Saturday, 30 April 2011

Easter, ANZAC Day and Nicky's Birthday

*Cough cough...* Unfortunately we are both sick at the moment, sore throats and coughs. Nicky had it first, and Peter had it start a few days ago. Its strange to call it a “cold”, being in the tropics, but the symptoms appear to indicate that. This is the first real illness we’ve had since arriving other than a funny tummy. No Tolar’s Pharmacy down the road here, so we are rationing Cold + Flu tablets… which Peter only just found out we have!!!
We are also a little down as we have seen some examples of people rejected in the community and we’re not sure how to respond. Being a communal society here, most people are looked after by their extended family. However, there are some who would seem are rejected by their family for some reason and they live on the streets, generally have an alcohol addiction and ask for money- especially from imatangs (white people).
Since the last update, we have had the Easter long weekend and ANZAC Day.

Easter involved going to a church in Betio and seeing some cultural events including a choir competition (shown above), a guitar/ukulele competition (which had singing as well) and a dancing competition (also with singing). They love to sing. The 4 different villages/churches of Betio wore different coloured lava lavas (skirts/sarongs). We live in Takaronga- they were wearing purple. The ones with black lava lavas were from the theological college Nicky teaches at. They're not based in Betio, but were invited to participate. As guests, we had to get up to dance in front of everyone and say a speech at the end, which was quite daunting. *Cough cough*
We were also up and at the dawn service at the war memorial at 6am on Monday for ANZAC day followed by a gunfire breakfast at the Australian High Commissioners house. They had bacon, eggs, ANZAC biscuits, sausages (chicken we think), coffee and juice. It was great and plenty to go around!
An AYAD volunteer (similar program to the one Peter is here with), who was here for a year left on Thursday. Another two leave next week and a “newbie” has just arrived. By the time we go, most of the volunteers we have befriended will be gone and there will be a new lot. I guess that is one of the benefits of makings friends with the locals rather than just hanging around other volunteers.
We met a lady the other day who is here for 3 months from the UK. She is a psychiatrist here to train doctors and nurses in psychiatry- not sure how far she'll get in 3 months, but its a start. Apparently there are no psychiatrists in the country. The lack of understanding of mental health may have something to do with the homeless issues mentioned above.
It was Nicky’s birthday on Wednesday. We played soccer on the tennis court at the Australian High Commission as we do each Wednesday. Nicky had a quick swim and got out of the pool to find a cake with candles lit for her birthday. Everyone sang happy birthday and shared cake. It was a lovely surprise that Pete had organised. We went out for dinner afterwards to the hotel down the road with some friends. Her present was some frilly pillow cases with a floral design and the words 'Good night honey, see you in the morning'.
Until next time… ti a bo.
P.S. Please leave comments. We like to know people are reading this.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Update time

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

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Update from afar

I hope you like the enhancements to our blog. Now you can practice your I-Kiribati language skills with the translator on the right hand side. We’ve also changed the comments section so that you don’t need to be a blogger member to comment.

We went to Broken Bridge on North Tarawa last weekend with 9 imatung (Anglo) friends. We caught a funny little boat across the lagoon to get there. The boat had no seats, so we just found spots to sit, stand or lean for the 30 min trip. The alternative would be a long walk in the heat (because there are no cars that far up) carrying all our stuff, so I was more than happy with the boat option. The accommodation is a bit like a camp site. You take your own food to cook. You hire a cabin and little huts over or near the water to sleep in. It is one of the few safe places to swim as the water from the ocean flows into the lagoon at this location. We snorkelled and saw some pretty fish. We even found Nemo- and his twin. It was a great way to get to know our new friends.

This week I presented my first 2 lectures at the Theological College. I think they went OK. I’m not a fan of planning lessons, but I don’t mind delivering them. Last year there were 70 first year students, so I was relived to find out that I only have 46 students to lecture this year- much more manageable. It will take me a while to get to know people’s names because I struggle to pronounce them. One lady told me her real name that I couldn’t pronounce and then said I could call her Maggie- phew. That is the only name I remember so far.

I start at my other placement on Monday at Kiribati Protestant Church headquarters. I thought I would be working with women’s groups, but it turns out I will be working with youth. Both the youth and the staff there could do with some work on their computer skills, so that will be one area I’ll help with. I think a large part of my role will be helping to organise workshops for the youth.

Last night we had Pete’s work mate and his wife over for dinner. We had satay chicken drumsticks, fish, rice and veges. They had never had satay sauce before and really enjoyed it so they asked for the recipe. They have Chinese food here, but not Thai. They moved house today and said they hope to have us over next weekend for what we called their house warming party. I’m pretty sure the house won’t need warming, but it will be good to be invited to the house of a local to see how they live and what they feed us.

Pete is watching AFL as I write this in black and white on our neighbour’s buzzing TV. He is really happy that he gets to watch it at all.

Tomorrow morning we’re getting up for bacon and eggs and then church.