Tuesday, 16 October 2007

So where have we been for the past 3 months?

Blogs we wrote on the island
2007 Elective round up
Well, The Little Medic and I did a little world travelling (Thailand, Australia, Fiji, Los Angeles) but the main part of our trip was a 2 month stint in the town of Lata, on Nendo island, in the Temotu Province of the Solomon Islands.

The Solomon islands are situated between Australia and Papua New Guinea. It takes around 4 hours to travel to the Solomon Islands by air from Brisbane/Fiji. The flight takes you to Honiara, the capital. From the capital it takes 3 hours by two-propellor plane to reach the island we are on, or 3 days by boat. The province we were in is so isolated that the Solomon Island government often leaves it off official maps of the country. It is one of the most remote places on earth.

The main island of Temotu province is called Nendo in the local language and Santa Cruz by most other people. The main island has a hospital and a school. It can take up to 12 hours by boat to reach Nendo from the islands that lie even further out. One of the outer lying islands in the Temotu province is Anuta - you may have seen it on Bruce Parry's recent episode of 'TRIBE' (we only found this out on our return). While we were on Nendo, I taught in the school while The Little Medic completed his elective at the hospital. It is safe to say there are few facilities in the hospital and almost none in the school. There is one doctor for the entire province of 20,000 people who are spread over a huge area of ocean. TLM saw a lot of medicine, a lot of surgery and he really learnt a great deal from the experience. Stuff the namby-pamby useless British medical schools, this was almost like an old-fashioned apprenticeship with all 1-on-1 attention from the doctor who has to specialise in everything. I taught with only a piece of chalk and my imagination and story-telling. I realised how ungrateful we are in England for our medical and education services. The experience made me re-consider teaching in England, but more of that another time.

We can't really explain what it was like to live there, in a place with no running water or electricity, no television or radio and scant contact with the outside world. It was amazing and here are some of the things we did:
  • climbed a 100m (approx) waterfall with no equipment
  • trekked through jungle/rainforest

  • swam in shark-infested water
  • waded through crocodile-infested rivers

  • saw genuine (not put on for tourists!) custom traditions/dances

  • survived high seas in the Pacific Ocean in a 5 metre boat - the waves were at least 4 or 5 metres high and were slapping onto and into the boat (which had no life jackets)

  • slept in leaf houses
  • saw group mourning and wailing women (very moving and sad)
  • lived without electricity

  • saw a lunar eclipse

  • acclimatised to a humidity of 94%

  • ate taro, breadfruit, cassava, giant clam and all other sorts of weird and protected foods (when not eating rice and taiyo [tuna])

  • lived in close proximity to an active volcano

  • fished in the South Pacific (caught Barracuda!)

  • washed in half a bucket of rainwater every day for two months (surprisingly refreshing)

  • beheaded, gutted and fileted whole fish bought for the equivalent of 50p

  • swam in lagoons and jungle pools

  • leant how to communicate 1) in pidgin 2) with eyebrows

  • taught classes of 50+ in a tiny leaf hut

  • practised medicine and surgery with almost no facilities

  • had two earthquakes - one 6.7 and another 7.2 (close to epicentre both times: 20 miles and 70 miles)

  • lived in constant danger of cyclones and tsunamis

  • SURVIVED and had a fantastic time!

Instead of me trying to explain the experience, I'll let the pictures do the talking (but I'll help with a few subtitles!):

We ended up over the rainbow... awwwwwww (twee!)

The plane - a scary ride but a surprisingly smooth landing

Solomon style living had its advantages

A very Little Medic far out on the reef

The beguiling sea, pretending to be serene and harmless

A village with its leaf houses

Tinakula volcano - formed from a burning baby according to custom story (as I found out from my class)

Local wildlife

Local food

Custom dancers


Crafting a canoe (can take 6 months)

Outside my classroom

Inside my classroom

Goodbyeeee! Lookim Uifela comeback soon!

Goodbye Lata, we miss you!


Kelly said...

Wow! Those pictures are totally awesome. It looks (and sounds) utterly idyllic despite the things like earthquakes etc.

skinnyminny8 said...

Omg elective looks stunning! Wow, glad u had fun, shall have to read through your stories!

Thanks for blog comment, btw, I'm not a final year yet.. thats next year ... phew... so I can still be incompetent for a bit longer :)

Ms-Ellisa said...

Bye Lata - - -


That WAS really the experience of a lifetime. :-)

dr_dyb said...

That does look rather cool! My elective this summer was, oh yeah, in my Teaching Hospital. Hoping to go somewhere sunny for my Senior elective though.

Anonymous said...

woah what a cool elective, i love the wildlife snaps! must admit the plane is a little more advanced than i'd imagined - probably for the best really...