Monday, 29 August 2011

Almost half way...

There is a new principal at KIT, where Pete works. He also has a new trainee and is pretty busy with starting and finishing different projects.
Nicky’s role at KPC has changed. She's no longer with YCL (youth centre) and RAK (women's centre). The Project Office caught on that there was an imatang (white person) about and decided they needed a native English speaker to write funding proposals in English to donors, so they snatched her up with a letter addressed to Mrs Nicole Peter (here the woman takes the first name of her husband as her surnam when married). The letter said she would be 'escorted' to her new office. It's funny how subtleties in English can make friendly directions to a new job sound as though she's in trouble.
A couple of weeks ago we went to a dinner at the Australian High Commission to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Australian Volunteers International (AVI) and 29 years in Kiribati. It is nice to be acknowledged as volunteers every now and then. They played the DVD we starred in that has been made on volunteers in Kiribati (we are yet to receive a copy, so don't bother asking for one). President of Kiribati Anote Tong was expected as a guest, and eventually turned up very late after being stuck at sea coming in by boat from another island. He sat a couple of rows in front of us and watched our DVD with everyone else. There was a 2nd screening especially for him- everyone else had already watched it before he turned up. Surprisingly he didn't ask us for autographs afterwards. He must have been too busy talking with AusAID and AVI staff to get to us. He did a great speech acknowledging the work volunteers do in Kiribati. It was a bit surreal sitting so close to a country's President and toasting moimotos (new coconuts) while wearing casual clothing and thongs (that's 'flip-flops' for non-Australian readers).

At the airport with Bruce.
No, Nicky isn't wearing maternity clothing- it is KPC clothing, popular in Kiribati.
Pete's dad Bruce came to visit us for a week, arriving from cooler Fiji in a jumper, shoes and socks. He came, he saw and he conquered Kiribati. He told everyone the same joke that at least now they will know where Pete got his good looks. And high 5'ed about a 1,000 locals to great applause. He certainly left a mark. It was great to have him here to see where we're living and working this year and to spend some quality time together. We like having visitors... 

At Teirio with friends
We took Bruce to Teirio (where we went with Nicky's parents) with some other ex pat friends for the weekend. NB: One of the only few photos of Pete's hair when dreaded... Discussed below. 
Bruce with his buia. These line the beach front at Teirio, so everyone gets a view and breeze.
Bruce seemed a bit put off at first by the out-door living accommodation in buias at Teirio, local-style sleeping quarters. He soon realised that they're great for air flow- very suitable for living in coastal Kiribati. We really enjoyed the snorkelling at Teirio and in the lagoon of Abaiang (the island Teirio is part of). This time a few of us went out further into the lagoon on a boat to snorkel. Someone asked if there would be sharks and we were a little concerned by the response- “No, there won’t be sharks, but there are often barracuda in this passage”. Nicky didn't previously know that barracuda (long fish with sharp teeth) are fairly viscious, and she kept referring to them as barramundi (much less scary). Thankfully, we didn't see any. However, we did see a few big sea turtles right underneath us- that was exciting! The boat engine konked out a few times on the way back to shore, which was a little worrying. The other boat of spear fishermen who were out there with us came to the rescue a few times thanks to some big waving hundreds of metres away. The boat ride home to Tarawa was a very bumpy ride- every bump jarred through our bodies to our heads. Nicky recommends some extra support up top for the ladies if heading out on a boat in the open sea.

Pheobe and Iota having a go and knotting Pete's hair into dreads
Pete got dread locks done by a hairdresser in Fiji, only to find a couple of weeks later than they didn't hold well. Nicky and some friends tried again, but again, they didn't hold. His curls are stubborn.

Peter has suddenly been getting into running. Every other day he runs to Marys Hotel and back, which is a few kms each way. We think 6-7km each run. The dreads fell out so he has massive afro that bounces as he jogs. Nicky has slacked off with her running, generally only going once a week. Her "running" involves running between some light posts and walking between others for a bit of a break. It is more of a social occasion than fitness.

The party girl, dressed in pink with about 20 hair clips
 We went on Saturday to what we call a "period party". In Aus, you would think we're referring to a party where people dress up in costumes from the 1800s. Here, we're referring to the celebration of a teenage girl's first menstruation. Mum and Dad, thank you for never throwing a party for me for this stage in life. I would have been humiliated. Here it is the norm, to celebrate entry into womanhood. The girl's proud mother is a colleage of Nicky's, so we were invited as friends and honorary imatangs. It was held at her house. It was our first time inside a Kiribati household. The guests were mostly family from the village. Due to difficulties getting a bus, and then having to get one going the wrong direction (adding 20 minutes to the trip), we were about an hour late to the party. All the guests were waiting for us. Oops. When we eventually got there, we were seated on a mat with the mother, as VIPs. There were some speeches, then lunch. After lunch, the little girl shown below came and did a couple of dances for us. The dancing was a combination of traditional Kiribati dancing and Beyone's hip thrusting. We werent' sure what to think of that, but she was certainly a good, confident dancer. 
One the performance was over, we were asked to get up for 3 dances. This is always the most awkward time of a party, with us doing a bop/twist sort of dance while the whole room watches us and our partners. You shouldn't look at your partner when you dance in Kiribati, or they'll think you're keen on them, so we looked around everywhere except for at our partner. After the dancing was over, the party was over, so we went home.
The period party entertainer

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Insert catchy title here

First of all to clear-up some business. The pig's name is Collingwood, we failed to mention our vote is worth 1,000. So we voted for Collingwood and it just came ahead in a close race... She is doing well, a lot more civilised than our neighbour's pig who makes loud grunt noises whenever they are cooking food. We haven't quite got Collingwood sitting and shaking hands before eating though. She really does have a personallity though and continues to want to tip the water bowl over, weird... We told her to do some excersise while we are out as she is putting on weight. She is getting hairier too and has stunning long eyelashes. Our landlady's family was feeding her while we were in Fiji and renovated the pigpen while we were away to try and keep dogs out.  However, our dog did get in and ate her food, but it is now difficult for us to get in because the edge is too high and the front has been attached properly.

Nicole's parents came to visit us for a week in late June. We took them to Teirio, a small islet off Abaiang, an outer island of Kiribati. It was beautiful. It is a 1.5hours motorboat ride away. Once there, it was a weekend of eating, swimming, snorkelling, reading, eating some more and snorkelling some more. The water was clear, the fish were pretty (as well as tasty) and the sunsets were amazing...

After their visit we flew to Fiji with them and spent 9 days there. We stayed in Denarau for 7 nights with Mum/Kaye, Dad/Adrian, Debbie, Tristan and Jasper. Then we headed to Suva for 1 night and then Nadi for 1 night on our way back through to Tarawa. It was great. It was nice to have a bit of luxury for a while. We enjoyed having nice food, shopping, drinkable water, warm showers and a pool. It was also wonderful to see family again. We both had a bit of post holiday blues after returning from Fiji. Still, we're glad to have returned to Kiribati, rather than Sydney where we hear it has been about 10 degrees. Now that we’re back into routine it’s as though we never left.

We returned to Kiribati during Independence Week, which is a week of public holidays. Plenty of competitions, we just saw boxing because we were lazing about at home except for the Friday night. In one fight between an imatung and a local Kiribati person, you could really see a contrast. The Kiribati person wasn't wearing any shoes compared to the imatung in full suit. Completely different to any competition in Australia as the audience was completely silent the whole time!

It has been raining a lot here lately. My (Nicky's)work transport involves sitting in the tray of a truck, so I have been getting pretty wet going to and from work. That's not an experience I can have legally in Aus. When it rains, it pours. Huge puddles form everywhere. I'm glad we live in a Western style house instead of the bwias (hut things with no walls) that locals sleep in, except the downside I'm sure our house is obviously hotter in comparison. They must get so wet on days like today.

Mum and Dad commented on our water situation while they were here. The water in our tank is not really drinkable, we have filled it with PUB (public utiliteis board) which is fresh water but gives funny tummy. We just use it for showers, washing etc. We get our drinking water by buying from shops or friends rainwater tanks and then boil it and put it in bottles. To do so, we rely on someone with a car to transport the big bottles there and back for us to collect the water. It is not an ideal situation, but it is reality. Apart from the fact that being sick isn't pleasant, the medical system here is pretty lacking. We were told there was only 1 doctor on duty in the hospital during Independence week, the busiest week of the year on Tarawa. I guess the doctors all want to take leave to be with their families, but it isn't great for the patients.

Nicky had an adventurous weekend in North Tarawa last weekend. On Saturday she walked with some friends from Buota, the beginning of South Tarawa (on the bend in the boomerang shaped atoll), to Aboukaro, which is 4-5 hours away. She stayed the night there in a basic council guest house and set out on Sunday on bikes (some motor and some not) to Naa, the furthest point on North Tarawa. It was about 2 hours each way. The chain snapped on one of the borrowed push bikes, so it was substituted with someone else's in a village along the way. Luckily people in North Tarawa tend to know eachother, so the lady we swapped with was going to arrange to return the bike once her husband had fixed the chain. What lovely people they are helping us strangers. Thankfully we caught a boat back to Buota, so we didn't need to walk all that way back again.

Pete has had the flu but finally turning the corner, he also has a toothache which has started today after some previous discomfort. Assume it is the temporary cap that was placed on the root canal. Fingers crossed it holds and he can wait until treatment in Sydney.