Monday, 30 April 2012


Goodenough Island, Milne Bay Province
The second part of our translation awareness trip was with the Diodio on Goodenough Island. Our arrival here was much more low key and we wondered if they had remembered that we were coming. Sitting under the mango tree we caught our breath from the 20 min walk up from the beach. It had not been a hard walk, but the humidity had caused me to sweat so much that it was dripping off my nose. Yuck. Time seated in the shade and an eventual cup of tea did much to restore my spirits.

Goodenough Island is about 40km long and nearly 2.5km tall. Occasionally we could see the mountains, but they were often lost in the clouds. People live on the coastal plains around the edge of the Island. In this small space there are several languages; Bwaidoka, Iduna, Kaninuwa and a dialect chain that stretches along the north and west coast. The villages along this chain have over 80% lexical similarity from one end to the other. To say where a language begins or ends, and what it should be called, is a complex question. For now, we shall say we were in Diodio language, as that is what some people in the village I visited called it, although others said differently. 

Returning to Kwadima II
This time the workshop was attended largely by community leaders from both the United and Catholic church as well as from nearby villages. These churches have a long and strong presence on Goodenough Island and are behind most of the schools, clinics and aid posts on the island. This meant that people had much higher education and grasp of English. Not needing a translator certainly simplified the workshop! Once again, people engaged with the workshops and came away inspired to begin work in their own language. To me, that is the measure of a successful trip. 

Even in this area of higher education, the need for translation was highlighted for me in discussion with a lay preacher in training. Together we talked out way through the text she was preaching on the following day. We identified the foreign words and ideas, we talked about cultural assumptions and hidden meanings, and about how she could communicate the message of the text in a clear, accurate and natural way. This woman had a good grasp of English, but had clearly missed much of the meaning in the text. If the text had been in her heart language, the meaning would have been clear. 

Rainbow farewell to Diodio
We left Diodio on Sunday afternoon. As we walked back down to the beach, all I was allowed to carry was my own billum (handbag). All of our luggage and stores went ahead of us on the heads and backs of others. It is an expression of hospitality, but a bit awkward for someone used to looking after herself. I rainbow covered the sky as we waved goodbye to our new friends on the beach 

As the sun set and the stars came out, we were on our way back to Alotau. With no moon, the stars were incredible. I am thankful that I can still see the Southern Cross from here as it makes home feel a little bit closer. In the sea I delighted in one of my favourite things; dolphins swimming in phosphorescence. When dolphins move through these tiny marine creatures they glow like underwater fireflies. The result is a dolphin shaped glowing streak with a fairy dust trail that plays on the bow wave. Stars above and comets below. Beautiful.

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