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!! :-)

Friday, September 5, 2014

2 weeks in Honiara

I can't believe how quickly two weeks have gone by! I'm enjoying my life in Honiara (the capital of the Solomon Islands) so far. I live with two of my colleagues (and the girlfriend of one of them, who I actually met working in Tacloban) and they are all excellent cooks - I have established myself as the household dish washer, so everybody wins (but mainly me, because I hate cooking but don't mind washing up).

We have a couple of dogs and three cats running around the compound we live in, and the cats are the most unusual felines I've ever met; they're all very beautiful, like March here, and incredibly docile - you can scoop any of them up and cradle them like a baby and they'll just lie back and purr.
There's also a brown one with really cool markings who tends to come running in to our place in the evening, plonk down on someone's lap and then after enjoying some cuddles, it then proceeds to bite gently and want to play. I've got to dig out a nifty little LED torch that has a laser pointer that I packed, as I think we can have a lot of fun with that!!

The weather is lovely, it's always warm and has only rained a couple of times since I've been here. There are a quite a few nice places to sit by the water and enjoy a Sol Brew, and with views like this, it's easy to not want to do anything else! That being said, I'm hoping a trip to the beach might be on the cards this weekend, as I'd love to get out and see a bit more of the place.
My work is off to an interesting start. I've been working with the protection team on conducting assessments of vulnerable families who missed out on government support after the floods in April. A couple of families we met were sharing a house and the access to it was crossing the river on a little floating raft. The float operator uses the rope to pull his passengers across, and charges 1 dollar (the currency here is the Solomon Islands dollar) which is about 15c Australian each way. 
One of the families had missed out on the second hand clothing the Red Cross had distributed soon after the floods. We got in touch with the Red Cross, and they prepared the bags, and we had the joyful job of delivering them. It's not often I get to directly be involved in such things, and it was really nice to know that we'd helped to make a difference for this particular family. I've also been designing a training course for community-based disaster preparedness and response which is really interesting and fun. And then there are any number of other bits and pieces that pop up during the day that need attention.

I've also been enjoying driving the big 4X4 utes we have, having not ever been allowed to drive on a deployment before. After spending a number of months cruising around quite low to the ground in my convertible at home, it's quite a change to be up so high. The traffic here isn't crazy like in other places, people tend to stick to their lanes, but there is a lot of traffic going through town. It's times like that where the little automatic Rav4 is preferable to drive than the manual. It's also very rare to go above 40km/hr. It's nice that it's the same side of the road as at home, it's just a matter of keeping an eye out for dogs who seem to think that the middle of the road is a good place to stop for a scratch.

I haven't been taking too many photos, but I will try to do better at that, and do better at posting them here!