EARLY DAYS

Day 2 started with a visit to the school for children with disability where the volunteers were treated as VIPs. The kids shook our hands like we were celebrities and presented us with garlands made with a combination of pink and yellow bougainvillea flowers and bright green leaves. They then sang both the New Zealand and the Australian national anthems, danced and some of the blind kids played music in the most rhythmic fashion. The whole experience was humbling if not sobering.  It was then that I realised (yet again) that I haven’t got it half as tough as them.

The rest of the day involved ‘life admin’ as one of the other volunteers put it. Immigration office for passport stamps, getting a Kiribati driving license- Yes- I am officially able to drive here now. Save the questions! Save the questions! Ha ha ha

We were then invited for drinks at the New Zealand High Commission where I met some of the other New Zealanders in Kiribati. Fun night meeting some extraordinary people with exceptionally interesting stories. This was followed by a night drive to get back to the hotel. I’ll save this one for another day but let’s say, it was a busy night give it is Friday!

Oh I have fallen in love with drinking coconut water. It is so delicious! Divine on a hot day…averaging about one a day at the moment. Staying on the notion of food- there is a little luxury of a place in Tarawa called Chatterbox which serves heavenly Banana and paw-paw smoothies and cheese toast. I know I cannot continue to indulge in these being a volunteer but just knowing it is there is a comfort on its own. It might be a place for a treat every once in a while! Yum yum!

The one thing me and the other new volunteer is struggling with is the deceptively inviting sea. All we want to do is jump in the water but there are only a few spots for swimming here in South Tarawa which I am yet to discover and am very excited already 🙂

I start work next week which I am thoroughly looking forward to! I am sure it will be a very interesting time ahead and challenging in various ways to say the least. Some of these challenges are apparent already but I guess time will be a true test of patience, persistence and strength (much more than just physical).

It is rather hot here but I knew that! Food- well, yes, it is hard to find many things I would expect to see at home but that also- I knew. It was good to have come with expectations that were somewhat realistic but I have to say- nothing- absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the challenges that lie ahead. A character defining year it will be and I’m sure it will be a year that I will fondly look back at.

I am at the beginning of the road now and striding ahead with optimism and a locally infused smile. I am surrounded by inspiring volunteers, enduring locals and very caring individuals helping me settle in.

Over and out from the land of smiling faces.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Watching the tiny slither of an island from the window of the airplane, I was mesmerised by the vastness of the ocean, the colours of the water and the whiteness of the sand. I am still in disbelief! It is very bright here and there are many different shades of blue in the water. Rather hot and humid but I’ll get used to it soon I’m told :). Food has been good so far and the people are wonderfully positive and calm. There’s something very calm about this place, very humbling yet almost surreal.

READY SET GO!

I have the green light and with less than a week to go, it’s time to get serious! Packing has become a top priority as of today. Help anyone??? Embarking on mission packing, I truly underestimated the amount of planning and organisation it was going to take. The toughest part is making a list of everything and dividing them my checked-in luggage and in the luggage being shipped. Tough job admittedly.

I am certain I will forget something vital amongst all these items that have called my parent’s lounge home for the last week or so. I am however assured by my dad that it’ll all be fine 🙂

On another note, I weighed myself today and a whopping 55 kilos showed up on the scales. On a normal day, I would fret about it and increase the intensity of my exercise(s) ( ‘s’ in brackets because my fitness regimes are ever changing as some of you have come to know). This time however, I am rather proud of myself. That plan was to gain about 6/7 kilos prior to departure and I’m almost there :).

MISSION PACKING

It’s time for an update on my packing ordeal 🙂

After much procrastination and internal monologues, I’ve finally started packing and it is rather challenging I have to admit. Grateful for the advice and tips some of you have given me and for cracking those lame but hilarious jokes to keep my spirits up 🙂

It feels like I’m going on a very long camping tour hahaha. I am totally out of my depth prepping for this one but definitely enjoying the process. To be honest, it still feels unreal!

At nearly midnight and after logging 103 items on my inventory list, I’m exhausted!!! And I have only just begun. Lol.

P.S. My visa still hasn’t arrived!

Some of my unpacked mess! Ha ha ha

Some of my unpacked mess! Ha ha ha

 

UNCERTAINTY ALL AROUND

One week to go and my visa has not arrived but I’m very aware of the uncertainty that surrounds me. The people at VSA are lovely and are facing the same uncertain situation as me so I know I am not alone in this! It is rather amusing because the journey in a way has already started so this is part and parcel of the assignment before me.

I was going to post a photo of all the things that are scattered around my parents place but then I thought I would rather tell you the story 😀

Imagine- two clothing racks full of my washing, one box and a blue suitcase left open in my parent’s room, the room I am staying in (my old room) now has a double bed and there is no space to walk around it and the little corridor in between the three bedrooms and the bathroom houses yet another blue suitcase (I am pleasantly surprised no one has tripped over or asked me to move it) and the garage- well, I don’t actually know what’s in there but everything that I brought over from my move from Christchurch is piled there. Don’t even get me started on the shoes. You see, my foot never grew since was 12. Well, neither did I really and so most things still fit. The point is that I have a lot of shoes. Ha ha ha

So I’ve really just been placing things around the house and no one has asked me not to! My theory is- if I ask nicely, they’d let me do it anyway so I just do it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that despite the uncertainty all around, I seem to be holding up quite well. It’s almost as if this is training for what lies ahead!

VISITOR IN MY OWN CITY

With 15 days to go, I feel like a visitor in my own city. The packing process has begun and dear o dear- there is so much to do with three running lists of things to take. This is not new- I should be used to it after my move to Japan, then to Germany, to Turkey, to Melbourne, to Christchurch and back to Auckland but packing for Kiribati is quite different to say the least. I’m a bit out of my depth. These are things I’ve never really bought before or thought of to be honest. Feels like I’m getting items for quite a basic life or for a long camping journey.

My journey to Kiribati has long begun and I must say, I’m surprisingly calm. Wonder when the realisation would settle in.

NICE PEOPLE

After an amazing week long roadtrip and having made some amazing memories on the way, I am now in Auckland. 18 more days to go and yes, I am gettig anxious- but I was always told by VSA that things are uncertain until I am on that plane!

So over the last little while, I have been feeling quite blessed knowing that the world is full of nice people and I seem to be meeting them all :). People I have met are genuine, generous, caring, loving, risk takers, altruistic, interesting, mysterious, deep and each time I think back to my time with them, it gives me strength and a reason to smile.

Keeping that thought in mind, I’ve come up with a coping mechanism for when I am in Kiribati. I will dedicate a week to a person mknown to me and draw on their strengths and look at things from their perspective. Not sure if it will work but it certainly will be an interesting social experiment :). Any thoughts??