Boy, doesn’t time fly... It doesn't feel like 3 weeks since our last post. It doesn't feel like a lot has happened but that is just because we are now in a routine rather than everything being new. Our days are filling up and we always have something planned… We try to mix our friends and socialise evenly with our different work groups, other volunteers and ex-pats we meet.
We thought we would start with the 10 best things we love about Tarawa...
1. The people and culture. Everyone we meet or interact with is extremely polite, interested in what we are doing here and have a great sense of humour. You can see that people put others first and there is respect for parents and the elderly. The culture is very communal, groups of families live under the same house and it’s a team effort to support relatives and friends. Not that we want to live with our families again :)
2. Our home. We live right on the lagoon. Provides a nice backdrop to look at, some privacy and there is usually a cooling breeze.
3. Quirkiness. e.g. 50 year old man with pink Dora bag on his back, people ride motorbikes carrying a long fishing rod, while also balancing a bag of rice or child on their lap. Listening to the Rivers of Bablyon tecno mix playing on the buses.
4. No junk mail. We don’t even have an address or letter box. Peter is feeling free and released from having to have the need to read every single piece of junk mail. Are you proud Glenn?
5. Eating fresh fish and waro. Waro, whats waro? Google mantis shrimp… Then get some and fry in oil and chilli. So good
6. Free time to read, contemplate, swing in the hammock and write a blog. We finished your book Les, a great read!
7. The music and dance. Everyone firstly can sing, they must be born with it. They naturally harmonise and just need one person clapping to keep in time. The dance groups obviously go to great effort and practise, practise and practise. Their moves are silky smooth and all in sequence, the men dance with power and authority, the woman glide and make subtle movements with their hands and feet. The music here is also cool, very reggae and rusta.
8. We only need 3 sets of clothes, all consist of summer wear.
9. We can ride in the back of a truck legally. In fact, my work transport to KPC is a truck where everyone piles in the back.
10. It’s nothing like Sydney, nor Brisbane or Melbourne… The opposite in fact, yeah
Peter is fitting in well at work; he is making good friends with the people he sits near and getting settled into his duties. He is still struggling with pronunciation of names and we don’t expect him to get any better at it :)
There was a welcome feast for him and another group of imatungs that are here at KIT for 8 weeks. He forgot the camera but will get some photos from others soon.
We also had a picnic at the Ambo Lagoon Club with his colleagues in the same department where the photos are from above. He taught them the card game spoons, they taught us the card game 1-3-5, (I think that was the name). Peter also had to organise some games, so we did an egg and spoon race as well as a three legged race. We all had great fun and laughter; again in Australia some people would be too self-conscious about participating.
I am working at RAK (women’s centre) on Mondays and YCL (Youth for Christian Living) on Tuesdays. These are both based at KPC (Kiribati Protestant Church) headquarters. They had a brief welcome morning tea on my first day with weet-bix, spam, sweetened condensed milk and Sao-type biscuits. Was interesting.
They put on a welcome dinner this week, a few weeks after I started at KPC, which was much better. We had a feast (including lobster), we were given Kiribati clothing and garlands (flower headpieces), they sang for us and there was dancing. It was great. There is a photo above from the night.
At lunch, staff pay $2 for a tuna and rice meal. It sounds cheap but is relative to local wages and what most people have. Work at KPC started slow but is picking up. I have taught the YCL staff some Sunday School songs to teach Sunday School teachers at workshops. I’m now getting involved in yearly planning and writing applications for funding.
Lecturing seems to be going well. There is a photo with some of my students above. The levels of English are pretty mixed, as I discovered when I collected short prayers from students. Some students are more active in class than others, but I guess that happens in every class. Today I turned up to lecture and only had 4 students there (instead of the usual 40ish). A teacher then came and told me that the Principal had cancelled classes after the first 2 periods so people could prepare for the Easter long weekend celebrations. We hope to attend some of the celebrations on the weekend where they’ll have choir and dancing competitions. I didn’t mind the cancellation because it gave me some time for one on one work with the students that turned up, and next Thursday’s lecture is now ready to go.
We found a great cafe that sells real coffee and banana bread. It is a new air-conditioned building with polished floorboards. It is almost like sitting in Gloria jeans, but with a view of the lagoon- lovely!
We had our first overnight blackout experience last week. Our water relies on an electric pump from the water tank, so we had no water, lights or power. Cooking was fine because we have a gas stove. But we usually sleep with the AC on for an hour before we goto bed, than leave a fan on. Considering we couldn’t shower either, we were feeling very hot and sticky, which wasn’t ideal sleeping conditions.
Even after moving the bed Peter couldn’t sleep, so at 2am we moved our mattress into the lounge room and opened up the doors to let some much-needed breeze in to cool us down and allow us to sleep. The experience gave us an idea of how the locals live- no air conditioning, no fridge or freezer and no running water. Although at least a local house is built and open to receive any breeze. I went to the PUB (Public Utilities Board) with our landlady the next morning. We thought they had cut our power because of outstanding power bills, but the power had just tripped, affecting us and everyone else on our meter box.
We got a TV today. Our landlord arranged it. Three guys came with a big pole with an antenna on it that they secured to the side of the house. TV is second hand, about 31” which is a funny size and is the older style but is a flat screen. Only one channel is broadcasted, it shows The Australian Network and a couple of hours of local Kiribati filming. It has a constant hum like a mosquito above your head but all TVs do it in Kiribati which indicates it is the reception rather than our TV.
The one channel we have televises the AFL and V8 supercars, so Pete is happy. It also shows Australian news, so we’ll be up to date.
We can buy DVDs here for $1. They are all copies and so far the quality is really really good. They even have a customised clip at the start which advertises the DVD shop so they go to allot of effort. We’ve heard that at some places they have rental DVDs for $2 but they don’t want them back. Hmmm? Apparently it is something to do with the license they have. They can rent illegal copies but not sell them.
We went to a birthday party on Saturday night. It was at an Aussie’s house, but there was a mixture of Aussies and I-Kiribati people there. The house was a 3 bedroom western style house right next to the ocean. That is palatial for Kiribati, especially considering only 2 people live there. We played an Australian game, the one where you have to pop the balloon attached to the other persons leg. Next a Kiribati game that involved sitting in a circle and taking turns pretending to ride a motorbike to hip hop Kiribati music. Those sorts of games don’t tend to happen at adult parties in Australia because people are too self-conscious to get involved. Here everyone gets involved and there were some great renditions. See photos above. I-Kiribati people perform in front of people from a very young age, so I guess they’re not as self-conscious (unless you’re asking them to speak English).
Apparently there was a drought for the 12 months or so before we arrived, but lately we’ve had a fair bit of rain. It has been raining heavily for at least 3 hours tonight and the wind is howling. We don’t mind though, sunny days followed by rainy nights is good…..
We have heard LPG gas is either low or none left on the island so we hope we have enough in our bottle to cook food until more arrives.
Ti a bo