Saturday, 19 October 2013


Boobies soaring, crabs scuttling, waves cliff gnashing, rain threatening, wind howling and I'm cruising on a 100cc scooter with JS Bach in my ears.

The grotto, my favourite swimming place.

My first week on Christmas Island has elapsed. It is like a Daliesque dream. Will I awaken to find this newly found lifestyle paradise vanished? No I wont! It is really the most incredible thing ever Christmas Island. I am so happy and so fortunate to have landed this job working for Serco at the North West Point Immigration Detention Centre teaching English as a second language. It is so interesting and so bizarre, culturally and linguistically it’s like a 5 part fugue. Afghans, Tamils, Persians, Iraqis and Burmese men, hundreds of them, all locked up in the middle of this tropical island. As the rumour of changes in Australian Immigration policy run rife throughout, so do the increased numbers of arriving boats. Twenty boats are said to be waiting out at sea to be intercepted by the Australian Navy in order to be granted the most desirable status for processing. This week the storms have been so furious I can’t not worry about the welfare of those on board those waiting boats. I do not want to be one of the next, fishing bodies out of the sea in the case of a mishap. It was only a few days before my arrival on island that half a boatload of asylum seekers drowned as their boat was smashed on the sharp volcanic rock coast.   

SIEV 221
SEIV (suspected irregular entry vessel) 221

 Lily beach is closed as it is littered with body bags of the unfortunate freedom seekers. The official morgue at the hospital was designed without such a disaster in mind, it houses only two, the other forty odd lie one the beach. I was awoken some weeks after in the dead of night by the sound of a Hercules taking off. Odd I thought, until I remembered the funeral was to take place the following days in Sydney. Eerie.

Work is terrific. It is really a very light workload. No assessments, no paperwork and only 15 teaching hours in my 38-hour week. This is the lightest load I’ve ever worked. The rest of the time I can spend preparing classes, writing a curriculum and developing a library of teaching materials.  I am the teacher for the North West compound and the numbers in my classes are growing rapidly. The ‘clients’ love the classes and I appear to have already gained rock star status, as they mob me after classes to thank me for the lesson and to compliment me on my work. It may be a little later that I discover the crafty, scheming motivation behind the flattery, but for now I’ll just enjoy it.

Greta Beach
On Tuesday, I commence Arabic lessons with Ahmed, an Iraqi client. I hope to learn some Arabic as well as to understand exactly how difficult it is to learn a language from a different language group and script whilst getting a grasp of Arabic grammar systems. My knowledge of Arabic is extremely limited and I look forward to filling that void.

The detention centre staff lives at the decommissioned casino. It is a rather odd place as little like Miss Havisham’s dinning room from Great Expectations. One night, I snuck through a backdoor and up a staircase to find the old casino room with adjacent areas. All the tables were set up with drop sheets over them as though like naughty children everyone dropped everything and ran as soon as they had been caught doing illicit acts. My room is on the front left behind the coconut grove.
CIIDC - my work
The decommissioned Christmas Island Casino - my home
The island abounds with the most amazing natural beauty. The fish and the birds do not fear humans, as they are unaccustomed to their presence, rather they are quite curious, as are we. A lovely exchange of curiosity as we glare at each other without fear. Whilst snorkelling I found myself midst a school of hundreds of fish who came right up to my goggles and peered in like an inquisitive child to a television. The island is an extinct volcano rising out of the Java Trench. This trench is the second deepest ocean location worldwide. Snorkelers dare each other to swim to the ‘drop off’, about 50 – 100 from the beach the ocean floor vanishes, only to be rediscovered after a five-kilometre swim straight down. The crabs however, are terrified. Even more terrified is me of them. The millions of red crabs are somewhat benign in size but compensate in number. I’m looking forward to the famous annual migration, which, Attenbrough considers one of the ten most incredible things he’s ever seen. Enter stage left, the robber crab. This is exactly what happened at my first sighting. Dusk, walking carefully in respect of the flora and fauna, a horrific sight enters my left peripheral vision quickly followed by a scream Hitchcock would’ve been proud of. As I lifted my gaze the screams of my friend and I escalated due to the unfathomable size AND number of these prehistoric creatures. Robber crabs are named as such because of their kleptomaniac tendencies, yes they steal your mobile phone and keys while your back is turned! They are also called coconut crabs as they climb coconut palms and pick the coconuts then break them open with their claws and proceed to eat them. A less intelligently endowed colleague plied with duty free spirits teased one a little to closely. Needless to say she had to go to the hospital to get the crab to ‘let go’ of her hand.

Christmas Island is an amazing place and I am so so so happy I decided to come here. But alas this is not the end of the story……

No comments:

Post a Comment