Sunday, 29 March 2015

I'm in paradise.

Avinoon tru! It’s been a crazy week, and I feel like my first month here is flying by. Now it’s Sunday evening and just as the sun sets, the power has turned back on. Thank you sweet Jesus for ceiling fans!

The past week at work has been pretty fantastic. My assignment with the ABG Archives Office essentially involves assisting the transition to a new database, enabling training and capacity building, and assisting with the continual processing of archival material. Michael and I have already identified a lot of goals that we’d like to achieve this year, so it looks like it will be a busy one. One of the projects I am involved in is the coordination of some research being done for the Bureau of Media and Communication by the Centre for Social and Cultural Media (University of Goroka, PNG). In true Bougainville style, the project didn’t happen for months and then all engines were go; the University of Goroka researchers flew in to Buka for a few days this week, so Michael and I spent a lot of time in meetings discussing research and workshopping with field researchers from around Bougainville. We’re still in the planning stages, but I feel very excited to be involved with ‘real-life’ research after years of writing essays within the four walls of Victoria University! Hopefully when the time comes to actually collect the data, I’ll have the opportunity to travel around Bougainville with some of the field researchers. It will be a great chance to see more of Bougainville, as well as to meet people, build up the research capacity in Bougainville, and hopefully, engage with and improve communication with some communities in more remote parts of the mainland. There is a small, eager Liv inside me that wants to go back to my development studies lectures and yell “I’M DOING FIELD RESEARCH!” at the top of my lungs.

After such a full on week at work I needed this weekend to treat me well, which it most definitely has. On Saturday afternoon, another VSA volunteer Moniek had her go pinis (farewell party) as her assignment is coming to an end this week. A whole group of friends and workmates hung out on the beach, played volleyball, and ate and drank a lot. It was a stunning day, much like any typical Kiwi barbecue except for the buckets of kulau (young drinking coconuts) and abundance of SP beer. To follow up a great afternoon with an even more amazing afternoon, today Moniek, her partner Paul, Bryn and I went to White Island with some of Moniek’s World Vision work friends and their families. White Island is a small island around 5 minutes boat ride from Buka town, and it is absolute paradise. Crystal waters fringe the white sands that lead to the leafy, shaded heart of the island. Only around 400 sq metres, White Island isn’t inhabited but is a popular picnic spot for people from Buka and the surrounding islands. Moniek’s friend’s Cecy and Vivienne had brought lunch with them, so the men built a fire and proceeded to cook up a huge pot of rice and around 30 chicken thighs for us all. I swam in the warm Pacific with Cecy’s daughters, walked around the island, got asked by two men visiting from the Sipik in PNG if I would take a photo with them, and achieved a gorgeous tshirt tanline. As the sun lowered in the west, the shadows of the palm trees lengthened and the day softened with golden light. After a few hours of bliss on what could have been the setting for Castaway, we arrived home just as the orange sun was setting behind the mango trees in Buka.

White Island.

Bryn and I.

Kids playing on a canoe.

Looking over Buka Passage, having arrive back to town.

Next week, over Easter weekend, Bryn and I are travelling down to Central Bougainville to stay on Pok Pok Island with another couple of VSA volunteers who work in Arawa. I’m really excited to get out of Buka and see more of Bougainville, and I’m also looking forward to a break from the business of town. I will be missing the annual making of hot cross buns and blown Easter eggs with my family, but, for me, Easter is a time to think of redemption and reconciliation and what better place to do so than in Bougainville, where these concepts are so central to the peace process?

I’ve loved my first month here. Buka becomes more familiar every day, and the fact that the people here are so friendly and quick to laugh makes it even easier. Being away from my family, Dan, and friends, is still hard, but less visceral. I feel very proud of myself. It may sounds strange to say, but I am in a place in my life where I have to have faith in myself and my ability to adapt, and I am proud that I am able to do that. I have many mountains to climb yet, but I think I’m going to be okay.

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