I was trawling back through early versions of my memoir the last two days and reoorganising it. It could be written sometime soon and it feels good to begin to see its structure as well, but back to the other novel and the memoir can sit and stew, although I am making notes of memories I’d like to add to it when I feel I can’t work on the novel. It could be three books, or one book with three to four sections.
“My story begins with the love story of my parents to be, in Papua New Guinea in the late 1960s. Dad when he reads my first telling of their story in a short piece called ‘Lost in the Bush’ says, ‘You make it sound so much like a movie.’ And it’s true: it has that feeling about it, because it’s an epic story about the coming together of two rebellious and open minded young people from different cultures.
My parents met when they were young. She was eighteen and training to be a nurse, while he was a patrol officer in his early twenties, and part of the colonial administration of Papua New Guinea by Australia.
My mother, Anna Elizabeth Ako, began her life living in Maipa Village Papua New Guinea, tending to the pigs, which were destined to be killed for feasts. She had a younger brother and sisters and older brother and sister, and another two sisters who died before she was born. Later she went away to a mission boarding school and was educated by Catholic nuns with the occasional visit from Priests.
In her teens she would examine many churches to see whether Catholicism truly was the one for her and even later she would look at world religions. Her father Malolo was the local sorcerer, who gave love spells, herbal remedies, and sometimes curses. He didn’t think much of churches, as they looked down on his carving, and living a traditional life. Yet, still this traditional man didn’t object to his daughter being trained as a nurse, as long as she still learnt traditional dances and understood her role as a woman to care for her family and extended family. Her mother was Paisa, destined to be the semi exiled second wife of the sorcerer.
Paisa would later ask her daughter to please bring her to Australia to live. I was told I would be sharing a room with her. My mother planned this for years but sadly it never happened.”
(c) June Perkins, Extract from Memoir in Progress.
My mother tells me my grandfather was one of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.
That’s all I know of the story so far, apart from what is in the Australian War Memorial Records, and written by the army or historians.
There is so much history that could have been written but might forever be lost.
So we search for fragments in the often faded memories of those relatives who spoke to the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.
Must we then imagine their stories from these spoken fragments, public records, and photographs, where so many faces seem to be from the village of my grandfather.
Will some historians who want written records, and identify verification from the photographs, discount our hand-me-down fragments and pieced together tales?
I am touched when a friend of mine says her grandfather was an Australian on that trails.
Maybe our grandfathers met each other.
We will never now.
Malolo was a Fuzzy Wuzzy angel.
He was my bubu (grandfather)
Lest we Forget.
For more information
Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels
Many a mother in Australia
when the busy day is done
Sends a prayer to the Almighty
for the keeping of her son
Asking that an angel guide him
and bring him safely back
Now we see those prayers are answered
on the Owen Stanley Track
For they haven’t any halos
only holes slashed in their ears
And their faces worked by tattoos
with scratch pins in their hair
Bringing back the badly wounded
just as steady as a horse
Using leaves to keep the rain off
and as gentle as a nurse
Slow and careful in the bad places
on the awful mountain track
The look upon their faces
would make you think Christ was black
Not a move to hurt the wounded
as they treat him like a saint
It’s a picture worth recording
that an artist’s yet to paint
Many a lad will see his mother
and husbands see their wives
Just because the fuzzy wuzzy
carried them to save their lives
From mortar bombs and machine gun fire
or chance surprise attacks
To the safety and the care of doctors
at the bottom of the track
May the mothers of Australia
when they offer up a prayer
Mention those impromptu angels
with their fuzzy wuzzy hair.
By Bert Beros
Can be found at http://www.ww2australia.gov.au/asfaras/angels.html
I haven’t written in this blog for a while, but I really wanted to remember Ruha’s Surprise party.
Her sister, Minaira secretly invited several of Ruha’s friends to gather to surprise her. Our instructions were, ‘dress in the style of Ruha, bring Sushi and Yoghurt, and arrive at 6.45.’
What a happy but noisy waiting bunch, not sure if Ruha heard the loud shushes…. from up the street.
There were a couple of false arrivals, that caused lots of giggles.
Minaira, was infectious in her excitement that she was making a big surprise for her sister.
And finally Ruha arrived!
Lots of hugs and laughter.
Children running around with balloons.
Sushi and frozen yoghurt treats.
Followed by dancing, guitar and general happiness.
Happy birthday Ruha and thanks so much for Minaira for including us in the shenanigans.
It was so funny how the group photograph came together. It began with six and Ruha just kept calling more and more people into the photograph.
It was a day for honouring and remembering people born in villages, with open houses, who have to make and grow everything they have – those whose islands may be going under, and they may have to mass migrate.
I had an enlightening yarn up with a Papua New Guinean Australian lady I have met at the place where I tutor. There’s a common room where staff and students often mingle including the more transient sessional academics, who tutor.
Today we talked about culture, opportunities for the young in the Pacific, our travels, growing up Papua New Guinean in Australian, and I always feel like I understand something more after our yarns. On another note we discussed pigs, colonisation, and chickens. I won’t go into our private yarn up too much, but plenty of deep thinking conversation not to mention laughter. Reminds me of visits and yarns with my dear friend Lima up in Tully
My mum was the caretaker of the pigs, and eventually they would end up at feast. Pigs are there, weddings and funerals, and there was one at my wedding in Hobart. That’s one way to be PNG in Australia, have the pig at the important events.
When I arrived home my mum emailed me that an older brother had passed away. She was, understandably pretty sad about it, and rarely travels to Papua New Guinea which makes that loss even harder (no closure from the funeral), although she often sends parcels and does major projects to give back to the community she grew up in.
This week has been wonderful for discovering a whole stack of Pasifika writers. I did a shout out on my twitter and Lani Wendt Young, who I met briefly at her book launch sent me a shout out back. Loving visiting their blogs and discovering more about the newer Pasifika writers. Hope I can join their wonderful company!
When the holidays arrive and tutoring is finished for the year, will be great to explore their texts, write more of my stories, and hoping and dreaming that Magic Fish Dreaming comes true. Not long to kickstarter lift off, just a few more jobs and away we go.
(On another note looking forward to Mel Irvine being back in Australia soon!)
(c) June Perkins
We had a special lunch for my daughter’s fifteenth. My mother and brother were able to make the journey from Tasmania for Brisbane for it.
When Baha’i children turn fifteen, this is the age at which they are able to decide to independently reaffirm their faith. They must make the decision for themselves without any pressure from family or friends as to whether their commitment will be made.
To celebrate this occasion we went to Ahmet’s at South Bank
Our family gathered together with bubu, Uncle and two of our dear close family friends. They were great company and chatted with us all, and bought some arty gifts for dear daughter. Daughter loved that we were all honouring her special day and was incredibly chatty and sparky.
South Bank, Brisbane has a lot of cool eating places but Ahmet’s was particularly recommended by a dear writing friend for its atmosphere as well as brilliant menu.
It had tremendous service. The wait staff were warm, friendly and diligent. We ate beautiful turkish pizza, spinach and ricotta pastry, egg plant salad, an assortment of dips, turkish bread, and calamari.
Dear Daughter loved the music on the radio and the the amazing lights. She took quite a few photographs of the lights.
A big thank you to everyone who was there with us. Thanks to Temily for taking this photograph of some of the group that went.
I remember my 15th birthday years ago. It was a massive joint party of three youth. Baha’is from all over Tasmania attended and our parents hired a hall and one of them, Ed, decorated our cakes as per our request. I had a pegasus on mine. Many of my friends from school attended. It was a special day and I was keen to reaffirm and remain a Baha’i as I am today.
It was a big event, but I think our dear daughter was equally happy with our low key and warm and friendly event. It was special that some of the extended family were able to come and spend it with us.
(c) June Perkins
A very happy birthday to youngest son, who is enjoying an afternoon doing what he loves most, playing cricket for his club. Energetic, enthusiastic, movie buff, mathematics wizz, writing with heart and imagination – with a growing crew of close mates. Now your parents are officially parents to three teenagers. What a delightful young man you are and what beautiful friends you are making. Like your older brother, born during Ayyam-i- ha Love Mum
Dad tells me there are 343 grade 7s in the school this year, I take a moment to process this and realise there are more people in the school I go to than the town that I used to live in. I realise how much things have changed in an instant. I begin to think of Tully.
Such a humble micro settlement. The twin towers of Tully was a sugar mill. My nose in distress, sniffing in the terrible air of the mill in cane season. An endless sea of green mountainous landscape. The unstoppable golf ball sized aqua drops have a limitless quantity. They constantly fall. The hill that I called home, in a mountain off in the distance, as steep as the Angel Falls. A green house, light green bricks. A simple little home.
All the kids shared a room. A beautiful neighbourhood, so much forest. The street lit up with Christmas. A display for all eyes to see. A tiny street in a mini figure town, with a display of glowing, blinding, luminous light.
The snakes slither through schools and shops, the birds chirp on the roof tops, the sun barely peeps through the always watching clouds, azure is a discolouration of the sky.
Grey is misery, but the beauty of the luscious green landscape makes me ignore it. The village is a family, everyone knows each other, if one of this tight group of people had a problem with another, I can guarantee they’ll see that person again, they’ll have to deal with it. It also means, a loaf of bread comes with a conversation, dad buys the groceries and shopkeepers talk, for hours and hours. They talk like they are family, because the town is a large family. I grow up with school kids like siblings, I always see them. Only one major place of shopping, it is the heart of the town, lives and breathes.
Dad knows most of the shopkeepers, they’re all high school aged, he educates at the centre of socialising and learning. My brother can’t go past the Guitar shop without walking in, Butler Street is the café relax time for off work dwellers during the day. The traffic report at peak hour will have two traffics, one turning towards the library, and the other towards the Tennis court.
Everyone is a sports fan of some sort or the mother of a sports fan. Cricket here, rugby there and our family is an odd AFL fan. I was considered a rather strange kid, liked AFL, cricket, maths, reading and even cards. No-one I knew liked even 2 of these things.
Storm season is always frightening, a system circling around the tiny houses, shredding them bit by bit, the wind slapped against the roof tops, lightning shattered the sky and clouds opened and shed a thousand tears against the homes of many beings. Lightning, wind, rain, things were so simple.
Cinemas were hard to find, the closest one was a million miles away, so I adopted the small screen. But going to the movies was like hearing you were pregnant. No matter how bad the movie was, I’d love the experience. It never ceased to amaze.
Now things are different, I’m nearly a teen, I live in a city of a million souls and I have handled the change much better than I expected. It was a daunting experience, getting told I was going to a school bigger than the town I used to live in. I didn’t know how I’d handle it.
Now I realise I can cope with change, my family pet bird coped with it, my family coped with it and helped me adapt to the change. And it all ended well. Friends from my new school welcomed me as their own, I now live in Brisbane.
I now know I can adapt to change, and I also know I can teach and help my children through change and the process of growing up. I think of old homes, schools and friends a lot, but the colossal town I live in, I have now grown to know it as home.
Youngest son Perkins
So many beautiful comments for Ben on his birthday that I thought I would save them here for Ben to look at and back at with the rest of the family:
Alan Perkins – Happy Birthday Ben, good luck on your Uni journey.
June Perkins Every year I write a letter to my children – I have a notebook full of them. this year is a special one. The one year we are parents to three teenagers.
Lynette Harris Happy Birthday, Ben..
Phebe Kanaratnam-Roberts That is lovely, June Perkins! Big love to the Perkins clan on this beautiful day/event. There are far better things than any we leave behind ~ C.S. Lewis. May Ben’s adventures be intellectual, emotional, spiritual, interpersonal and creative. Onward!
June Perkins So beautiful of you Phebe
Renee Hills This is so beautiful June.Very moving!
Maxine Lindsay Marsh Happy Birthday from the Marshs.
Graham Nicholson Happy bday.
Siva Peri Wish you all the best Ben. Sure you will outdo your parents who themselves have excelled in many ways!
Justine Crema Happy Birthday Ben
Bill Wells Fantastic sentiments June, he’s blessed to have such a Mum. And he’s a Pisces too!
Soroor Allen Beautifully said!!! Wishing dear Ben the happiest Birthday, and all the best for the Uni year!
June Perkins Ben thanks everyone for the Birthday wishes.
Paulien Bats Congratulations Ben!!
Hélène Safajou Congratulations to Ben and his parents!
Daryll Bellingham Many Happy Returns Ben.
Paul Gerard My nineteenth was spent in Ninggerum, on the (at that time disputed) border between PNG and Indonesian occupied Papua. All very exciting and stimulating at the time. Small contribution to exchequer in Mum’s account.
Lou Dowling Happy birthday young lad!
Danny Letham That reads like you are both very lucky
Arvid Yaganegi Cometh the hour, cometh the man. He looks as determined as Steve Waugh.
Helen Sonia Perkins Happy birthday Ben!
Te Warihi Hetaraka Way to go Ben, the world is your oyster, remember that science is the balance of religion, and religion is balance of science, they are brothers in arms my friend. All the best.
Thanks also to these people who left messages on Ben’s wall
Aunty Tahirih, Cousin Nadia, Johana, Cornelia, Edward, Omid, Bubu, Blake and Mitchell and the 60 or so other people who hit like.
Family 1996 – son is born.
Family 2000, daughter is born.
Son begins kindy in Sydney.
Family 2002, youngest son is born.
We live in Brisbane for the first time. Family 2005
Boys at Primary school together, this is a sports day.
Family 2007, one of many trips to the beach
Family 2006, The beginning of life in the Cassowary Coast
Family 2007, moving out to Feluga, son in final year of primary school
Two youngest enjoying the kauri pine at Feluga.
Children loved this swing on the tree, Feluga. Family 2008
Enjoying the guinea pigs in the yard. Family 2009
Visit to Family , Tasmania, 2010
Formal family portrait when visiting family 2011, in Melbourne.
Family 2013, portraits in the Cane.
Family 2014 Botanical Gardens.
Visiting the Coast, 2014
Family 2014, harder to get everyone still into one photograph, youngest off somewhere running in the dunes.
Youngest loves posing for photographs with me and his brother.