Sunday, August 21, 2005


Wamut and me and our new boss had a meeting yesterday to discuss ways to make out job kind of 'sustainable' and not so exhausting. It was a very interesting conversation really, we spoke for nearly two hours. We didnt really come up with any solutions, but I felt it came through very strongly that Wamut and I really love the work we are doing and the people we work with. And I thought to myself that that is a good thing. I sincerely hope that there are lots of people in the world that can say the same. It is so strange to have 'professional ' relationships in a way. As though you dont need to care for some people, that you 'choose' the people that you care about and love, rather than extending the same care and respect (openly) to all the people you interaction with on a daily basis. Working in Ngukurr is a different system because there is a kinship system, whereby each person is born into a web of family that includes, theoretically, all other people, it means people have ot be much more responsible and put a good deal of effort into maintaining harmonious family (social) relationships. which I suppose is very taxing on us working there because we feel at the end of the day we should be able to leave our job at the office and have some 'free time' or alot our time and attention to different things during the day. Like from nine to five you wear the clothing talk the talk and play the role of a linguist or a fruit picker or whatever you are employed as. After work you become a social being, hang out with friends, change clothes, manner of speaking, place etc., you might later go home and have to be a parent, a lover, a cook, or whatever your relationship to the people around you expects. Of course through all of this you are still yourself and doing things in your way, but there is some fairly large amount of standardisation. You could say to family or friends, not now I am working, or to work collegues: not now I am having a break. we are so used to this framework of interaction in the world, maybe we can forget it is not the only way to do things.
In Ngukurr living and working in the same place ( I live in the Ngukurr Language Centre) is kind of a metaphor for the fact that you and your work, social relationships everything is happening all the time, and you are equally fair game to demands of 'family obligation' as you might be to your boss to do work.

A lot of things just seem to need a shifting in perspective of time and then you dont feel so stressed out, driving people around, waiting at the shop for fifteen minutes, going to the clinic etc. etc. seems to eat of your whole day. But only if you think of it in that way. You could think of it as building strong social relationships and fulfilling your obligation as a community memeber rather than pursuing your 'own goals' ( ie of working at the langauge centre!) all the time. Of course many people do often come and work on projects here,, and I suppose that is another reason why it is essential to be supporting what the community wants done rather than just trying to do something you yourself are interested in.

Wamut and i were also talking about how people here really look after you when you lose it, and yell or cry or show some outward releflection of an inward state, but that you have to reach that point before anyoone will notice , and wamut said an interesting thing that I have been thinking about, he said maybe everyone's lives are always very stressful everyday, much the same as you , many people are coping with difficult things, and that is why noone reacts when you are just a bit tired or annoyed. Because everyone feels the same all the time!! Something like that anyway. I certainly think that it is true that everyone here deals with a much higher amount of stress in their lives. In coping with illness, death and birth in the family, as well as social problems like drunkness and petrol sniffing. These affect everyones daily lives more than I think I can know. For example, no less than three of the four people who work here most days have heart disease and have had or may have to have open heart surgery at some point. I would say most of the people I work with are chronically ill with diabetes, TB, heart problems etc. AND they have to cope with the rest of their family often also being sick.

The Old Lady , R's mami who i said was sick a few weeks ago, passed away, R had urged me to go and visit her ( she is a very old lady) but I didnt ( everyone is always sick arent they?) and then she died. It makes me feel sad that I didnt visit her, and sorry that I didnt listen to R. You really need to listen to hear things around here. People dont shout it in your face, or tear their hair out, R just suggested it to me and when I was too busy she left it at that. But if I had ben going at a slower pace and listened I would have realised she has never asked me to visit the old lady before and it must be important.


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