The Solomon Islands: Daily Life (Part II)
If you haven't already, start from the beginning: The Solomon Islands: The Journey Begins
Paper or Plastic?
Daily life in the islands is beautifully simple. It's a lifestyle that many of us don't get the opportunity to experience, and for that I am forever grateful. Finding food to eat in the Solomon Islands, as in many indigenous cultures, is a daily task. The village was full of trees bearing edible fruits and nuts. On its periphery, villagers would tend to gardens consisting of vegetables and starches such as taro and potato. Sacks of rice, coffee, spices, flour etc. are bought or traded in Munda, at least a days trip away by canoe. Of course the main staple in the diet was various ocean creatures. Jimmy was our go to guy for fish. Without the use of fish finders, depth meters, weather reports, fishing rods, or even bait, he would bring in tuna by the boat load. Using only a stretch of fishing line wrapped around the hand, and a homemade lure. I had several chances to use this local method of fishing known as hand-lining.
My first attempt proved very eventful. We took the canoe outside of the lagoon and into deeper water to go fishing for the afternoon. With the line wrapped around one hand, I trolled the water nervously, gripping the line tight so as to not cut thru my hand once I hooked a fish. Then it happened. I stood up square and began to pull in the line, gripping it left hand over right and pulling with force. Things were going good and I was winning the battle over the tuna on the other end. Suddenly, the line tightened and pulled with such force that it sliced my hand and almost pulled me into the water. I tried to get my balance again, but even with Shankar holding me back, I was almost overboard. The fishing line broke just as I saw a shark jump out of the water in the near distance. It landed, thrashing the water with it's massive tail. I would lay money that it swam away with what should have been my tuna dinner. Although I had gave up my first fish of the trip to a shark, I was thrilled. The rain came in quickly (as it often does in the tropics) and we headed back to Baraulu. I thought back on the eerie, yet exhilarating experience that had just occurred. I gripped the bench-seat in the canoe and felt the raindrops as they pelted my smiling face.
I found adjusting to life in the village much easier than I had previously imagined. The days passed quickly in the Solomon Islands, full new sights and adventures. On the downside, I did encounter a few problems when it came to sleeping. Rats are ubiquitous creatures in almost all corners of the world, some people hate them, some people worship them. My opinion on the little guys has always fallen in between the two. On my second night, as I laid in bed, I heard something on the wood platform that my mattress pad rested on. I reached for the head lamp next to my pillow and shined in that direction, as I did, a group of uncomfortably large rats scurried away out of the nearby window. I closed my eyes and tried to ignore them once they returned. I am by no means terrified by rats, but knowing that they could have their way with me in the middle of the night, just didn’t sit well with me. In any case, I had many strange dreams that night, all of which involved a rat. From that night on I made sure to position my 6’2” body diagonally on the mattress. This allowed me to sleep with all my flanges on the mattress and inside the mosquito net. I realize that confessing this in writing makes me sound like a fairy, but in hindsight, it just may have saved my toes from being gnawed off. Aside from the rats, who seemed to have left me alone after I made peace with them, there was plenty more creatures to keep me up at night.
I’m not afraid of spiders either, it's true, and I'm not just saying this to cover up my not-so-man-like reaction to the rats. Then again, I had never been to a tropical jungle prior to this moment. The spiders here are not normal. I have a vivid image of one particular encounter with a spider in my room the size of a bread plate. I encountered the spider late one night with my headlamp as I entered my room. I slammed the clipboard I was holding down on top of it, but he kicked it off, no sweat, like a little kid throws his covers off Christmas morning to run and see what Santa has brought. No way, this was awesome, now I couldn’t find the beast, and he was surely pissed off after my attempt to murder him. I am not one to harm Mother Nature's creatures, but this was fight or flight, and I had to fight. I searched the room with my head lamp. I spotted him on the wall above my pillow. I attacked, once again, and he escaped. Monster Solomon Islands spider was not only disgustingly large, but fast. After this failed attempt, the spider bolted to the opposite wall towards the ceiling. I decided to let it be, jumped into bed, and tucked the edges of my mosquito net underneath my mattress extra tight. I tried to fall asleep to happy, non spider dropping down and eating my face off, thoughts. Other sleep impediments included the constant heat and humidity, geckos chirping and shitting on my head, and many more. Pretending I was falling asleep in bed with my girlfriend rather than in this hut surrounded by rats and infant-eating spiders usually helped. Despite all of this, morning came quite blissfully.
Excuse me, where is the restroom?
Most people are always curious, "where did you go to the bathroom." We humans are a strange bunch aren't we? Basic human needs like going to the bathroom and having sex are very taboo in the Solomon Islands. If you are spotted going, or returning from the bathroom, you owe that person compensation. The payment amount depends on the person ie: a friend would be a minimal payment while your wife's father, a much larger payment. Villagers will often hold their bodily functions in for days, only to sneak into the jungle in the middle of the night in order to relieve themselves. As a Westerner, I come from a different cultural background (running water and toilets, for one). While living in Baraulu, I was forced to adapt and give my full respect to local customs. To answer your question, I took care of business wherever and whenever was appropriate. Now, let's move on.
- The Solomon Islands: Work and Play (Part III)
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...