Monday, 19 August 2013

Helen Pollock Bio written August 2013

Helen Pollock, August 2013.

My ultra conservative parents were astonished when the great big fat envelope arrived in the post.  I remember the interview very well and came away thinking that it all seemed very exciting.  I knew little about TPNG.

As I lived at home with my parents in Epping it was an excursion merely to get to Middle Head every day but I soon hooked up with Lois who lived in Eastwood and she kindly drove me to ASOPA.  Having gone to an all girls’ school and only out of school for a year I found the lectures to be amazing.  Enough of the C group had had a year or two at university so had learnt “lecture behavior” from there and were quite happy to interrupt, challenge and engage in discussion and to …miss lectures.

Other memories from ASOPA include:
·      Members of parliament (?) who came for a visit and sat in the dining area discussing the “value” of the females at the college.  A kindly (?) pidgin speaker translated!
·      The health lecture that consisted of slide after slide of “toilets” from around the world but mainly from third world areas.
·  Jeannie’s obsession with whether or not we were pregnant and the dreaded worm infestations we would get if we went bare footed.
·  Being rostered on to make milkshakes at morning teatime.  I remember Jack Jensen’s having a collision with a surfboard and him living on milkshakes as his jaw was wired shut.
·      SRA reading…OMG
·      I loved Geoff England’s philosophy lectures.  Later studied philosophy at UQ and again loved it.
·      Life saving at Balmoral Baths.  It was a very windy day and the water was very rough.  I was very grateful that I had had the foresight to get a bronze medallion whilst at school as we were excused and allowed to sit by the water watching.  For some it was a nightmare.
·      Fred Kaad’s lectures where all the girls had to sit down the front.  I wonder if any of us accurately predicted the future of PNG in that second year assignment.
·      Games of 500.
·      The Noel Gash interpretation of history.
·      The St Patrick’s Day Balls.
It all came to its logical conclusion in November 1967.  My first trip in a plane was very exciting especially as we landed in Brisbane in the early hours with fire engines racing alongside! We arrived at Madang in the late afternoon.  It was spectacularly beautiful with the sea and the palm trees and much cooler, thankfully, than Moresby. 

Ros, Lois and Lesley in our first month in Madang.

Prac. Teaching was at Madang Tech.  The principal, Jim Watson, called me in for a little chat.  There are two school rules: the first was that the students must wear clothing to academic classes and I forget the second!  I was the only female on the staff.  The classrooms in pairs were roofed concrete slabs with a storeroom in the middle.  They were quite cool and breezy as the school was by the water.  However when it rained you moved the desks into the middle of the room and gave up.  Jim, found out it was my 21st a week after we arrived and thought it was a good enough excuse for a party.  I don’t think he needed much of an excuse.

I spent my first TPNG Christmas with John Colwell and Bob Gray at John’s parents’ place in Moresby.  Christmas, Colwell style, beginning with midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, was another in a very long list of new experiences.

Back to Madang and where Ros (Marks) and I were allocated a three-bedroom house on the girls’ school at Tusbab.  We had a succession of housemates including one who rode a restored WW 11 BSA bike and did not wash her sheets for the 6 months or so she was with us.

Academic Classroom

Memories include:
·      Boarding school duties, with the girls using sarips to cut the grass and the snakes on the oval.
·      Sex education lessons with my care class… 14-15 year old all boys’ class.  My biggest surprise was the belief that you had to have sex eight times to have a baby!  They knew just having sex once did not result in a baby…but to believe that sex once, the baby got a body, twice a head etc. until the baby was given life on the eighth time was difficult to argue against in the light of their experience.  In their belief system this accounted for stillbirths and miscarriages. I kept all their written questions and interestingly this folder was missing from my effects when I came back to Australia.

·      School parades on the basketball courts.

·      Watching the landing on the moon (film) in the mess and being asked why we could not see the flag.  Thanks Bob Brown.

·      The dancing troupe.  Ros and I were not part of this but we had our photo taken in the gear.

·     The 7.1 earthquake that shook the town in the early hours.  Most of us had been to a function at the golf club the night before and to have the 6’ long bookcase fall over, the bed end up on the opposite side of the room and the contents of the kitchen cupboards on the floor added a whole new dimension to the term “guria”.
·      The visit by some Maths specialists from UQ who were interested in the developing mathematic concepts of our students.   They gave the kids a basic computation test and reported back that they had done appallingly. There was no logic to their answers just seemed like random guesses until someone realized that they had not specified base 10.  Seems the kids had guessed the base depending on the question…that sorted, the kids did very well! Some local villages had a base 25.
·      The visit of the Queen and Prince Phillip.  I believe that Ros Marks actually went to the function at the DC’s residence.  I was on boarding school duty and delivered several of the girls who acted as waitresses for the evening. 
·      Having two children at the Madang General Hospital.

Madang General Hospital.

·      Leaving daughter, Kimberley, born (21/6/72) in the care of two school girls when she was about 9 months old and finding that the girls had woken her to play. Here she was having had a bath and dressed in the most impractical clothing she owned.  She, however, seemed to enjoy the late night entertainment!   Lachlan arrived 10 weeks before we left PNG at the end of 1974.

By the end of the 70’s I had been diagnosed Type 1 diabetic, was a single parent, and had gone back to full-time teaching to support myself and my two children.  The only teaching position was at a Special School in a low socioeconomic area about 30 mins from home. For the first three weeks I wondered how I would survive.  My principal was a godsend.  He encouraged me to go to UQ to get a degree, as this was to become the expected standard.  So it was teach all day, collect the kids from school, off to Uni…I barely had time to scratch myself.  By the time my head was above water, I had the degree, kids were settled in school and we were OK, diabetes under control, well almost!

Kimberley studied Arts at UQ and became curious about PNG after several anthropology units.  She was very keen to go back (by herself!) and see where she was born.  After speaking to John Colwell one Christmas we flew back to PNG for a visit. Firstly, to Madang where Lach did some diving on the war wrecks off the coast and Kimberley and I played tourist.  Lach (still studying to be a paramedic) after visiting the hospital stated that it was irresponsible of me to have had him there. From Madang we flew to Goroka and travelled down into the Asaro Valley and finally flew into Moresby to be met by John.  Kimberley walked the Kokoda Track with John and the seniors from Sogeri and still believes this to be one of the most significant events of her life. Lach and I flew back to Australia.  That Lach did not walk the track when he had the chance is one of his greatest regrets.

Seems I have a job attention span of about 5 years…
I have been:   Classroom teacher of mildly intellectually impaired kids,
                        Classroom teacher of physically impaired kids,
Integration teacher at a High School
                        Education Adviser (Statewide)                                                                                           Advisory Visiting Teacher

Completed my 25 years for Ed Qld, got the Apple and retired in 2006.

My twenty-five years with Ed Qld saw the kids graduate from their respective high schools and go on to their respective universities.  Kimberley is a teacher at an international school in Seoul, is married and has two children…at last count I had been to Korea twenty six times in thirteen years.  Lach is also married with two young sons and works as an Intensive Care Paramedic with QAS and lives here in Brisbane.

I am spending some time trying to locate our colleagues and have been very interested in seeing the paths that others have taken since our common ASOPA and PNG experience.  I wonder who would have accurately predicted where they would be after 48 years.

The rest of my time is spent doing what I want to do: movies, theatre, lunches out, gossip sessions, reading, and grandmother duties.  I take one grandson to school three days a week and stay and volunteer in a composite one/two class.  Look after another for 3-4 hours on Tuesdays and of course my regular trips to Korea.  I have much to be grateful for…

Hope to see as many of you as can make it to the reunion.


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