I almost stepped on one of these earlier. My foot was around twelve inches above it’s torso before I suddenly noticed it on the path. I flew backwards and in my shock I could barely articulate a proper swear word. On identifying it on our return to Libby’s house we discovered that not only is it endangered but according to the ‘Australian Venom Research Unit’ the ‘broad headed snake’ “may become agitated when disturbed, and strike rapidly. Its venom contains neurotoxins and procoagulants…and may cause serious illness.” I’m very glad that we didn’t attempt to get a photo, as the snake was in fact raised up into this threatening position, but it does mean that I’ve had to borrow a photo off the internet so forgive me for that!
I’m now teaching the grade fours: ages ranging from 11 to 13. Although interestingly quite a few of the children don’t actually know how old they are; their parents didn’t keep track! With my three classes today I set them assignments in their English lesson to write poems about their favourite animals or their responsibilities at home (depending on which class they were in). Quite a few made little, if any, sense but overall I was pleasantly surprised with what they managed to come up with. Here’s my favourite:
Only A Dog
Oh Mum and Dad…
Every night I guard
you while you are
Every day we go hunting
for wild meat.
Yet you forget me.
Yesterday Verena introduced me to a German volunteer a year older than me called Phillip who’s working in publishing here for a year. We’re planning a bush hike for the weekend – not sure whether leaving tonight or tomorrow morning – but I will not be able to post until we’re back. That is if we make it back: The more I learn about this country the more I see how completely sated with crime it is! (I’ve been learning some fascinating details about the sorcery and witchcraft beliefs here – will write a post on that subject soon.) Phillip’s a black belt in karate though so that could come in handy in a sticky situation!
I’m getting increasingly concerned that the allegation made casually by Mr Nomino that Margaret was a ‘witch’ may actually develop into something pretty sinister. The nationals here have strong beliefs in sorcery and witchcraft which they take very seriously. Verena was recounting to me numerous incidents in which women, accused of being witches, have been brutally tortured, burnt, maimed, debased and often killed. This is apparently very common here. Circumstances which cause such rumours to emerge are events like the death of the woman’s loved ones (the people believe she must have done something wrong to deserve such punishment), living alone, high intelligence etc Accusations can also arise over simple matters of holding grudges, jealousy or wanting to obtain another woman’s land. Very worrying to say the least, particularly as many of these ‘signs of witchcraft’ apply to Margaret – twice widowed and living alone. Verena suggested I should perhaps try to figure out whether this is becoming a widespread rumour or whether it is just the opinion of Mr Nomino as if it is becoming an established belief Margaret will need to be taken out of there immediately.
Things have gone pretty pear shaped. I went to Mrs Nomino (the headmistress) yesterday morning as I was fed up of the way Margaret has been treating me. I already pay her weekly to look after me yet she has been demanding extra money left right and centre and insisting that I buy all the food which she then cooks for all of the people she invites round. I am running on my student loan. I cannot afford to be basically feeding a family of five or so each night. Anyway, Margaret had been leaving me on my own in the hut for large periods of time whilst she goes out to chew betelnut or drink which, after the incident with Alo, has made me feel pretty uneasy. She was frequently coming back too drunk to cook in the middle of the afternoon and she doesn’t wash up after cooking for days explaining the mice army swarming around the place.
I’ve just found out that an unmarried woman sleeping in the same house as an unmarried man for a night is a strict faux-pas here. I can see why. Any unmarried man see’s a single woman, particularly a white one as fair game. Being friends with an unmarried man here has a lot more significance and implications behind it than at home! Margaret has twice now invited strange men back to stay the night with us. The first time it was her creepy son, Jack. She promptly left for the evening leaving me on my own with him. I went to bed straight away. About an hour or so later he came into my room, lifted up my mozzy net, sat on my bed and started trying to give me a back massage and trying to force me to turn over. I firmly told him to leave and held my ground – trying not to appear weak or vulnerable. Thankfully he eventually gave up and left the room. I did not sleep after that for hours. Margaret invited two more men to stay on Friday; they were drunk and didn’t want to face their fathers. One of them was the savage who cooked my possum. Great, invite two drunk men back to an open hut which contains all of my valuables and with only a sarong hanging in a doorway to seperate us. Cheers for that. (To rub salt in the wounds she cooks them lots of MY eggs which she served on lots of MY bread but that seems relatively trivial) Anyway Mrs Nomino took me away to her house. Will keep you posted.