Been a while!

Hello my dear readers, it had been a while but you know when you come back into “normality” (it is all relative of-course!) and need to find your bearings all over again; getting in touch with your inner self takes some time.
Kiribati wasn’t the first time I went away into a culture that is very different than mine. The other day I happened to be speaking with my good friend Mak over Skype who is from Croatia and we were reminiscing over our times together in Japan and Germany, in Mak’s words, “when we were younger, less experienced and more naive to life”. Years later, six this month (since we first met) to be precise, we still keep in touch and in some ways still help eachother out just like we did scratching our heads over new information, studying for the chemistry paper or working out carbon emissions calculations with our learned friend Rana in the “….chamber” (which by the way was our nick-name for Mak’s room ;)). It was rather interesting as all of us came from different cultural/educational and professional backgrounds. This entry really was a result of our conversation about the years that have gone by and to raise a toast for having come out the other end 😀
I first met Mak in the elevators of my dormitory in Japan. Both jetlagged, tired and emotionally high, we looked at eachother (red-eyed from the jet-lag and an excess of emotions) and pretended to smile while I tried to hide my expressions of intimidation by a fairly typically sized Eastern European “dude” (aka Mak, the gentle giant. He he he). Little did we know that a friendship would form and that we were on a roller coaster ride both professionally and on a personal level.
We have both grown through this experience but trust me, going, making that decision to move, to leave our loved ones behind, to let go of life as we knew it, to take on that challenge was hard, really hard. That was the beginning of it all though. Neither of us has stopped since and no, not a single regret :).
Life before deciding to leave was also like a roller coaster for both of us! Feelings I experienced again when I prepped to leave for Kirbati 4 years later. Making decisions and compromises made for an interesting few months before getting on that Japan bound plane. I still remember crying like a baby for hours before I boarded sitting with my whole family at the airport. Now things have changed so much that they don’t even come into the airport to drop me off. That first leap was hard. Since then, every decision has been easier and more courageous.
The food, the culture, the education system, the people, the tsunami, the friends, the sceneries, the public baths, the odd conversations, the shots of whiskey after succeeding in exams,  the late night study sessions, the karaoke, the anti-suicide railings on our dorm windows, the heated toilet seats, the martial arts for me and the running for Mak, the heat and humidity and the warm rains, the overnight ferries and the cherry blossom salty tea, the shared cooking, the tiny rooms, the hard beds, the green tea ice cream, the 9-5 atm machine with the bowing girl and guy, the 4th floor, the half hour every few hours air conditioning breaks, the rules, the vending machines, the changing seasons, the cherry blossoms, the autumn leaves, the perfect cakes, the fake dishes as menus, the animations….. Ah….. The thousand photos a day!!! Ha ha ha….
So glad we did it.
Peace out! Until next time 🙂


I’m back after having been offline for a while :).  Well, let’s say I got busy trying to settle back into civilisation as I knew it!  Things are back on track. India was amazing. More amazing than I can explain. The diversity, love, passion, beauty, culture and different perspectives didn’t cease to dazzle me. I met some amazing people just as I had in Kiribati. Infact, many parallels could be drawn between the two cultures. So far away yet so close.

I am now back in New Zealand. Working. Living. Learning. Trying to find my place again. Has much changed I wonder and to be honest the answer is yes and no and perhaps it’s me who has changed and not the place. Either way, it is yet again another adventure!
My most recent challenges at this point are belly dancing and tennis. My thighs are so achy from participating in both one day after another but the important thing is that I’m back on track health-wise. Last year was tough on the body and the holiday in India was even tougher ha ha ha. An extended period where variety in food was lacking and then an extended holiday where I ate more than I knew was possible. A few kilos up and things didn’t feel quite right! One month back into the routine and I’m back. Wohoo! The scale showed the same number as when I left. Happy! But I’m ranting.

Guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m back. Kiribati has drawn to a close. How do I feel about being back? Well, it’s different alright. The large sky scraping buildings are over-whelming and very interesting at the same time. I can’t help but look up. Certainly enjoying those showers, the watermelons, ah the rockmelons and the strawberries. Miss the people, the excitement, the ‘different’ I think yet at the same time, appreciating the familiar 😀


We all know what diversity means- I thought so anyway but wait till you start noticing the diversity in India- in EVERYTHING. Food (even within the vegetarian arena), shoes, socks-n-sandal combos, jewellery, clothing, buildings, people, colours, weather, vehicles, languages, stories… I could keep going like a classic bollywood movie but you get the jist of it. Coming from Kiribati, I’m somewhat overwhelmed, pleasantly surprised and shocked at the same time. 
Loving the exhilaration, the dancing, family time and the food extravaganza but this time, taking the time listening to stories; of people, of places, of love, of traditions and of family. 

Write more later. For now, it’s goodbye Delhi!


My dear readers, things have changed a little since we last spoke. I am now in India for a little while for let’s say, a patch up with the world as I knew it before Kiribati happened! Ha ha ha. What better place to start but India :). Having arrived in Delhi 3 days ago, I’m excited and overwhelmed to say the least. I’m attendin a wedding here in Delhi and that alone is quite an experience. There is so much choice with food, clothes, places to go, ways to get there, languages, colours etc etc. Sometimes I feel I could stand still and life around me would just buzz on. You see so much information in a moment that I’m unsure if any of it is retained by my brain at the moment ha ha ha. But what’s not to love! Just like Kiribati, people are what make it worth it here too. Plus the ‘gol-gappe’ (google it!! N if u haven’t tried them, do so). I’ll write more as the days go by! I’m sure there will be much to report. Note to self: must take a picture of me making a choice in a clothing store. I had an entire shop’s stock opened up last evening and got so confused that I needed time out! Ha ha ha. Oh and by the way, shops are open till 10/11 at night almost 7 days which is a whole different experience on its own!

For now, I’ll head back into the haze of this amazing city. Be in touch soon 🙂


No my dear readers, I have not forgotten you nor have I abandoned writing. I’m just taking my time to settle back into the ‘real world’.

I do feel as though it is time for an insightful post. For the last little while, I have told you about the interesting days I’ve had but not really discussed what goes on in the space between my eyes. ha ha ha. Now that my time in Kiribati has ended, I wonder what legacy I have left behind and whether it has been a mutual learning experience. Having discussed this with my staff, they assure me they are going to miss me. The more important question though is whether they will continue to smile at work and continue to function as well as they are at the moment. We have all certainly learned the importance of team building and cohesiveness and the art of taking breaks to enhance productivity. We’ve together learned the art of brainstorming and working together to solve problems and discovered ways to deal with some of the complex planning issues faced by Tarawa. Essential skills have been exchanged and if I have taught, I have learned much more in the process.

As most of you would agree, planning in the Pacific region is a whole different kettle of tea compared to back home. The complexities and simplicity of the system needs one to be creative and be able to think laterally. It requires a sophisticated amount of relationship building which is integral in all other places I have worked at but more so in this context. I think I’ve enjoyed that part of the role the most. People are interesting, people are complex, people are like a puzzle, a game, an intriguing crossword. That I have enjoyed the most. Self-discovery too. Working here has re-inforced what I know and pushed me to learn a lot more.

Working as a volunteer has the advantage of time. Time which is necessary when it comes to building trust. It took weeks of team building activities, random jokes, questions and discussions and built the trust that lead to a successful knowledge exchange. It feels like I was able to forge these life long connections and that has only been possible because there was time to bond which in the Pacific is essential it seems. People I’ve worked with have surprised me with their level of understanding and willingness to learn. It has been a pleasure to be involved in this journey of theirs.

I will not say that the year has been without hiccups. Oh yes, there have been hiccups and pitfalls, sickness and madness which was all part of the process! This experience has been amazing and now I’m ready for the next chapter in the life of Shifani. So life, beware, here I come. Ha ha ha.


Lots of goodbyes, farewell parties and some tears. Happy to have met, happy to be going but the tears don’t see logic 🙂

Quick update:

Days till departure: 2

Packing: not finished

Last day at work: today

Farewells: 7 and still counting

Rain radar: thunder, lighting, heavy rains since sunday, monday flight was cancelled. Fingers crossed!!

Next step: Fiji for 2 weeks!

Update ya later 🙂


Last saturday, I did my last show in Kiribati! A Bollywood night full of dancers grooving to Indian music. An effort of many months, hours and hours of practices and lots of encouragement! The show came together like a good tiramisu cake I tell ya! Organised quite rapidly with the help of some very dynamic people :). All I had to do was dream and speak to the right people. We managed to get a rather large audience given the tight timeframe and terrible weather!

We truly tested the stage, had a dancer fall off who quickly got back on stage, a couple of dress malfunctions and lots of laughs and giggles from the dancers and audience alike. Good fun and certainly a learning experience and definitely a one of a kind show for Kiribati 🙂

Thank you to those who believed in me and those who made it happen and my lovely daners who made me proud :). Couldn’t have done it without you all!

On the work front, it’s time to implement the exit strategy. Getting mentally geared up to close things off! I will leave with a much deeper understanding and appreciation of Kiribati and its culture, many questions and a fair bit of curiosity but a massive smile on my face 🙂 

On the home stretch now…. Keep you posted on my movements 🙂


Quite literally! So like every weeknight, I ran the bollywood class in the ‘maneaba’ (communal area) within the housing complex I stay in. The class starts at 4:45ish and ends at 7:30ish. A few of us danced it off :D. It’s like dancing in a hot yoga studio! After a hard workout, we said our goodbyes and my students drifted home slowly. Three of us remained who live within the complex. As I packed my stuff, it started pouring! Beautiful rain drops falling to the ground as fast as they could. We decided to wait it out and sat in the maneaba and then boom! I had a Shifani moment and ran out into the rain dragging one other who said I was “special” and she normal and only let me drag her out as I’m leaving soon! I should use that card more often :). Ah but the rain shower on my salty skin was divine! Last time I showered in the rain was on an outer island trip or when I’ve been stuck out in the rain but it’s a whole lot more interesting doing that in your own backyard. The neighbours looked out the window and smiled. Priceless :). I like the warmth in the rain here. Couldn’t imagine doing that at home without catching a cold….. Aaaachhhoooo!