Welkam evriwan long blog blong mi, statem wetem wanfala iia blong mi waka long Honiara, long Solomon aelan
(Welcome to my blog everyone, starting with my year working in Honiara, Solomon Islands)
I’ve now been in the Solomon Islands for just over a fortnight, so I reckon it is high time for my first blog post! I arrived in Honiara on 10 February 2014 along with 6 other volunteers. I’ll be working as a Protected Areas Advisor with the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology and will be based in Honiara for the next 12 months.
Since I arrived, I have been busy getting to know the place, meeting the Australian High Commissioner and many of the other volunteers already in country, and finding a place to live. Thanks to my mate Wez, I quickly found a room in a nice house on a ridge overlooking the sea with a lovely Cook Islands girl called Pam. We share a love of fisheries, diving, cooking, eating, and the Cook Islands (she agrees with me that it is the best place in the south Pacific!). Pam is teaching me about the islander way of life – and a few new cocktail recipes.
After the first few days of meet-and-greets, security briefings, and looking at houses, we were off on a village visit. As part of the orientation process, our in-country management team arranged a village stay for us to help us get a feel for the Solomon Islands way of life and see a bit more of the country, as well as to learn Pidgin. Our village visit was to Malaita Province, which is a 3-6 hour boat ride from Honiara (depending on the boat). En route we passed the lush islands of Central Province, watched fish jumping and spotted a pod of dolphins. It was good to be back on the water!
After a brief stop in the port town of Auki and a visit to the local market, where I picked up a delicious locally-grown pineapple, we made our way to Arabala Village, 1 hour by car from Auki.
We spent a fantastic four days in the village. Our hosts were incredibly friendly, open and generous with us – we were welcomed with garlands of flowers, a coconut to drink and a performance by the village children, followed by a delicious lunch. I felt a bit like royalty!
In amongst our Pidgin lessons (which are already paying off!), we explored the village and went swimming with the village children. The kids were absolutely fearless, diving and jumping off the jetty, and when we joined in we were rewarded with lots of smiles and laughter.
There are lots of children in the village and one of my strongest memories of the trip is the constant sound of children laughing. What a delightful sound… much nicer than the roosters crowing! We stayed with local families in their houses, which was lovely, and gave us a real sense of everyday village life.
On Saturday the villagers showed us how to climb a coconut tree, how to husk and crack a coconut with only a sharp stick and a stone, how to make coconut milk and how to thatch a traditional house. With my new survival skills I’m not worried about surviving in the islands if I get lost – there are plenty of coconuts ;). They also demonstrated how to weave a basket from palm fronds (I have to try that one day) and how to cook a traditional meal of cabbage and potato (kumara) using pieces of bamboo on the fire.
On Sunday afternoon we all jumped in the back of a flatbed truck and went for a swim in a nearby stream. After the bath-like temperatures in the sea around the jetty it was really refreshing to swim in some cool fresh water.
And then there was sunset…
On Monday we visited the village school and spoke with the headmaster about the school system and resources. Arabala seemed to have quite a few resources by comparison to some of the other schools (some in Honiara don’t even have chairs, let alone books), but they need books for their library. I’m going to try and get some books and/or funds donated – send me an email if you’re interested in helping out. After all, education is key to breaking the cycle of poverty and disadvantage.
It was back to Honiara last Tuesday, and after a big 2 weeks I’ve been settling into my new home and job, which I started on Monday.
That’s it from me for now; I hope you are all safe, happy and healthy and have enjoyed my first post!