Tuesday, November 25, 2014

To do - get back to real humanitarian work.

I'm used to having to do lists that take up an entire page (if not more) of my notebook. The type of to do list that gets carried across over a number of days because there's so much to do and not enough time. I'm not having that problem at the moment, and it's something I've been struggling with.

I've been doing a lot of work on the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) program, which means exactly what it says - helping communities understand the risks they face from hazards, and devising ways that they can minimise (reduce) those risks. It's not an area I've worked on before, so it has been interesting to learn about Participatory Capacity and Vulnerability Analysis (a fancy title for what I just mentioned above) and the other different tools that can be used to help communities figure out hazards and risks.

I planned a national forum for agencies working in DRR, Climate Change Adaptation, and Environmental Management which was held a couple of weeks ago. It was an interesting exercise to have so many people together to discuss the common problems faced, and the biggest issue was a lack of coordination between these different actors, along with a lack of government resources (financial and human). There are many challenges in the Solomon Islands, but we came away from the forum with a set of guiding principles, a list of points on the way we should all implement our programs, and a working group established to try to improve coordination. So that was a bit of success.

I only have a few weeks left here. I'll miss the team we have, but I'm really looking forward to getting back into the type of humanitarian work I'm used to - where crossing out tasks on those endless to do lists can take a while, but is so, so satisfying. I'm sure in my next job, when I'm working ridiculously long hours and am stressed and tired, that I'll look back on this time and wonder why I ever complained, but that's future Carly's problem.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Happy birthday Mum!!

It's my dear Mum's birthday today...happy birthday Mum!!! I hope there's some tiramisu involved! xoxo

Monday, November 3, 2014

A week in Vanuatu

With all the travelling I've done, I hadn't been to any Pacific islands before I came to the Solomon Islands. So when I had a week's leave to plan, I decided to double that number and head over to Vanuatu, and boy am I glad I did!!
I spent a week lazing around Port Vila, the capital city. It's not a large city, but definitely busier than Honiara, with a far greater tourist infrastructure (like the mother's market by the water), and a hell of a lot cleaner! It was also a few degrees cooler than Honiara which was a welcome change.

I was mostly lazy and lounged around reading and enjoying the view, but on two days I ventured out to Tranquility Dive, to do four incredible dives. This scuba business is certainly addictive. It's a stunning location on Moso Island, and the staff (and dogs) were all really friendly and professional. The BBQ lunch was also fab. I highly recommend it if you're into diving.
I saw thousands of very pretty fish (including some very large groupers, puffer fish, porcupine fish, parrotfish, sweetlips, some big lion fish, and a titan triggerfish - I didn't know at the time how aggressive they can be, so I was glad he kept to himself!!), three hawksbill turtles, some ginormous spiky sea cucumbers, and some teeny tiny translucent shrimp. I think I also discovered a new fish, because I've looked at every single fish in the South Pacific and I can't find anything that remotely resembles it at all. There is a slight problem that I don't really remember what it looks like - other than it had a white head and red dorsal fins, but that's a minor technicality!! 
I now need to invest in an underwater camera so I can show everyone I know who doesn't dive (which is basically everyone I know) how incredible it is. The colour of the water was so beautiful - no camera trickery or filters!
But even if you don't dive, there's so much beauty on the surface - I also sat on this swing for a while and had not a care in the world.

I really didn't see much of Vanuatu, but would still recommend it if you're interested in lovely blue water, really friendly people, and the local beer Tusker isn't bad either!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Bits and pieces

Life has been plodding along of late, with exciting things scattered here and there. One such exciting thing was the piglet distribution I tagged along to. Piglets!!!! I got to carry the little ginger piglet from his pen to the truck. I'd googled the correct way to hold a pig ahead of time (always be prepared) so I think that helped me and "Weasley" to bond....well, he didn't wriggle or squeal too much. 
There were 27 little piggies to distribute, which involved stops at two farms (though the second was more like a stinking rubbish dump than a farm), a stop to pick up the 40kg bags of feed, and then wading across the river, which was about knee height to the village. At this point I had to decline carrying Weasley across, as I was actually there to film the process, and I was a bit concerned that we'd both end up in the water!
 But all the piggies made it across, and the families were very happy to receive them. The piglets cost SBD600 (AUD 93), and the families had each had to contribute SBD100 (AUD 15). After feeding them up for about a year, they should make about 2,000 (AUD 315), so that's a pretty great return.
 In other news, the cats may have become slightly traumatized by the laser pointer. Sometimes Brichant just stares at the wall, waiting for the evil red dot to appear....still fun though!
 We went diving on the weekend, and were almost at our destination when the tyre blew.
Thankfully it happened just in front of some houses, and there were lots of very helpful men around, one of whom is the nephew of one of our colleagues. A happy coincidence.
So while S and the men took care of the car, I wandered over to this canoe that was in the process of being carved. It's so impressive that such a thing can be made from a single tree trunk, and I was told that this had only taken a day so far to do. Very, very cool.

J and I moved into a new house over the past few days - we've got a lot more space, and a lovely view of the sea. I'll post some pics soon.

Reggae rocks

Reggae is absolutely huge in the Solomon Islands. The three radio stations we get in the truck are constantly playing reggae (with the exception of the awesome oldies hour at 6pm), and after a few weeks I've started to distinguish the most popular tunes.

Right now, the most famous reggae act in town is a Jamaican guy called Conkarah. Honiara was the last stop on his world tour last week, so Jess and I headed down to Cowboy's Bar & Grill to check him out. There were a number of local support acts who were pretty good, like 56 Hop Rod.

 But most of the acts seemed to play very slow songs that didn't encourage dancing. But when Conkarah hit the stage, it was a strong start with this song
 I think I actually enjoyed this one the most
It was a crowded, sweaty dancefloor, but so, so much fun (I got my 10,000 steps for the day in just over an hour!)
Conkarah was a great performer, he really seemed to be making eye contact with the crowd (even though I'm sure he probably couldn't see a thing), and he tried out some pijin which went down a treat. He saved his most popular song for last, and after playing about 30 seconds, stopped the band and restarted, changing the words from "Island Girl" to "Solomon Girl"...needless to say, the crowd went wild. :-)

There were the obligatory covers of Bob Marley, including my favourite "No Money, No WASH" (I mean, "No Woman, No Cry") which were really popular with the crowd. If you like reggae, check out Conkarah!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scuba fun

My housemate J is a scuba instructor and takes various friends diving every weekend. She had offered to take me out for a test dive to see whether I liked it, and last weekend I was able to take her up on it. We drove for about an hour to Visale, which is a beautiful spot, and J proceeded to give me and a visiting colleague a briefing on how the equipment worked and what to do (and not do).
We then did some practice drills in the shallow water, which included inflating and deflating the buoyancy vest, dropping the regulator, finding it, clearing it and putting it back in and also how to clear the mask if water got inside (I would never have thought it possible to do underwater!). That's me on the left, notice how clear the water is!

And then it was time to dive! We didn't have to swim out too far to get to the reef, and there were loads of little fish swimming around. J had forgotten to mention that the mask magnifies everything, so I was blown away at the size of a sea cucumber - it looked like something out of Starship Troopers! But even after finding out that things appear bigger and closer, I still think it was a ridiculously large sea critter. We spent about 20 minutes underwater, and went down about six metres. I really enjoyed the experience and am going to do the Open Water certification while I'm here.
I spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in the little shelter that had been constructed (yea for shade) and enjoying the view. The sunset was particularly spectacular!
Happy days!!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Brichant and the beach

This is Brichant (though don't quote me on the spelling). His name means something in Romani that I can't remember, but he's the kitty that spends the most time in our house. Yesterday, he was trying to catch a fly that was buzzing around the louvers. 
After that exhaustion, he decided it was time for a nap, and that he should take up as much room as possible on the couch!
 He has a very cute spotty belly, which sometimes he'll allow you to pat.
I introduced him to the laser pointer this morning, I think we're going to have a lot of fun with that!!

Yesterday afternoon we went to the beach. It was my first time out of Honiara and the scenery is just so beautiful. I had to take off my sunglasses to check that the coloured lenses weren't making it more vivid and vibrant than the reality...it was actually a better view without the sunnies!
 There's a shipwreck just off the shore, which you can snorkle around. I'll definitely go back another time to do that. It was a bit windy yesterday so the waves were a bit too big for snorkelling, but I think it's really cool that you can swim around and not have to scuba dive to see the wreckage (though I think I am going to learn how to dive!),.
The water was warm, there was a lot of shade...if the beach was made of sand instead of pebbles it would be basically be heaven!! :-)