Community living is simple. I found my time in The Lands to be the most grounding time of my life; landscape absorbs worry, silence deafens the voice in your head and the sense of community is strong - you're never alone! Walking around Pukatja, people give you a friendly nod or a cheerful "Palya", and there are lots of dogs - which is awesome because who doesn't love the constant presence of papas (dogs)? Wild horses make an appearance on North side, sometimes walking down the road in search for water and food scraps, donkeys will let themselves in and wait in the kitchen for food, and cows will stand in the middle of the road staring you down- beeping doesn't scare them all!
Pitjantjatjara is one of the most beautiful languages I've heard and learning how to speak it has helped form an appreciation for grammatical, pronunciation and word definition differences. There are words for sounds, such as the sound of wind in the leaves - walpa. I have been so lucky to go on bush trips, to be shown Country and Dreaming sites, and to have watched sunsets that throw intense red, pink and purple into the sky. Watching the mountains change colour as the sun makes its journey from one mountain to the other, misty hazes after sun-down bring on an atmosphere which can only be experienced.
One of my favourite things has been making friends with Anangu, along with the strong sense of connectivity which comes from this - children waving frantically from cars or little ones running across the shop to give you a hug. These experiences fill your happy cup! After school, children migrate to the shop, stopping in at the Road House before coming into the Skylight for activities. We paint, make masks, have dance-offs, make fruit salad, play softball and create our own body products! A lot happens in the office since families come in with their tjitji (children) and iti (babies), from water play, playing bongo drums to facilitating nap time- Skylight is a well-loved part of the community.
School holiday programs run for children to come and hang out at the office- the boys enjoy break dancing and making masks before a cruise to the shop to get the ingredients for fruit salad and sandwiches. It was awesome to see all the boys wanting to be involved in cooking. Everyone had something to cut up and others enjoyed being in charge of melting the cheese on the ham sandwiches. The girls loved making pizzas and creating Christmas cards for their families, together, the children made their own gingerbread men and worked as a team to decorate their baking.
Being welcomed into community and experiencing life on The Lands has truly been a giant learning opportunity, one I am grateful for and will always carry with me. Working within a team of vibrant people I have grown professionally, found new interests and been able to explore and live with one of the oldest surviving cultures. If you get the opportunity to live within a community- DO IT!