Tuesday, 19 November 2013

November so far....

Ok this blog should bring you all up to date with all our latest doings here in Kiribati. We are ever growing closer to our departure date and as no one is looking forward to it, it is approaching with great pace, the days are speeding bye.

November saw JJ depart to Australia for Darwin for his handover to J3 & then onto Canberra to the DCP Recall conference. Scott joined JJ in Canberra so the girls are running the compound!!

My dear friend Sonia arrived on the next flight after JJ left for one short week. It was fabulous to have a friend visit and force me to do the things I want to do again before we leave.

Meei has had a boys full dance costum made for Jack and the dance mat (skirt) is tied traditionally with a belt made of their mothers hair!! So Meei decided to cut her hair to make the belt so it has extra special meaning for Jack, as Sonia cuts hair much more successfully than me she got the job!!

I don't think Sonia and I drew breath all week!! We talked all day and long into the night, sitting out on the verandah enjoying the breeze, view and companionship. We explored the island and on the Thursday got up to TeBon te Keeke, here Meei, Sam and I are sitting on the outrigger canoe going across the channel to an afternoon of bliss!!

If time had of permitted we thought a night or two chilling out in the Kia Kia over the water would have been great, but time was definitely against us. So the afternoon sufficed, we enjoyed a fish curry for lunch washed down with Moi-Motos (Green Coconuts) and Tody pancakes with Kam mi mi syrup. Toddy is the sap collected from the coconut palm and then they do a heap of different things with it, the Kam mi mi is the boiled version, it is boiled until it is a thick sweet syrup, similar to Maple or Golden syrup. It was amazing and I don't think we would have eaten for a week after it all.

On Sonia's last full day I organised to go out on the fishing comp, we were unable to get two berths on the Aussie boat so Mike the NZ High Commissioner invited us out on "Tangaroa" the Kiwi boat. We were up at 2aqm for a 3am start. Sonia just wanted to see a fish caught that was bigger than a flathead!! Her wish came true 9 times over!!! She pulled in two fish, two types of Tuna, neither big enough to qualify for the comp weigh in but they certainly qualified in Sonia's eyes!!

we had the most fantastic day, we fished, swam, ate, swam and fished more, drank lucky beers to entice more fish!! and they were indeed lucky as we caught some more....we fished out a Miania for the day which is south of Tarawa and the fish are disease free so we were able to eat everything we caught. One of the Kiwi's grandson was on board, a 17 y.o chap, just joined the NZ Navy as a Chef and as we left the harbour and hit the huge swell of the open ocean the poor kid vomited and that was him for the day, by lunch time he was comatosed, Sonia and I felt so sorry for him but there wasn't much we could do, it certainly was huge swells, we'd be hanging off the back of the boat communing with nature and you'd look up at this huge swell baring down on you wondering if it would swamp you or not, fortunately Tangaroa is a good sound boat and rode it all well.

I even got to drive as we were one down!! Lucky beers and my driving skills!!! I was at the helm when we hooked up two, one being a huge Giant Trevally!!! Below our gracious host Mike and our 'Lucky Beers', even Sonia whom doesn't drink beer was enjoying hers!!!! By the end of the day, trawling home, eskies (or chilly bins for the Kiwi's) full of fish, tummies full of beer we sang our lungs out to Robbie Williams on the ipod player, startling birds and probably the fish away too.

My contribution to the day was a 25 lb Yellow Fin Tuna, a great catch and good eating at the end of a very long day!!!

Our long day wasn't in vain!! We placed second with 3 species all over the qualifying weight!! This was our lucky team L-R Charlie, Mike, Me, Sonia & Ox!!!!!

The long job of filleting my catch, lucky Birdie was there to help.....

Sonia's visit went all too quickly and even scoring an extra day due to the plane being delayed one day wasn't enough!! All too soon we were back at the airport saying goodbye, Mike also flew out and a few other friendly faces, it hit me then that we have 3 weeks left on this paradise and boy does it hurt.....so now it is back to reality with a thud, the packers arrive on Monday and I have a busy week sorting the house and preparing all our things to go into the container for the long journey home.
until next time
ti a bo moa   xxxx

Part 2 of the Girl's weekend away...

Part 2 of the Girl's Weekend Away........ 
The first night in our rooms was fairly hot and uncomfortable due to very thin mattresses so our wonderful hosts moved our bedding, now with two mattresses!! out to the kia kia's. So under the mozzie nets, right by the ocean we fell asleep to the crash of the Pacific Ocean with a gentle cool breeze caressing our skin = bliss!!!

Day two we were back at Belrina's village for a swim, the kids came out with us and entertained us with their giggles and laughter, there English was poor but we had fun swimming, and teaching them to say "G'day Mate!!!"
Meei's daughters husband is also from Marrekei and it would have been rude of Meei to not call in, on arrival the kids were sent to the lagoon to catch Milk Fish which was promptly chargrilled over a fire and served with Taro, the local staple and rice, the fish was absolutely delectable and this was a typical example of the hospitality we received all weekend. Kristy and I made a pact to try every bit of food offered to us, the only thing I can honestly say I would not eat again was dried salted fish, yep it was foul!!! But we tried it.

On the last day our hosts at the guest house took us to their home and one old man there took us fishing for Tawaro, a type of crayfish cross yabby, prawn thing!! It was beautiful meat and we wanted to bring some home to share. So off we went well the current was so strong we couldn't keep up with this old man who moved like he was possessed and so we ended up enjoying a leisurely swim while he caught our Tawaro to take home!!!

the Tawaro......
the weekend came to an end all too soon, Balrina's family sent us on our way with garlands for our heads and enough food to feed all of Tarawa. We had a luggage allowance of 60 kg and we went over by another 30kg!!!!!! Luckily the agent was Balrina's aunty or something so she just put it on.....not to mention she checked us in and we were not even at the airport, our hosts decided not to waste our money hiring the council truck so they ferried all our bags, eskies, bananas and gifts to the airport on their motorbikes while we walked!!! It was so funny to be walking to the airport, but not to worry we were assured the plane would wait for us if we were late!!! However we made it on time and had a lovely pile of Moi-Moto (Green Coconuts) to drink while waiting for the plane.

It was the most fabulous weekend away and we were totally spoilt for the experience. It was a true privilege to experience this island's way of life and if I had have gone earlier in our time here I think I would have ended up back there, living for a month and learning the traditional way of life. It is a life of little material things and all about living in the now and subsistence living, it's simplicity and joy was amazing and maybe one day I'll get back there, thank you Meei and Balrina for this experience.
ti a bo moa

The Girl's Weekend....

So I decided I needed to get away to an outer island before I left Kiribati, the only weekend left where both Kristy and I and Meei and Balrina could go was the weekend before JJ travelled home for handover and recall. So much to JJ's horror (no Meei to babysit!!!) we headed off on a girls weekend to the island of Marrekei, this is Belrina's home island so her family were very excited to welcome us.
We arrived at Bonriki International Airport on Tarawa ready for a 2 night/ 3 day get away with overnight bags and a much bigger esky containing the necessaries we couldn't access there, wine, cheese, crackers, more wine, oh yeah and water!!!

so above here we are sitting in Departures and below "Good-bye Tarawa" (we live right at the bottom end of the island, right at the back of the photo!)
.......and "Hello Marrekei" this atoll is a tear drop shape with land completely encircling a lagoon with two channels on either side leading out to the ocean.

the myth goes, on arrival at Marrekei you must travel in an anti-clockwise direction and visit the 4 female Ghosts whom protect the island. Once you have paid homage to all the ghosts you are then 'free' to travel in any direction, anywhere on the island. So we travelled anti-clockwise to out guest house, run by the council and VERY basic, this was my room....

there we picked up our borrowed motorbikes and our guide and thus began our adventures on Marrekei.

1st ghost, they are rock statues dedicated to these female ghosts, the caretakers and protectors of the island and it's people. Kristy, Junior (Belrina's son) & I were the three that needed to pay homage as Meei and Balrina had already done so years ago. You 'pay' your respects by leaving a stick of Irish Cake Tobacco...luckily we took loads as this is the currency of these islands!!!

Meei and I teamed up on one bike and Balrina, Kristy and Junior on the other, the local guys weren't sure about us I-matang chicks driving the bikes, so it was sore bums for Kristy and I by the end of the three days!! On the second night we went to another village as they wanted to welcome us also and we had to go clockwise, we felt like naughty girls as we raced our motorbikes along the air strip singing, honestly it was the most surreal thing to do.....

At the 2nd Ghost it is customary to rub your cheeks with the golden sand surrounding her statue which is situated right on the ocean!!

one of the inlets between the lagoon and ocean,  we stopped and swam at on day three and yes it was bliss!!

Belrina's village wished to welcome us to Marrekei and threw us a full Botaki (party) in the village maneaba. This is a compliment of the highest order as they killed a pig for us. We had to observe the strict protocols that go with the maneaba, covering our shoulders and thighs, not sticking our legs out straight so our feet point into the middle and dancing when we were asked too!! There was a strict program of speeches, dancing, feasting, more speeches, dancing and dancing!!!
Here the women are performing a 'welcome' dance, it was honestly the most amazing night, Kristy and I felt so incredibly humbled as these people shared everything they had to welcome us. The food, dancing and singing was amazing. A memory that will last forever.

right had to cut out half as it won't publish....maybe to big so this is the end of part 1

ti bi moa xx

Monday, 18 November 2013

Another one.....

so back again...I promised I would catch you up on all our doings. So we took a trip back up to North Tarawa to Tanai to visit my dear fried Daniel, whom after promotion is now the head of the Taiwanese Technical Mission farm, without Daniel's guidance and help my little veggie garden would not be the thriving thing it is today. Daniel showed us around the farm as Johnny, James, Scott, Kristy and the girls had not been there before, it was a pleasant day out and the staff learned loads about vegetable growing and composting too.
Daniel and I posing for a photo for prosperity!!!

Kristy, Heather (Scott's Mum) & I were invited down to take a tour of Di Nippon Primary School. The kids in grade one put on a little concert and danced and sang for us. They got the giggles when I sang and danced the "Coconut" song with them. Bless Meei teaching me such a simple song!!!
It was fascinating to see the work the children do, they achieve so much with so few resources. The teachers do an amazing job. The kids love learning and are happy to be there, the needs and wants of the school is so small, we are doing our best to supply extra paper, pencils and books.

In October we DFAT hosted the 2013 Security Talks between Australia and Kiribati governments. Defence is apart of this so we agreed to host a cocktail party on one of the nights. Our staff worked tirelessly to decorate our maneaba, tidy the grounds and prepare food. The compound shone, the maneaba looked absolutely fantastic ad the food, well that was delicious.

This was the sunset on the night of the Security Talks cocktail party, the night could not have been more perfect, a gentle breeze and amazing sunset to set the mood. The food, service and company made for a memorable night.
Unfortunately JJ had to dash home to farewell his father and he missed the talks. John Cecil Williams passed away peacefully with his devoted wife Peg by his side on the 11th October 2013. We miss him daily.

This cheeky little cat will be dearly missed by us all as he is staying on in Kiribati. Here he had decided to eat my breakfast of fish that was defrosting in the sink!!!! I went to the gym to come back to this, lucky there was more fish in the freezer and another 4 hours until I was due to eat!!!

Jack and his two favourite friends, birdie the cat and Wally the dog. Not sure who is going to miss whom the most, it will be  a sad farewell methinks.

right another blog down, tonight I will work on the "Merrekei" blog, the girls weekend away, loads of fab stories to tell and photos to show.....watch this space
Ti bo moa :0)

Mauri, yes a very overdue greeting at that.....

Mauri and sorry........

3 months since my last post, I must have amnesia because I am not sure where the time has gone....however it is now 3 weeks until we leave and time is slipping away faster than the proverbial sand in the hour glass.

So much has happened, I promised to update you all fully with a series of blogs this week.

Kristy and I embarked on a strict fitness routine of diet and exercise twice a day! The upside was great weight loss and the ability to greet the days sunrise every morning, this was a beauty, such a tranquil time of day.

The new Zoku pop chocolate maker arrived so we thought we'd better test it out....the kids had a ball trying out new recipes and designs on the pops. It was loads of fun

Sam's pre-school class had their end of term celebration at our compound, the kids had a ball playing on the equipment, running about and we cooked chicken on the BBq for all. The lovely ladies surprised me with beautiful hand made momentos to take home and ti-butas to wear, to thank me for all I had done for the class, it was very touching.

This month JJ & I decided to buy a new motorbike for Meei in appreciation of all her hard work and loyalty she has shown us. I was sick and tired of her old one that kept dying on the way to work...so here it is, my choice......Meei and I went fo a spin around Betio, a very comfy ride :0)
On a Sunday the local lads get out on the ocean side with their home made outrigger models to race. Te wa ni Markei is the racing canoe models I-Kiribati's name and boy do they fly across the water when the wind catches their sails. The boys pay money to enter the competition and others bet on the canoes, it is a serious business.
In September JJ finally took the families on his "War Tour", it was fascinating to hear all about the war that was fought on Tarawa, mostly the atoll of Betio, right where we live. Jack, Gemma, Kaitlyn & Sam came along too and enjoyed the sights around Betio.
The local boys love to "Cock fight", it is a very tame version with no spurs and no blood, the boys love their roosters and would hate to see them hurt, here are a few kids giving their roosters some practice before the Sunday competition which is also a big business.
While Scott's parents were here we got up to a favourite place Te Bon te Keeke in North Tarawa. An outrigger canoe ferries us across the channel to North Tarawa and a few hours of total bliss.
The boys on the beach at Te Bon te Keeke, in the back ground is a Kia Kia you can stay in, over the water, it is such a peaceful spot to stop and stay awhile. We had a blissful day swimming, eating and drinking, the food is usually a freshly caught fish turned into a curry with veggies and rice, moi-moto (green coconut) to drink and plenty of icy cold beer, hammocks and big lunge chairs over looking the water means hours of relaxation and bliss.
Right so this brings us up to date for September, I will do another blog tonight as I am due in the gym!!! Ti bo moa......this time I promise it won't be so long :0)