AN ORDINARY DAY

Well, an ordinary day in Kiribati is one full of odd things taking place. An odd day is one when everything goes smoothly :). So let me tell you the story of my 24 hours starting last morning. I arrived at work at my usual time of 8 after having been off with a cold in the earlier part of the week. There was an on-site meeting at 10 I was meant to attend but at 10, we could not find anyone to drive us. I was then advised of a manual ute that was available but no one to drive us so I offered enthusiastically :). Well, my feet didn’t quite reach the clutch, the break or the accelerator. Some kiwi ingenuity kicked in and i wore my backpack to cushion myself, popped the seatbelt on and rode around town with pride! The feeling was comparable to being on a roller coaster and not puking ha ha ha. Shifani 1, speed-bumps 0!

The evening was rather odd…I mean, nothing went wrong. He he he. This morning however, we awoke to no power which also means no water apart from what we store in bottles. This is when those baby wipes come in handy. Thanks Tash!! Oh I forgot to mention that it was raining this whole time too. So getting drizzled on, I waited for my work transport which was a bit late but made it eventually.

On arrival, I walked towards the front door without much thought and boom, we couldn’t open it. Apparently the wind had blown this board in front of the door which was blocking it. We tried and tried but no luck… A little while later, a colleague with key to the other door arrived. We opened it ceremoniously only to realise there were 2 other doors and the second door opened into the same area where the board had fallen. Miraculously, we made it up to my office this morning without any further issues.

As we were preparing for a workshop in the afternoon, I was advised that there was a problem with our transport and that we may not be able to arrange pick up for the presenter. Puzzled I asked why. Well apparently, there is a fuel shortage on the island.

Now- beat that for an ordinary day 😀

HOLIDAY. IN PARADISE?

Apologies for the lateness in posting. I have come to realise that waiting a while before writing about an experience is a coping mechanism. It allows me to forget some of the more challenging aspects of the experience and turns it into a good story in my mind. Last week, a friend and I spontaneously decided to travel to the Marshall Islands or shall I say, a little speck of America in the Pacific.

I should have asked but I know she will not mind. A dear friend sent me an email in response to my account of being in Kiribati and then the Marshall Islands. She wrote that upon reading my blog entries, she thought that either I “have landed in a magical never-neverland, or had a mighty tough positive mindset, or were obscuring the discomfort of adapting to a completely new environment”. All of which is true to an extent. It was worth sharing her insight because my blog certainly requires a bit of reading in between the lines!

Being in Majuro gave me the distance from Kiribati to see it for what it is without having to cope with daily life. It is tough but also makes me realise that volunteering is truly needed here and I’m getting an authentic package. It is rather interesting how much happiness can be felt by having something you are deprived of. The secret to happiness as this dear friend of mine concluded is perhaps in visits to what we perceive as the developed world every now and then.

The Marshalls was a very interesting trip. At first my fellow traveler friend, Jess and I were super excited about all the junk food we were going to be able to eat. Our first serving of massive onion rings tasted divine. The first cocktail- muah! Next day, breakfast of pancakes and scrambled eggs on the side with filtered coffee tasted pretty damn impressive. The next memorable meal involved waffles, massive waffles. Again, tasted divine. By this time however, we were struggling with meal sizes. They were far too big for us. That night, we began our 24 hour internet marathon with sleep and food breaks in between. Our hotel room (with a window for the first half of our stay and without a window for the last few days) was well stocked with crackers, chips, dip, tea, fruit and a nice shower. Basically everything we needed and then I got a tummy bug. It was a slight struggle to eat anything and keep in for longer than 15 minutes but lucky for me, Majuro has good facilities in most places so I still went to the beach, to an outer island, shopping but there was always a sense of urgency to find the nearest facilities. Ha ha ha. The following day, Jess too got hit by the bug and against all odds and with a slight twist of fate, we found our way to a pharmacy and bought their only bottle of ‘poop stopper’ pills. They worked and we had them till the day we came back to Kiribati. I have to say, we were determined to have a good time and to eat good food that a silly tummy bug wasn’t going to ruin it for us.

We brought back loads of goodies with us! It was lucky I was travelling with Jess as everything that could go wrong, tried to go wrong. Take for example, my bank cards. None of my cards would work! We didn’t realise there was a departure tax and there is no ATM at the Marshall Islands airport. We were only carrying Aussie money by this stage but it all worked out. Tummy bug happened but that too was managed. My philosophy was that I was going to eat the bug to death and I succeeded- eventually.
On our return, we caught the local bus from the airport and my body could certainly tell that there was a difference in the condition of the road. We slowly rattled home to familiar sounds of loud music, pigs, roosters and dogs, smiling faces, cultural depth, smoking cooking fires and a low level in our rain water tank. Ha ha. It is good to be back!

DANCED THE NIGHT AWAY

A little while back I had my first night club experience in Kiribati. After an evening of celebrations in respect of volunteers leaving the island, some of us ended up at a bar and then decided to move on to a night club (I think it’s one of two maybe three- yet to find out). I was feeling rather tired so I gave in and indulged in a fizzy, sugary drink which was much needed for what followed. This ‘club’ is situated within the complex of a hotel and the dance-floor is rather large with an outdoor area. I spent a while just watching people dance away enjoying themselves to the max. Most of them, quite drunk. It took a while for my ‘engine’ to start up but then the beats of the music lured me to the floor and so began a night of dancing till the wee hours of the morning. The best part of the whole night though was dancing in my jandals. Of all nights out, this was the best largely because I was wearing genie pants, a singlet and jandals with my hair tied up in a comfortable bun. It didn’t matter what you wore or what you looked like. There was no need for heels with some even dancing barefoot. Some of the local peeps would come to us every now and then for a dance and it was all pretty decent I must say. I could jump, waltz, salsa, belly dance, even do bhangra and no one would care. It was just a no pressure night. No need to top up that lip gloss or pull down that tight skirt or reapply that band-aid on aching toes and heels. Clubs elsewhere could learn from this :p

The music was a mixture of Kiribati, English and some somewhere in the middle. Locals come up to you for a dance and majority were very decent encounters. None of that sleezy stuff you experience elsewhere but ofcourse you practice the same precautions as you would anywhere else. We went in a group and looked out for one another. Looking around the dance floor I noticed how much fun everyone was having in just being themselves (a little intoxicated and a lot for some but largely being themselves) and just celebrating that day, not tomorrow or the day after, just today.

An issue most of the time here is transport for those of us who don’t have cars or bike (i.e. me). Lucky for us we had hire cars that night and usually people are nice enough to help out. There is usually always someone going in ‘your direction’ as there really only are two. He he.

We decided to leave at around 4am even though the party was to continue.  Giggling we divided people into the two cars according to the direction they were heading in. I was so sweaty that a shower was deemed necessary. As the cold water fell on me, I could taste the salt from my sweat. My feet practically black now needed a good scrub. It was 5.30 am by the time my eyes fell into the lap of oblivion and for a while forgot where I lay.

CAMP STRANDED

A little while ago, we went on an overnight camp to the northern end of the island. Pristine, swimmable waters and a mostly sandy beach (rare sight in South Tarawa). We arrived at sunset after a 2 hour boat ride through the lagoon. Dinner was served camp style over an open fire. There were beers and gin! We sat around a fire chatting and star gazing. Like most days, I felt tired and decided to head to bed early. Bedding comprised of yoga mats with a mosquito net hung on a rope. Just as my eyes began to sink deep into my head and the waves of the ocean started to relax me, it started raining. It started to pour down. In desperate times, people get resourceful and it’s true. We made a makeshift tent by putting a piece of tarp to keep the water of our bedding. It seemed successful for a while and so we decided to sleep. Three of us were in that camp with a total of 16 scattered around the camp site scrambling for shelter. There were heaps of mosquitos but our nets were wet and sandy. I crawled into my sleeping bag liner trying to fight off the mossies with insect repellent. One of the girls in the camp found these fly screens I had brought from home. The one you put on cakes to keep the flies away and we slept with those on our faces which being a hilarious sight became the reason for cackling through the night. Haha. I woke up a little while later finding myself completely drenched and then just waited for the sun to rise. At dusk I was up with very little struggle and jumped into the water for a swim. The water was warm as it calmly swallowed my body and stung my eyes.

The day was a hot one. Breakfast was served and it became hotter. My team was on lunch duty. Note to self- never accept lunch duty on a hot day in the tropics during camp. Lunch was served followed by snorkeling. Sun burnt, exhausted, dehydrated, happy, we left camp and got back on the boat embarking on a 2 hour return journey. We played charades on the boat. As we began to see the shore of our destination, the boatman started to look a bit weary. Minutes later, the boat stopped. We had run out of petrol. In a normal place, I would panic but here, there is no time to panic or to get hysterical. We were lucky enough to have phone coverage and so we called a friend. About 40 or so minutes later, he found us following a number of flashing torches we all were waving to make sure he didn’t miss us. We all carry torches as there are no street lights here. As we traveled towards the shore, some of my fellow peeps shouted out newspaper titles that could eventuate from a scenario like this. Laughing and giggling along with a desperate need to wash up, we made it back. That night I slept well.

FOODIES

My flatmate and I have been utilising our skill in cooking. I’ve focused on Indian food, cottage cheese making, yoghurt and salads from what little we can find. She is a great baker so we always have bread! Most nights will be a bit of a scramble of things we can source. A vegetable or two mixed with canned beans and some olives and cheese courtesy of home visits and care packages. We have chocolate in our fridge too some of which I brought with me but we keep it wrapped up in a bag behind all the nuts we brought from home to ensure difficult access. Lol. We drink a lot of water which goes without saying. Every night we’ll boil water and in the morning we’ll tip in a portable water container (one I brought from home- from the Kathmandu store) which is rather handy. Our cold water supply continually needs topping up but all water has to be boiled before drinking. I’ll make yoghurt every other day with powdered milk and some freeze dried culture I brought from home. Sometimes it works, other times it’s good enough for smoothies but nothing goes to waste. Someone will and I quote “give it a home”.

BLAH BLAH BLAH

As I was reading my blog, it occurred to me that I haven’t blabbed on about things yet. So much happens on a daily basis that a story can be made of anything. Take for example our weekly exercise routine. Most days are too hot to do a workout let alone a rigorous one. My muscles have turned into flab already and my skin the colour of cocoa powder (in exposed places) with heat rash and coral cuts in some places. Clothing here is modest so knee length bottoms and covered shoulders at work but singlets and shorts at home so tan lines are quite prominent. So, back to the exercise. Five/six of the girls (all volunteers) get together everyway Wednesday (sometimes varies depending on what’s on) get together and do an exercise routine off a DVD. This can involve yoga, pilates, boxercise, Zumba, well we’ll try anything that’ll get our bodies moving and minds sane Ha ha. I can manage to skip rope in my living room area (sometimes ;p).