After living in Kovol with us for the last 2 months our new friend and homeschool helper Fiona has left us 🙁 It’s amazing how close you can become in 2 months of daily life isolated out in the bush! We’re finding the sadness quite unexpected. When we leave a country (amazing that I can write as if that’s a normal thing, but for us it is!) we know we’ll be saying goodbye. We hadn’t prepared ourselves for it this time, and saying a farewell in the middle of our term in PNG has us processing all those same feelings.
Fiona spent the last two months living in the Hansen house, having daily school and play times with the Stous kids and ours, and daily meals with us or the Stouses and she was a regular at our Friday game night. There were lots of laughs as we raced each other through obstacle courses ingeniously thought up by a 4 year old, dance competitions or musical chairs. There were many good memories. Fiona became an expert at carrying two babies around at once and she poured attention into our little ones. Our kids soaked up the attention.
We’ve been really keeping an eye out for how our kids respond. Fiona was their daily friend and play mate after all. Oscar seemed to struggle more with the idea of Fiona leaving than the reality. There were tears beforehand, but he’s been good after the fact. He’s been looking forward to and talking lots about our weekly game night on Fridays and spending even more time running around outside and getting muddy feet with his good friend Lincoln (our coworkers’ youngest). We’re sure the sadness will come in ebbs and flows as it does when he thinks about how he misses the friend he made in nursery in England. We have lots of chats about how having 2 different homes is both a good thing and also a sad thing because you always miss one of your homes!
Handling grief caused by transition can give us parental guilt as we wonder what on earth we’re doing raiding our children here. Then we watch Oscar and the Stous kids running around playing tag and digging holes in the mud with sticks while Alice and Millie shout “DAH” at the Kovol kids as they lead them around by the hand on one of their daily walks. There are a lot of good things here too. I remember the sense of wholeness we felt the first night back in Kovol in April as we sat as a team eating pizza and Oscar was busy jumping and wrestling with the other kids. We’d always need to plan and schedule times with other kids for Oscar in our life in Europe. We did lots of visiting with a gooddults, but play time with other kids was much less common. Here there are friends a stone’s throw away whom Oscar can go and see anytime.
Thinking on the challenges for our kids of frequent transitions and living life between different continents , we are once again just really touched and grateful that someone would volunteer to come for 2 months and be a friend to our kids.
I was feeling tears behind my eyes as I went into the Hansen house to close it all up after Fiona had left. It felt quiet and empty. This week has been a real suprise burst of emotions that has made us all introspective.
Then now we’re putting our minds to the next months. It’s feeling a bit like a treadmill as we’ve switched focus onto our culture file. We’ve set a goal to get the first 20 culture categories written up in the next 4-5 months, which means we need to average finishing 1 a week or so. This week was roads and traffic for which I’ve got 10 interview recordings, all of which need listening to, editing, filing, some transcribing and then synthesizing a summary for. I’m keeping up (just about) so far, but it’s much more time behind the computer than I usually spend and I get itchy feet – feeling like I should be spending my time out with people and speaking more.
For next week I’m targeteting food and drink, which is a massive category. It’s going to be a real grind keeping the pace up, but with 100+ categories in total to study and get vernacular text for I don’t really want the first 20 (easier, more concrete categories) taking longer than 6 months because then the rest will take ages!
The goal is set and it’s going to be a stretch, but we actually have a higher priority personal goal. Our next break will be at the end of March and our goal is to finish this 5-month stint of time in the bush learning language without stretching too far and becoming brittle. Our last two 3- month stints saw us a little over-tired. So far the changes to our schedule seem to be working for us; we’re aiming to rev under the red line – but it’s a bit tricky to figure out when we’ve managed it. What’s being under the weather, or just having a bad day and what are signs of overdoing it are hard to tell apart!