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A Rainy Goodbye

It would start innocently enough. Tap. Tap. Tap. The advance party has arrived and the droplets on the tin roofs are unmistakable. Then, like a beanbag full of too many beans, the clouds that have built-up in the afternoon heat burst open. In the tropics, the rain doesn’t really fall in drops, but in sheets. I became used to this type of rain in Papua New Guinea when I lived at a school nestled in a rainforest for two months. Thunderstorms in a rainforest produce an incredible racket. If you could break down the white noise, there would be the the pattering on tin roof-tops, the smack of water onto broad palm leaves and the increasing roar of a flooding river. The only thing that cuts through the white-noise were next door’s children’s delightful squeals as they splash about in the puddles that form after thirty seconds of downpour.

Although Lawrence and Maggie would become my closest friends, they were incredibly wary of me at first and never moved faster than running back inside when I appeared. I turned to the only solution I could: sharing the wonder of The Lion King (cheers Walt!) with them. It literally took nothing more than that, and for the rest of my time in PNG, I had friends who would take me on adventures through the rainforest and drag me to demonstrate their prowess at collecting fruit from trees through an ingenious method that has been carefully researched and refined over hundreds of years (throwing rocks at trees). My new friends would also show me how to make toys out of bamboo and a relative of the coconut. Beyond the rock throwing and rainforest Toys-R-Us, I also found I had volunteers willing to pull faces for my camera, which gave me some of the greatest memories and photos of my time in PNG.

On the morning I was leaving, I couldn't find my friends from next door – and I really had to because they couldn’t come to the airport for one last goodbye. I found them wrapped tightly around their mother’s legs. And then it started just as innocently as the afternoon storms: drip, drip, drip. The composure that I’d been fighting to maintain all morning fell apart. The tears poured down my face as I thought about the friends I was farewelling. I say thought… but there wasn’t much going on in my brain at that moment; it was instinctive, not intellectual. I wrapped them up in a bear hug and told them to “be good” – anymore words than that were beyond me. I sat in the tray of a ute as it pulled away from the school and waved manically through a blurry curtain of tears. And in the same way that a strong wind can blow away the heavy afternoon rain clouds, a few deep breaths helped to dry my eyes. I may have wiped my eyes clear but I’ve made sure the memories of my friendships have been kept firmly in tact. It’ll take more than a few drops of water to wash away the memories of PNG.

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