Critical Incidents, the five I chose to write on in more detail. For your preview, if anything is rather unclear please say so, so that I can fix it before it gets handed in. thanks 🙂 Any questions. Ask.
It’s rather long.
Conversation with Kristy – 1997ish
Kristy was an itinerant teacher from Australia. I do not remember how many years she spent in the Solomon Islands visiting missionary families to help with schooling, but it wasn’t long. She left possibly the strongest impression on my life in what you could call ‘the early years’.
We were in the ERC (Educational Resource Centre) and she had just let the rest of the class go– it must have been during a conference. She called me back as I was heading outside and gave one of the most adult and most condescending lectures I’ve ever had. She addressed the way I was treating my youngest sister Hannah, the need for respect and the importance of love. Using an example of herself and her younger brother she challenged me to hug Hannah once a day and treat her like a human being. I cried because I was so humiliated and angry that she had intervened in a situation where I had the upper hand.
Over the next few months I occasionally gave Hannah a hug. Getting a, “What’s that for?” look did not help things. I hated Kristy for it at the time, however she introduced me to the concept that an external perspective of what relationships with others look like is important, that the world does not revolve around me, and that respect goes both ways.
Break In – early 1999
Context: Beimers house, down the hill from SITAG
My mum made me write a journal entry about it the day after it happened, somewhat against my will – It could have been used for a police statement, I’m not sure. I remember specifically impersonalising it as much as possible. I later put tape across the journal so it wouldn’t open to the memory. I regret not dating it. I know I was 12 or 13 it happened a Saturday night at 1:30am… so essentially a Sunday morning.
On Saturday night at 1:30am I woke up to find Erhard lying on the mat on the floor. I turned on my reading light to make sure. It was, and he was wearing an aqua and blue T-shirt. When I saw him there, my first impulse was to kick him and I did. I had to kick him several times. Erhard jumped up and raced out the room, through the storeroom window. It was then I realised where he had gotten in. I called Laura and finally she got the message. After that I went up to tell Dad. He called the police who came in the morning and they took Erhard away for questioning. I don’t know what will happen to him now, or what his parents will say when they hear. We think he might have been drunk and tripped and went unconscious or something.
PS. I forgot to mention that he wet his pants on the way out!
I remember the circumstance in far greater detail than I recorded. The evening before I remember having this ‘feeling’ that something bad was going to happen I prayed for protection I think. We had our bedroom downstairs; I had the bottom bunk, with Laura over me. The roof was fairly low so the bed was practically just a frame on the floor. I woke up for no evident reason; I was curled on the upper outer, left hand side of the bed. Someone was lying half across the bottom of the bed, half on the floor. It was dark and I didn’t have my glasses on and I couldn’t find them, I was too afraid to put the light on. I was half asleep and disorientated so I reached down felt the person’s hair as thought it could have been my sister Emily (who slept walked frequently). The hair was curly. I went through all the absurd reasons of who it could be, the only person in our family with curly hair is my mum and for a moment I was utterly convinced it was her – or tried to convince myself that it was her. I can’t remember now if I put the light by my bed on before or after he ran out. I was petrified but knew that I couldn’t not do anything. I suddenly somehow realised that it was Erhard – the neighbor’s kid. I considered getting out past and up the stairs to get Dad, but decided against it. I do not know where my reasoning came from, but any that I had flew out the window when I chose to deal with it myself. I acted upon impulse and kicked him. It was a feeble attempt at first, more like a nudge with my foot. I got more scared and angry so I kicked him harder – it took several times before he ‘woke’ up and ran.
I lay there for several minutes, until I made a garbled mess of waking Laura with a short explanation. She told me to get Dad.
A fairly blurred memory of running around, dealing with the situation ensued. Dad had the joy of discovering that there was pee across the floor by standing in it.
I described him as being, ‘on the mat on the floor’. I don’t think that I mentioned him being half on my bed the first time and so omitted it from any retelling. I did not mention to anyone about feeling his hair. I stuck to the necessary facts, maybe in the hope that I’d forget the rest. I was ok. I made an involuntary decision to show as least fear as possible, and it turned into a bit of a ‘hero’ story amongst the SITAG group. I didn’t talk to anyone about I felt, or mention the word shame. It is curious how in a situation that is entirely not your fault, when nothing directly (physical) has happened, that this irrational feeling of shame consumes your thoughts. And at the time you have difficulty naming and working out that, that is what it is.
Crying never entered the circumstance. Fear did not allow it.
We slept upstairs on the study floor for the rest of the night. I smelt my hands. It could have been palm oil from the hair, my own sweat or a combination. I had this desperation to get the smell off of me, to isolate myself from the incident. I washed my hands multiple times, a Lady Macbeth type act. Soap only dulled it, I slept eventually.
I occasionally find the same smell today, in some soap or on skin. Smell retains memory far greater than any other sense. If I had to define a smell in terms of emotion, this would wave the banner of fear.
The motive behind Erhard being in Laura’s and my room, we aren’t entirely sure? He was quite probably drunk. We had a fair idea that he liked Laura. It seems fairly unreasonable that a 12 year old would act in that manner; it is possible he was put up to it. There was no good reason why he was unconscious, or that I was on my bed in the furthest possible position away from him, or that I woke up, or that nothing worse happened – except God.
Dad later told me that if I had gotten him to come down first, that he possibly would have beaten the kid up fairly badly. There was not a lot the police could really do. Dad angrily warned Erhard never to show his face again.
I remember ‘forgiving’ him fairly soon after it all happened. Coming to terms with it was another matter. For two or so years I always went to sleep on the one side of the bed, even when we were in Australia hundreds of kilometers from where it happened – the same side I had been when I woke up, the safe side,
One night I realised I had to let it go, I ‘forgave’ again – ignoring all aspects of theology of once forgiven it’s over. And purposefully went to sleep on the other side. It didn’t bother me after that. I didn’t get an opportunity or take the trouble of telling the ‘fuller’ story until a year or so ago – to a friend. I never rehashed the story with my family; the details that I omitted that long ago no longer seem very relevant.
I can look back now and partially see how this has affected me as a person. It is highly possible that the difficulty I find in being ‘vulnerable’ and in admitting fear stems from this, also fact that I am adamantly ‘okay’ and that I can deal with things independently. I do not know why I acted the way I did when I was twelve, or if I had already begun to form a tough exterior, it certainly would have added to whatever was there.
And so begins an unraveling of that outer shell, a path I’ve been walking for quite a while. One moment takes many more to undo.
Northside Christian College Bus Ride – 2000, Year 8
Context: Back in Australia for half a year off – which later got delayed to an entire year after the coup in the Solomon Islands occurred.
Cultural adjustment is a difficult concept to explain to someone who has not experienced a return to a ‘home’ country from a life elsewhere. Home is indefinable when you have been split between countries and between friends.
There are obvious differences entering into a Western culture from what you’ve always known. Starting school in Australia came with numerous questions about this supposedly ‘exotic place’ from where you have come. I remember that the certainty of differences was highlighted to me during a bus ride to a school sports day. I belonged elsewhere. Their language, their vocabulary was full of words I did not know and splattered with words I did not want to know. The focus of conversation was completely foreign.
It was a curious year. Difficult. I formed a fascination with watching how my classmates behaved. I experienced consciously what most don’t – the gradual creeping of social standards into a person’s everyday life. I had a late introduction to what Westerners believe to be the ‘real world’; I have a more objective view of life because of it.
Emily Mudge – 1990’s – 2001
Context: Honiara, this particular memory from 2001.
Emily Mudge was my ‘best friend’. It wasn’t always that way – we were simply friends until after one furlough when returned from Australia and we suddenly clicked. We had the convenience of both living ‘in town’ (Honiara) and so didn’t have large gaps of non-communication because of being out in separate villages. She was American, fairly quiet and a year or so younger than me.
We would have sleepovers, mostly at her house so I could escape my sisters. We’d play Othello, watch movies, make things out of craft junk, and cram into her mini double bed. Her mum made the best pizza, and crepes to die for. We’d look at ‘hair’ books, have secret codes/languages (when we were younger) and had an unspoken agreement to never delve too deeply into what the other was going through, boy conversation was off limits.
2001. I was 15 she was 13. There was a fair bit of petty theft and unrest around Honiara. I was at her place after staying over, just about ready to go home. There was distant yelling and gunshots (the shots I didn’t hear), her mum came in and said that we couldn’t leave just yet as there was something going on up the road.
It was the middle of the day. A car had been torched, an expat’s car. I think he’d been shot/beaten. Aunt Carolyn sat with us and prayed for the situation. I found it a little strange. I think it bought us closer together. They got a police escort for the drive back to my place; the car on the side of the road was blackened and gutted.
In many ways I think I took Emily’s friendship a little for granted. I got distracted by other friends near the end of our time in the Solomons. I wish I had spent more time with her. We emailed a little bit. I haven’t heard from her in long time. She was possibly the only friend I’ve ever had nearly exclusively to myself up until this year. Having a twin complicates friendships and you always manage to end up sharing them.
We did not cement our friendship in a deep understanding of each other. We were close but held the other at arms length. This is a mistake and a pattern I find myself repeating with many friends. The result being we did not keep up. I would find myself in a confusing position to meet up with her again as I have changed greatly as I’m sure she has. There would be a vastly different element in how I would approach things.
Friendship. A constant moving from one place to another has warped my ability in this department. I sit once removed from most people. Emily was not the factor in this, but in many ways she typifies the closeness I reach before things become uncomfortable. I have changed, I have poured a lot of effort into creating closer friendships but I still hesitate. I would like to turn back the clock and redo aspects of who I was back then, but I can’t. The best I can hope for is to one day find her again and talk about what was, why it was. I am not ready for that yet.
Leaving the Solomons – Christmas Day 2001
Leaving the Solomons – a very crucial time that has backed the past three and a half years and will probably cast shadow like fingers into my future. We left the Solomon Islands for good on Christmas Day 2001. I was 15. Although having a fair amount of warning – a year’s definite knowledge of an indefinite date, I do not think that I prepared overly well.
2001 was one of the most enjoyable, memorable times I ever had in the Solomons, possibly because I was at a point where memories concrete themselves. I think that relationships with friends and ‘family’ were deepened. I spent the entire year in this incomparable community where we would get up at 6:00 each morning to play basketball or volleyball – enjoy each other’s company, return to our homes for school, and as soon as we could were back doing anything and everything together. We spent our afternoons on a mud/stick/junk town called Cliffside – it continued the entire year, it was a chance to be creative, hang out, and compete. Hours and hours were devoted to cards. We hung out for Friday ‘games nights’, we cooked together, had movie nights, went to beach and the Honiara Hotel pool for the cost of a coke, dinners, sleepovers, campfires, joined in with the local youth group, played kick the can…
When I first heard that we were leaving the country I flat refused. I subconsciously knew it wouldn’t last forever but dealing with the reality (hastened by certain other events) was like being kicked in the gut. There was a fairly long assisted process of ‘letting go’. That Christmas Mum and Dad took us around to buy local carvings for our presents. We revisited many of the places where we’d spent time.
I wrote a journal entry (May 2005) about the day we left:
Why those things God, that change a perfectly OK day into one that just brings up stuff you thought you were kind of over? One tiny video clip of the view out of a plane window, crossing a coast – not even the same country and you’re sitting there with all those mixed feelings and an overwhelming sadness for what was.
You know you can’t share it, because there’d be no point, because people do not understand unless they have been in similar shoes. I had chosen to forget – or I had forgotten what it was like.
That Christmas day was a horrible ugly blur, that when looking back has been captured and plastered in your mind in a series of very memorable slow motion scenes.
The stark memory of the day before you left. Sitting there looking across. Wanting, willing it to go away, wanting them to talk to you and knowing they wouldn’t know what to say. Just staring, thinking about everything and anything.
The night before – crying in the perfected art of silence.
The last touch and looking back out the window at your stupid lovely dogs.
The Christmas lunch, with the mock cheer, the bad chicken stuffing, the good American food.
Standing behind that computer… that last opportunity, wondering if to, and how to say goodbye, and thank you.
Walking down the MAF steps for the last time, remembering that they used to be crooked.
The drive to the airport, that felt so long and so short all at once.
The mountains on Guadacanal.
The Lunga river bridge.
The wait at the airport, the many photos, the hugs, the clinging that you tried to stand back from.
That awful moment when you couldn’t any longer hold back from crying… you held out longer than any one else.
Walking out the door and looking back one last time, trying desperately to capture their faces, picking out the few who meant so much.
That flight that you cannot remember except for the blurred crossing of the coast, the green and the blue, saying good-bye to your home one last time, knowing that every little thing from there on would be so very different.
Leaving the Solomons has deeply affected who I am. I have/will mentally describe myself as uprooted, torn, divided, a foot in both countries, stretched. I at one early stage fell back to feeling as if I was this frayed bit of rope, taut between two places, with only God keeping me together. It did draw somewhat of a greater dependence upon God, however it was more that fact that God was made very real – Him being the only constant.
Others envy you for your interesting life, “All your experiences have bought you so close to God…” and you’re like, No! Ha! I’d give anything just to be ‘normal’. How hard it is to leave.
But then you know deep down that you’d never want anything else, never. What I wouldn’t give to be back there again. (2004)
I wont deny that my memories aren’t just that, memories, as this still affects me. It becomes particularly hard around Christmas time, although the past year was far easier the first few. I often wonder that by withholding as much grief as I could at the time, that I put a barb around the healing process.
Last part of a Journal entry from 14/8/05 – so only a few days ago.
These memories are part of me, but hope is constant as it always has been. Time has lessened the impact and God you stood in front of it for me. The pressure is there and I am tired of searching for a replacement for what was.
I cannot let clocks work counterclockwise, nor can I ever entirely forget.
Three cultures. Australia, the Solomons and here I am standing in the unknown third, where I always stand.
3.5 years is a long time.
This is where I am now.