BOND, NO, NOT JAMES BOND

These last few weeks have made me think about all the amazing people I have met. Some life long bonds, others perhaps temporary but never to be forgotten. This is not exclusive to Kiribati but wherever I have been, I’ve met some very generous and genuine people. Some I may never meet again but the time we’ve shared has been special. Does this happen to you guys aswell? I mean, sometimes we randomly meet people, people who surprise us and with some, we forge an interesting bond that despite the distance, remains and others continue showing up. Certainly consider myself lucky to have experienced that. Why mention all this? Well, like every other place I have lived in, made friends and then said goodbye, I’ve done the same here. Said goodbye to some very special people. Being the transitional sort of place Kiriabti is, people are always coming and going. In the next few weeks, I’ll be saying goodbye to the life I’ve known for a year. Ofcourse I’ll be sad leaving but then also ready for the next challenge, the next chapter in the life of Shifani.

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AND THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS

For those who have followed my journey this far will perhaps like me may not have realised that it has been almost a year and my time in Kiribati is coming to an end.  With less than a month to go, I have begun the wrap up process.

There was one thing I had not ticked off my list which was to host a visitor and that too was fulfilled last week! I had my very first and perhaps the only visitor from NZ which was rather exciting. She left Kiribati with an urge to return :). 

Now let me fill you in on the last 3 weeks of my life. It involved a trip to the tranquil shores of an outer island, a night boat ride, lots of swimming in the clear waters of Kiribati, fishing (actually catching some), a homestay in a village in north Tarawa which involved approximately a 2 hour jouney on foot, buses, truck and a canoe which is a common journey for a good friend of mine (I still think it’s pretty novel) he he he he. Oh oh and work (just to be very clear here) plus dancing (the class as well as an all night dancing away in jandals :-)) 

Ah the other day, I landed in a desperate situation. Ate something not quite right and felt a bit queasy. By the afternoon, my gut knew where this was going so having said a swift goodbye, I got on my bike beginning my homeward journey. Grumble grumble grumble, I ran up the stairs and there- relief! Only when I went to press the magic flush button that I realised the absence of power. Hence no flushing toilet. I let out a nervous laughter and then used a few of the numerous bottles of water we have filled for instances like those. Then it happened again….and again and after my 4th episode, the nice electricity people turned on the power! A sigh of relief, a few clicks of the magic flush button, and life was almost normal (I use the term normal loosely). Too much info?! It hadn’t happened in months so it was almost like a first time experience. Ha ha ha.

Highlight of last week- motorbiking around the outer island through all the villages, the air strip, getting lost, seeing the blues of ocean on one side, the turquise of the lagoon on the other all the while avoiding insect bombs on my face and not loosing my passenger to ‘hi-fiving’ children!

I digress…. Well, it’s wrapping up time and to mentally prepare myself to retun to the ‘before life’. Kiribati has however changed some of me forever and given me some life long bonds! Now time to put on the logical hat and write those to-do lists 🙂

Keep you posted!
Tiabo moa

4PM FRENZY

There is something I’ve noticed in the last little while that I feel like sharing with you. It makes me giggle everyday! I know some of you have spent time in the pacific and would be well aware of the ‘Island time’ concept. Well, all day at work we function at Island time. Things get done. Yet at home time, there is this odd increase in energy and work speed which I refer to as the 4pm frenzy. The work transport leaves the premises at 4:15 and most people will be loaded and ready in the bus by about 4pm. My team however always manages to make the bus wait and are often running down the stairs at 4:15. I am usually on my bike so I tend to start packing and getting ready at 4 while the rest of the team picks up work speed and start to look rather busy- quite suddenly. We giggle about it…I tell them every day that I think it’s funny they do that but they are so busy working that sometimes my goodbye goes unheard until I say something silly ofcourse!

Quote of the day: “It’s not urgent till it’s urgent”.

BROKEN BRIDGE EVE

Let me tell you a little story. Last to last weekend, what started off as a plan involving three people ended up being an endeavour of 11! One idea just rolled and the group just fell together. It all sarted with an innocent conversation between two people about walking to broken bridge which by the way is really a broken bridge. A walk generally done during the day but I wanted to see the sunset and walk when it’s cooler so we began at 3. The journey started by dividing into cars and picking everyone and then driving to Buota navigating massive potholes. The next leg of the journey involves crossing a channel. I had done this walk a number of times before but for the first time in the evening. This channel can either be walked at low tide or a small morotised canoe runs back and forth for 50cents. On the other side is a ‘resort’ where we ordered food before embarking on our walk. We walked through a narrow strip of villages, coconut trees, volleyball nets, a makeshift soccer field and another couple of shallow channels. Finally arriving at the infamous broken bridge, we all jumped in the water. Relief! Chatting, buzzing around, it was time to leave as we could see the clouds approaching. Our journey back was mostly in the dark and wet but rather enjoyable with a broken sandal here and there, a few near misses with slips (it might have just been me!) and with an an odd feeling of being cold. Eventually we made it to the resort where dinner was served and we ate in a sharing manner after discussing the sharing procedure in quite some detail. Ha ha ha ha.  The last leg of the journey involved crossing the very first cannel in the dark. Lucky we had attentive people in the group and we made it back safe and sound. Some I heard were a bit achy the next day :). I had a dance class to run so being achy was not an option! HE HE HE.

DOTS

My very silent blog readers ;p, this entry is one that I am writing on my first day back at work after a week full of celebrations in honour of Kiribati Independence day. If anyone knows how to party, it is the i-Kiribati. I love that you don’t have to push anyone to stand up and show a step or two or sing a tune or two. They are ever ready. I thought us ‘Punjabi’ peeps were rhythmic but hey, we have some very strong competition and that’s why I seem to fit well :).

Last week started off with our bollywood performance on Friday night amongst a very diverse crowd including the President and the First Lady! I am bias here and will say we stole the show although there were some amazing acts during the night. Still, my kids and I rocked it :). At the end of the night, we got a special request from the President’s office for a performance at the Presidential Banquet and it was rather fitting as we were packaged as a surprise for the visiting Indian High Commissioner. The Bolly-buzz continued that night and we are gaining popularity by the day. I just hope the legacy continues after I leave.

I do get asked what my real job is every now and then. Ha ha ha. I work as an Urban Planning Advisor and am loving every bit of it. Challenging to say the least and a challenge is exactly what I was looking for. It is great being amongst it all again today and seeing my super cool planners working hard solving problems. For those who have worked with me know that there is just something about problem solving that rocks my boat. Combine that with dancing, it’s like eating fish and rice! Some might not get that reference but fish and rice is the perfect dish here hence the comparison.

You know when so many things happen and you really want to document it all but it’s just impossible. Well, last week was a bit like that. Thousands of people gathered in Bairiki town for the numerous events that were on show like dancing competitions, singing competitions, choir, wrestling, fishing competition, fashion and beauty show, battle of the bands, food stalls, cultural shows, volleyball, basketball etc. An entire week of entertainment and each night would generally go into the wee hours of the morning. The i-Kiribati have amazing amounts of energy! I never managed to stay past 12:30am and by that time already having lost my voice cheering for the dance groups (dancing
competitions were ofcourse my favourite events). It was just constant go go go and yesterday, we organised a small picnic to thank all the dancers and as far as my gatherings go- let’s say, I love games, dancing and heaps of interaction so that is exactly what it was. This was followed by the dancers convincing me to go the ‘Betio bridge’ to jump into the water. Must have only been about 6/7 metres. Certainly felt like 20!! I did it three times, each time questioning why I was doing it while clenching the bridge with fear and taking about 20 minutes a jump and then being rescued by the dancers already in the water so we could climb up and jump again. Tick off my bucket list but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t on the list in the first place. Ha ha ha

I must say, the dance group, the picnic, the practices, none of it would have been possible if it weren’t for the support I received from people both in terms of faith, funding, space for practice, open minds, willingness to learn something new, encouragement and a can-do attitude (especially one little lady in particular, little only in size and I will call her ‘the wrestler’ to keep it anonymous. I saw her dancing at the local night club one night and in the moments that followed, knew she was the missing piece in my group ;p ). It is also amazing how things just happen and how the events that lead upto them make sense in hindsight. Life is interesting like that. It’s rather satisfying when the dots connect.

With that thought, ‘Tiabo-moa’ (Pronounced sabo-moa meaning good bye! Until next time)

THE KIRI-BUZZ

Behold my dear readers! Here’s a guest entry from a stranger a few weeks ago but now a really good friend 🙂 enjoy!

#KIDAN Shifani’s blog followers (I know there are a few ;))…

I was instructed to do a guest blog post here and for those who know her well, sometimes you just do what u are told. #aukha

Now first things first, I have never done a blog before! To start with, I thought of going through some of her previous blogs and google some tricks but soon realised it wasn’t going to work. Finally out of spontaneity (Shifani comment: fashionably late as always) I have managed to create me a prefect atmosphere to write…long drive back home (now in Auckland), my choice of music and cruise control (one of those rare occasions where I feel like driving like a normal person (well not so normal after all, if you know what I mean #aukha. (Shifani comment: this dude drives like a maniac in Kiribati) 

So basically, my lead up story is that I spent 5 weeks in Kiribati initially then back to NZ for a break and then went to Kiribati another 4 week stint. Except this time was a lot different, #ghaint different!

Actually a really #ghaint story in its own right is……imagine going to a place that I honestly didn’t even know the name of and then to find a person from the same hometown i was born in!! Quite phenomenal if you ask me!
Therefore I decided to use some #desi words as it reflect the trip. Being able to speak in one’s mother tongue in the middle of nowhere was a spiritual experience all together.

 INTERMISSION…lol

This was too much for me to write in one go (plus I reached my destination 😉 ) therefore, I revisit this on another day! Actually in some ways (cheeky ways) this is reflective of an interval in a Bollywood movie, of which there were a few this time, where the more important content is normally after the halftime. 

Right to begin with, my life in Kiribati is fairly busy with work on weekdays (which by the way for us is Mon to Sat). This was made busier once I jumped on board the Bollybus! Bollybus was the ride of joining shifani and her group of dancers in their preparation for what was supposed to be a single performance at a local charity event but led to invites from a lot more places, including a performance at the Presidential Banquet during the independence week. I got to spend some great time at the dance practices observing, helping teach, brainstorming, checking out the stage, syncing the music etc. I even managed to convince her to include a Punjabi song where I could use some of my expertise to train the boys! Unfortunately, I didnt take the Bollybus ride to the destination to see Shifani and the group perform, but I know it would have been great! Imagine going from a thought, to training and putting a group together and then perform in front of about 300 people all in 3 weeks!

Apart from that, weekend (Sunday) always used to be something to look forward to, as there was always something planned (safe to say not normally by me!). Now with Shifani, you come with a plan and she will make it happen!! 

Some of the things that happened included, fishing trip on local canoe, swimming/snorkelling, frisbee in water, massages, lots of trip to eat out and try new places, coffee trips and believe it or not attending a performance of Hamlet by The Shakespeare Theatre Company of UK (surprizing isn’t it? and I obviously had no clue about it but fortunately knew a person who like always did!), walling (a term invented she uses for chillaxing over a drink on the sea wall, under the moon usually, where people freely join and leave as they go past…).

One highlight was a proper weekend trip to the outer island of Miana. And this time I mean leave on Friday to come back on Sunday…..that’s until you discover on Sunday that the tiny plane is not flying back because of weather and you get stranded on the island, only to return back on Monday.

You have probably already heard the story about the trip and the 9 of us in the lovely group that went!

Now tell me I would be doing all of this in 4 weeks (while still working), before my trip and I would not have believed you. But then again that’s what happens when u know someone this friendly with that energy level and positive attitude about everything! (Might as well get a reference letter from me Shifani…lol) Basically, for me this trip to Kiribati (pronounced kiri-bas) was on a high and therefore we decided to aptly to call this my Kiri-Buzz diary.

I now look forward to going back there next time for more #ghaint times!!

Oh and since there was so much Bollywood influence, I’ll finish with some lines from a song…

Usse jitna dekhu, utna sochi, kya usse main keh du…… (God, I’m cheeky sometimes lol but there was a story behind this song too, maybe for another time )

#ChangaFer

C u later….alligator!

 

Glossary of terms:

 

#kidan – Howdy?

#aukha – One term used to describe a difficult/crazy person or situation! Used in funny way.

#ghaint – Awesome

#desi – A loose term for people, cultures, and products of the Indian subcontinent

#ChangaFer – All good then. Normally used just before c ya.

NEGLECT? NO!

My dear blog readers, no, I have not been neglecting you! This last week has been very busy in preperation for our performance last night. So apart from my usual work, I have started teaching Indian dancing here as I mentioned a while back. Well, last night it all came together and we performed in front of a crowd of a couple of hundred people. My gorgeous Kiri-Indian dancers looked stunning and performed just as well :). We’ve started the bollywood dance craze in Kiribati!i I’ve lost all the fat I’d accummulated and gained muscle stregth that I lost during the two love affair episodes I had with mosquitoes. My dancers too are looking fitter and flowy with all the funky dance moves :). Last night, they were all dressed up in traditional Indian clothing with makeup and jewellery to match. It was super cool! I am trying to get a hold of photos and videos… Will post once I get them 🙂

Until then…imagine me along with 10 stunning i-Kiribati girls, 7 amazing I-Kiribati boys (well known local dancers) wearing colourful dhottis (held together with numerous safety pins 😉 ), 2 very cute Japanese girls, 1 gorgeous Taiwanese girl, a young, tall Aussie chick with a mesmerising smile (about a decade younger than me but she very seriously says “it’s just 9 years”. He he he. I like 🙂 ) all dressed in Indian looking clothes, bindis, Indian hairstlyes and head pieces dancing to the beats and rhythm of popular Indian songs! To top it off, the improvising MC was also an Indian! Kiribati hadn’t seen such a sight before. He he he. Amazing what you find so far away from home. It reminds me of the time I was travelling through Kumamoto in Japan (far south) with my good friend Bee. While walking around looking for food, we acciddntally stumbled accross an Indian restaurant (rather unbelievable find) with the most amazing food I have ever had and the best espresso chai ever! I hadn’t seen another Indian in my time there, yet that food and chai was so amazing that I will never be able to forget it. I digress. The point is…well, there isn’t any actually apart from the fact that I am super proud of my dancers! All that practice and dedication paid off :D. Now, we’ll be geting ready for the next performances we’ve been asked to do! Only painful part is that I’ve gotta wash the sweaty costumes….mummmmmmaaaaaaaa…..help!!! He he he he

MAIANA ADVENTURE

Last Friday a few of us went to Maiana, an outer island south of Tarawa. Picture this; leaving on a 20 seater plane arriving on a swampy airfield which doubles as the road to the airport where we were greeted by our Maiana hosts ready with a truck for transport. We did not see a single car during our time there and travelled on the backs of trucks. The breeze on the truck was cool, fresh, kind of dreamy. It was something like a scene out the movie “Swadesh” for those who know their Indian movies. We drove on completely mesmerised by the simplistic beauty of this remote island. First stop was a local party in a village on our way to the accommodation. The generous people of Maiana fed us, danced with us, penalised us for having a couple in our group dance with each other, sang for us and made us feel special. We then got back on the truck and strode on in the darkness towards our accommodation. Dodging tree leaves and branches, holding on navigating through the potholes and feeling the cool, fresh, gust of wind on our faces we smiled with a satisfaction of a special kind.

Arriving at our accommodation, we were greeted by the caretaker whose name translated to ‘falling down’ so that is what I called him for the duration of my stay. We stayed in small outdoor huts called a ‘kia-kia’ with a mattress and a mossie net accompanied by the sounds of weaves crashing on the shore. Every morning, our tea and breakfast would be served then we’d go for walks, snorkel, read and chill. Lunch and dinner included fish (in various ways), crayfish, crab, breadfruit, local pancakes, paw-paw, cups of tea, locally baked bread, noodles and rice. We were also fortunate enough to be invited to another local party close to where we stayed and boy-oh-boy, there was entertainment! The kids were magnetised towards me and by the end of the evening I had about 20 around and on me. Running around calling me ‘Tiabane’ which is the local translation of my name, they were happy playing the silly games I made up.

We were scheduled to fly on Sunday evening so it was only fitting that we went on a boat trip that morning to an islet at the southern end of the island. Going there was ok but coming back, the weather turned. We cuddled up to each other to share the little body heat we had, tried to dodge the sea spray we were constantly getting and then the rain, sang songs and admired the various colours of blues and greys all blending in together. We soon left for the airport in the wet windy weather on an open truck barely managing to keep dry even with umbrellas. Cuddling each other again to stay warm and just hoping that there would be a plane. An hour long wet, bumpy but definitely a fun journey, we got to the airport to be told the plane wasn’t coming in. “Tomorrow” they said. We got into the shelter, squeezing some of the water out of our wet clothes and huddled up for some warmth yet again before getting on the back of another truck with a tarp covering that we were offered a ride on. Soaking but not actively being rained on, still cold and still huddling up we made it back to the accommodation and tried to dry up. Next task was to get to the only landline on island to make a couple of phone calls regarding our delay. Like each night, we played some silly games and retired for a good night sleep. I slept well that night.

The next day, we made it to the airport early and hassle free on the back of a truck and I kept humming “hum hain rahi pyaar ke, humse kuch na boliye, jo bhi pyaar se mila, hum usi ke ho liye”. It just seemed like the right song for the situation. Sorry for excluding all my non-Hindi speaking readers! Feel free to look it up though 🙂

We made it home later that night hungry, dehydrated, dreamy yet happy. We certainly bonded a notch more than before on this trip as you do with each experience of the like and even now, I can’t help but smile reflecting back on the experience.

HAMLET, KIRIBATI STYLE

I don’t often bombard you with multiple blog entries in a week but sometimes I find the time to put thoughts on screen so here goes. Last night I went to see Hamlet, played by the Globe to Globe Shakespeare Theatre group who were in town for the day. Random. Yes but incidents like those make the best stories. A diverse bunch of charming, talented actors from London and one based in NZ displayed their ingenuity (Kiribati style) when they announced that none of their costumes or gear had made it on the flight. Remarkable to see the actors mesmerising the audience with just their acting and the occasional (long) eye contact and for one in particular, their accent!!

It was interesting to watch Hamlet in the most obscure of locations surrounded by kids, humidity and the warm air. I hadn’t realised that it was nearly three hours long and that is a statement on its own of quality. Sitting on the concrete steps of the Betio Sports complex listening to the echoing sounds of the actors amongst the rustling of kids trying to entertain themselves and then falling victim to laughter when the actors burst into intense fighting scenes was an experience on its own. After the show ended, we had the privilege of meeting some of the very tired but rather approachable and humble actors. Again, it was quite nice seeing them in a different light and hearing some of the back stage stories.

They’ve travelled half the world performing. Impressive to say the least but most of all, their work was like a breath of fresh air on this side of the world 🙂