I’ve been wanting to share this BBC-Earth David Attenborough video for a while. Since my friend Caroline Moree introduced me to this story, I can’t stop going back to it to remind me of how hard one must work, to create something phenomenal. I would like to make this part of my Cool Stuff collection. I hope you can enjoy this too.
THE night was still and dark. Dogs did not bark. The wind blew gently.
Children and babies had stopped crying and laid their heads to rest. Even the night birds were silent around the coastal Morobe village.
Below the whistle of the gentle breeze, Kalem heard a song. It was soft, beautiful and so sad it almost made her cry. It sounded very familiar.
Lying still on her woven pandanus mat that grandma made for her, she searched through her memories – where has she heard this song? Her grandma had passed away last year. She missed her. After tossing and turning for what seemed like forever, Kalem knew she had to find out.
She picked up her mother’s torch. Beside the torch was a piece of hard shell, a turtle shell she found on the beach. She kept it for good luck. Suddenly she remembered – the song! It was the song of the turtles. Their nesting time happens near Kalem’s birthday, but they have not come to her village for a long time.
Tonight, something was wrong. Grandma said only the mother turtle sang the turtle song. No one in the village knew that song except her grandmother, mother and now her. Grandma sung and taught the song to Kalem while they were fishing. “Who is singing it now?” Kalem wondered.
Afraid but excited, Kalem headed to the beach. As she walked, she remembered Grandma’s words: “Our people are connected to the ocean, we fish to survive but we must respect the lives in the ocean. We must never kill for nothing.”
Not many people can connect to the animals and fish, but grandma said their family had a special gift because their ancestors came from the sea and are tied to the ways of the sea. Kalem walked quickly along the beach as she listened for the song.
“If you ever hear the song Kalem, you know, Mother Turtle needs you”, her grandmother told her. When Kalem was born in the turtle season, grandma told her mother – “this girl would one day meet Mother Turtle”.
Kalem followed the song out of her village and along the shores, further and further away from her house. Her heart beat faster when she arrived at the river where the villagers washed. Where the river met the sea, villagers set fishing nets along the shoreline. Kalem heard a loud splash. She slowly stepped forward, flashing the torch.
Tied to a large driftwood stump on the beach was a long, green fishing net. On the calm water surface, a big red buoy floated just offshore, and at the end of the net.
Something had been caught in the net. The thing splashed again. It rippled and frothed the seawater in a circle. It was large, dark and nearby the shore. It did not look like any fish or crocodile Kalem knew.
When she flashed the torch at the dark shape, she was shocked to find a very large sea turtle tangled in the net. It was so large, Kalem was sure it must have been the mother of all turtles. Kalem flashed the torch on the water.
She could see smaller turtles floating about, their heads bobbing in the water. The turtles circled the net. They were all making strange noises like they were crying too. The mother turtle was bigger than Kalem’s ten-year-old body, but Kalem had to try save to her.
Even with no strength left, the mother turtle kept singing her song. Weakly, her tired flippers hit the net and her voice faded to almost a whisper. Kalem’s tears flowed down as she waded through the water quickly and tried to set the turtle free. After struggling with the net and the weight of the turtle, Kalem ran back to the village and woke her mother.
“Help, wake up!” Kalem cried. “It’s Mother Turtle – we must help her”.
Kalem’s mother was confused. Often she thought her daughter was a daydreamer. After Kalem calmed herself and explained, she grabbed her mother’s arm and led her back to the beach. They took a knife and cut the net to set the mother turtle free. The large turtle swam up to Kalem and her mother. She bumped them with her nose before she and the other turtles disappeared into the deep, dark waters.
Kalem remembered grandma telling her about the life of the mother turtle. Grandma said it took many years before the turtle was ready to make babies. Every two or three years, the mother turtle leads her group to her own nesting beach, where she was born. Sometimes she travelled long distances to get there. Usually she would lay over a hundred eggs, but only a few survived.
Other animals, people and large fish eat the eggs and baby turtles. Kalem’s people loved eating turtle eggs and meat. Their village was once a nesting ground for turtles. Lately, less and less turtles have come to lay eggs. Standing silently in the dark with her mother, Kalem thought of how scared the turtles were tonight.
“They might never return…we must teach our people to protect the turtles”, she whispered to her mother.
“I am so proud of you Kalem. The turtles will head to a safe place to lay their eggs. Maybe this was not the right place for them, but they will find a perfect home some day”.
Her mother held Kalem close as they headed back to the village.
Zeus was not having a good day and he made sure everyone knew it. Mack was a mess as soon as Zeus got going.
“Get me a cleaver…”
“Nooooo! Pleease! Oh god – I’m sorry!” Mack sobbed and gurgled as I ran to boss’s collection for a blade. I almost dropped it; my legs could barely keep up.
As Zeus’ knuckles tightened to white around the knife handle, I desperately avoided his predatory gaze, leering at me through the lightning bolt tattoo across his right eye.
“Now, get out” he growled. I didn’t linger.
Mack had hidden Zeus’s package as well as the money. He lied. I warned him that Zeus would not buy it. The kid messed up.
I wondered why you’d risk losing some fingers for a few bucks, and then I heard a chop. Mack’s screams battered the walls of the warehouse, and the echoes shook my bones. I guess you never quite get used to working for a psychopath.
“The only residents remaining in the small town of Miners Hill are spirits.” Uncle Joseph said.
A tear rolled down his wrinkled tired face. The Eastern Belt explosion left several hundred dead last week. The town was evacuated. I watched another tear form and my eyes salted.
“My first thoughts were Josepha, Maria, and Antonia”.
“Where were you?”
“We sat for dinner. I went down to get a bottle of wine from the cellar – only minutes away”, he covered his face with bloody bandaged hands and wept.
My 50-year-old uncle cried as I rubbed his shoulders.
“I…I heard a single explosion, it sounded so far away. I thought it was the daily blasting at mine site. I should have come up. Antonio wanted a Carménère to celebrate Maria’s first communion. I couldn’t read the labels…suddenly I heard the crumbling, screams upstairs and everything went black”.
“Don’t cry, please uncle. They are with God now”, I whispered, as I cried with him.
I bet most of you are thinking these questions while safe and comfortable in your/our homes and watching the news. Some of us are probably thinking “those poor people” with some relief thinking we may be far enough that we are not exposed to this deadly virus.
Perhaps this was why, we/the world reacted too late?
Do we even stop to wonder about the children who lost their parents or a parent to the Ebola but no one wants to hold them while they cry, not their aunts, uncles, not even their grandparents. Their own family won’t touch them.
A similar situation occurred when HIV/AIDS broke out in Papua New Guinea over two decades ago. I remember whilst volunteering with the Action For Community Health group we found a large number of children abandoned. Fortunately these children were taken in by a Catholic nun. Eventually “Friends”, a Not-For-Profit organisation was set up by a PNG mother to care for the children.
Often, when we cannot understand something or something does not affect us personally, we distance ourselves.
There are so many lives being lost to the Ebola virus in such a short time. “Ebola” when mentioned, is a frightening word.
Today I listened on MMM radio to the Queensland (Australia) doctor, Dr Jenny Stedmon who volunteered to work with Red Cross in Sierra Leone and returned to Brisbane. She is in quarantine for three weeks. Dr Stedmon’s concerns were that the numbers of those affected by the virus was a lot higher than what we hear on the news.
I admire people like Dr Stedmon who give their lives to save and help others. There are many others like her out there and some of them have already lost their lives in this epidemic.
My son Nathan wants to work in Medicine and in particular, the Epidemic field. I remember discussing this year’s Ebola virus outbreak earlier this year with my 18-year-old after he covered the topic in BioChem in his university studies. He was explaining the virus, its symptoms and what was happening in west Africa.
It seemed at that time, Ebola was a subject of interest but I guess no-one thought it would spread this much. The costs and the process of treatment is incredible. During the MMM radio interview, Dr Stedmon described how hot it was in the “space suits” which was worn on top of their normal clothes and given the African humidity and heat – each worker or doctor has up to 45 minutes each time to see and treat the patients before taking a break and writing up reports. The ‘space suit’ got too hot after 45 minutes.
Reading all the articles about the epidemic and how wide-spread it has become makes we wonder if we (as the world) reacted too slow and too late…As the Australian reported, the first case of the Ebola virus was diagnosed in US today; now will we do more?
AFP AND NETWORK WRITERS AFP OCTOBER 01, 2014
Queensland’s Redland Hospital anaesthetist Dr Stedmon returned home this week to quarantine after three weeks in West Africa, helping treat infected Ebola patients as part of the Australian Red Cross effort to contain the spread of the virus.
Director of Medical Services at Redland Hospital, Dr Rosalind Crawford said Metro South Health was proud to be able to support Dr Stedmon to participate in the response to the Ebola crisis in Africa when she left in July this year.
“We are all very proud of her and the challenging mission on which she is about to embark. Dr Stedmon, as the Director of Anaesthetics and a key medical leader of Redland Hospital, is willing to take on a significant personal risk to assist in the containment of the virus in the third world,” Dr Crawford said.
“The team at Redland Hospital praise her courage and look forward to welcoming her back safe and sound in a few weeks’ time.”
Dr Stedmon will spend one month in Sierra Leone’s main Ebola hospital in Kenema and will work as a general medicine specialist before spending three weeks in quarantine.
According to the World Health Organisation, the Ebola outbreak is the worst since the virus first appeared in 1976, and is currently affecting Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
Dr Stedmon has worked in a number of war zones over the past 20 years with the Australian Red Cross, including East Timor, Yemen and the Thai-Cambodian border. She was one of only two Australian doctors the Australian Red Cross sent to the Philippines when the country experienced a devastating typhoon late last year. She will be one of only three Australian doctors working in Sierra Leone over the next month.
The international Red Cross has been one of the lead agencies trying to prevent Ebola from spreading. Close to one thousand volunteers and staff have been working around the clock to educate communities on how to prevent the disease since Ebola first broke out in Guinea in March. Over 1000 people have died in West Africa from Ebola and 1,848 people have been infected, according to the World Health Organization.
Metro South Health wishes Dr Stedmon a safe journey and looks forward to her return.
(Some facts about the Ebola virus – see link below)
At the age of ten, I had the first realization of what a gang was and what it could do to me. I do not recall how it started but one thing led to another and soon all my neighbourhood friends and playmates had ganged up against me. One evening, I had climbed up on the roof of our house with our servant as he was fixing the radio antenna. I saw my ex friends and playmates holding hands, dancing and skipping together and then with a shock, I heard their voices mocking, mimicking and making fun of me. In that moment I heard an inner voice saying, ‘There is something wrong here. There is something wrong with me.’
I made a post about some American surfers making a discovery in West Papua and wanted to explain my connection to that story. West Papua is the western half of the island of New Guinea, just 200 km north of Australia. The Eastern half is Papua New Guinea, where I come from. Visit links to many sites that show West Papua and how its people have been treated and decide for yourselves.
It is important to get as many people as possible world-wide to become aware of the violence and oppression in West Papua (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Papua_(region)). We can never do enough. I am sure by now, even the Melanesian people from other countries such as my own (PNG), Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and South Sea Islanders must feel that there is nothing more they can do to help their fellow-Melanesians.
Why am I interested in West Papua? I have been an advocate against the violence against West Papua, Indonesia for over 30 years. Firstly as a journalist in Papua New Guinea, I have known of and seen the victims of the atrocities. Secondly, I am a Melanesian woman and I share the ancestry with West Papuans.
If it means sharing information, publicising atrocities and showing films as in the case of the surfers’ film “Isolation”, then let’s join hands and do it for West Papua. We must keep fighting.
The mosquito net was white, light and airy. I could see everything outside my enclosed bed. I would not have been five yet, and mother and I shared this bed on the floor. It was made of a blanket and a sheet with a pillow on the wooden floor. The room was packed with our clothes and things. To cover, we would use one of mother’s laplaps.
The mosquito net flopped around me. Mother had tucked its ends by weighing the net down with some clothing. At the bed head, the net was tucked under my pillow. To keep the net from touching my head, my old T shirt was rolled length-wise into a sausage and laid behind my pillow. If the net did touch me, the mosquitos would penetrate through the holes and get me.
Mother was a nurse. She knew how seriously and often I got attacked by Malaria. She had told me last time I was too tall to be carried to the nearest clinic, several hours walk away.
In this bed, the mosquitoes will not get me, and Malaria will not touch me. I drifted off in my sleep and enjoyed the comfort of my luxurious bed in Wagang Village, outside Lae, Papua New Guinea.
I prayed: “Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for his mercy and endurance, forever and ever, Amen”.
After what seemed like a whole night had gone by, I was woken by strange voices talking. There were two new voices. I could also hear my Uncle Sam speaking in English. Uncle Sam only spoke English when he joked or when he was drunk. His English was impressive. His voice was quiet but Uncle Sam sounded confident. “Yes, you can go and see her”, Uncle Sam told someone.
I recognised my grandmother’s low disapproval as she told Uncle Sam that no-one should disturb my sleep. I heard footsteps coming towards me. They walked up the old steps of the Fibro and timber house. Mother and grandpa build this house from his teaching and her nursing money. Most of the fly-wire was ripped so I could hear everything.
At the top of the landing, the shoe soles brushed the sand on the wooden floor as they approached my room. There were more than one person. I felt nervous and I wanted to call out to my mother but I was not sure if the footsteps would come to me.
The footsteps stopped at my door. My heart pounded. My door opened and I looked up. In the light of our small kerosine lantern by the bed, I saw two white men peeking down at me through the mosquito net. One was fair and the other had dark hair.
“Mama! Mama!”, I yelled out.
The one with the dark hair sat down and reached out to me, smiling. I saw his white hand come to me and I threw my cover and crawled to the end of the bed. The man’s thick black hair was brushed back neatly. His eyes were dark with thick eye-brows. I stared at his face. I had never seen him before. I started to cry. The man tried to hush me but he seemed nervous. He said in English, “It’s ok! Everything is ok”.
The more he tried to speak, I became terrified and recoiled into the further corner of the mosquito net. I called my mother and cried louder as I backed into the corner. There was no way out and they were at the door. The man with the dark hair put his hand in his pocket and pulled out some notes and coins. There was a lot of money. He put them on my bed and beckoned me. He told me that money was ALL for me. I had never seen so much money. I was sure I was not dreaming. It was unbelievable and scary. “Come!” he said again.
“Mama!” I yelled and my mother came running up the steps.
She walked into the room and the fair haired man stepped outside. My mother smiled and I could not understand it.
Why was mother smiling at this stranger? And why was the stranger giving me money? Was he going to take me? Was he going to buy me from my mother? I did not move. I wanted my grandmother.
I shall post one of my short stories tomorrow (Brisbane time). It would be a story from my Memoir series. The thing about this short story is that many of us think that we are not capable of remembering events and things that happened in our lives when we were very young. I don’t remember as many things as I would like to. On the other hand, there were things that have happened that I wish I could just forget.
In general, when something very significant happens some time during our early years of life – it sticks in our heads. Make time to sit somewhere and remember those times. I bet there are many stories to write.
Some of my memories are as fresh as those of events that only happened yesterday. Often I do not remember them straight away, but things can happen in the present to trigger me back – through layers of life to find that piece of memory. It is just like doing a search on my computer for a file.
I enjoy some of these forgotten ‘files’ but by the same token, some are not always pleasant to go over again. But together, good or bad, they make a great story.
I am grateful that I have these memories. The memories make “me”. Without the memories, I could not write my memoir.