Helena Charlesworth, volunteer at Sacred Heart High School, Tarawa, Kiribati, returns to her placement after Christmas in a very different place.
It was lovely to be back in Australia, especially the week I spent in my home town, Devonport (Tas.) which I hadn’t visited for the past three years. Being with friends there and later meeting some more who were visiting Melbourne was very encouraging as I felt surrounded by their love and care.
Then I spent a very special time of six days on retreat at the Campion Centre in Kew (Vic). That gave me a chance to look back over the past year, to put things to rights and to prepare, at least spiritually and mentally, for the coming year which promises to be a challenge (as usual).
After that I felt very blessed to be able to stay with Good Samaritan Sisters in Melbourne so that I could visit and spend Christmas with my cousin who is in a nursing home. How did it feel to be back in Australia? Wonderful!…for a short period. I enjoyed the people, the climate, the FOOD! (oh, so delicious, fresh and varied), the city with its music and buskers and hustle and bustle and the goods in the stores. But it is an expensive place to live!
I was away for six weeks and during the latter two or three weeks I felt ready to return to Tarawa. In fact, by the last few days I wished the day of travelling would hurry up. I tend to be uneasy when packing and travelling, especially when doing so alone, so it was a relief when the plane finally took off.
I had something to look forward to en route: Br. Don (CEO Director from NZ), Br. Kevin (teacher at St Louis High School here on Tarawa, also from NZ), Sue Ryan (Palms Volunteer and colleague at SHC), Kiyo (our school’s young Japanese volunteer teacher) and I were all booked on the same plane from Nadi to Tarawa, so it was a happy reunion in Nadi airport lounge. The sense of belonging was very special.
A pleasant surprise at Tarawa’s Bonriki Airport where the service has improved immeasurably and we were through Customs in no time at all- and there was a welcome from our school nightwatchman who came to pick up Sue, Kiyo and me.
Our homes had been cleaned -I hadn’t expected that- and flowers and a welcoming card awaited us. None of our four cats had gone missing -in fact two surprised us with new kittens! That gives us the prospect of plenty of entertainment as they find their legs and play and tumble about. They tend to be better entertainment than a TV and since we don’t have the latter we appreciate the former!
What does it feel like to be back? Wonderful! I’m really looking forward to the new school year and its challenges because with our new school administrative team I believe we can raise the school’s name in the community by giving our students a good, holistic education. For me, I have to be able to accept that there will be frustrations and some things won’t change, and not get myself upset by that. That’s where the retreat will be so helpful – it’s shown me the need to be calmer and more accepting.
There have been welcoming hugs or handshakes from the few staff and students/ex-students we’ve already met in the four days we’ve been back, as well as from our parish priest who doesn’t really know us well, having come to the parish only late last year,yet he seemed really happy to see Sue and I after Mass this morning.
Being back in Australia was great; and being back now in Kiribati is even better for there’s a challenge ahead, an exciting one which I look forward to.