Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Europe Adventure for Jan & Me - England

It is time to wrap up our meandering around Europe. As a finale, a few wonderful autumn days in the English country side was not hard to take, even though by now, we were about ready to climb back in that big metal tube, called the Airbus.

Part of the agenda was to see my granddaughter Georgie who lives just south of Bristol. We were looking forward to seeing her and share time together.

We arrived by Condor ferry in Weymouth: ....... and from there travelled mostly through Dorset and Devon to Bristol. I have to say that I always like the England countryside. It is lush and beautiful, even if the weather and lack of sunshine doesn't show it to its best.

Our first stop in Dorset. Thatch roofs add something special!
We chose a route that brought us through Exeter and then over the Dartmoors ....... to a little village by the name of Yelverton:

Yelverton, a good place to relax and to enjoy good company!

Like so many villages in England, it has lots of history and atmosphere. We thoroughly enjoyed spending the evening meal at the local pub and mixed and chatted with the locals. It was a happy night with good food. Our accommodation was equally delightful. The Poms know how to do B&B!

The following day saw us back on the narrow (VERY NARROW!!) roads through Devon. It is just as well we hardly met a vehicle and where we did, there was room to pass. All part of the England experience!

Taking in the sights en route! Love it!

The above view is typical of the countryside. I am glad that churches dominate the landscape. Without them, England simply would not be English!! We were happy to stop over and look inside the church shown in the above pic. A lovely and dignified atmosphere that is well expressed in the following photo:
A look in the tower inidcated that bell ringing is still done here. Oh, how tempting it was to pull one of those bell-ropes!

Our intentions had been to travel to Clovelly, but time beat us. Instead, we found our way to Bideford and enjoyed the northern part of Devon into Somerset towards Bristol.

Hitting the coast!

We found a delightful little town named Lynmouth: ......and found it very much to our liking, including Devonshire Tea in Devon (Where else?!) It was all very fattening and I realised that I would need to do something about my increased weight!

The restaurant was in a delightful setting along a brook, which just gurgled in front of us!The drive from Lynmouth to Churchill (near Bristol) was very scenic. The autumn colours were outstanding, though the road had Jan freaking out a bit as it traversed along some very steep terrain that she found very uncomfortable.
Once in Churchill, where we would spend the next couple of nights, we tried contacting Georgie and finally got through to her. She asked us where we were and we told her, 'in Churchill'. That seemed to suit her very well and she suggested that we meet in the local pub for some drinks and a meal. 'See you in about 15 minutes', she said!! It turned out that she was about 200 meters from the local pub on one side, and we were the same distance on the other side!! We had no idea and were obviously delighted!!

Jan & Georgie meet for the first time.

We had a most enjoyable day with Georgie and drove around her 'neck' of the woods. She suggested we go to Cheddar (of cheese fame) and spent a great time there, eating a meal, wandering around this intriguing place, joining the many poms who made the best of a (rare) sunny autumn day.A visit to Wells, in my opinion, was a must. Great city with a beautiful cathedral. The Bishop's Palace (I think that is what it is) is also worth lots of photos and we all enjoyed it:One thing I always do when in England is to attend Evensong as often as possible in one of the cathedrals. It is a great experience both spiritually and musically. I hoped we would be in time to attend the Wells' Cathedral Evensong. When we got there, it was already underway and had started early because of a special event, While this meant we could not sit in the choir stalls and experience the service more intimately, we made ourselves comfortable in the main sanctuary and still enjoyed the music, the readings and the atmosphere.

Had a lovely view of the organ and enjoyed its sounds both in singing and in a concluding voluntary.

I loved it - of course! So did Jan & Georgie.

The following day, our worship was a total contrast as we accompanied Georgie to her church in Clevedon. I was glad we had that opportunity and worship with Georgie in her church. We loved our visit and time with her.

With just a couple of days before our departure, we enjoyed visiting a family from Hobart and drove a little around the Cotswold. Just a bit disappointing, but I guess we were 'over' being tourists and were looking to heading home. Even so, our drive through the Cotswold had special moments as you can see in the following pics:

'Down Ampney', the name also given to a great hymn tune composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Jan at the village pump. It was dry!These berries caught our eyes. So lovely!

Just one more appointment before heading for Heathrow and that was to catch up in Salibury with one of my High School teachers from way back in 1954! It was a lovely way to finish our trip and further to enjoy our last drive through the beautiful country side in Wiltshire:

With the above beautiful immages, we leave England and go back home!
"Come fly with me, let's fly let's fly away!"

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

AGARABI - The Golden Jubilee!

In anyone's experience, 50 years is a long time. My experience in over fifty years of association with Papua New Guinea has been well 'Beyond all Expectations'! I wrote about this in my book of that title and emphasised that our lives in PNG has been part of an amazing journey where we learned so much - often the hard way. I am forever grateful for the special privilege that was ours to work among the Papua New Guineans.

I was one of the first E course graduates who, after six months of training in Rabaul, were sent to open new schools across the country, often in isolated places and away from cultural, emotional and professional support. The E course was an initiative of the Australian Administration in 1960 with the objective to accelerate primary education in Papua New Guinea. Many old timers in PNG did not think this would work and there were many sceptics.

Glad to say, that the scheme was an outstanding success, as was acknowledged by Loch Blatchford and Don Owner.

In part, these Educators made the following observations:
"I always admired the contribution made by the six-month trained E Course teachers. Those I met were of high quality, often working under difficult circumstances."

Don Owner, at the time the Chief of Division, Teacher Training, was another to recognise their worth. In February 1963 he stated, "Graduates of the first and second 'E' Courses are displaying a remarkable degree of enthusiasm. A continuous supply of 'E' Course graduates will ensure the Territory of a vastly improved system of primary education."
The comments seem extravagant, but it is nice to know that my fellow graduates and I were part of a special initiative that made a difference in the development of PNG. As for me personally, I believe that the Papua New Guineans taught me a lot more about life than I could have taught them. I am forever grateful to them and the opportunity given to me to be involved.

In the end, I left teaching in 1967 and returned to a position in administration, finally completing my days in Papua New Guinea as the Accountant of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary in 1972.

So where is all that leading to. I could continue to ramble on and on about my years as teacher and tell you of the many happy - and some not so happy, experiences that were part of our lives. My family can read more about this in the book I have written. However, the purpose of this blog is to jump to 2011, which is the golden jubilee year of the school that I was privileged to be Head Teacher of.

In May 1961, I was posted to Agarabi (near Kainantu) to start a new primary school with the help of a couple of national teachers and the local government council. The project was totally self-help as there was no money to build the school. It is a story too long for this blog, but in brief, the local populations built three classrooms from bush materials - bush timber, bamboo and thatch roof. They looked great and blended in perfectly with the environment. I loved them, and was especially pleased to hear Sir High Foot (later Lord Carrington), as head of the United Mission to PNG in 1962 comment on the 'pleasing design and beautiful setting of the school, and the use of traditional design and local materials'.

The first three classrooms almost ready for occupation!

There was no fanfare when we finally moved into our school later in May 1961; just a normal assembly. First assembly in May 1961

When 50 years later, almost to the day, I met the Headmaster and staff of the school, along with the School Council, I was deeply overcome with emotion, especially when the Headmaster invited me to speak at an assembly of all the students on the grounds of the school (That in itself evoked memories of my children playing there and where Carol had her first driving lesson in our jeep).

A welcome sign along the Highlands Highway!

There are many highlights of our visit and it is not possible to cover everything. One notable occasion was to meet up with a dear old man. Mr. Ono Aia, who in 1961 was the President of the Agarabi Local Government Council who, along with Patrol Officer Barry (now Sir Barry) Holloway, were instrumental in supporting the establishment of the school. I recall with gratitude their support and counsel.

Ono Aia, now in his eighties.Ono, Brenda, Graeme and I watched over by one of my students - Kusap.

In May 1961, the school numbered 100 children from Prep through to Grade 2. In May 2011, fifty years on, the school numbers 550 students, ranging from Prep through to Grade 8. The school looks great and is a tribute to the School Council, the community and the staff. Headmaster Kapi is a man of vision who was really happy to show us around and talk about his hopes and aspirations for the years ahead. A fine man indeed!

The Agarabi Primary T School in 1964. Note the use of local architecture and materials
The same School in 2011 - 50 years since the school's opening.
The small building on the foreground left and the building on the foreground right date back to 1961-2.

We made an unexpected visit on Saturday (the day after arriving in the Highlands) and were delighted that Kapi was around, along with some staff. It was a wonderful reunion that was enjoyed by all of us, including my daughters, sons in law and grandchildren.

Above: Happy reunion. Below: Plus with Kapi's wife and family
With Kapi, some of his family and, of course, my family and other kids.

When Headmaster Kapi realised we would be visiting on the Monday, he arranged for the school Council to be available to welcome us. When we arrived the school was buzzing with final preparations for our visit. We felt very honoured that the School Council made a special effort to meet us.

The School President was happy to receive five copies of the Agarabi New Testament - just released the day before, for use in the new school library that was funded by the Petrusma family. There were plenty of happy smiles, as you can see:

Above: The presentation of five Agarabi New Testaments.
Below: Kapi received a gift for the school from the family.

The new school library. We were told that this initiative so pleased AUS-AID, that the school was allocated PNGK20,000 to assist in purchasing resources.

The new School Library nearing completion.
The above delightful picture of this youngster among hundreds of donated books still to be sorted. What will become of this youngster?
And below: This staff member showed obvious delight in proceedings, as did all staff members.
Having made our presentations to the School Council, I was invited to address the school assembly. A very special moment indeed. Brenda likewise was asked to say a few words and found the experience very moving. While she would not remember her time in Agarabi, she was nevertheless a child of the area, having spent her first two years here.

An attentive school. It was so pleasing to see how well the school is going.
Below: With the School Council President, Headmaster Kapi, and Brenda.

One of the other pleasures was to meet up with some of my old students. Some in their village and others at the New Testament dedication:

Heather, Brenda & Jan with Karato who was a foundation student of the school.
Add Pasin (above) and Darasi (below) as two more foundation students.
Farewell to Darasi.

There is much more that I could share, but hope that the above gives a good indication of how special our visit was. The intriguing thing was that the school was totally unaware of its 50th Anniversary (almost to the day we visited). We hope they enjoyed our visit as much as we enjoyed meeting with them.

As mentioned above, Brenda spent the first two years of her life in Agarabi. She was born in the township of Goroka - about 2.5 hour drive from Agarabi. Having one spare day, we decided to drive to Goroka and briefly see this place of memories.

The old Goroka hospital where Brenda was born.
Glad we could relax over lunch.
The ever vigil Graeme, who took many of our photographs, along with Jan.

And the last word belongs to Jan. While in Kainantu (near the school) I took the family to the Kainantu Cultural Centre to purchase locally produced goodies, including pottery. The temptation was too much for Jan, and she delighted in throwing a pot. I was really happy for her!

Above: With one of the potters, and below, Jan at the wheel! So happy to see!