Another delayed blog post but the past two weeks has been a whirl of social activity (and recovery), not to mention work!
It’s been three months and I feel I should have more to show for it. In my defence, the pace of life in many aspects is karaurau (slow) and relaxed – work included.
I guess I have made up for it in personal development, including one quite significant achievement which I’ll detail later 🚴🏼♂️
Guest turns host – family visit to Tarawa
Happy family snap on the way to Tabon te Keekee
When I sprung the news on my family that I planned to spend a year in Kiribati, I had a range of reactions from surprise to shock and scepticism. Yet when I told one of my two older sisters who now lives in the United States with her wife (my sister-in-law), she immediately seized the chance to arrange a visit to the Pacific, including some time in Tarawa. No amount of warning and expectation management could dissuade them from visiting, but in the end I was glad they did.
While Kiribati does not come to the top of list when one thinks of Pacific paradise, my sister and sister in law’s short stay gave all of us a lovely opportunity to see the best of South Tarawa.
At the Cultural Museum’s Maneaba
Inside the World Mosquito Program’s Kiribati lab at Tungaru Central Hospital. The World Mosquito Program is releasing mosquitos with dengue fever antibodies that aims to breed out dengue carriers.
Lovely fish lunch at Tabon te keekee
Dramatic late afternoon vistas from Dreamers Guest House in Ambo with an approaching storm
Stormy sunset sundowner off Parliament Bar at Ambo
Another postcard worthy sunset from Koakoa’s Corner in Antebuka
I also had the opportunity to show my sister and sister in law where I lived and worked.
World War Two relics from the Battle of Tarawa in Betio
Posing at work
They both found their short trip eye opening and valued the opportunity to see somewhere they otherwise would not have been.
Swimming at Broken Bridge in North Tarawa
The weekend after my sister and sister in law left, my flatmate and I went up to North Tarawa for a swim at Broken Bridge off Nabeina. This meant a 11km round trip walk from Abatao (where Tabon te keekee is located) through two channels at lowish tide to cross Tabeiteua before reaching Broken Bridge. The water there was deep enough to swim even at low tide.
Broken Bridge between Tabeiteua and Nabeina in North Tarawa
An office mini-refit
On the work front things are slowly and surely progressing. I’m working with the council to conduct consultations on their strategic plan, and I am developing guidelines and workshops on how to enforce their current bylaws.
Meanwhile, my office has had a mini-refit in the three months I’ve been here, including a welcome addition that smacks of #imitangprivilege 🌬❄️ 😅
My work room: before and after
A week of social activities – rinse and repeat
While I can appear to be engaged and outgoing, I am at heart an introvert who needs down time to recharge. This assignment also provides yet another personal development opportunity to be more sociable and be more extroverted, taking people and activities as they come. Luckily the people I meet are on the whole very open minded and easy going, so it makes meeting lots of people much easier.
Mondays: Hashing around Betio and Bonriki
After a relatively relaxing stroll for the first hash at Betio, my flatmate and I were keen to try out the next Hash House Harriers event at Betio. But it turns out the relatively mellow vibe of that hash was an exception as the keen-bean coordinators had since come back from abroad. With their return, the hashes took a more ‘cultish’ turn.
The next hash was scheduled for the Monday after my sister and sister-in-law left Kiribati and as it turned out would be held in Betio. As my flatmate and I live in Betio, one of the coordinators was keen to involve us by becoming hash ‘hares’ whose task was to set the trail for the hash. My flatmate and I thought this would be easy enough and we sketched out a trail on our smartphone map app.
The trail we set going up and back from the wharf and past Red Beach – manageable at 5.2 km
Not so easy was marking the entire trail before the actual hash with one of the keen bean coordinators, something my flatmate was smart enough to sit out. This mean walking/jogging the whole route and chalking the sidewalks with arrows and circles.
That aside, the Betio hash drew a good turnout. Most hashers do not live in Betio so they appreciated the opportunity to see parts of Betio they won’t normally frequent (most non-Betio residents come for the shopping). In fact, the runners got to see a lot more as the coordinator that marked the trail took the runners on a long cut.
I also ended up jogging most of the trail and surprised myself in doing so. Of course, I went on the original trail so it was not so arduous (albeit very sweaty).
The coordinators seemed keen to have my flatmate and I continue hashing so after just two hashes (instead of five), we both got our hash nicknames. Frankly I could have come up with a better one for myself (something to do with sweating buckets or my Cheshire Cat grin), but my flatmate’s one actually work literally and assignment-wise. I won’t give it away here but near below…
My flatmate and I also took advantage of the public holiday on the following Monday to jog the hash around the airport at the other (far eastern) end of South Tarawa in Bonriki/Temaiku. Normally attending a hash this end would be very tricky straight after work, so I was glad to actually see more of Bonriki/Temaiku. I was particularly chuffed to attend the hash as an aviation geek, even if it was a slog of a jog at 8km for non-runners like my flatmate and I.
Hashing around Bonriki/Temaiku
The runway was also part of the trail so I geeked out with photos and a selfie
Ping-Pong and Goldilocks are knackered on the runway after slogging through almost 8km.
Another silver lining was the excellent fried fish served with breadfruit chips and french fries at the end of the trail.
Having jogged two trails, I don’t mind attending more despite my default wariness towards anything cultish…
Tuesdays: language lessons
Since I arrived in Kiribati, I’ve wanted to learn the local language Taetae ni Kiribati (Gilbertese). Aside from doing more to integrate while I live and work here for a year, my workplace for all intents and purposes is a Kiribati language working environment, including all written documents. If nothing else, it will help me better understand my work colleagues and environment.
Through socialising, my flatmate and I have started language lessons with the I-Kiribati wife of an Australian who came here as a volunteer and loved it so much that he married a local and is living here with her and their three kids.
I’d stay on if I got to enjoy views like this from my backyard. This is what the teacher and her husband see everyday.
We’ve only had one lesson so far but hopefully this will help with doing the best we can to fit in.
Wednesdays: Sports Day
As I mentioned in a previous post, the Australian High Commission generously open up their grounds most Wednesday afternoons for Sports Day – soccer on the tennis court and swimming in the pool.
Before we got a car, getting to the Sports Day was a hassle with a long wait for a bus to leave Betio. The usual bus pattern is several Betio-only buses and then the rare off-Betio bus would skip you as it would be full. Rinsing and repeating this could lead to waiting for 30-45 minutes.
My flatmate relishes the chance to join in the soccer. As a particularly uncoordinated imitang with a bad track record in team sports, I look forward to the one guaranteed clean swim of the week.
Thursdays (once a month): Trivia
As noted in a previous post, my flatmate and I also attend trivia every first Thursday of each month. Last time, we came second by half a point. Not a bad thing except the team that comes second also comes up with the questions for the next quiz.
Fridays/Saturdays: night out
At the first Friday of every month (previously the last Friday), the Australian High Commission organises an informal social gathering with drinks and sausage sizzle as part of their consular care. The ‘Sand Bar’ offers a great start to the night with the potential to head off to the other bars and inevitably finish in Betio the next day at 2am!
Movies under the stars
A friend of mine in Temaiku in the far eastern end of South Tarawa invited us to her place for outdoor movies. A lovely way to cap off the weekend under stars and a gorgeous view.
Y’all probably getting bored by the sunset vistas but they are seriously beautiful. This is what my friend in Temaiku gets to enjoy every day.
Update: learning to ride a pushbike
Since revealing my personal challenge about a month ago, I’ve practised almost every day to learn how to ride on a bike by friends who recently returned home.
I first started by trying to glide and get my balance in the courtyard of our accommodation. For a week or so this was a real struggle, but eventually I could glide across the parking lot only need to scoot when momentum slowed.
At that stage I tried pedalling but surprisingly by the third session I can pedal in a straight (enough) line from one end of the parking lot to another. Now to learn how to brake and turn and I’m almost good to go cycling around Betio. Wish me luck and hope I don’t stack it!!!