24.04.2012 - 08.05.2012 32 °C
Today marks two weeks since our arrival in Honiara. Who would have imagined that two weeks could be so traumatic? I've slept with the husband of one of my best friends, crawled in a panicked state through some tunnels in Sydney that I never knew existed yet all of a sudden am an expert in, my boyfriend was seen transporting barrels of formaldehyde (embalming agent) to a lake, we broke up after an unrelated incident in which he accused me of being unreasonably clingy, and then I went travelling in Europe where one of my fellow Solomon Island AYADs just happened to be staying at the same hostel and had some great travel tips.
Welcome to Lariam dreaming.
Malaria is a widespread problem in the Solomon Islands, particularly in rural areas. There are a number of preventative medications I was able to choose from. The most common choice is the widely used anti-biotic doxycyline which I had strong objections to taking, given that I'll be here for a year. The most affordable alternative is a once a week dose of Mefloquine, brand name Lariam. Vivid dreams and other psychological disturbances are common side-effects.
Meanwhile, my daytime (or awaketime) experience of the Solomon Islands has been much more positive. After paying the cringeworthy excess baggage fees, I alighted from the airconditioned plane with my 5am Canberra clothing layers on, greeted by the thick, sticky wall of hot humidity that is Honiara. We were also greeted by a jolly band of islander musicians who were rehearsing for the up and coming Pacific Arts Festival. With a nice big stamp on my passport giving me access until July, and a side-ways glance at my jar of Vegemite by the customs officer, I had officially made it into the country.
For our first few days in Honiara we were accommodated in a rest house with a view to die for. The beginning of our orientation included security briefings, familiarisation with the town (there are virtually no street names and no street lights at night), and meeting other in-country volunteers and expats. When we were taken to some houses that had rooms available for rent,
On Friday we departed by boat for Radifasu village on the island of Malaita. This was the first time that the village had accommodated a group of Araikwao (white people/ expats) and they were very welcoming and gracious. Our Pijin teacher Jono patiently guided us through hours upon hours of Pijin lessons, while the local ladies prepared us wonderful meals. In the afternoons we ventured to the river for suimsuim, accompanied by staka pikinini (lots of children). As we walk past them they are completely silent, then the second we are out of sight they errupt into fits of chatty giggling.
The final full day in the village incorporated a visit to the village school and clinic. Ben and Chris took over a classroom for some truly hilarious lessons on Australian animals (photos to come), and then in the late afternoon Callum became a Radifasu legend after a stellar round of sudden death soccer. Brendan and I practiced our Pijin with the spectating pikininis while they laughed relentlessly and practiced their English on us.
Since returning to Honiara last week we have moved into our cosy little apartment, attended our first Friday night drinks at IBS (Iron Bottom Sound), attempted a couple of runs, done some cooking, watched some Dexter and Game of Thrones, and I have started work.
In terms of expectations vs experience so far - I am looking forward to a great year in this diverse and interesting country. The people are truly kind and warm. I suppose I wasn't expecting to feel so white (though I admit that is quickly changing into a light brown), a white girl amongst a sea of delicious chocolate brown skin. I really didn't comprehend the notion that it would be this hot and humid every single day. It's like the one or two weekends every year that you get along the southeast coast of Australia when you don't want to move or leave the comfort of your airconditioning (except here you don't have the comfort of airconditioning).
Looking forward to all of you coming to visit for some snorkelling and trekking action!