Dawn waits lower than the horizon. In dark knots folk find themselves drawn to the cenotaph, to find a space on the wet pressed grass behind the cordoned official area. Somehow a civic protocol is observed with hushed conversation in tones murmured as if in prayer.

In this near silence we stand, though together, each alone with the thoughts that have brought us here. Thoughts of war, of peace of sacrifice, of pain, suffering, loved ones here, now and gone. In the dimmed glow of the spotlights arrayed at it’s base the cenotaph’s golden inscriptions glisten in the misting rain. Writ large I read on the column’s base plinth.

“The Great War
1914 1918”

And immediately below on the same block is added

“1939 1945”

It was “The Great War, the war to end all wars” yet the inscription reveals a scant 21 years pass before another war is great enough to warrant an addition.

Are these not then “The Great Wars”. We know them as such, World War 1 and World War 2, but through which world’s did they wreak their havoc?

WW1 laid waste the Old World, a Eurocentric world, bringing down the old, ushering in a new order. WW2 challenged the new order. For both wars the nation’s plea is chiseled into the base

“Lest We Forget”

“Lest we forget”, the words rattle in my brain.”Lest?” I find myself silently repeating, “Lest, what exactly does that mean?”. Is it “in case” or ” just in case” or ” be careful not to forget”. Does it mean that this monument stands here in case we forget? Maybe.

But what about when we repeat “Lest we forget” at the local RSL when the whirr of the pokies dulls, along with the lights at 9pm. Are we as affected by “lest” as we are by that other Aussie four letter word,which has the same low low level of usage?

Yes good old “girt” as in “….. girt by sea”. Somehow girt has coped a bum rap. We wince when we sing it, I know I do and mumble my way through it as Australia advances fair. My guess is olympic athletes are coached in girtness in case of an unexpected press conference question. Shot put and hammer throwers may have mistaken it for girth by sea.

I decide that “Lest we forget ” is a simple pledge to remember. Inscribed below it,

“The Korean War
The Malaysian insurgency
The Indonesian counterinsurgency
The Vietnam war
Peace keeping operations”

And on the right side face of the rectangular base

“The Gulf War

I am struck that the serious wars need to be referred to as “THE so and so war”. Perhaps as public commitment to warring has waned war titles are downgraded.

Dawn eases it’s way into the night. The bugle’s cascading notes strain emotions, tears well in my eyes. I try not to forget.



How do you know you’ve done the right thing?

How do you know you’ve done the right thing?

I’ll confine myself to the ‘parent’s dilemma’. You bring up your children as best you can, but do you really ever know how well?

How do you know you’ve done the right thing?

Nick wrote to me about his recent trip to Africa, and with his permission, here’s what he wrote.

“I have been sponsoring Imani Molusari Yohana for about 6 years and had always hoped to have the chance to meet him one day. That day was Thursday 23rd February 2012!

In the weeks and days leading up to meeting Imani I experienced a raft of emotions. Anticipation. Nervousness, would he like me? Would he accept me? Apprehension. I sort of knew what to expect living condition wise – though how would I cope? How would I feel? My overwhelming feeling though was of great excitement.

Jane from World Vision picked me up from my accommodation and I immediately felt at ease. We chatted and naturally spoke about where I had travelled from, via where, and what my next stop would be.

“Are you just going home after this?”

“Yes”, I said but I couldn’t help but think my airfare to “just get me home” equated to the average Tanzanian yearly salary or thereabouts. The vast majority of people in the area were unlikely to holiday too far from their village let alone outside their home country.

After a short and at times very bumpy ride we arrived at World Vision (WV) HQ. Here I learnt heaps about the nitty gritty of exactly how WV run the Arusha Development Program. It was comforting gaining an understanding of how wisely and efficiently sponsors’ money was being used to construct wells, train teachers, develop vocational training programs and provide farming plots.

From there it was a short drive to a traditional lunch. All the while I was treated like royalty, they insisted I sit in the front seat whilst everyone else crammed in the back. Then the big moment. We arrived at Imani’s school and parked on the oval. Hundreds of faces popped out of the classroom windows and doors….gawking! I later found out that I was the 1st sponsor to ever visit the school. Imani came out of class immediately. Smiling, excitedly we approached each other, his head slightly bowed, a tradition I had not encountered before. I touched Imani’s head as is customary and there we were, 6 years of letter writing and now side by side.

I met Imani’s School Principal, much revered by students and society, somewhat different to some western cultures where education more of a core to kids than a privilege. We toured the school grounds and saw huts/ houses and the toilet blocks WV helped build. As we walked I noticed Imani stealing glances at me, though he would avert his gaze whenever I looked back. Shyness, respect, I’m not sure? What had I done for him to view me on such a pedestal? I felt undeserving, such a small sacrifice, relative to my life, meant so much to him.

Upon learning I planned on giving Imani a few small gifts including a mini football (with an Aussie Flag imprinted on it of course!), the Principal allowed all of Imani’s Grade 5 classmates (all boys) out of class to come and play on the oval. I tried to teach them Aussie Rules….without much success. Though it mattered little. Absolute madness on the oval! Kids running everywhere, shouting, laughing, falling over each other as they tussled for the ball. Hard, but fair – the Tanzanian way is the same as the Aussie way after all. We also played some Frisbee before I gave Imani a rubber ‘blow up’ beach ball. Embarrassingly it wasn’t a blow up one, though more of a soccer ball and needed a pump. Resigned, I began to apologise….but before I even got half a sentence out someone had whipped out a pen, pulled it apart, nicked the top off, jabbed it into the valve and started blowing up the ball! I was amazed. It took a while but it worked a treat – what resourcefulness from an 11 year old. Such a stark reminder of that ‘make do with what we have’ kind of attitude that is all too often lost.

After we were footballed out, I visited Imani’s house and met his family. His Mum, 3 brothers and sister were at home. His Dad at work and 4th brother at school. My eyes wandered as we shared stories. Again the resourcefulness, layers of newspaper as insulation. I met the cow afforded to the family by WV, learnt about their daily routines including walking for a couple of miles each morning to fetch water for the day. As the time drew near for me to depart I noticed a tear in the eye of Imani’s Mum. I understood her. So little to me, meant so much to them.

My final stop was visiting another (all girls) school that WV helped build. On the way we drove past the farming plots setup by WV for those least fortunate. As the rains had come recently they were “green”….though to you or I, they were more brown, arid and dusty, than ‘green’. Children as young as 3 years old, farming, running errands, carrying water. Though all the time smiling and waving as we passed through. Many people could not imagine living like that; they know no different. Two enduring images of the girl’s school remain with me, one quite sombre and the other uplifting. They were on the Principal’s noticeboard. One table had every child listed by name and grade with 2 columns adjacent – “Mum” and “Dad”. Some had no parents, many a Mum or Dad, though no-one with both. The other graph showed the enrolment numbers and percentage completion rate – both were steadily climbing.

That is the message I left with, one of hope”

I read this letter, understanding that for at least this son, he’s got it and so I wrote:

“This is excellent work, I am very very proud of you son. I have made minor changes; it stands alone as a very personal and inspiring piece. I read it to another blogger who likewise feels you have captured the essence of your experience and the joy of meeting Imani. You can be proud of yourself in your sponsorship, and in writing of your experience you have revealed another skill, the ability to write. Develop that too, it will stand you in good stead.

Love Dad”