I woke up on the Thursday (29th March) morning feeling excited and with a sense of calm especially after a beautiful evening the night before watching the stars while munching on pizza and sharing stories with my new friend Jenny and her partner Graham at Battery Hill mine. It was precious getting to know Jenny a bit more and I look forward to seeing more of her when Tim and I move to the NT.
There is a saying ‘People come into your life for a reason’. With all the time I have recently had to sit and reflect, I truly believe this is true. Even if you don’t really agree with or like someone, they are placed in your life to learn from, or learn more about yourself.
Around 2pm on the Thursday morning, the Canteen Creek driver turned up with the relief RAN Sini and two scruffy dogs. We realised we didn’t have enough room for all the luggage so it was decided that Sini was going to be picked up the next day. Arriving in Canteen Creek, a thunderstorm came over the community complete with thunder and lightning. I was thrilled but also nervous that the roads would become unstable and Sini wouldn’t be able to get into the community.
Fortunately, Sini arrived safely and the next morning we met to go for a long walk. We agreed to meet every morning at 6am to walk to and along the airport strip, watch the sunrise then walk home, just over an hour’s walk. Molly, my adopted community dog comes with us and tells the other community dogs to leave us alone. It is really good protection having Molly walk with us; even though she isn’t a big dog, she warns any potential aggressive dogs to stay away.
Molly doesn’t have any dog toys so she finds empty 1.25 litre bottles and tosses them in the air. She does the same with sticks and anything else she can find that would be a suitable ‘toy’. She reminds me of those TV ads featuring African children who create their own toys out of bicycle inner tubing and a variety of items Westerners would consider rubbish. I went to the shop today and bought 3 cans of dog food for her. I will feed her in secret so as not to attract the other 100 community dogs here. Molly won’t tell on me.
The length of the lawn around the house Sini is staying was up to my knees so we spent the better part of the morning mowing it.
That evening (Saturday 31st March) we attended the Easter celebration at the local church. The band played country –style music with almost all the community sitting on the grass eating their tea and enjoying the festivities.
I got chatting to a member of the local council Estelle who gave me permission to take some photos. Estelle told me that Canteen Creek is not a part of the Shire of Barkly so they make their own agenda’s in accordance with the wishes and needs of the community. Estelle believes this is better than having an over-seeing shire with their own expectations and requirements. Estelle had grown up in Canteen Creek and it was heartening to hear Estelle had enrolled in a business course and was looking forward to continuing her education.
After the music, female elders of the community held up paintings they had done and explained to the audience what bible scriptures they had painted. Estelle explained that many of the elders are illiterate and this is their way of passing on bible stories to their communities.
This morning (Sunday 1st April) Sini and I enjoyed our usual walk then received a call out to the clinic. A toddler had ‘fly bite’ on her right eye and it had become very swollen. Fly bite is very common in the NT and is a result of flies biting and laying eggs in the eye. The result is an allergic reaction, swelling and clear discharge. It’s not painful but itchy and irritating. It is treated with anti-histamines and checked on the next day.
After we returned from the clinic, we got stuck into finishing off mowing Sini’s lawn. I got charging along with the lawn mower and came across a particularly difficult bunch of weeds. Tilting the lawn mower, I attacked the bunch of ‘weeds’ and was rewarded with a torrent of water saturating me and the lawn mower. Oh NO!!! Sini ran up and we turned the water main off. I felt so stupid! I went to Cassie’s house and told her what happened. Cassie shrugged it off and said “Don’t worry, accidents happen”. Appeasing my obvious embarrassment, Cassie said “Hey, [a RAN at another community] drove the brand new ambulance into a pole the other day, so don’t feel bad’. I was told to go to one house and ask for Riccardo and if Riccardo wasn’t home to go further up the street and ask for Ray.
Walking the streets of the community, I stuck out like the proverbial. Lily-white skin and a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off that lily-white skin, I was met with many looks but I didn’t feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. Little kids yelled out “Hey lady! What’s your name?”. Apart from Cassie, I am the only white person in this community (Sini is from Tonga).
I found Ray (waking him up from a siesta) and explained my situation. He came and had a look but didn’t have any suitable parts so he used duct tape as a band aid. After Ray had left, I crouched down and reinforced the duct tape with even more duct tape, just so I felt I had done something. Sini stood next to me with her fly net on her head, hands on her hips and remarked “Well, we don’t need to do any neurovascular obs on that water main, it’s got a great flow!”.
Coming home feeling a bit silly and quite exhausted, I had a lie down on my bed. I woke up with a start and felt the presence of someone looking at me. I sensed it was the spirit of an Aboriginal woman in her sixties simply seeing who I was. I didn’t feel any emotion whatsoever, no fear, no foreboding, just a simple ‘seeing who I was’ and that was that. There is a nice atmosphere in this house. In this community. A sort of acceptance. Smiles and waves are met with smiles and waves. I have come here to help these people and do no harm. I hope they know that; I think they do… even the spirits.
Cya! – Rachel