This freezing morning was made more bearable by the campfire that was reignited from the night before. My dad did this mornings devotions on 2 Peter 1:1-7 A description on how we should live by mentioning 8 things; Faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, patience, godliness, brotherly affection and love.
Just after 9am we headed over to the Papunya Art Centre ( Papunya means kneeling in Walpiri and is the place where dot painting orginated). We decided to come back later when the artists arrived so we could watch them paint. So we went for a walk around the community. We found the local church (which didn’t have a floor) and had what appeared to be an outdoor sunday school area. There was an old hymn book just lying on the ground outside the door to the church, written in Walpiri.
The sports crew of our group headed off to play some soccer with the kids. They had a great time. Most of the kids were running around on the gravel bare foot. It was so lovely to watch them all get so involved, and enjoy spending time with us and each other.
After a while I headed back to the art centre to find mum and dad who were trying to decide on a painting to buy. The artists had arrived by now. It was amazing to see them at work, sitting cross legged like they were born in that position, with their dogs beside them. After spending a very long time deciding, mum and dad finally chose a painting. It was one that was still being worked on. It represents “water dreaming”.
Now the community dogs….for those that are interested, the female dogs looked like they had a bad case of mastitis, like they gave birth yesterday and are extremely under nourished. The male dogs are of course entire and look as though if you made eye contact with them they would eat you alive and allllll of them have fleas, ring worm and mange.
Apparently there is a horse that roams around the community as well. I thought perhaps I should break it in for the locals but soon thought better of it and decided it was not a sensible option.
By 3pm the sports team had begun some clinics with the kids. I wish I knew more about sport, seeing as when ever I was given a ball I had absolutely no idea what to do with it. Mum on the other hand got out there and gave it a good shot (I think she should stick to her horse commitments though). She did however enjoy it and the kids loved her…naturally! So while they were playing soccer or AFL, (and mum had had enough) we taught some kids how to play “Captain Ball”.
All the older kids had a more intensive coaching session followed by a game. When they finished we got everyone together for a photo.
These kids are so precious. Although they have snot pooring out their noses and probably haven’t had a recent shower, they are beautiful. These photos proove it!
The sports winded up at about 5:30pm and we all spent the night around the fire again.
I did not feel very bright eyed and rested this morning. I woke up during the night to see the front passenger side door of the 4WD wide open. I thought I could hear people walking around so I called out to mum and dad (who’s bed is right above mine sort of in the roof of the 4WD) and mum came down to have a look. She noticed that both our handbags weren’t there, so there was an instant panic but alas they were safely beside my bed. So what I thought was a “break and enter” turned out to be someone not shutting the door before going to bed. Even so, it left me feeling very uneasy the rest of the night.
When I finally got up it was like we were at Thredbo not the desert. It was freezing, windy and raining. Luckily we got our tents and gear packed up before the real rain hit. We had the morning devotions in the local demountable which was set up for visitors with a bathroom, a few bedrooms and a kitchen….oh and foxtel. The devotions this morning were reflecting on a passage from Revelation 3:8. This passage reminds us that when God opens a door, no man can shut it and when God closes a door, no man can open it. I found this verse particularly relevant for me and took great comfort in reflecting on the power God has in my life. In relation to our mission trip it was an encouragement to be aware of the opportunities God has provided for us in these indigenous communities and also being aware of when God might be showing us a community He doesn’t want us to be involved in.
After that, we headed over to the under cover basket ball court for one last game with the kids. They played what looked like “tip” with a ball to me and a bit of soccer. These kids are so gifted at sport! It was amazing to see that with such limited facilities and training they are so talented.
A few hours later we boarded our vehicles and headed to Yuendumu. It was another 100klms or so of dirt road. I some how managed to sleep the majority of the way. We made it there in just 1 1/2 hours. Yuendumu looks similar to Papunya although much larger and not as spread out. The rubbish still lines streets and yards and as it had been and was still raining, everything was muddy. We camped in the Baptist mission worker’s backyard. There was also an aboriginal ladies house (Rosie) on the same property. She was there to welcome us and had her own fire going on her front varander. We spent the rest of the day setting up as best we could in the rain. If you had asked me if I was enjoying the camping experience on this particular day I would have given you a very certain NO.
Mum, dad and I took a walk (in the rain) later that afternoon to check out the town. We came across the hospital first which of course got my attention quickly. We went inside and a nice lady gave us a very quick tour. There were 2 sides to it. One side for men and one for women. Apparently very normal for indigenous people. It was very well set up with an emergency room (just to stabilize until the royal flying doctors service can come), dental facilities, midwifery and consult rooms. Not exactly an overly sterile environment as there were 2 dogs in the reception area.
As night time approached, I joined the “younger adults” in some card game action. Namely spoons (aka knives if your 14 and go by the name of Kat, Tam, Kate or Torv) and emperor/scum. Good times!! I called it a night at about 9:30…yep my usual, even on holidays I couldn’t shake the granny syndrome.
It was freezing this morning and still raining, so we slept in (probably till 7am…a sleep in for anyone who’s last name is Bell). This mornings devotions concentrated on the idea of if we’re going to make a difference, help, or learn more about these communities, then we need to be patient. Allowing them to teach us about their culture and spending time being amongst them as ordinary people. Not going into these communities as another group of missionaries.
Yuendumu also has an art gallery. We visited it this afternoon. Some of the dot paintings there are more modern than those in Papunya. There was one that was about 3m x 3m and looked like a dot painting of the galaxy. It was incredible!
This afternoon we farewelled one of the families on the trip. They decided to leave a day earlier than they had planned as the weather had been so bad there was a chance they may not make it through in the morning. (To get out of Yuendumu you have to travel along a very outback 4WD only kind of dirt road for about 100 or so k’s).
Later that afternoon the rest of us headed down to the undercover basket ball court and kicked some balls around hoping to encourage some kidsto come over and join us. It worked, there were about 8 or so which was pretty good considering it was only about 10 degrees and raining. These kids are so incredible with their sports skills. I actually enjoyed myself playing some soccer today, i even put up a good defence as goal keeper (which apparently is a very vital role to play).
After a couple of hours playing soccer we walked back to camp to fin Rosie making damper for us from just self raising flour and water. Her hands must be very tough cause she was touching the metal pan while it was on the fire and flipping the bread while it was cooking just with her hands. She also had a kangaroo (Marloo in Walpiri) tail cooking on the coals. As you can imagine i did not taste our skippy friend. Those that did said it was quite nice though. (more on roo cooking later)
Rosie’s dogs are never far away. Her younger dog “Whisky” is just as loyal as my “whisky” although less like a cocker spaniel/beagle and more like a cross between a dingo and every other dog in the community.
The stars finally came out at about 8:30pm signifying the end of the rain!
There were blue skies this morning! Still very cold but at least the sun was shining. We headed down to the basketball courts at about 11am and had a game of soccer with about 10 kids. On our way over i notices a sign on a community notice board saying that Vets were coming to the town soon to “perform operations ” haha I loved the wording. I think these Vets need to come a little more often!
Later that afternoon “Cobra” (a pastor in the local Baptist church) took us inside the church. Aboriginal artworks line the walls, each telling the bible stories. A big stain glass window sits above the front door with each aboriginal tribe’s dreaming story. Yuendumu is “honey ant dreaming”. All these pictures from different tribes are set around a crucifix in the middle signifying unity as God’s family.
Some card game action came out again when the sun went down, although i preferred to watch as they were playing 500 and my card skills are almost as bad as my ball skills. So i helped cook dinner and sat around our “barrel fire”. The stars were perfect tonight. So much better than when you look at them in Sydney. The sky goes on forever out there. The milkyway streched as far as they eye could see and the stars were the shiniest id ever seen. Couldn’t help but hum, “How Great Thou Art” “I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout, the universe displayed….”
This morning was a “use it up” morning. We had 30 eggs and 2kg of bacon between 15 people. So breakfast was restaurant quality this morning. Devotions were run by lovely Sarah who shared about her experiences working and living in the NT. What an amazing job she is doing! Leaving friends, family and her home church to come all the way to central Australia to help and support those in need. My heart was instantly softened by the emotion that poored out of her as she was sharing her experiences with us.
Later in the morning the older men (only those with grey hair and over 40) were taken by an indigenous friend to a sacred aboriginal site out of town. This is a rare privilege and showed the enormous amount of trust and affection this friend has in our group. (By the way he asked specifically for the grey haired over 40’s…i wasn’t kidding).
While the older men were off on their excursion, the rest of us spent the morning relaxing in the sun. Then we thought we better head over to the courts and round up some kids to play basketball. On our way we stopped at the shop so the guys could buy a kangaroo tail. $13 later they had what looked like local road kill in their hands.
So they proudly took their piece of Australian wildlife back to camp and we headed to the basketball court. Only about 3 kids turned up today so we had a half court game. I actually had started to enjoy this sport stuff by this point.
The men returned late in the afternoon and we all started preparing the barrel fires for the night. The fires were lit early so that there were plenty of coals for cooking roo tail and more damper.
How to cook a Kangaroo Tail
1) Take tail out of plastic wrapping (if in-fact it was even wrapped in the first place).
2)Put tail in the hot coals of the fire and wait till the fur is completely burnt (you’ll know when it’s well on it’s way cause you’ll smell hair burning)
3) Take tail out of coals and scrape burnt hair off with a sharp knife.
4)Wrap tail in foil and return to coals
5) When cooked, unwrap and cut as desired
6)Try not to vomit as you watch others eat Skippy
We had a great time tonight. Rosie joined us and took quite a shine to another girl called Sarah on our trip. She is from the Soloman Islands and everywhere we went the kids just adored her. I don’t blame them, she is sweetness itself. Rosie gave her the “skin name” “Nangala”. Which is Rosie’s skin name too. From then on Sarah became known as Sarah Nagala. Quite an honour really, that Rosie considers her family.
After toasting marshmellows and a lot of smoke inhalation from the fire it was time to call it a night.
PART 3 COMING SOON!!