Peter Comerford and Vicki Walshe
1969. One small step for mankind, one huge step for a motley group of idealistic, bank clerks, drycleaners, missionaries, actors, insurance salesmen, cardsharps, bar workers, postal sorters, labourers and exotic dancers who came together, to be whetted and honed over the next two years under the zealous eyes of our lecturers. Describing it as a most interesting and formative two years that would shape our lives forever would be an understatement.
Linguistically we were challenged by Professor Elkin and the scales fell from our eyes with the realisation that there was more than a subtle difference between a pekpek and a pukpuk, a longlong and a longnek, a liklik wei and a longwei liklik.
All part of the preparation, a progressive evolvement from student to teacher, enabling us to cope with the challenges of unique educational situations in a new environment. Recognising that the large wriggling object held by a student was an intestinal roundworm and not an overly large earthworm. Dealing with sorcerers could be tricky. If conditions were right you could catch a lot of fish during National In-service Training Week. Explaining that the human skull in the classroom ceiling didn't get there by magic. Being in charge of the school mess driving home the miracle of the loaves and fishes.
The challenges were many and varied, as in the case of Gavin Swallow who, after the umpteenth arson attempt on his school in the Highlands, was surrounded by some very angry villagers. After threatening to rearrange parts of his anatomy, they threatened to burn the school to the ground. All those valuable years of ASOPA education and training came to the fore. Gavin gave a calm and wry smile, casually kicked the dirt a couple of times, hitched up his pants and then, looking the main aggressor directly in the eye, threw him a box of matches.
We were indeed a group to be reckoned with.