Friday, February 10, 2006

We took a helicopter from Tabubil to Kiunga and then a plane to Port Moresby and then another plane to Sydney. Or maybe we just went through Port Moresby on a plane, but I remember looking out an open helicopter door as we rose off the ground, seeing cockatoos flying in the impossibly green forest canopy--but that was after the door had been closed. Dad would tie a rope around an inner tube and float us down either the Ok Tedi or Ok Menga where there were crocodiles. They didn't need to eat us because there were other things to eat. This is not the case in some parts of the Everglades. I don't think I'd swim in either river now, whichever one it was we swam in. There are less crocodiles in the rivers, and some in crocodile farms now--but these two situations are not directly related. There was going to be a dam for the mine tailings, but it was destroyed midway through its construction in 1984--a landslide, I think. I must have been there then--the Ok Tedi was already brown with tailings. I'd smear mud or sometimes charcoal all over my body because I thought it was good for my skin and would make me more aboriginal. I spoke Pidgin like a child because I was a child which means I spoke it well enough. There were lots of things I didn't know, obviously. I didn't know about Tree Kangaroos then, but I was already fond of marsupials. There's a picture of me at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane holding a Koala. I remember thinking that this was one of the most important moments of my life, and I wanted to look solemn and dignified. "Dignified" was a word I knew but not "solemn," and yet I was solemn. I wore a red parka. I forgot to mention that we left Tabubil in the helicopter or the plane because there was a riot, so Bechtel put us in a fancy hotel in Sydney, where I threw up all over the red lobby carpet, under the chandelier.

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