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Thursday, February 2, 2012

The End.

Dedicated to the best woman I know, my counterpart: Christina Kwan Muge. I know your place in heaven is assured, Tina, if just for putting up with me for a year. Lukim ui, sista blo mei.
After 118 blog entries, more than 12,000 unique visitors, and many adventures, I am officially retiring this blog.

Actually this last blog has been written and deleted (on accident, after too much coffee and not enough sleep) a couple of times now.  Damn my quick mouse finger!

I wanted to write more (I could write a book with the amount of half written and edited blogs never published) but in the end, coming back has taken out some of my inspiration. The memories of the Solomons are starting to take on a dream like quality and I can't write about the place the same way right now.

I just realised that I'll have been back in N.Z. for about two and half months tomorrow from the SolomonIslands. In that time, I've gotten a new house (I'm moving again this weekend...probably  not the best idea considering its the Seven's weekend, but whatever, I can't wait!!!), a new job and a new iphone (ha!). No, really, its been a full on two months since my return from the friendly isles, no doubt.

The mighty Temotu volcano
I have to admit, I was struggling a bit to find my footing emotionally. It seemed like all these things had to be done right away and I just got into response mode, moving from one task to the next without really enjoying or understanding it. Now, don't get me wrong, I loves me some emergency response or else I wouldn't do what I do. But I became so tired it started to wear on me physically and nana naps after work became a regular routine, as did sitting in my pink fluffy bath robe after work, starring at the television screen and wondering how my life had gotten...normal.

See, here is the seductive and dangerous truth about living in the Solomons: its epic. Every day seemed tinged with a slight excitement, the not knowing how your day was going to go. Every day I saw something that made me laugh, made me want to cry and absolutely spell bound me. I know, I'm waxing lyrical but I think I fell in love with the Solomons.

Coming back is a akin to a piece of space junk entering earth's atmosphere; you feel the immediate slow down but you moved at such a different speed than everyone else (usually slower), that its a struggle to get back up to speed.

There is some stuff I have to own up to right now. Honestly, looking back at myself with a critical eye, I went to the Solomons for purely selfish reasons. I mean don't get me wrong, I want to save the world like every beauty queen drop out. But I guess I'm too old to know that I'm going to change things much. I set out on an adventure by myself and see what I was made of. In retrospect, I probably should have done this when I was much younger.

Who wouldn't want to live here for a year?
 To be honest, I'm not sure how much "good" I did. I think I got much more out of the experience than I gave. To my friends who have left the Sollies and those who remain, thank you. To those at home who kept the home fires burning for me, thank you. To those in Christchurch who welcomed me back from my journey with open arms and listened to my weird stories, thank you. To my family who patiently waited for the weekly or monthly scratchy Skype chat, only to be disappointed by power outages and bad connections. Thanks Mom and Dad.

Diving became a passion, an obsession, if you will, over the course of my time in the Sollies.  It provided me with an almost mediative experience and I am forever grateful to my dive instructors for teaching me how to dive.  Scuba diving is awesome, I suggest you try it (still haven't done it yet in N.Z...too afraid of the cold water!!!)

A final thank you to YOU, my readers! This blog started off a connection of people and activities that surprised me. Thanks for your support, questions and critiques of the blog. With your assistance, you made the blog worth writing...

A lot of people ask me if I would go back to the Solomons. I would. I don't know if I'd go on holiday, despite it being a fantastic holiday spot, I just have too many other places to go! But some places keep coming back in my life, like Christchurch, where my work is almost centered around now and will be for some time. Some places I'm done with and others, again like CHCH, still aren't done with me. I don't know why or how it works but it just does. I feel like I did what I set out to do in the Solomons and there is no unfinished business left there. However, make no mistake, if you were to ask me if I would do it again or if YOU should go, I would say yes. It was a hell of a ride and one well worth taking...

I realise that you are probably wondering where all the in depth commentary is about the Solomons. I know, I know, I never spoke much about the politics, the social dynamics, and you know, the things that really pissed me off and would have made me sound smart to bring up. Sadly I'm never going to get to that part. Why? Because this blog was always intended to be a light hearted travel log about my time in a special place. I stayed away from the political stuff because, honestly, its freakin complicated and deserves much more space than this blog could give.

I'm thinking "I get to keep this? AWESOME."

Suffice it to say, that yes, there are significant social and political problems in the Solomons. No, I'm not even going to try to solve them or puzzle them through here. I'm sorry if you expected more from this blog.

If you want to donate money or help in the Solomons, I would say that World Vision, VSA (New Zealand), Oxfam, Save the Children, the Solomons Islands Red Cross, and ADRA are all worthy charities to donate money to. I know people personally in all of those organisations and they are all great people who work with Solomon Islanders and locally run NGOs to help effect positive change in the Solomon Islands.

Beware the children with spears.
Send money, not goods as its better to always buy local. (Solomon Island friends: if I forgot your organisation, just flick me an email and tell me about it).

What does the Solomon Islands need most? People to care about the country, its people and its future. Solomon Islands is a isolated state, with 992 islands and 600,000 people. And while RAMSI is there, people forget it even exists. The Solomon Islands need tourists to bring in dollars (best diving in the world! Seriously.). The tourism industry is small and local, so be prepared to rough it. But its also very fun.

In some ways, I feel like the Solomons deserves better writers and bloggers than myself. I like a good story but I know I'm not the best writer in the world.  And because I felt compelled to stay away from the political or cultural stuff, I always felt that this blog was without teeth.  Solomon Islands is by no means an Melanisian Disneyland. Its filled with a bucket load of social and political problems.  And I just really wanted to keep this blog light because I don't want to scare the crap out of people. So if you are good writer, come and write the stories of the Solomons.  Its epic.

The ladies of the Solomons know how to dance!

Solomon Islands also need people to advocate for equal rights of their women. I will say one serious thing in this blog: the abuse and disempowerment of the women of the Solomons must stop for that country to go forward. The Solomon Island women I met are amazing and the fact that there is not even one woman in parliament shows just how difficult it is for women there. If you do donate to a charity, make sure its one that has a gender program element to it because honestly, the women in the Solomons deserve better.

Anyway, back to the less serious stuff. Now back in N.Z., letters come not by boat or from a distant province but by regular delievery on a daily basis. The days seem to spin faster and faster together. There seems to be a lack of space to sit and think and look out at that endless blue ocean. My daily morning yoga and espresso (thanks Tessa/Alle) sessions have lagged. I don't walk to work, even though I can and should. I found it too lonely, no one walks to work in my neighbourhood.

My clients, the best clients in the world.
I guess its a bit of a let down coming back but I'm finding my footing again, after a bit of stumbling around. My friend coined the term "mind lag" and that is exactly how it felt. It felt like my brain refused to process all the stuff that was floating around from being in the Solomons.

Could there be a more beautiful face?
So I went and took a good break over Christmas. My twin, Suzy, and the lovely Helen and myself packed up my faux Jeepie and took to the North. It was a great wee road trip and as I saw the snow kissed volcanoes in the centre of the North Island, the fog began to clear. Alice (I'm tired of using fake names), took me and another Sarah out to a tiny island in the Bay of Islands. We kayaked out there, the three of us chicks, out for an adventure. We camped and stayed on the island for a couple of days and it was pure magic.

Kiri, my tough talking heart of gold friend looked after me in Auckland with great meals, lots of laughter and more than a little patience. The final part of the journey was the long nine hour drive from Auckland to Wellington which I did in a day by myself. Now, when I started this time in the Sollies, I would have been anxious to drive nine hours alone. But, with the help of Jane Eyre audio book on my new trusty pink I-Phone, I was away...on my own. It felt great.

So that is me...driving away towards the sunset, with Jeepie and an I-Phone, with my fond memories and love of the Solomons. I guess there isn't one thing I could say that could ever communicate how I feel about the just was what it was. I don't think I miss it; it was there and I did it for the time I had to do it for.
My bird friend whispering sweet
nothings in my ear

I don't know for certain (does anyone?) what's next in my life but I do know that while it won't be as weird and wonderful as the Solomons, I'm sure I'm not done adventuring by a long shot. I do know that prior to going to the Sollies, I had this internal pull to do something like going to the Solomons. It used to drive me crazy because I felt this restlessness. That pull is gone now. I don't feel the need to do the extreme adventure anymore; my new adventures feel closer to New Zealand for now. But who knows? Could be room for a blog called wedges in Waikiki or mules in Morocco yet...

Honestly, I feel like for me, this new adventure is about settling down, putting down roots and starting something completely different. Since I've been back, I've been exploring internally my own stuff from a spiritual perspective.  In some ways, this journey is a lot more adventureous than the Sollies and I feel somewhat like a personal archelogist, digging in the dirt to figure out things about myself and my life.  Its a scary process at times.

The story of this blog is simply this: go for the adventure. Don't be afraid, it will be okay, because life wasn't meant to be lived from a couch or behind a computer screen. Believe me, playing it safe didn't get me anywhere. Take the leap. Learn the lessons, keep the love and leave the rest.
Now, step away from the computer screen...
Go out and have yourself an adventure!

Love (lukim ui, oleketa and wantok blo mei Makira!!!)

P.S. The Stilettos Collection grows with three new pairs of stilettos....long live high heels!!! Seriously you didn't think I'd wear jandels/flip flops/thongs forever, did you???