I begin by acknowledging the Banbai people as the traditional custodians of the land on which I am living and the continuing connection to the land of elders past, present and emerging.
We are all visitors somewhere and my house is your house. I arrived in Guyra in late March 2020 and opened the Australian Poetry Hall of Fame on the fist day of the Australian COVID-19 lockdown. It was a surreal experience to move to a new town to open a new tourist and entertainment venture and walk outside into the main street of the town to find it deserted.
There were special exemptions for businesses which were providing an essential service. On my way to Guyra from Nimbin I went via Brisbane to see my son and I stopped at Aldi where I bought a pack of 24 bottles of water for $12. They were the first thing that I put on the shelf at $1 per bottle. In my mind, I was offering an essential service. I am an Aquarius, the water carrier and an air sign. That’s also why the name “Thundercloud” makes a lot of sense to me.
What is a Thundercloud, if not water in air?
One of my first visitors was a very friendly local woman by the name Gladys Wilson. I am Glad that I met Gladys as she has become one of my best friends in Guyra and the biggest supporter of the Australian Poetry Hall of Fame. She is the same age as my dad, she is always happy and glad and since I came along she has embraced not only writing poetry but also performing poetry. Gladys has always lived in Guyra, she grew up here, left school in grade nine and living proof that you are never too old to learn something new. Gladys has many endearing traits, one of which is that she talks to everyone and is welcoming to everyone that she meets. Gladys is a living example of “my house is your house.”
The next people that I met here in Guyra were some of the seasonal workers at the tomato farm. Guyra has the biggest tomato greenhouses in Australia and if you have eaten a tomato in Australia then there is a good chance that they come from Guyra. There are hundreds of jobs available at the tomato farm but not enough Guyra people to do the jobs, nor enough Australian people interested in moving to Guyra to work on the tomato farm. The result is that workers from the Pacific Islands come here on seasonal visas. They come from Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and more.
Tony Nati and Paul Tony were the next two people that I met and they come from and island in Vanuatu called Malekula. Tony’s brother Ken Nati also lives and works in Guyra and after this weekend Ken might be going home. All these Guys were only supposed to be in Australia for a maximum of six months and it but COVID came and they have all been here for nearly two years. Most of them have families in Vanuatu with children so when they return their children will have substantially grown up. It has been difficult for them to be away from their families for so long however there is a positive side. Vanuatu is the country in the world that is most prone to natural disasters. Cyclones, volcanos, earthquakes and tsunamis all occur in Vanuatu
The price of building materials is expensive in Vanuatu and the official currency is the Vanuatu Vatu VUV of which one Australian Dollar buys 84 Vatu. Working in Australia is one way that “Ni-Van” people get foreign currency and use it to build strong natural disaster proof homes for their families. The “Ni-Van” people here in Guyra have always been welcome to come and play music at the Australian Poetry Hall of Fame and Ken Nati, being a great rhythm piano player has embraced the opportunity and it is my pleasure to offer him and our brothers “my home.” I know that when I visit Vanuatu, and I will visit Vanuatu, that I will be welcomed into their home like it is my home with full Vanuatu hospitality.
Vanuatu might be the most natural disaster prone country in the world but is also the 4th happiest country in the world according to the “Happy Planet Index” . Next month, July 30th is the 41st anniversary of Vanuatu independence and I am holding the local Guyra celebration here at the Australian Poetry Hall of Fame as a funds raiser for the Melanesia Volleyball Club which is made up of members of the Seasonal Worker Program.
Today I met some new arrivals for the seasonal worker program. They are from the Solomon Islands and they came to ask me if they could come and practice their singing in the theatre here. I said yes of course and was treated to the two angelic voices of Sina and Leslie. There is no data on the happiness index of the Solomon Islands but somehow I reckon that they are pretty happy people too. The odd thing is that when I look at the Happy Planet Index Map most of the so called wealthy countries are in red or orange and not that happy and most of the happiest countries are less wealthy.
It just goes to show that money can’t buy happiness.
My House is Your House
My house is your house, we are all visitors
Welcome in my door, one day I’ll visit yours
When you visit my house, please bring harmony
Make yourself at home, please have a cup of tea
My house is your house as you are my brother
We’re from different lands and another mother
Come well into my house, enjoy my hospitality
As I know that you would do the same for me.
My house is your house, we can be good friends
This is our beginning and not where it ends
I don’t care if you’re rich nor if you are poor
Young or old, with respect, you’re welcome in my door
My house is your house, let us both be happy
When I visit your house, I won’t make it crappy
Welcome into my house, I see you brought a smile
Let’s enjoy our time together, let’s enjoy a while.
If you enjoyed this you can buy me a coffee