best place in town only what we didn’t know was that it would be packed with the opening evening of a conference for health workers focused on rebranding of an organisation that opposed lateral violence in the community. It was interesting to observe what else was happening in a space where group of like-minded individuals had gathered to promote awareness of lateral violence and HIV problems within community when at the table next to us a middle aged man was doing his best to secure the attention of a young woman of an age that could easily have been his daughter.

This is where I observed ‘community in action’. While most of the conference attendees were dancing to the music of the Bamboo Band Aisha and her mother began to step in. Their glances and remarks were very subtle at first however when these went by unnoticed they soon became much more focused speaking directly to the young woman and explaining that this man had a wife and family at home and she would be better to spend her time elsewhere. Eventually the young woman got up and left and the scene passed unnoticed while the music and dancing continued.

It brought me back to a conversation I had shared early in the day with Nick, Aisha and Niki about how much the more traditional society of Buka had fallen away in the 10 yrs since Niki had left PNG. Aisha and Nick commented on a whole generation of youth from their mid-teens to mid-twenties that had little to no respect for their elders or traditional ways. And of a youth culture of alcohol and marijuana smoking had taken over clouding the minds of the next generation.

Perhaps this partially explained why there was such a high presence of NZ Police in Buka at the time. And it was certainly the reason why there was a cruising yacht moored off Bougainville and six Australians being held by the authorities for being caught smuggling in weapons to Bougainville as trade for marijuana. This was followed up by a newspaper report a few days later stating that 80% of Bougainville’s youth were dependent upon marijuana.

View from Nick & Aisha's house observed from the verandah of our guest house

The following day Niki and Aisha kindly took over the shopping duties which allowed my otherwise controlling self to surrender and trust that they were quite capable of organising our supplies for the week while I spent some time catching up on a few overdue blog entries. As it happened the girls did a great job and I enjoyed five hours completely undisturbed as I downloaded my experiences of the past 6 weeks into the written word so that I would again be completely empty and present for whatever my week on Buka Island had in store for me. It also showed me how much time I have been spending on email and internet during my time in Cairns and how best I might consider organising my time in future.

Buka main town market

Nick had managed to borrow a Landcruiser Troop Carrier from his workplace which meant that we; 7 adults and 7 children could travel in relative comfort to the north of the island, a 1 ½ to 2 hour journey that would have otherwise taken 2 to 3 hrs in Uncle’s truck. The kids had not taken long to get over their shyness and we had a fun journey arriving in Tanhum just after dark and just in time for feet washing, a custom to physically and energetically cleanse the visitor that I was to experience on several occasions over the coming week.

Journey to Tanhum

Foot Washing Ceremony

Everyone settled in and found their allocated space and I soon discovered that in a four bedroom house with 9 adults and 7 children I had been given a room all to myself. I quickly explained to Aisha that this was not necessary and shortly afterward found myself with two 9yr old roommates; Annyella and her cousin/sister Isaleen.

It was full moon when we arrived so after supper I decided to make the most of the occasion and lay down on the grass outside to listen over the generator for the sounds of the jungle while I soaked up some moonbeams. The tranquillity only lasted a minute or so until both Aisha and Nick were by my side to check that everything was OK as certainly such bizzare behaviour was not common practice by anyone who was well! Relieved that I hadn’t suddenly succumbed to sudden illness or been overcome by a bad spirit, which for them was a very really possibility in a culture steeped in sorcery and black magic, the children soon joined my game and we played with their fluorescent bracelets and the fireflies beneath the southern stars...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Community in Cairns

Although my first month in Carins was very much spent in isolation and hibernation the time since has been very much the opposite. Kay’s invitation to run an introductory and subsequent w/shops has not only kept me busy but also divided my time. This means that I have not yet managed to achieve all that I had set out to do however so long as I am able to get the Earthwalk Project Website up and running and learn to navigate my way between that, the Earthwalk blog and facebook I will be content to have achieved half. Once more having already written the content of my book I now realise that to edit it into shape in order to present it to a possible publisher I probably just needed to find another suitable space in which to spend another undisturbed month so that I may do so.

There is no right or wrong and definitely no regrets as there has been much learning in juggling Earthwalk with the practicalities of running workshops, keeping house and creating an income and for the first time in two years maintaining a bit of a social life. I guess I hadn’t realised quite how focused and all consuming my chosen path had become and I have enjoyed remembering how to once again let my hair down and have a party occasionally. As this began to happen I realised how important it was to connect with the very human side of myself by sharing friendship through establishing new and replenishing old relationships. If returning to that sense of community is part of our future then it is best I practice it through walking my talk.

Speaking of which I knew that my last few weeks in Cairns were going to be extra busy as not only did I have another T5T workshop scheduled but Niki Clape, an old friend from Perth who had done an overland trip with me in Africa 18 yrs ago, was coming to visit. She planned to share a few days in Cairns before taking me to Buka Island off Bougainville, PNG to visit with her second family. In addition Ian, my long term partner of the last 20 yrs, along with Rachel his new partner, were coming through Carins during their tour of Australia to introduce Rachel to the Stevo’s, and as I hadn’t seen Ian for 18 months and Rachel for about 4 yrs I was very much looking forward to catching up with both of them.

What surprised me was how many people thought it odd that I would choose to invite by last mate and his new mate to come and visit . . . especially when I felt it would be very odd not to! We shared an incredible journey together for 20 yrs of our lives, a journey that will always be part of who I am and I am pleased that Ian continues to be one of my nearest and dearest friends since our paths have parted. Once more I am very happy that he has found himself a wonderful woman who shares his passion for wildlife conservation in Zambia. They are a good looking couple and will make a great team and I hope that we remain good enough friends as I would like to share a journey into Central Africa to research one of the Earthwalk sites in the not too distant future!

Meanwhile back in Cairns my T5T w/shop was well attended with referred business from Federica along with a few new friends I had made along my way. What wasn’t part of the plan however was the accident that took place right outside the hall where I was teaching at about 8.30 that night. A car had hit something and that something happened to be someone, a +/- 20 yr old male who looked as though he was of African ethnic origins had been crossing the road on a child’s bicycle without lights or helmet when he had been hit by a passing car and catapulted across the windscreen and on to the median strip.

Fortunately Jill, one of my participants, was a registered nurse and together we were the first to respond. From what we could see we had an unconscious patient with a head injury, compound fractures and heavy bleeding. We managed to stabilise our patient as best we could until the ambulance and paramedics arrived but what surprised me was that instead of thanking us or our assistance and excusing us from the scene we along with one other from our group were recruited to help. It was an emergency situation and I can only imagine that our presence was in some way holding the space required for those that knew their stuff to do what they had to do.

It was an interesting space to be present and observe from. As I could see the scene from the perspective of the paramedics who were very much dealing with the 3D reality of a life and death situation while at the same time it was as though Jill and I were holding a space of still and calm among the chaos where we could be present for the spirit of the patient and those who were suffering from the shock of the accident. Together I felt that we made the whole by honouring and respecting both the physical and the spiritual aspects of the situation.

It also gave me reason to wonder if I needed to visit Carins Base Hospital for some reason as I now knew of two people in ICU. As a result I made a plan with Debra, who just so happens to be a mid-wife in Carins, to meet at the hospital on Monday evening which provided a perfect and effortless way to gain entry to ICU in order to visit with Cathy and her partner Kevin who had sat by her bed since her admission last Tuesday. She had been subject to three rounds of surgery to remove the dead tissue from a black head on her back that according to the doctors was the source of her blood poisoning and although still sedated was expected to be encouraged out of her coma the following day. Unfortunately our patient from the accident was not so lucky and had recently been transferred to Townsville Hospital for more specialised care.

Niki arrived next evening and by the following day was back with her T5T practice and ready to brave a mediation circle and Oneness Blessing which to my surprise she actually enjoyed. The next night we were out at the TaNKS for the opening night of the Cairns Indigenous Arts Fair (CIAF). A fantastic evening of art and culture from throughout Northern Queensland and the Torres Strait Islanders providing excellent song, music and dance and the most incredible Didgeridoo playing I have ever heard! We even managed to gain ourselves a front row perch next to the stage a few seats away from the Mayor of Queensland who had come to open the event. This prime location provided us an opportunity to chat with MC, David Hudson and meet William Burton, an Australian born and internationally renowned Didgeridoo Player.

David Hudson on Stage

Niki & William Burton

Friday night was a family affair shared with friends and neighbours, from new babies to grandmothers and with permission from Robert and Leanne’s their home provided me a space in time where my two worlds met and merged as one. We shared a seafood feast, new stories and old memories, Luke attended his first Didge lessons with Deb in the bathroom followed by a Oneness Blessing with Suzie in my bedroom. The evening just seemed to flow and I enjoyed being able to share the last hour of it talking to my old mate about his new life.

Saturday afternoon was spent looking at a possible vehicle for my Ozzie Earthwalk followed by an afternoon walk along the Esplanade with Niki and Guy. Little did we know CAIF has prepared an evening parade and in the moment Guy invited us out for an impromptu supper at his favourite Southern African Steakhouse. And our walk back to the car coincided perfectly with the evening fireworks display that we must have shared with a good percentage of Carins local and foreign population.