I am sitting under the buzz of a rattley old ceiling fan with the smell of mould in the air and drone of, perhaps day five, of heavy rain outside here in little ol Honiara. The wet season is finally living up to expectations and though the Bureau seem content on naming every storm that passes by (four now, currently tropical Cyclone Sandra)… it is a bit of a beat up and we have seen little more than rain (not to say there isn't alot of it). Anyway it is not cold and as good a time as any to put something down on here I reckon.
Things have been flat out over here since our Certificate II program kicked off, so it is hard to find time to write but life is good and I've got no complaints. Outside of work I have been getting out and about with some of the local crew since last writing and it is great to now be able to experience the culture in a relaxed way with the guys, rather than being nervously and awkwardly waited on. I had no idea what to expect when coming here and had been disappointed to arrive to a relatively high population of expats and a segregated society with a divide between rich and poor reminiscent of South Africa. It is by no means what I came here for, so much to the confusion of many of my expat cohorts I am frequently absent from their gatherings preferring instead to spend my time with the locals and experience everything I can't back home in the time that I am here. I'll take beer and spearfishing, over a cappuccino in air-conditioning any day.
One of the more memorable experiences recently, was joining a post work convoy out to Western Guadcanal to catch crabs during the annual mass exodus by the creatures, from land back to sea to spawn. We took the usual two trucks full of crew about an hour's drive west of town to the main site of the migration. I still shake my head when I see the guys on the big truck swaying with the pattern of the highways potholes, holding onto a crane set atop the trucks tray for balance but needing to duck and dodge as the 10kg crane hook swings precariously back and forth. Anyway we arrived around 5pm and had a drink or three while waiting for nightfall. As the area darkened more and more of the Guale population arrived equipped with, at minimum a bucket or sack but with the more organised came torches and bamboo crab tongs or gloves. There is a main highway separating bush from the ocean and as the bitumen cools and darkness falls it is just a matter of spotting the crabs making the mad dash across the drag and scooping them up. As thousands upon thousands cross the road over the few day period, it is a bit unsporting really.
We have been warned not to go out alone at night and far west comes with its own risks but I was with a crew of cowboys that get up to all sorts of chaos maintaining the cities gardens on night shift and as safe as anywhere yet. It was a complete novelty for the locals seeing me out and about among the long grass hunting crustaceans with the masses and more of a surprise that in thongs and barehanded I was quickly filling my bag with crabs. Working with one of the local guys, Eddy, we soon had more crabs than we could possibly get through in the next few days so we retired to the trucks for another beverage while the rest of the crew continued the hunt.
The exercise is ethically questionable and as the human population on the island grows and the practice continues, the crab population will inevitably decrease but for this year at least, my group were content to fill bag after bag to take home to their families. While for me it was a bit of fun, for many, especially the women, it was serious business and a chance to get a free protein source (the most expensive part of the diet over here and generally unaffordable to many). With most families with three or four children and meals often including cousins and grandchildren/grandparents, you can understand why we were still there at 1am, even then people were reluctant to leave and many were only just arriving.
So suffice to say I became a gourmet crab chef over the next week trying out suggestions from across the island from chilli garlic and coconut crab to crushed crab and rice. The lifestyle and food is easy to take for granted and I sometimes forget that they won't be half as accessible back home in Australia, bit of a bummer really.
Well I was going to write more about another few trips out west but this story blew out so will leave it for now. Cheers till next time.