'Lunchtime under the Frangipani Tree' by Maggie Power
I wonder if you can guess where I am. I’m on an island and I’m sitting at a wooden table,
under a frangipani tree. I’ve sat here twice a day for 16 days and I’ve just noticed it is a
frangipani tree. That is how intent I am on the job at hand. I am still trying to remember all
the children’s names and faces. When I make a mistake, they laugh at me and I laugh with
I laugh not because I feel it, but out of loyalty. Not loyalty to my government. Stuff them.
Nor loyalty for the organisation that sent me here. Not even loyalty for my team members
who arrived with me and are just as shell-shocked. My loyalty is with the children. They
trust me to be kind. They trust me to have normal reactions. That is why I laugh.
Vidu, who is eleven years old, is sitting beside me. He is telling me the same story he has
told me whenever he joins me under the tree. I want to say stop. I want to say stop, please
stop. It’s the story about how they got on the boat in Indonesia the first time. They were
squatting together, waiting to sail off. Vidu told his father he was hungry. His father got up
and rushed onto shore to buy some food for the journey. His father was caught by police
and they were all taken off the boat, the boat that was one of the last to carry its human
cargo to life in Australia. His father saved up again. The next boat they took did land on
Australian soil but too late. The family has ended up here on this island.
(To be continued)