Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Santo - Day 35

Had a day to myself in Santo - used to house upto 70,000 US soldiers in the war. Now houses less than 10,000 locals. So it is a bit of a ghost town. Really chilled out place.
So all i did was chill out. There isn't many things to take photos of when you're alone. I could have gone for architecture or pictures of strangers, but i just decided not to really.

A nice little spot, with some Tourists.

A Sudden Monsoon.

Who remembers climbing on all of this stuff, playing? I do. It's decayed a bit in the last year though. Nostalgic...

This was just a photo of my milkshake, but i happened to catch an out-of-focus man seemingly dressed as Steve Irwin. Expats ay...

View from the Hotel entrance

A word on the next 3 weeks


So four weeks later, I’m back in the same dingy internet CafĂ©. I had quite an experience. Incredibly different from the last experience I had here. Last time I had no idea what I was heading toward when I went to Pentecost, so when I got there, I just had to deal with it, the good and the bad. The good wasn’t dealt with though, that was embraced wholeheartedly, because the bad on Pentecost is truly bad.
When I left the first time, this time last year, and ever since, I’ve been looking back with rose tinted glasses – only remembering the good. The incredible happiness and good nature of the people being the main thing. Upon my return this year, I already knew most of what I needed to know about Pentecost, so when I got there, there wasn’t a massive period of adjustment; getting used to the food, getting to meet and know people, learning the language. Instead, I got there and everything was instantly familiar. Too familiar in fact. Everything was exactly and completely as it were a year ago. Every rock, every house, everything. Even the children hadn’t grown (bar the newborns), and that isn’t an exaduration.

So with such familiar surroundings, my local knowledge – of the food, the language, the harsh environment, the weather, came flooding back. And like returning to any place, while absolutely noone and nothing had changed here, I myself had had a year full of incredible and varied experiences – something we take for granted in London, and so with fresh eyes I could view everything. And I had a moment of realisation. Everything that I couldn’t see last year, because I was there, because I was in it, baptised by fire, was as clear as day. I’d been dreaming about this place, thinking about my friends and family here, worrying about them all year, and in that moment I realised that I hadn’t needed to. This is an Island that time forgot. As my Pena Godwin, who himself lives on Pentecost calls it – The last place on earth. Nothing changes here. I’d done so much in the last year, whereas here, my Mua, my Tata, my siblings, nieces and nephews and everyone else, day in, day out, had been in the same kitchen, eating the same taro. And that’s what they’ll do. Whether I come back in one year, five years or twenty, that’s what they’ll always be doing. So I needn’t ever worry.
And so with this moment of realisation, came another realisation – I only needed that single moment to put my mind at ease. Not six weeks. But I don’t take myself as a quitter, so six weeks it was going to have to be.
The next realisation was more of a rememberance. Of the tough reality of living in North Pentecost. The difficulty the Ni-vans here overcome every day to simply survive is astonishing. We’ve all heard the walking for miles and hours for water shpeel. But not many people have heard the walking miles and hours for food one. Water isn’t much of an issue here, but food is. Especially for my family. They used to be rich, but due to a series of really unfortunate events, they are very seriously poor now. They can afford to eat a single chicken about once every six weeks. Otherwise, for breakfast, lunch and dinner they eat taro.

Taro. It’s a root vegetable. Grey in colour, large. Utterly tasteless. With a wood fire, the only way to cook it is boiling or baking. Either way it has the consistency of a Jacket Potato that wasn’t cooked properly. So that’s what my family do. They’ll walk up a massively steep incline, through the muddy, dank Bush early in the morning. 2 hours later they’ll reach the garden. They’ll weed the mile-a-minute vines, dig up some taro, and return. Taro is seriously heavy. I myself can hold 8, but can’t actually walk with 8 over my shoulder. Men, women and kids here carry upwards of 15 at a time, and then slog back down the mountain, rain or shine, and eat it.

And so I realised that the mundanity and difficulty of such a life is exactly why they are incredibly happy and good natured – they need to be. Last year, I came here for a new experence, and when I was here, I had a tough time coping with the place. The people are what saved me. The people are why I came back this year. I didn’t return as a volunteer. I came back completely on my own, to spend time with them, like I’d promised I would the year before.