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Monday, July 4, 2011

Magical Makira Part One: Shake your Kira Kira

After my adventures in the Weathercoast, I was keen for a couple of days in Honiara, enjoying my bed,  hot showers (well, mostly) and the wonders of electricity. 

My chickens, Henrietta and Priscilla, were nervous at first after their long and traumatic voyage.  At the bogan village, I thought I had lost one of the girls in a dog fight but she made it through just fine. 

I realized when I brought the chickens home that I know absolutely zero about raising chickens.  I vaguely remember something about needing a house, chicken wire and some sort of grit food.  No one told me that chickens can fly.  Over a fence.  Or two.  Or that they like to nest in papaya trees.  Or that when they are scared in the early morning from flying down off of said papaya tree that they make a huge racket. 

Every morning I go out and throw uncooked rice at them, like I am at a wedding.  Priscilla emerges quickly as the dominate one, pecking at Henrietta and stealing her food. 

Mackenzie helps me build a few laying boxes and we wait for several days to see what happens.  A week goes by.  Then one day Mackenzie brings me a small, white creamy egg.  Priscilla has finally come through.  I think there is nothing more thrilling than going into a laying box and seeing a perfectly shaped egg, just sitting there in the straw.  Or maybe I’ve become a boring person…

The week that I am back is really about recovering from my gauntlet of traveling through the Solomons.  Visiting three provinces in four weeks is pretty exhausting.  I simply come home and look for a place of peace and quiet to recover.  Of course there is the usual drama that comes from living in Casa Turchese but it all feels slightly removed from me now.  Spending hours on end in a banana boat has a wonderfully numbing effect and I seem to care less and less about the small things in life and more about the bigger questions.
Like why Henrietta is laying any eggs.

By the time two weeks are up, I feel pretty much rested and ready for the next adventure: Makira.
Okay, I’m going to be honest for a second.  I love Makira.  I puffy heart love Makira province.  I can’t help it.  Sure, it’s not as beautiful as Western Province or as majestic as Guadalcanal but its got something.  It’s got charisma. 

Makira has always played up to its friendly image.  That and the fact that they have more than 100 species of bananas.  Maybe 150 species.  Whatever, thats Makira’s claim to fame.  And Wogasia, of course.
Now, when I went to Wogasia, I was adopted into one of the main two tribes in Makira.  Now this gives me some amount of credibility throughout the province.  That and I can say hello and goodnight in their main language.  

Oh and Makira is pretty much the centre for earthquakes in the Sollies.  Good times!

I fly out of Honiara on Saturday, alone without a companion for the first time.  Obviously I’m nervous but my pidgeon tutor has finally said that I no longer need lessons; am officially fluent in pidgeon.  Setwan!
Like all airstrips, the Kira Kira airport is set just above the water so you don’t really know whether you are actually landing on land or in the sea.  It always make for a slightly tense moment, that and seeing that both tires on the plane are flat. As usual.

We land and chase off some big pigs off the runway.  I walk through the grassy airstrip to meet my team.  Jospehine, a good friend of mine, is there to greet me and ensure I settle in.  Josphine is the kind of woman that you love on sight; she is warm and kind and loves a good laugh.  When I ask her what I should bring from Honiara to give for her she has one simple request: bread.  There is no bread in Kira Kira.  I am humbled by this request; typically I ask for a bottle of my favorite Nando’s Peri Peri sauce or a single malt whiskey from Islay.   

I hand over the bread to Josephine, which she accepts with so much gratitude that I get embarrassed. 
I get a ride to Freshwind, the local guesthouse.  The Freshwind is a wonderful place to stay and definitely not your typical guesthouse.  It’s more like a backpackers, with individual rooms.  There is a clean shower with hot water and a working toilet.  Choice, bro!

The lounge room is clean, tidy and there is Sky TV.  The local RAMSI guys stay there and keep me company while I eat dinner.  The local matron cooks us a beautiful tuna steak with fresh veggies and rice.  Fab!
I go to bed early because I have an early boat ride in the morning.  I wake up at three a.m., as has become a habit of mine, on and off, during the last two years or so.  I watch some junk television and then manage to go to sleep again. 

I wake up to a beautiful morning in Kira Kira and I get a quick tour of the town, which has one main road that appears to snake throughout the small township.   The roads are typically bumpy, made out of dirt or old coral and varies in size.  There are a variety of permanent houses and leaf huts.  There is a small hospital with no doctor.  The provincial offices are small.  But Kira Kira has a lovely feel to it, relaxed and friendly.  Sure there are a few drunks but none of the crazies that roamed Lata or Honiara.  There are no bars and no restaurants but a few shack stores and some kai (food) bars are there.
It would be the last beautiful morning I would get. We take the truck down to the dock where our boat is waiting for us.  We opt for a different, larger boat than a banana boat.  It’s longer and larger than your typical banana boat.  There is no small cabin for luggage and no seats.  The boat is shaped like a ski and with it’s two engines, this baby is a lot faster than your typical banana boat.
I climb in and sit on a hard round pad with a big hole in the middle.  I’m told that it should take four hours to get to our destination.  Never believe a Solomon Islander when it comes to time frames and boats. 

As we make our way out to the other side of the island, it begins to rain hard, thick drops.  I put the rain jacket on over my life vest and listen to my music.  Makira, even in bad weather, is a stunning island, with large lush trees and ragged coastlines. 

After about three hours, we stop into some mangroves for a rest and a bathroom break.  The rain has gone and is replaced with a glaring, hot sun.  We decide to take a little detour over to Santa Catalina island, the place I went to for Wogasia.

The channel between mainland Makira and Santa Catalina is intimidating.  Large swells slow our progess to the island.  I’m happy to see the sunny little island that I called home during the Wogasia festival. 
When we stop there, I meet with another fellow attendee who stayed on to do some work with the festival for next year.  There, I also meet a French anthropologist who is possibly the most glamorous field worker I have seen.  She feeds us some lentil salad (LENTIL SALAD?? Where the frack did she get that?) and chats away with me in French. 

I think I didn’t fully appreciate what Wogasia actually was and how important culturally it is in the Solomon Islands.  It’s the only festival where spears are still involved or allowed but it’s more than just the spears.  It is the whole kastom festival that is so meaningful.  I invite the French anthropologist to dinner at my place to give a full accounting of it (she did her thesis on Wogasia) and will relay back to you, my faithful readers, what I can.

We leave Santa Catalina despite me wanting to stay and talk to my parents.  I am told we have another two or three hours to go.  So I hop into the boat and shortly I fall asleep with the large waves gently rocking me to sleep, hoping to get to our destination soon.