Well folks, it has been a long time between blogs but a year that has included Australia, Africa, Nepal, The Solomon Islands and even the Middle East (if only a few airports), things are no less surreal than earlier in the year. A move to the Solomon Islands for two years setting up a horticultural training centre, though an adventure, was going to add some stability to life and curb the nomadic nature of the year but as I am writing this blog while listening to Billy Idol and crossing the Nullarbor, I have to question that assumption. Haha but to get here I guess I should explain how it all began.....
It was a Skype interview from the depths of Tanzania that, in a roundabout kind of way, secured my position as a horticultural advisor working in Honiara. Flying in from Nepal I had a brief stint back in Australia before Danielle and myself (among a handful other slightly mad Aussies) were on a plane from Brisbane to start a new life among the 992 tropical islands of the Solomons. Leaving Adelaide in the thick of winter and touching down in tropical heat added to the culture shock of the first few weeks in Honiara but I guess I am almost a local now with day to day sweat down to a mere thin veneer.
The first month in Honiara was intense, filled with language training, orientation, finding a house, settling in at work and all the other teething quirks of relocating to a developing country. Exiting the airport there are some things that jump out at you beside the heat in Honiara. Population growth is high and people are everywhere, many just strolling the streets, at small market stalls or at small umbrellared milk crate booths selling single cigarettes and betel nut. Looking at the population closer, you will notice a great proportion with reddened lips and teeth, which is a side effect of of chewing betel nut and you get an idea of just how important the practice is in the culture and just why there are so many booths lining the streets. Betel nut chewing has a narcotic effect and was once a customary meeting practice across the provinces of the islands but has long since become a habit and I guess an addiction by much of the population. The practice is common from childhood and by the time many kids hit double figures (10 or 11) their red stained teeth and mouths are permanent. It was kind of daunting to arrive to a crowd of reddened mouths in an area with cannibalism in its history....but I say that as a joke of course and I should state now that there are some of the friendliest and most beautiful people I have ever met living in Honiara.
There's much more to talk about with the betel nut custom and I will write a whole post on Kastom tradition in the weeks to come as the Solomons have got to be one of the most culturally rich and complex locations a person can visit, sometimes to the point of frustration.
But back to the first impressions on Honiara, the whole city is a melting pot of overseas industry and aid workers, Chinese retailers and islanders from all over the Solomons, hoping (and often heading for dissapointment) for a better life than in the island villages from where they have come. Most wind up in large groups crammed in with family who take them in in small houses often without power and water and given the paradise from where they often come from its easy to ask why but then I guess for a lucky few a job or education is secured and life does get better. Burning of rubbish is the norm in Honiara and combined with the Betel nut chewing is probably the regions biggest obstacle for a tourism industry. Having said that there is some of the best diving in the world to be had, with the island waters littered with world war two wrecks and intact relics to be seen on land too. In fact many wrecks don't need a dive ticket and a look is just a matter of snorkelling a few meters out from the shoreline. Outside the city the scenery is stunning and things get rural very quickly. On the way out some of the finest Solomons cuisine can be had at Kakabona fried chicken, a series of booths on the side of the main road where chicken, whole fish and mountains of prawns are cooked atop old forty four gallon drums and served with rice on woven palm fronds. But again, more on the food (which has included Giant coconut crab and flying fox) in a later post.
Well the idea of these off exploring blogs is to share overseas adventures that are usually over in a few weeks so it might be over doing things to try to fit the last three months into one post. I guess I'll put down a few teasers for upcoming stories and then spend a bit of time going into each one in the next few days. The experience so far has been amazing with highlights including time at the "Tomboko Village Home Stay", "Climbing Mataniko Falls" The People and Kastoms of the Solomons", "Volcano Trekking on Savo Island", "A Barbecue to Remember", "Work and my crew", and "Sly grog markets and adopting a dog (life at home)".
Hopefully that keeps your interest because that will do for now, I am all written out and missing the scenery on this road trip, I guess I haven't even come close to explaining how I came to be driving through the middle of nowhere in Western Australia, thousands of miles from Honiara but all in due course....
Bye for now!