Sunday, 23 October 2011

I-Kiribati culture, snorkelling and... rugby

It has been a while since our last post. We’re on island time now- and we’re just lazy. We’ll try to get them happening more often so that you don’t have so much to read each time.
There was a week about a month ago when we were both very sick. We had tummy problems, headaches, aching bodies and exhaustion. I had it initially and then shared it with Pete. That was the sickest either of us has been in Kiribati, so we’re very glad to be over that. Illnesses spread like wild fire here, especially when sharing crowded buses with snotty-nosed, coughing kids and rarely seeing toilet paper or soap in toilets. We’re pretty lucky to have not been sick more often. The vitamin tablets from Tolar Pharmacy must be helping us out.
Weaving at the Catholic Women's Centre. The 3 of us on the left are Aussie volunteers.
The girl on the right is a British tourist. Yes, occasionally people come here as tourists!

Grating coconut

I decided to get a little more culturally aware one day last month. I started my Saturday morning with weaving at the catholic women’s centre. I try to do this most weeks, but the ladies who run the classes are rarely available. In the afternoon I went to Tearatu’s (a work colleague) house. She taught me how to make coconut cream from scratch. Step 1. Cut coconut (already de-shelled and oldish) in half. Step 2. Grate coconut into a big bowl using a cool metal contraption they use here. There is a part to sit that sticks out with a round-shaped but jagged end, perfect for coconuts. Step 3. Collect some nice-smelling leaves and flower petals. Step 4. Squish the leaves and petals into an empty coconut shell until they break into dark, juicy bits. Step 5. Combine the flower bits and grated coconut in a clean cloth and roll it up. Step 6. Squeeze the juices out of the cloth into a bowl. Voila! Once prepared, we put it through our hair, combed it and waited an hour or so. Then we went for a swim at Buota to wash it out. It is supposed to make your hair healthy, thick and shiny. I was told not to wash it with shampoo for a while, but I washed it the next day because it just looked dirty. I think it was in a slightly healthier condition though, so maybe there something in it. If I do it again, I think I’ll just use a can of coconut cream or a bottle of coconut oil- much faster and easier.
Some female students dancing on World Teacher's Day

Some young dancers on World Teacher's Day. The 3 on the right are triplets. .
Their names are  Their names are Te Mauri (health), Te Raoi (peace)
and Te Tabomoa (prosperity), the motto of Kiribati. How patriotic!
On October 3rd we celebrated World Teachers Day. It was a Public Holiday and we had a botaki (celebration) at the college, where we were entertained and given a lot of food. I often find that I-Kiribati botakis go on for too long and get a bit boring with lots of speeches in I-Kiribati, but this one wasn't too bad. The students looked like they were having a lot of fun, and it was good to know a lot of people there.

Some of my students in the last class for the year.
The maneaba where is is our classroom. We often have dogs, cats and chickens roaming around.
The semester at the theological college is pretty much over. It is currently reading week. I have been busy marking assignment and now I am writing an exam. It will be sad not seeing my students regularly. I like them. Some have added me on Google Talk (a chat program), so at least I can talk to them there. If anyone is interested, I might do some tutoring during the break to pass the time, help them out and socialise a bit. Even though I won't need my Wednesdays for lesson planning during the break, I have grown fond of having a day at home to get organised, so I will probably continue that and just pick up an extra 2 days doing something at the church headquarters- maybe just more days in the Project Office.

The beach at Naa
Phil showing off Phoebe's big fish.

A couple of weekends ago we went to Naa, the furthest North tip of North Tarawa. Some friends were camping there overnight but we were too woosy, and just went for the day. Our friend Phoebe caught a 15kg giant trevali on a hand line. She had burns/cuts all over her hands and arms. What a tough chick! It was nice to have a swim and do some snorkelling away from where people use the beach as their loo. This beach looks like paradise.

Wendy, David and Pete at dinner

Wendy, the newly appointed Regional Manager for the Pacific Region for Austraining volunteers, visited last week. Pete is one of two Austraining volunteers in Kiribati, and the other (Chontelle) was in Fiji when she was here, so we had a dinner with just her and David (the In-Country Manager).

Last weekend we went on our friend Glenn's boat to Bikeman, a sand island in the lagoon. The water was so smooth, it was like glass. We could see all of the pretty fish underneath us, so we hardly needed to snorkel. We snorkelled anyway, around the reef and a ship wreck. Not many people here seem to know about the ship wreck. We only knew about it because Glenn knew where to find it. We were expecting a small ferry, but it was pretty big. We saw the name, which was something like "Nautica". The ship was on its side. I stuck mostly to the hull, which was sticking partially out of the water, because the water was quite deep and I found it a bit eerie. Looking over the side, we could see cabins and a tower with stairs. If it was better lit and I knew there wouldn't be any sharks (there always are on the movies around ship wrecks), it would have been interesting to dive under and explore.
It has been really hot here lately. There was no breeze or rain for about a week. Thankfully the breeze returned yesterday. I hope it sticks around. It is hard to cope in the heat with no breeze.
We have had a leaking water pump. Our only source of water to the house is from our rain water tanks. They kept emptying because of the leak. It was quite stressful. A few people had a go at fixing it without much luck. I had to pay $60 to 1 unsuccessful guy, that I'm hoping to get refunded. Our landlord managed to fix it. We are so glad because now we can stop having to turn the water on and off when when need it, and stop worrying that we will run out any minute. Thankfully we have been able to order water deliveries from the Public Utilities Board, but they take their time getting here and often need reminders. It also gets expensive. We take it for granted in Aus that there will be plenty of water in the tap when we turn it on. In a place like Kiribati where we constantly sweat, the thought of possibly not being able to have a shower is not pleasant.
I'm not sure if I have updated you all on my role change. A while back I moved from YCL (youth) and RAK (women) to the Donor Coordination Office, AKA Project Office, where I am a Project Assistant. That mostly involves me filling out funding applications in English for donors, but also involves a bit of email correspondence with donors, letter writing and organising of the office. The Manager of the Project Office has just left to go and work for the Red Cross. A few people have said that I am now Manager, and I’m not really sure if they’re joking. Let’s hope they are, because I’m not there full time and I don’t really know what I’m doing. Imatangs (foreigners) seem to be considered experts here. Some are, if they're here as consultants on big bucks, but us mere volunteers are often helping out in a field of work we're not experienced in. It is nice that people have confidence in my ability. I just hope they don't expect too much.

Watching the rugby at Ambo Lagoon Club
We have come to one of the most isolated countries on Earth and I still can't escape the footy. Rugby has been the focus of Pete’s spare time for the past month or so. Although we don’t have Sky TV to watch the World Cup, there are a few places that do. It has become pretty social gathering with other ex-pats, and locals who have acquired a taste for rugby through travel, at Ambo Lagoon Club with a projector and screen (white bed sheet) to watch the games. Last weekend was a bit of a downer losing to the Kiwis. The big game this weekend was the play off for 3rd and 4th place between the Aussies and Wales. There are quite a few Aussies here, and at least 2 rugby-crazy Welshman, 1 being our neighbour. Things could be awkward around our place next week.

Karaoke at Captains Bar after the rugby
I was supposed to be in Abemama for work this week to report back to donors on a couple of projects over there. However, after waiting about an hour by the road to be picked up on Wednesday, I called my work to see where the driver was, and I was told that the flight had been cancelled. It would have been nice to be told that before I packed, bought drinking water for 3 days and waited for so long in the heat. Since the cancellation on Friday, I have since found out that all of the inter-island flights were cancelled because there was a shortage of fuel in the country. A ship arrived yesterday, so flights are going again now. We have re-scheduled for next weekend. Hopefully that goes ahead.
We’re missing quite a few weddings and baby births back home, which is sad, but I guess that’s part of being away for a year. We can’t expect others’ lives to be on hold while we’re away. Sorry to those whose important events we are away for. Hopefully we can make it up to you when we get back by babysitting or sitting for hours looking through all of your wedding photos. That sounds sarcastic, but I really am keen to see them.
We are still enjoying our time here, but we're also starting to count down how long we have left. We've been here more than 7 months now, so only 4 and a bit months to go until we can eat lots of cheese, salad, chicken breast and steak again... oh, and see family and friends too of course :).


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