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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Duck! Flying Fish

On Saturday, a 12 hour day trip is changed to Monday to wait for petrol.  Life at the Gizo office is a bit of a waiting game; there is a petrol shortage and boating schedules get changed quickly.

So, instead, Crissie and I do some work at the office and walk around Gizo.  Gizo is a great little town; sure there are heaps of piles of rubbish on the side of the road but everyone is friendly and I feel safe here.  Its hot and dusty and there are probably only four restaurants in the whole place.  My favorite is a place under a palm frond hut, I think its called Gina's but I can't recall.  Anyway, they have the best fish and chips I've ever tasted; the fish was caught in the morning.  Its a reef fish and is slightly sweet to taste.  We sit and munch on our food, waiting for the word on the boat schedule.  It doesn't come.

Instead, I book a massage at the Gizo Hotel.  The massage hut is right next to the pool and a wonderfully motherly looking woman named Anna gestures for me to come inside.  I mean its a real massage hut; the roof is made of palm fronds and two massage tables are set up inside.  

First off, modesty goes out the window with only a small towel covering me up.  There is no changing area but its okay, no guests walk by.  At first I get a bit stressed at the lack of security but then I relax.  The massage is wonderful, maybe the best I've ever had.  Anna combined a local technique with Swedish and Deep Tissue massage.  In the Solomons, there is a local technique which is indescribable but amazing. 

I leave, completely relaxed.  If you are reading this to get tips on what to do in this...totally worth the 80 solomon dollars! (about 12 dollars N.Z.)

On Sunday, we hop aboard ye olde speed boat for a day trip out to Kolomonbangara, the big, circular looking island.  The volcano hasn't erupted in 10,000 years but scientist still say it can go off at any time.  I really, really don't want to be around it on that day.

The island is lush; we attend a high school graduation and walk around the campus.  We go to the waters edge and Ben and I notice a sea turtle in the water.  I get excited and quietly move towards the turtle; I don't want to disturb it.  I get about five feet and I can't see the body, only the head occasionally bobbing up and down.  My heart beats faster; I love sea turtles.  

"It's a stick!" shouts Ben.

I turn bright red...there goes my ability to tell sea turtles from a stick. Wahoo!

We head over to Kennedy Island, the place where the U.S. former president swam for hours to get to after his boat was sunk by the Japenese.  The island is a typical picture of paradise; a grove of large coconut and palm trees a top of white sand beaches.  Coral reefs surround the island and I take a dip to play with the fishes.  

A long time ago, my brother and I did a seminar way back when I was in my early 20s.  It was sort of an empowerment/counseling seminar popular in the late 1990s, a lot of fuzzy, huggy stuff, which I am in favour of. Anyway, in the seminar, they asked to visualize where we would like to go to talk to God, where would be our sacred place.

I said that mine would be on an island, with no one around, a white sandy beach, a few palm trees and calm, clear waters surrounding the island.    

This is the place, back then, where I imagined where I could talk openly with God.  

I wonder what I would ask God now, after all these years?  Or would I punch God in the face for being such a bastard?  For breaking my heart and allowing me to question the very value of my existence? Or scream at God for all the unfairness I've witnessed? Or would I get down on my knees and honestly, deeply thank God for my life, my friends...all the love that I have experienced in my life?

I'm not sure; I might do all of those things. 

We leave the island and head over to Fat Boys, the local diving resort.  Its mostly Australians everywhere but there are a few European tourists.  By then, I'm lobsterfied; no matter how much sun block I put on, it never seems to work.

Ben joins me in the snorkeling.  Its Ben's first time snorkeling and he takes to it pretty well.  Ben is big on "friendly fish" and "communicating with fish", so he heads straight for all the reef fish. One particular fish is completely startled and just stares at him.  

"Me and the fish, we communicated!" He smiles when we hit the surface.

Later, as I suck down a SolBrew, we see the black tip of a shark fin swimming not 100 metres from where Ben and I snorkeled.

"Don't worry, its a friendly shark!" Ben says, laughing.  He swims off to go communicate with it.  Sigh...

Somehow, I don't really believe him.  But there is that feeling of sharks being friendly here.  Ben insists that sharks protect people in the water after a boating accident (he is on the marine rescue team here).  Still, I think if my boat was sunk, I wouldn't want to see any shark fins swimming towards me.

The day is perfect, warm, sunny...and I get back to the motel exhausted.  

The next day, we head off to Vella...we go around the whole island, hunting down our distribution team.  We spot two large pods of dolphins just off shore.  It takes about three hours skirting through reefs and dodging markers.  I can smell the local volcano, rather than see it.  Steam rises up from the island, encircling it with a menacing smog.  

The driver smiles.

"Croc area here...lots of crocs!"


The village we visit is clean, tidy and there are loads of little children running around, happy.  The project my host organisation started was very successful here and we are able to complete the work in about three hours.

By then the wind has whipped up and its about 35-40 knots.  The sea starts to churn and large swells come in as we hit the channels.  The speed boat, with two large engines at the back, slaps up and down along the waves.  Ben and another worker have to sit in front to stabilise the boat.  They let off squeals of delight as the boat goes up and down.  

Suddenly, a flying fish makes a suicide run in the air towards Ben...Ben, with the reflexes of a panther, screams like a girl, bats it away and it flys overboard, across my shoulder.  The moment of tension is broken, the whole crew doubles over with laughter, even the driver.  We laugh until we cried.

The rest of the trip is uneventful, except Ben eggs the driver on to go as fast as possible back to Gizo.  We whip our way around reefs and shoals quickly.

The trip ends with a quick visit through the crowded market at Gizo. Crissie and I make big plans to cook a feast only to find out at that the kitchen is now out for good.  We eat some biscuits and go to bed.

The next day we head off or at least try to head back to Honiara.  We head off to the airport island on the speed boat.  And wait. And wait.  For about two hours, which is nothing in Solomon Islands...we munch on fish and chips...probably the best fish and chips I have ever eaten.  The fish was caught in the morning, fresh tuna (or bonito as it is known here) and it is delicious.  

The plane, a small 15 seater, finally arrives and we head off into big storm clouds.  I love flying on the smaller plane; the small islands and atolls look amazing from the height.  

Honiara is stormy and wet when we arrive.  The next three days are a blur of meetings; there is an important three nation meeting for my organisation there.  We go out to Red Mansion, a place only about a five minute walk from where I live, for a Melanisian buffet and dancing.  The dancing is better than in Gizo; its essentially about twenty nice looking young men dancing around.

One man, sitting next to me, mentioned that he thinks this dance is more for women to enjoy than men.  Unless you are of a certain persuasion, he winks...

All and all a good week in I've been here a month.  I'm learning something new everyday; time is moving quickly.  Life is happy.

At our devotion today, a guy from India mentions that:
"We must get out of our comfort jones..." (he means zones; its an accent thing).

And he is right.  Its great to stay comfortable, to never change or be challenged.  To stay with people who believe as you do, and pat you on the back saying how awesome you are.  But here, I find myself every day being challenged, and faced with assaults on my belief systems.  Its wonderful and difficult and frustrating.  I'm growing and changing and moving on.  

After thinking about the island where I could talk to God, I think, if I was to see God, I would thank God for all God (notice my non gender specific use of God) has done for me.  I am grateful for my new life here. There are days when I miss people from Christchurch or miss my old life or relationships.  But I accept that things change and this is the new reality.  I'm wrong sometimes and here I'm finding out just how wrong about some things I am...its hard to know but also I'm learning about how to change myself too.    

I just have to watch out for flying fish.