07 July 2012

Change of address

No one can know the hidden counsels of God.  His revealed purposes - that He loves us, that He has provided the means of our salvation, that He wishes all men to be saved - these things we know.  That this or that happening in our lives has been provided by God for this or that immediate purpose, this is something that we often seek to know.  We will do well to avoid placing inordinate weight on such intuitions of ours.

I was immediately sure that God had intended me to be, as it were, an apostle to the Yapese.  Had He not so ordered things that, in 1970, when I was sure I was finished with linguistics forever, I was reinstated as a linguistics student?  When I was going to study to become a Baptist minister, had God not turned things around so that I continued working in linguistics - and writing two Yapese books, forsooth!  And now, when this job was finished, instead of moving to Perth to teach undergraduate linguistics students, I was to go to Yap.

I do not think these thoughts were simply wrong.  Nevertheless, this sense of mission was to colour not only my experience for the next eight years in Yap, but also to cause me some grief when, in 1984, we left.

Going we were - but we didn't know when.  The Micronesian government - the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, as it was then, and until 1986 - had to send me a contract.  This was necessary not only to ensure that I would have a job there, but because they were to pay for travel and freight arrangements.  Susan and I began the process of getting ready to move.  Liz, our boarder, found a place to live.  We found homes for Raewyn and Bronwyn, our two cats (and one of them - Raewyn, I think - ran away from her new owner the day after we left her there and was never seen again).  We had travel documents to attend to - not visas, since Micronesia was under the United States at the time, and our US passports were all we needed.  We arranged with the Avondale Reformed Church to be officially our home church so long as we were away.

The last day of my employment as a lecturer was 31 January.  I still had no contract.

I had been one of the small number of interactive users of the Computer Centre's Burroughs B6700 - 'interactive' meaning what modern computer users take for granted.  You know, you sit at a keyboard, with a screen in front of you.  You type things in; the computer displays things back.  This was not normal in New Zealand in 1976.

In 1976 you typed things into a keyboard on a card-punch machine, a very noisy process, since what you typed resulted in rectangular holes being punched in light cardboard punchcards.  Boxes of these then were fed through a card reader, which resulted in computer-readable information being read into the machine - and, if you were allowed the use of magnetic tape, could then be put onto tape so you wouldn't have to lug cards around in future.

A few lucky users - I was one - had the use of teletype machines that sent data straight to the computer - and the computer responded immediately on the teleprinter.  This was pretty exciting.  There were even a few CRT terminals, which I was occasionally able to use, but they were in high demand.

But the system on the Burroughs that talked with these terminals was called CANDE - 'Command AND Edit' - and was moderately complex to use.  I understood it fairly well.

By February, 1976 I had no income.  John White, director of the Computer Centre, took pity on me, and, mostly, I suspect, as an act of charity, paid me for a few weeks to write some user-oriented documentation for CANDE.

We were, however, still paying rent for our flat.  We were, therefore, the beneficiaries of more charity.  Nevil Brownlee and his wife Frances had a fairly large house in Remuera (or was it Epsom?).  For - what? three weeks?  six weeks? - Susan, Johnny, and I lived with Nevil and Frances.

In March - about the middle, I think - the contract came.  Our belongings were packed for shipping.  Sue, Johnny and I left Auckland - perhaps, for what we knew, for good.

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