Last night was not a good night. And Sir Arthur Sullivan* didn’t help either!
We have great accommodation here. The University really couldn’t have made us more comfortable. We have constant running water, both hot and cold. We have electricity that only very rarely lets us down. We have a TV, a fridge, and in order to reach our front door, you have to walk up a set of metal steps and open a noisy gate, which helps to make us feel secure.
The only disadvantage is that the house is right next door to the female students’ dormitories, (I originally wrote girls’ dormitories, but all of these students are over 18, even though sometimes you could be forgiven for forgetting.)
Once the girls, sorry, female students, get back from their evening meal at about 8.00pm, they, not unreasonably, tend to congregate in small groups outside in their compound and spend the next three hours of the warm evening sitting around chatting or watching videos on their laptops.
There is nothing but a chain-link fence separating their compound from our house and sometimes the noise levels can be, – how can I put this? – a trifle inconsiderate. People here tend to go to bed quite early, and some of the students have not quite got the idea that they are living in a community with neighbours, and that raucous laughter and squealing can be an unwelcome intrusion into other people’s leisure time. I have raised this a couple of times with the Dean of Women, and there is now a sort of acceptance that everyone should be in their rooms by 11.00pm. So far, so good.
Divine Word takes its responsibilities for the security of staff and students seriously. There is security lighting everywhere, which means that we regularly hear birdsong in the middle of the night. There are ‘rangers’ who guard the campus at night and every house, and every room in the dormitories, has an alarm button that sets off a siren when pressed.
Last night I went to bed just after 10.00pm, and curled up with my Kindle. (Linda is away doing some science teacher training this week.) By 10.30, before the informal noise curfew, I was asleep. Two hours later I was woken by the laughter of my young neighbours, still out in their garden. I was not a happy bunny, but I was too tired to get dressed and go and remonstrate, so I went back to sleep.
Some time after 2.00am, one of the alarm sirens in the girls’ dormitory went off. I jumped out of bed to see what was happening. Nothing. The siren stopped. False alarm. Back to bed. Five minutes later the siren went off again.
This time, a number of men came out of the various houses around the campus to see what the problem was. Agitated conversations broke out outside my window.
Just to add another bit of drama, (and noise), to the situation, someone else thought it would be helpful to start ringing the church bell just behind our house. I have no idea why.
Eventually, thanks to a shouted question and answer session between the men outside the fence and the young women in their rooms, it was decided that there was, in fact, no emergency and everyone returned to their beds.
Ten minutes later, two gunshots, or, at least, what sounded suspiciously like two gunshots.
By this time, I was past caring. Everything outside remained quiet, so at some time after 2.30am, I rolled over and went back to sleep.
Imagine my delight when only four hours later, I was wrenched out of a deep sleep by the strains of “Onward, Christian Soldiers!*, being played by a brass band and relayed, all over the campus, at considerable volume, courtesy of a powerful PA system.
Papua New Guinea’s 40th Independence Day had broken!