So I am settling in.
I get a two bedroom apartment that’s right on the water (even if the occasional king tide does come up to the back door). I also get my first company car. Everyone here drives around in Landcruisers, a respectable tough-as-nails car to suit an equally tough climate and grizzled-looking drivers.
My heart deflates when I see my machine. It’s a Getz.
How will I ever be taken seriously in this little impotent symbol of my virility, I doubt I ever will. It ‘s like a clown car, at six foot plus I feel oversized in it.
The first couple of days of the job is overwhelming, Junior B constantly tells me how to do things at a frenetic pace, as I madly take notes. These desperate scribbles of illegible scrawl on scraps of paper blow round the office like confetti each time the door is opened and the sea breeze blows in. I know I will never read them, even if I could make out my own hand writing, I realise I will never get the time to do it.
Junior B rattles off names of VIPs I should know, loons I should avoid, Indigenous protocols to remember, faux pas to never do. I forget it all as fast as he tells me. All that runs through my mind is the Playschool song, I’m a little tea pot short and stout, here is my handle and here is my spout. It has always just jumped into my head at times of heightened stress, like some little pressure value that pops when it all becomes too much.
This place is a rat’s nest of who’s who and what’s what and for a newbie it can be turbulent waters. Everybody knows everybody, everybody that is but me.
In between really important and really complex technical things I must know and forgot, it’s all his asides that stay in my mind:
“Be careful going out on a Friday night, the young blokes like to punch out white fellas, but its fine during the day,”
“Watch out for the Papuans, they are all tribal, you don’t want to get on the wrong side of them,”
“Be really careful about printing names, its a small island, and you will have a family here after all.”
Right, that I remembered.
These comments were usually followed with “but its a really nice place.”
It is a really nice place but just under the surface bubbles tensions and unresolved issues, feuds and fall outs, but they all have to live together on this small island isolated from the rest of the world by miles of croc and shark infested waters.
But at least Junior B is going to be around for a week so I can really learn the robes, get a handle on all the things he’s told and that I’ve forgotten, or written down as notes whisked away by the constant South Easterly sea breeze.
The next day, he’s gone.
He flies back to Brisbane to all the trimmings and pleasantries of the urban world, real coffee, fancy restaurants and all the other stuff I thought I wanted to escape but now realised I would miss.
Over the ensuing days I start to meet people and learn names, a couple of times I hear;
“Its a beautiful place here, really friendly. Have you been threatened yet?”
It’s the ‘yet’ that palpates my heart. Yet has an inevitability about it that doesn’t rest easy.
As I start to sort out the office I find some traditional hunting spears, so I mount them on the wall. In the storeroom I find a Louisville Slugger, but I know there is know baseball on the island. It’s aptly named ‘The Ambassador.’ I put it within easy reach of the front door. In a drawer by the back door I find a Brazilian Tramontina, the best quality machete money can buy. Maybe that’s just for the coconut tree in the garden. I still keep it by the back door for good measure.
So this is life in the slow life, feels a little racey for me…