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Let Us Build Together

Page 9

Tricia Natoli

All through the night there was singing and dancing to the now familiar beat of the drums as all the village men, women and children, along with the hardier members of the team, celebrated a successful week, another house built.

Towards the end of our stay I took an opportunity to ask the women how we had impacted on their lives: had our presence been a good thing or not? This question was greeted with laughter. Their spokeswomen explained that a few things stood out for them and had been the topic of much discussion. The first was that the men of the village could no longer tell them it takes eight months to build a house, because they had seen it done in five days. Nor could the women be told that they were not able to help in building, because they had watched us do it and with our encouragement had participated themselves. The other big item was the way in which the team, men and women, sat together and how the men, instead of being waited on, would pass food to the women as we chatted together. The equality they had witnessed had created quite a change in their thinking. The unanimous decision was that the women were going to keep the table and benches for their use, and try to encourage the men to sit with them and talk. One almost felt sorry for the men in their remote village.

Our last day in GauGau dawned and it was with sadness we had to say goodbye to our new friends. In one week we had had many new and different experiences, too many to write about here; no longer would we hear the haunting sounds of the children singing their nightly devotions, and bathing would once more be a private affair, not to be enjoyed in the river with other women laughing and joking, and trying hard not to lose the soap in the fast current.

In Finschhafen we boarded the boat to Madang for two days of R & R before heading back to Australia. As the boat moved along the coast we could see the fires that the villagers had promised to light, to say farewell to us.

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