#36 A New Turn

Hey friends,

I am almost 30, though it feels as if though I have been ‘almost 30’ for a while now, I actually have another 2 years left tied up on two projects that are going well so far.

Continue reading “#36 A New Turn”

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#35: How I made the patchwork princess too? ( 2/2)

Part 2/2 – How I made the patchwork princess too?

names-for-drunk
Patchwork Princess

The patchwork princess from primary school days grew up without anyone telling her the right words to use. She could never really stop the boys from embarrassing her.

The primary school boys never learnt that ‘no’ meant ‘no’. That boy does not deserve girls affection after grand gesture. That there was a fine line between romance and harassment.

Continue reading “#35: How I made the patchwork princess too? ( 2/2)”

#34- Making the Patchwork Princess (1/2)

Primary school gossip was scandalous to say the least. Paper notes passed up and down grades, between friends – cautious of peering eyes. These were days before the DMs – I am talking about days before mobile phones and snapchat.

Continue reading “#34- Making the Patchwork Princess (1/2)”

#33 Talking Urbanism- Fixing the Heat in Cairns.

I’m breaking a sweat from J-walking across Grafton Street.

For the first time in a few mild months, I am reminded that this is the tropics. 


The feel of humidity rising in the morning leaves a lot to be desired as I get caught in the mid-Friday-morning sun darting into Rusty’s for the ritual coffee and samosa. 


Friendly nods between the frenzied buzz give way to warm murmurs interjected by the whizz-shhhhh of the coffee machine at Billy’s.


Flippy-floppy thongs slap hard against concrete followed closely by the clip and clop of a heal and a shoe.


Someone mentions in passing that it looks like ‘it’s going to be a hot one’. 


But I can’t tell if they were talking about the coffee or sun.


I notice the first signs of redness beginning to show on our melanin-deficient brothers and sisters who have ventured a bit too long without sunscreen. 


The morning streets will soon be a buzz with tropical professionals zipping into air-conditioned hideaways of the next cafe to avoid unsightly sweat patches. 


But the weather this time of the year is temperamental.


The rains do poke through humid blue skies on the odd occasion, cooling streets and shrinking sidewalks. 


Rains Descend
Wet Weather brings a welcomed reprieve from the heat.

It lingers long enough to make us yearn for more sheltered walkways. But it stays away long enough for us to forget we need them. 


The indecisive weather is part of the lifestyle. A short walk from the Esplanade to Cairns Central would attract an unwarranted public baptism by either precipitation or perspiration. 


I call on a thought to distract myself from the rising hunger as I wait in the samosa line. 


How is it that our city stops short of catering to our tropical lifestyle? 


Why does my daily commute to work have to involve navigating patches of sweat from rising humidity? 


We praise the outdoor tropical lifestyle, yet accept, and think it normal to spend the better part of the week inside air-conditioned cubicles glaring through double-glazed tinted panes.


This is the disjuncture of our existence that evades the public forum, but one that concerns us all. 


This may be about to change. 


I bite into my tamarind sauce topped samosa to settle the hangry morning monster in my belly.


James Cook University, under the vision of Dr Lisa Law and Dr Silvia Tavares, have initiated the Tropical Urbanism and Design Laboratory (TUD Lab) – a space to think about these particular issues. 


Taking advantage of JCU’s agenda on pursuing research with a tropical focus, the JCU TUD Lab will pursue important questions concerning the livability of tropical urban environments. A feat warranted by a State of the Tropics report that claims close to 50% of the worlds people will live in the tropics by the middle of this century.


After having the Cairns Regional Council’s Tropical Urbanism vision applauded at the state level, this TUD Lab would mark an important milestone for thinking about tropical planning and urban design in Cairns, if not the world.


The Lab is set for launch at JCU on the 20th October with registrations essential for catering


Maybe there will be some respite from the heat soon.


By

Hanslee

Image Sources

  1. Foodvixen.com
  2. RamblingsOfAGlobalCitizen (blog)
  3. TropicNow.com.au

#32 The Good in Bugandi Secondary

This is a piece I recently got cross-published on the blog mylandmycountry. It is about Papua New Guinean’s celebrating all that is good about our country.

—–

Media attention awarded to Bugandi Secondary School of late, has tainted the name of this pillar of education within the Lae City community. I do not want to dwell on the events that have garnered such infamy, but it would be fair to say, there exists a sense of bitter distrust from the part of the greater Lae community.

But the nature of trust is that

it can also be earned back because bad does not necessarily mean ‘there is an absence of good’. At least that was my experience with the Bugandi Secondary School students on Friday, 6th October. An incident transpired during that day that showed hope and goodness that often goes unacknowledged about that institution.

I am not at liberty to fully disclose the details of the incident, least to say it was a hit and run and I, along with the students were first witnesses. I’ll add though that it was the quick thinking on behalf of the Bugandi students that led to the survival of the victim; the emergency ward named ‘Mr Friday Unknown’.

In a show of spirited heroism, the young men from Bugandi Secondary School gathered the seemingly lifeless pile of aged bones and soft tissue onto my ute. Without time to spare we rushed the Mr Friday Unknown to the accident and emergency ward at ANGAU Memorial Hospital.

There is always a moment of sho

ck that follows accidents so gruesome as that that reminds us humanity is nothing but skin and bones. It is the spirit that connects us to each other.

Seeing the spirit the Bugandi students showed to save a life gives me faith enough to say that the school is raising integral community members and citizens of Papua New Guinea. That lesson cannot

be overlooked. That lesson is more important then any piece of information that can be found in textbooks.

But this is not an isolated event. This act of selflessness is evidently engrained in these students. Almost a month before this incident a head on collision between two vehicles on Jawani Street (next to Bugandi) was witnessed by Bugandi Secondary School students who were unwilling first respondents to the scene, doing what they could to save the lives.

The description of the incident is not important here, but the character

demonstrated by the students is, again, testament to their strength and value as members of the greater Lae City

community.

I would like then to commend the teachers and for their commitment towards their students. For believing in the goodness in your students. To the Principle, Mr Tony Gaul and your leadership team, it takes real courage and strength to believe in your mission with limited resources and the clout of negative media – for that I applaud you and your team.

Bugandi Secondary School has quite the journey ahead of it yet I believe that in the not too distant future, the institution will give the great city of Lae reasons to look upon it with the endearing fondness that it deserves..  

#31 Cafe Whispers in Lae, PNG

Cafe Whispers.

Cafe whispers muted, rustling and audible. Ice in my coffee, K4 wara, na K2 coke, surrounded by non-Indigenous Papua New Guinean residents. This is what the weekly pilgrimage looks like.  Same-same but different. 

I put on my best grin as if to greet a long time friend. It’s only the girl behind the counter. I expect something, but not even a momentary silence could solicit a response. No courteous pleasantries. 

I sigh.  It’s different.  Different is just another normal – I tell myself for the hundredth time this week. 

I hope she makes good coffee though. She’s cute, I could stay in her eyes for endless moments but I check out instead.  Her innocent smile gives her away,  I see a whole world between us that would be pointless crossing. 

No small talk today pretty lady. 

Short. No sugar. No milk. I like mine black. 

I find my place in the middle of the cafe. In the corner, there’s a group of expatriate wives and girlfriends sharing a laugh over their regular Friday coffee-mornings. Behind me, a group of ladies, both non-Papua New Guinean and Papua New Guinean sit huddled practicing their Tok Pisin, mastering the art of ‘Maus Wara’, all dressed in Morobean meri blouses. A missionary pilots wife and the mother’s leaderdship group – she is pregnant. There is something oddly calming about it all.

Cafe whispers muted and rustling.

But there’s the noticeable absence of men here. Why?-

A child scurries across the floor to catch her mother’s laughter. Between the ladies, the table is set for play. Toys lay littered between mugs and plates of half eaten cakes. The child is passed around, resting in the arms of the oldest in the group. The child’s mother prepares a bottle of milk. A well rehearsed drill between the six of them. 

The strength of women. I am reminded of my aunties and mothers sat atop woven-mats spread across a creaky wooden bed in a ‘haus win’, sharing a child’s cries. 

Same-same but different. 

Cafe whispers take on a whole new meaning now. I see this third space more for what it is then what it was. Here, the humble cafe serves more then just coffee. It is an elevated space – almost sacred to these non-Papua New Guinean residents – offering a taste of what is normal for them in a land foreign to them. A space to reproduce some semblance of their culture while they wait out their time in this timeless land. Sharing stories, rearing children, creating their version of a Papua New Guinea they will not soon forget – that their children will call home forever. 

Sitting between both worlds, I too have come to associate the humble cafe with a space for respite. I gravitate to it to escape the strangeness – to make sense of the strangeness – but mostly to find familiarity, to sit and meet with my thoughts, to make memories I would not soon forget. 

I notice these things more, the more I come back to this place. 

I catch a young Papua New Guinean child pierce the hum-drum chatter of the cafe with his curious stare. Hiding behind a plastic pot plant, he peers through his fear of being seen, wondering how far apart our worlds really are. An outside observer making mental notes, who will no doubt tell his friends of this strange gathering of white people and this black guy at the monestary of the black juice. 

How primitive they must be to work so hard, to earn that money, to spend on expensive dirty black water. Samting bilong ol waitman.

Our eyes meet and hang a second too long, reminding me of my own foreigness – both in this cafe and in my own land. 

I avert my eyes. I sip my coffee. I continue to write. 

He’ll never know how much I need my dirty black water. 

Sigh. 

It’s different. There is nothing wrong with different.  

One-hundred and four. 

Hans

#30 Poem – A letter to Mr & Mr Too-Wrist

A letter to Mr & Mr Too-Wrist


Dear Mr & Mr Too-Wrist,

I hope that you’ve enjoyed our town.
Our sights,
our smiles,
and our sound.

And for that while
you felt a ‘lil lost.
Direction, I pray,
came at no cost.

And I hope you ventured
beyond the beaten path.
To find those moments
now etched to your heart-

Mostly, I hope you found it
all without trouble.

Our forests, our rivers.
Our coffees, our beers.

So in the end
when you settle,
into your seat
on that plane,
I hope your thinking, and planning,
of your next trip
back again.

Yours,
C. Arnes

by Hans Lee

Explanation:

Continue reading “#30 Poem – A letter to Mr & Mr Too-Wrist”

#28: Poem – Breaking up with a Friend in a One Page Letter

Two things really prompted this poem. One, I have started penpal-ing again over snail mail and the other was a conversation I had with a friend of mine who was worried that I was ghosting from that friendship. I don’t think I am, but it did make me think about how I would ever end a friendship. It’s not often something we think about but how would you approach it?

I also wrote this with the intent to perform it at our Pizza and Poetry nights in Cairns, hence the breaks.

Breaking up with a Friend in a One Page Letter

My Dearest Friend,

I know we haven’t spoken in a while.

Continue reading “#28: Poem – Breaking up with a Friend in a One Page Letter”

#27: Inspired by ‘Black Coffee’?

Hi,

So I am now starting to think that coffee is codeword for something else, but we’ll leave that to your imagination. I recently recited my poem Arabica Or’Robusta at the Cairns Poetry Slam to a crowd that (I think) appreciated it. It added some variety to the show and garnered some humbling comments – surprisingly, no criticism from parents.

But moving past that, I just wanted to point to this song called ‘Black Coffee’ by Iyeoka. I am really digging this song at the moment and hope to say that this is an inspiration to the above-mentioned poem.

I’d like to say that the idea must’ve become lodged in my mind after hearing the song somewhere (maybe at Blackbird Coffee). I am not too sure, I just started paying attention to it. But if it did, I’d like to claim that to be true.

Please check out Iyeoka’s music if you are into that neo-soul-jazz-bordering-house music – my jam at the moment.

Happy Coffee Days.

– Hans

 

#25- Poem: Arabica Or’robusta

Sex sells so please read with an open mind. A poem inspired by that which inspired gods to make man and for man to make words to praise gods that made man.

Arabica’or-robusta

He asked me,

– “How do you like yours man?”

 

I like mine black.

Black.

Complex.

Delicate.

None of that milky. White. Shit.

 

Short.

Tall.

Regular.

Full bodied.

Intoxicate awake senses.

 

Sunny day, 

Rainy day, 

Cold day,

Any day.

Give me one –

to keep me awake all night.

But I don’t mind two –

to wake me up in the mornin’.

 

Night in a vessel.

Dark.

Tannin. Melanin.

Bold.

Delicate.

From a flower –

like a flower,

Bitter? Yes.

Sweet? Without question.

(pause)

 

“Ready.” 

 

Come to me

I feel your heat in my hand

Sip your body.

Taste. Wet.

Bitter and sweet. Tannin.

Breathe you in. 

Tease the senses.

In my hand.

Carnal – I. Need. You. 

A taste.

You in my mouth 

A sip from the lip

warm aqueous dark.

No. Milky. White. Shit. 

In my mouth.

Heaven.

 

In. My. Mouth.

Acquired taste.

Black juice.

Tannin spill.

Melanin resi-due.

Libation due.

Offer  pray’r.

Stay strong,

my black,

Coffee.

 

-by Hans Lee