Dreaming of Thursday Island
by Paris Salam 9 April 2014
n the 30th of January 1995 a baby girl was born in the Thursday Island hospital at 3:27am, from then on a colourful and challenging life awaited her. As an only child till the age of 9 I explored the family property whilst my parents and grandparents ran our family business. I became largely independent and enjoyed being on my own. My days generally consisted of swimming at the beach, playing with our dogs and sometimes visiting our neighbour who would always have the best cookies. Throughout the week the family business was very different to a 9-5 working day. There were always complications which was predictable in a situation where four people are trying to manage a seafood export company, a ferry and bus transport service, as well as a fuel and gas station.
Paris with her family in Ravenshoe 2012. Images supplied
I had been a part of that environment from the day I was born. The rumble of busses and the roar of the boat engines were familiar sounds of my childhood. No day was the same as the last and there was never a dull moment, except for when my grandfather would get mad at me for being in the wrong place at the wrong time! Weekends were quite the opposite to the busy hustle and bustle of the week. We would pack the dinghys up with food, camping supplies, spear guns, fishing lines and then venture out to one of the many islands that, together, constitute the Torres Straits. As the boats approached the sandy shore the colourful coral and frolicking fish enticingly invited all the children into the crystal clear water. As the adults unpacked the boats and set the camp site up, myself, my brother and my cousins would
run up and down the beach, in and out of the water and eventually return to the camp with a collection of shells and pieces of drift wood to show our parents. The sun burning down and not a cloud in the sky everyone would slowly make their way into the water with an ice cold beverage to combat the heat. The dogs would rest under the shady trees and there would be endless conversation between all the adults. Perhaps, one of my fondest childhood memories is the joy of finding pippies in the sand on the edge of the water. I would dig my hands deep down into the sand and pull them out, placing them in a bucket. I would do this for hours and fill up several buckets; they could be huge, I would get so excited. My dad would throw them onto a piece of corrugated iron over the camp fire. As they slowly
cooked one at a time, everyone would walk onto the beach and crowd around, waiting until they were ready to be eaten. Sydney is almost the extreme and opposite end of the spectrum for me to the Torres Straits. The crowded walkways drain me and the polluted air clouds my mind. Since moving to Sydney I have learnt to be grateful for the little things and cherish my past memories because those memories are my only connection to home when I am this far away. Being away from home for such a long period of time is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. The fresh salty air that would lift my hair up and make it dance in the sunlight seems a world away. The waves rolling up the shore, reaching out to pull me into the blue therapeutic abyss seem to still have a hold on me. Sometimes I can still faintly smell my Nan’s crayfish mornay swirling through the air the way it did when I would walk home in the late afternoon. What I have now come to understand is that being away from home is not only a physical separation but also a spiritual and mental separation as well. I can feel the separation in every inch of my body and it aches sometimes, longing for something so far away can be tiring because as much as you want or need, the distance only seems to get greater. The islands are a beautiful place and they hold many memories for me. It’s a place I’m proud to call home and I have a true spiritual connection too. The love for a place is not like the love for a person or a thing; it is much different, unexplainable and unique to each person who has a connection to that place. The link I share with the
Torres Strait Islands is something I have shared since birth and overrides any possession or desires I have now or in the future. The islands are my home and wherever I am, they will always be my home. Paris is currently in her
second year at UNSW Australia, studying Law and Arts, with a major in Politics and minor in International Relations. This article was first published in Nura Gili News, Edition 11 March 2014.
Paris Salam with her friend Tanisha Vandenbos, Thursday Island Harbour