Walking The Tender Minefield – Quiz Night

Posted in CWA, Mixed Nuts on November 29th, 2010 by MadDog
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After my last post, all cheery and grateful, I’m ahead far enough on happy credits to grow all sombre and introspective again. Today I took delivery of a lonely, stormy Sunday. Last night I attended the annual Country Women’s Association Quiz night, a sort of mega-Trivial Pursuit distraction which provides the folk of Madang with an evening of aimless and good natured competition.

Since this is going to be yet another soul-searching ramble through the back alleys of my cranium, let me first demonstrate that I am not in a bad mood at all. These are among the finest bananas I have ever had the pleasure of smushing up in my still toothy gob. Somebody brought them up to the beach at Blueblood a couple of weeks ago. I must have eaten about six of them. As you can see they are rather small. They are incredibly sweet and the flavour is slightly reminiscent of green apples:

See, that’s a happy thing. You may find little flakes of freeze-dried happiness elsewhere on this page. Let’s see what happens. I’m winging it.

As I plan to intersperse scenes from last night’s frivolities here and there as I plod along, I may as well get started. This is our intrepid QuizMaster, Shane McCarthy overseeing the presentation of the craft projects. Each table of six participants was required, on pain of merciless ridicule, to create an object d’art  from the miscellaneous contents of a cardboard box. Imaginations ran rampant on the theme of “Christmas Carol”:

Once again I found myself facing a dilemma, the magnitude of which might seem trivial when seen from some remote location outside my skull. Over and over again, because of my life situation, smack dab in the middle of everything which meant anything to us,  I have to decide if I’m going to do this or that and wonder what my reaction is going to be. The problem is that there is no more us.   There is just me.  The range of effects which I have experienced has fallen between the extremes of euphoria and despair. I honestly don’t know beforehand what is going to happen. I’m just along for the ride.

This is a tender minefield. While that expression may seem oxymoronic, it is not. All that is happening here is that my community is allowing me the freedom to find a new normality. People are treating me as if everything is business as usual. This is exactly what they ought to do. From their perspective everything is  business as usual. The minefield is of my own device.

I had waited for an invitation to a table at Quiz Night until I felt that I had to take some active part in my life once more. Two days before the event I called two friends asking, in a not-so-transparent manner, if they had a table and if it was filled. Later that day, I did receive an invitation, after I mentioned it, from another friend. So, committed as I am to allowing life to carry me where it will with as little interference from me as is prudent, I accepted with a mixture of gratitude and foreboding. I’m such a drama queen. Everything has to be a big production. Nothing is easy. Truthfully, I blame my mother, but don’t tell her.

It is  a minefield, but it bears me no malice. It is simply there, inert until provoked. If I stay in place, I won’t get anywhere. I’ll stand and take root in this miserable existence. I can walk gingerly, experimentally, but I know that the odds are against me. I’ve already stepped on a few and I have big chunks missing here and there. The wounds are painful, but they heal rapidly, some more rapidly than others.

There is fun aplenty at every Quiz Night. Ridiculous, giggly fun. Here three teams compete to determine which can most rapidly expend an entire roll of toilet paper by wrapping a team-mate in it:

Following the analogy of the minefield, I’ll tell you a true story (really) about a related metaphor, The Point of No Return.

When you note that you have reached the geometrical centre of the minefield and you count your injuries, it dawns on you that you are only half-way home. Injury-wise it might make more sense to retrace your steps and return to GO, not collecting $200. Yet that way lies the madness of arriving back at the beginning and realising that the only reasonably safe option is to once again retrace your footsteps back to the point at which you turned around and proceed from there. You needn’t have wasted the energy. Rational decisions at this point are extremely difficult to reach.

Late one Sunday afternoon in the early ’70s, I roared away from Chicago Midway Airport in a US Army UH-1 “Huey” helicopter with my crew of four en-route to Decatur Illinois, our home airfield. It was a late departure and each of us had a severe case of “get-home-itis”; families and jobs awaited us. I was Pilot in Command, as sorry a situation as you could want. I was neither much of a pilot nor much of a commander. Deeming that we had sufficient fuel, we lifted off post-haste.

Shortly after passing Kankakee, we could see a massive line of thunderstorms ahead of us. This is my no means unusual for a summer evening in Illinois and it seemed that there were plenty of non-flashing holes through which we could safely pass. We fluttered on, listening to AM radio rock-n-roll through our helmet speakers. After a while it was becoming more and more obvious that we were going to be doing some ducking and weaving. I tapped my finger on the fuel gauge. My co-pilot nodded and frowned. I considered a hop back to Kankakee and a miserable night with a grumbling crew in a motel and rejected it.

We dodged thunderheads visible only by their fireworks and suffered some moderate turbulence which reminded us how long it had been since lunch – just long enough. Nobody wants to barf into his helmet bag. With all of that dodging and searching for holes, I could see that fuel was going to be a teensy-weensy problem. The chatter on the intercom went significantly silent. Everybody knew that we had just passed the Point of No Return. I was wondering precisely how many Army Regs and Flight Rules I had already busted. I was about to bust a few more.

Well, I see that it’s time to shorten this long story. We passed safely, if unsteadily through the flashy Texas Line Dance of cumulonimbus incus aircraft washers and into the still, star-studded air of central Illinois. We were about twenty-five minutes from Decatur when the Twenty Minute Fuel Warning light began excitedly to advertise its presence. Uh-oh. As pilots are wont to put it rather indelicately, the pucker factor increased by an order of magnitude.

Let me take a break from that breathless and somewhat pointless reminiscence to show you our creation: (and then I’ll try to explain the inexplicable)

I sincerely hope that you can see that it is a manger scene, complete with a tiny, fuzzy Baby Jesus. I contributed, somewhat distractedly, the snowflake and the exclamatory Moo from the spotted cow.

So, was there any point at all to the helicopter story? Probably not. But, if I had to guess, I guess it would be that we are sometimes so distracted by what we so desperately want that we are unable to recognise what we so desperately need. Now, connecting this somewhat tenuously back to the minefield thing, a few of those mines might capriciously explode into bouquets of roses, unlikely as that might seem. Others will blow a leg off. Some might be duds. The problem is that I must  keep moving and the only way I know the intent of a mine is to step on it. You know, my situation is not a bit different from yours, now that I think of it. Humpf! And I thought I was special.

Some things which I fervently desire now are not yet available to me. Someday some of them might be. Time will tell. Time will also tell whether they were things which I actually needed. Other things, things which I do not currently yearn for, may turn out to be the things which I need. It would have been such a senseless tragedy if I had killed my crew and myself in a flame-out crash because I did not want to spend a night in a motel in Kankakee. That is what I needed.  I realised that most certainly when that warning light came on.

I’m striving quite earnestly to keep my eyes peeled for the warning lights. Right now, I know that I can’t trust my desires to be in my best interest. Though some, with that fearful symmetry, burn as bright as William Blake’s tiger in the forest, I can never forget the minefield. It is not just a figure of speech. I must move forward. Carefully.

So, with that hopeful thought, I will give you a happy, pretty face. No, not mine. Though I have now made myself happier than I was a couple of hours ago I am still no prettier. Writing does that for me.

This is the lovely smiling face of Michaela of Vienna, who rescued me from an evening of solitary regret:

Saved again by a sensible and loving friend.

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CWA – Madang

Posted in CWA, PNG Culture on October 12th, 2008 by MadDog
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This Sunday morning, I’d like to present an article that I asked Maureen Hill to write for Madang – Ples Bilong Mi. People in these parts are familiar with CWA, but I’d like for readers in other places to know something about this energetic and vital community organization.

So, settle in for an interesting read. Here’s a photo of the CWA Cottage in Madang:

The CWA Cottage in Madang

This from MAUREEN HILL:

COUNTRY WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA – MADANG BRANCH

HISTORY OF ORGANISATION

The CWA, as the Country Women’s Association is better known, was assisted in its establishment by the Australian administration at the time they were dividing PNG up into provinces and appointing District Commissioners to the provinces.

CWA was an organization known in Australia for the help it gave to families who lived in the out back of Australia. The kind of help given was to provide places for women to come and stay while they waited for their babies to arrive, to come to town for other health reasons or shopping purposes. Men were also welcome.

At that time there were Australian families being sent to outstations in PNG who were going to require the same services as was given by CWA in Australia.

While seeking land to build the District Commissioners house land was also sought to establish a CWA close at hand.

The Madang CWA was opened in 1952. It was a small building at that time on a choice block of land with lots of room for expansion.

As PNG has changed so has CWA over the years.

Madang CWA still has a guest house that profits from go to support the organization’s projects.

WHAT DOES CWA DO?

CWA provides women in Madang a meeting place to find friends, learn new skills and find ways to raise money to help women and children in the community.

All CWA projects are to help women and children (families) in the Madang province.

Apart from the staff (7), who manage the guest house side of the organization all members are volunteers giving freely of their time to raise funds and run the programs.

Programs Include:

Kindergaden Long Ples (KLP):
A village based kindergarten program that operates in villages in the Gogol, inland Madang and up the North Coast. Village parents organize the kindergartens while CWA provides office space, transport, training and monitoring of the teachers and supplying of materials. It has been operating since 1982.

Early Childhood Health Care Program (ECHP):
This is a program that CWA started operating in 1996 to help improve the health of children in the villages where the KLP kindergartens are established. A CWA appointed nurse (HEO) goes to the villages to give health education to parents and children. She also does health evaluations on the children. If there are health problems, she advises the parents on ways to help the child or, if necessary, she advises the parents to seek further medical help.

Village Health Volunteers (VHV):
This program works in conjunction with the Madang health Dept to train village women to become health volunteers in their respective village. This training provides training in birth attending and general health work. This course is accredited by the Madang Health Dept and when the volunteers have finished their two year course they receive a Health Dept Certificate.

Adult Tok Pisin Literacy Classes (TPL):
These classes started in 2006 are designed to teach women who have no reading or writing skills. There is a great need for this.

CWA hopes at a later stage to have teacher training workshops to train women to go to their villages and hold literacy classes there.

Children’s Ward Modilon Hospital:
CWA has been a major sponsor of the Children’s ward at Modilon hospital ever since the hospital was built. Currently CWA pays much of the maintenance for the ward and weekly supplies vegetables, eggs and milk for the children.

Village Birthing Houses:
CWA has helped fund houses in villages for mothers to give birth in privacy and traditionally.

Schooling:
Over the years CWA has helped many students with school fees and supplied much in the way of books stationary and sports equipment to various schools.

Play Group:
A play group meets on a regular basis at the cottage it is operated by willing volunteers and funded by CWA.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Membership to CWA costs K10.00 a year.

The Branch and Guest House are managed by a volunteer committee elected on an annual basis.

Most of the mentioned programs are funded by money raised by the volunteer members.

All of this is only possible by the tremendous community support given to CWA when fund raising events are held.

My thanks go to Maureen for that interesting report.

Here’s a shot of Maureen from a previous post about Project Handclasp and the visit of the USS Peleliu to Madang:

Maureen and kids

Cheers to all the ladies (and gentlemen) of CWA! (Yes, they do allow male members. I joined several years ago.)

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¡Vaca Santa! – CWA Latino Night

Posted in CWA, Madang Happenings, Parties on October 10th, 2008 by MadDog
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I feel that I am in danger of becoming a hermit.

Latino Night at CWA is the second major Madang party that I’ve missed in a row. The first was because the tickets were sold out. I missed Latino Night because I was “too tired” – translation: Too embarrassed to admit that I am hopeless at any sort of Latin dancing.

Fortunately for the patient reader, I have this fine report from our budding journalist, Lorraine Collins along with a nice kiddie photo and a couple of others featuring some very fine legs.

This from Lorraine Collins:

Hola! CWA hosted a Latino night for all its Amigos and Amigas. Based on previous successful, fun-filled CWA events, the tickets actually sold out days before the function (quite a rare event in Madang). A flotilla of volunteers slaved away cooking and decorating for the fiesta to make it as bueno a noche as possible. Guests received an uplifting Caipirinha upon arrival; a not-too-shabby cocktail of white rum, brown sugar, and freshly squeezed limes over crushed ice. It was yumliscious and full of Vitamin C, therefore making it an exceedingly healthy drink.

The evening’s entertainment started off with a posse of brave little children doing a dance from Bolivia. The miniature stars were Grace McCarthy, Lottie Beschel, Lilani Mackie, Chloe Senn, Alice, and Mathieu Senn as the token boy. They performed perfectly a beautifully choreographed dance involving scarves. I reckon they will be looking for an agent soon.

Food was then served, most of it being a vegetarian’s delight; Spanish Rice, Vegetarian enchiladas, Vegetable Salad, Mexican Vegetable Stew and Beef Enchiladas for those who needed some carne. For those who had some space left, pudding was Spanish cake with rum-soaked raisins.

Next up were Heidi Majano and Pascal Michon (our naughty little Frenchman in Paradise) demonstrating a very sexy and fast moving Salsa. Man, were they impressive! They shimmied and salsa’d, twirled and strutted and shook their bootie to a fine tune. The audience was very impressed (especially yours truly) and I think Salsa classes should definitely be something in the future. Good exercise plus “sex” that you can perform in public.

That stunning performance was followed by “The Saucy Salsa Sisters” strutting their stuff to a slinky little number from Cuba. We should probably have been introduced as the “Sauced Salsa Sisters” as co-ordination was lacking slightly, but we tried to cover it with excessive bum wiggling and boob shaking. That usually works.

From then on, it was a free for all, with all the Madang Señoras ‘y cabaleros Salsa-ing the night away, learning new moves from Heidi, our resident Latino from El Salvador, and gaining confidence with every red wine.

It was a magnifico noche with all the ingredients for a great night; healthy cocktails, sumptuous food, great dancers, sexy music, and lots of booze. The night would not have been possible without all the volunteers that made the food (Heidi, Lorraine Collins, Eunice Messersmith), decorated (Heidi), danced (Heidi, Lorraine, Cessa Beschel, Fabiana Ponting), and most-importantly, filled the eskis with booze and ice (Trevor Hattersley). The CWA staff and Committee Members that helped in all the preparations were also an integral part of the night’s success. And, of course, Heidi herself, who taught all the big and little girls their moves and hopefully a large part of the Madang Community too! Who said CWA is boring? It’s “The Place To Be” – fun-filled events with all the profits going to worthwhile, Feel Good Charities.

Well . . . I feel as if I had been there.

Here are the kiddies doing the scarf dance:

Kids dancing

Gotta admit that Mathieu is a brave lad.

And here are the ladies getting it on over a Frangipani strewn dance floor. Hey, we’ve got it all in Madang:

The Dancing Señoras

And one more leggy shot just for fun:

More of the Dancing Señoras

Please don’t ask me why Lorraine is balancing a clock on her fingertips. I wasn’t there and she didn’t report it. It must be a Latino thing.

Adios amigos.

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CWA Latino Night

Posted in CWA, Invitations, Madang Happenings, Parties, Things to do, Upcomming Events on August 5th, 2008 by MadDog
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THIS FROM:  Lorraine

OLE!

CWA is hosting the first ever
“Latino night”!

dancers

Come on over and enjoy some good South American fare and salsa dancing!

DATE: Saturday, 16 August 2008
TIME: 6:30 PM for 7:00 PM start
VENUE: CWA
PRICE: K40. Includes complimentary drink, main meal and dessert plus oodles of entertainment.

A night to enjoy with new moves to learn to great, great music!

graphic

CWA Welcomes Back Eunice with a Colourful Party

Posted in CWA, Opinions on July 15th, 2008 by MadDog
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As soon as Eunice arrived back in Madang, the ladies of CWA (and the male members – there are a few of us) wanted to welcome her back.
The theme was ‘colours’. Here’s Eunie with the welcoming sign:

 CWA Welcome Eunice Back to Madang

I was impressed at the organization that went into the party. It went very nicely.

It was also interesting to note that nearly all of the participants were Papua New Guineans. I see that as a very hopeful sign. Traditional community service organizations have not fared well in Madang.

It’s not entirely clear to me why this is. Most people today can see that it’s in our best interest to find ways to help ourselves. There’s precious little help coming from anywhere else. Also, if you do accept help from outside, you lose control over the process – unfortunate, but mostly true.

I’ve admired CWA for a long time. I, and a few other brave men (a little humor, if you don’t mind), have become members so that we can support their goals. Eunie has been in the thick of it nearly since we arrived in 1981. As near as I can tell, it’s the only indigenously funded community service organization that seems to be targeting specific needs and managing the projects from a specifically local viewpoint.

If CWA is still viewed by some as a ‘colonial leftover’, one might take a second look at what’s going on these days.

CWA has a good chance to make the transition to an organization that is what we really want it to be. CWA obviously needs to be ‘owned’ by the community members who support its goals. All of us. Women, men, Papua New Guineans, expats – anyone who cares enough to do the job.

There’s real power in community spirit. Let’s move forward together. We probably can’t solve the big problems because we don’t have the resources or the connections required. But we can accomplish things in Madang that will make it an even better place than it is. If you can imagine that.

CWA Photo Competition

Posted in CWA on July 2nd, 2008 by MadDog
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This from Lorraine: 

CWA Photo Competition!!

Enter your photo and have the chance to win K100 1st prize plus the chance to have your photo published in the 1st ever CWA calendar!

The theme for the photo competition is:

“Beautiful Madang”

1st prize: K100 cash

2nd prize: K40 Chemcare photo lab voucher

3rd prize: Photo album worth K20

Competition starts 10 June and ends 1 August 2008.

· Competition entrance fee is K4 per photo.
· Maximum of 5 photos per entrant.
· Photos must be handed into CWA reception together with entrant’s name and contact details.
· The printed photo itself must be handed in.

1st, 2nd, 3rd prize winners will be announced mid-August as will the photographers of the top 12 photos chosen for the 2009 CWA Calendar.

More details can be obtained from CWA (located next to Court House/Town Clinic). Phone number: 8522216.

All prizes donated by Chemcare-Fotofast.

A Lovely Lass Addresses the Haggis

Posted in CWA, Humor, Madang Happenings on April 11th, 2008 by MadDog
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Finally! I got a couple of photos from a friend (I think that Lorraine Collins provided them, but that’s been weeks ago and my memory . . . excuse me, what was I saying?).

A few months ago, CWA held what I thought of as “Not Burns Night.” It was just like Burns Night except it wasn’t (not his birthday).

Anyway, Laura Carse did Burns’ Address to a Haggis. Please click on the link for an interesting site telling all about haggis and the special poem that Burns wrote to honour it. (It is too long to put here in this post.)

Here’s a cute shot of Laura attacking the haggis.

Laura Carse Attacking the helpless haggis

Here’s Laura capturing the delicate (an aquired opinion) aroma.

Laura Carse sniffing the haggis

Eunice, my multi-talented wife, actually prepared the haggis from locally available ingredients. Though some were skeptical concerning its pedigree, most declared it as tasty as a mongrel haggis can be.

Sadly, Laura is no longer in Madang. If you’re reading this, sweet Laura, we all miss you and hope and pray (those of us who do so) that you will soon be back with our little family of strange people here in Paradise.

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