John Gartner: John Gartner’s CommUNITY News no. 1

Over the period since Christmas, I have dug a compost pit adjacent to the unit where I live. It took a lot longer than I thought to dig because the ground is heavy clay/loam. It even took longer to fill with green cane material, which grows nearby as a weed. However it is now composting, I think nicely, but we will see in a few weeks when it is sufficiently broken down and being put to a worthwhile use. I intend to grow tomatoes under a shade tree near the unit.

While working on the compost pit, three children, two girls and a boy came along to see what I was doing. The eldest, Clare, could speak reasonable English, the other two talked only in pidgin, so I had difficulty following what they said. They offered to clean my house and help me dig, which I declined. It took a while for them to go about their chore of getting water for their house. I was asked about my children and I told them about my wife Clare and that I lived in Perth. They didn’t know where that was.

On the weekend before Australia Day, I travelled to Tabubil with the Bishop, Father Hubert and a young man returning to Tabubil from Kiunga. We left around 8.30 am and made good time getting there about 11.30 am. We had to stop for a call of nature about half way and then we got caught up in some road works and had to wait a while. Father Hubert got out and walked about 10 metres from the car when we were given the go signal to proceed. He hurried back into the car and we took off. I said that always worked, just as you decided to do something the road would clear. Just outside Tabubil they have a check point to ensure that no drugs or alcohol are brought into town or people affected by alcohol enter. The car in front of us was searched. The people took umbrage at the situation and protested to no avail. We were given a check and we had to show what was in the boxes we had in the back.

Pipe from OK Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea pouring waste into river (
After lunch I went for a walk around Tabubil. I came across young men playing a game of soft ball. One hit a flyball, so the game was delayed while they went off to search for it. The game was to a reasonable standard, all players in uniforms, with the catching gloves and aluminum bats and catchers pads etc, but they only had one ball. There was no spectator seating, so I kept walking. I got a good look at the Ok Tedi River, which was a disgrace from an environmental point of view. However, I think in about 1000 years’ time, it won’t be obvious. There is still no vegetation growing on the river sediments, which indicates either continual flooding or some other problem.

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