Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Agarabi Quartet returns - Part 4

Re-connecting with the place where it all started.

Note: you may need to click on some of the photos in this chapter to get a clearer image.

After an incredible couple of days, we returned to Agarabi to introduce the family to the school which had been such an important part of our lives in the early sixties and where of course Ann & Vicki were born.

The school was initially located near the road before moving down to the permanent site near the river. The next photo is in fact the earliest photo of the school together with Teachers Nusa & Maiof, plus myself:The new school site was developed soon after our arrival in May 1961 down the hill:The Council arranged for the local people to build three classrooms and a small office, all made out of traditional materials. The following photo show how the school looked when stage one was completed:The first school assembly at the new school:Parkland High School in Burnie, Tasmania adopted the school as part of Junior Red Cross activities. The next photo of the senior class was taken during that time and we enjoyed meeting up with many from this group during our visit:The following photo shows just three of the students who appear in the above photo; Kantamu, Darasi & Doi:When we left in late 1964, the school numbered 155 students and the place just looked great. You will note the good use of local local design and building materials.And how it is today:We very much enjoyed meeting up with the new Headmaster and he was pleased to learn something of the early development of the school. The next photo sees the first Head and the present incumbent flanked by members of the School Council:It was really fun to visit different classes and the kids seemed to enjoy having these strangers from the past speak to them. They did appear a little overawed:Note how crowded the classes are. Forty kids per class would not be unusual - an interesting comparison with our Australian education system!The other very important part of our visit was to locate where our house had been and where Ann & Vicki were born. It looked like this when we lived there, with our bedroom - the birthing suite, circled:It was rather hard to pinpoint where the house once stood. It was here:More precisely, this would have been THE SPOT where it all happened on the morning of 2 September 1961:
In the 1960s, we had a clear view of THAT river:This is the same view today:Let me explain about THAT river. 3-4 hours after Ann & Vicki were born, the medical people considered it necessary to evacuate both the new babies and Carol to a suitable hospital in Goroka - some 20 minutes flying from Kainantu. The airstrip was some 4-5 kilometers away and while a suitable vehicle (the mobile clinic of the Salvation Army) was available, the bridge linking us with Kainantu would not be able to take the weight of this vehicle. It was therefore necessary for the journey to the airstrip to proceed via Kainawa village and ford the river there. It was THAT village and THAT river that we visited. And here is where we crossed!:It was a most amazing experience for all of us. As we pondered what happened here some 46 years ago, someone called out, 'Your manki-masta is here!' You may well ask, what is a manki-masta. In the colonial days, all expatriates employed domestic help and, sadly, they were mostly referred to as 'boy'! Manki-masta is translated as the Master's Boy. I shudder now as I think about it. Thankfully, that changed many years ago.

As it turned out, the person we employed as our domestic help was waiting to see me. Karamu and I had a most delighted re-union and I was quite surprised that I recognised him easily. With him was one of my former School Councillors, Manki. It certainly deserved a photograph:Visiting Kainawa I also came across Korotu, another student, under sad circumstances. His son had died the day before and he and the family were in mourning. He was, however, quite insistent to accompany us down to the river and to be part of this re-union. He is next to me in the next photo. With him are members of the family:By now I had lost count how many of my former students I had met and there were still more to come. Our final engagement in Agarabi was to have a mumu (traditional feast) with Pasin, his people and some of the 'Agarabi students'.Pasin's wife and others preparing the food in the in-ground oven.The Table is set.

And yes, there were more gifts. This time Vicki & Brenda (Ann was unwell and needed to return to Ukarumpa) received 'meri dresses', which of course they had to model. Everyone thought it was wonderful, as can be seen from the expression on people's faces:Still the teacher? With Darasi, Doi & Pasin, plus some children:I would like to finish this chapter with some photographs of what was in the early nineteen sixties:September 1961. THAT river on the background.Just a little older:Carol with Ann & Vicki in the stroller in front of our house, plus Agarabi children who were always fascinated by the white twins.Pasin is doing sums on the blackboard with Ann & Vicki keenly looking on. Brenda is keeping a wary eye out for other activities. This photo makes more sense now that the family have again met up with Pasin and other students.The family as we were late 1964 when we left Agarabi. How time has flown! The following photo as we are today with Pasin and his wife:As part of our Highland 'fly-over', we also had the opportunity to fly over the school and nearby villages. I will close this blog with some of the aerial images of a truly remarkable and memorable place.Kantamu's village near the school.A clear view of the school with the arrow indicating where our house once stood.The above view shows the school on the left of the picture and in the foreground, the place where we forded the river on the way to the airstrip back in 1962.

Next chapter will cover our Highland Fly-over, including visits to Erave.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Agarabi Quartet returns - Part 3


A further reason why Carol and I wanted to revisit Agarabi was to share in the opening/dedication of the ABLE CENTRE, an initiative of SIL Translators, Ron & Michelle Olsen. ABLE Centre was their vision that would provide literacy and health programmes to the Agarabi people. We watched this development with enormous interest in view of our own nineteen sixties involvement with the first Primary School in Agarabi. Carol very much wanted to share the occasion of the opening, which was initially scheduled for March. As things turned out, it would not have been possible both because of her passing and the fact that the Centre was not ready in March. The opening now coincided with our visit.

It was a most exciting day, especially for the Agarabi people and the Olsens. It was also a memorable occasion for the family and I. We had no idea what was organised and how it would all progress. We just knew that there would be an opening/dedication plus a mumu (traditional feast) and some presentations. I got a call from Ron a few hours before the opening telling me that I was listed as one of the speakers!

When we lived in Agarabi in the early sixties the population was just a little under 10,000. On that basis, I expected a couple of hundred people to turn up from nearby villages. When we arrived, I was staggered to see the number of people waiting for activities to begin. There was an estimated crowd of 2,000 through which the family and I had to walk while Darasi (former student and Bible Translator), who was on the microphone at the time, explained to all gathered that his teacher from long ago had arrived. It was a moving and humbling moment for me and at that moment just wished for Carol to be walking alongside me.

Let me give you some idea of the crowd that filled the area:The following photo shows Brenda & Mark enjoying the occasion sitting among the people: The entertainment included a hilarious skit of a medical story.It had the audience in stitches.
How great to see so many happy faces and so much laughter from both young and old:

The official proceedings included speeches by many local folk, plus Ron Olsen who gave a background to the project:
...and me:It also gave me the opportunity to especially introduce the family:Once again, we were honoured with the presentation of billums and were made to feel a special part of their celebrations on this special day:The following photo with the Olsens and the Agarabi Bible Translation Team. Darasi, my former student is on the far left:The entertainment was great, including this musical item by these young people:Finally, the official cutting of......the sugar cane. No ribbon; SUGAR CANE! I love it and it is most fitting!There were some special moments for me personally when I met up with other students, including Kantas who has a deformity since birth. Here he is, as a little boy in 1963, struggling but determined:And now in 2007, still with that glint in his eyes and pleased to see his old teacher, as I was pleased to see him:Plus Kantamu & Karato & Pasin & one, whose name I do not remember:Ann, Vicki & Brenda with Karato who dearly loved Carol. The feeling was very mutual:And Mark with Kantamu, a fine man who became quite emotional:And finally, let me present the many faces of Agarabi, full of character, interest, contrasting and very diverse. One wonders what goes on in each mind! Enjoy the next few photos:My thanks to Michelle, Brenda & Ann for contributing some of their photos. Michelle & Ron are a very special couple and we love them dearly both as friends and God's specially chosen servants in Agarabi:The Olsens and the Petrusmas.

Next chapter will cover the reunion at our old school.