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The Solomon Islands: Work and Play (Part III)
If you haven't already, start from the beginning: The Solomon Islands: The Journey Begins
The goal of the project, in short, was to help with rural development (building schools etc.) and community-based resource management. One of the ways to achieve this is with the use of community run Marine Protected Areas, or MPA's, to promote resource management and conservation. MPA's were set up in the fishing areas of many villages thru ought the New Georgia Province of the Solomon Islands. The goal was to educate locals about conservation and sustainable development, and why it's important to their future and that of this biologically rich area.
My job was to accompany my professor to neighboring islands in order to video tape meetings. The meetings were held in various villages to discuss the MPA and it's progress. They were long hours, humid, and held in a language I couldn't understand. Although the real problem for me, was trying hold the camera still while a swatting flies away from the open wounds on my legs, arms, feet, and hands.
Overall, this was a great way to explore the islands, different villages, and meet the locals. Something that very few people have the chance to do. Upon arrival to many of the villages, we were often greeted with gifts and treated to large feasts. Entire populations of villages, along with the chief, would greet us at the dock. One village, Nusa Hope, stands out in my mind. A massive village on an island with almost 400 inhabitants. On our way to the meeting place, we were led through a field in the middle of the village, the light was blinding as the sun set in the background. Kids were enthusiastically playing soccer with a deflated ball like it was a world cup match. The screams of the kids playing, the soft evening light, and the smells infiltrating my senses gave me chills.
In addition to videography, we also travelled to several MPA's in order to map their coordinates with the GPS. We would also check the progress ourselves by diving and comparing fish counts to that of the previous year. We hardly spent much time in Baraulu, leaving every weekend to explore the open ocean and some of the other 900+ islands that make up the Solomon Islands archipelago.
I Heart Weekends
The amount of down time, strangely enough, was something that took getting used to. The Solomon Islands is one of the most unhurried places I have ever experienced. The concept of time as us in the developed world know it is nearly non-existent. The feeling that I should be somewhere, doing something, disappeared along with the tan line on my wrist from where my watch was recently removed. After a few days, I began to feel a profound sense of joy and intense gratitude towards everything around me, even as I lived a simple, tribal, life.
The first weekend took us on an four hour open ocean crossing to Matikuri Island on the far end of the New Georgia Province. We caught some fish along the way, and stopped on a small island to cook some lunch. After a few coconuts, fresh barbecued fish and rice, we were back on the water. The journey, although long and uncomfortable, was full of insane landscapes and wildlife. As we passed by, Jimmy told us stories about Tetepare Island, the largest uninhabited island in the South Pacific. I stared at a school of flying fish soaring on either side of us, my concentration being redirected after one flew into my right knee and dropped to the hull of the canoe. As we approached our destination, I bailed off the back and swam in the last 10 yards.
That evening, we shared an amazing meal of tuna, rice, eggplant and banana. It was the same exact meal I had eaten everyday since my arrival, but being somewhere new and exciting, outside of Baraulu, made it taste brand new. We spent the night telling stories, playing loca (a popular card game) and drinking Sol Brews. In the villages (including Baraulu), the church forbids drinking alcohol. For me, the opportunity to enjoy the company of others with a few not-so-cold ones, without being shunned, was a treat. As you know, we college students love weekends, but we love beer even more.
- The Solomon Islands: Saying Goodbye (Part IV)
The final day in Baraulu came quicker than I had imagined. We gathered in the church for the evening to celebrate with the entire village. They prepared a massive feast for me and my classmates.