Saturday, 29 August 2015


Thunder rolls, breaking and exploding through the thick grey clouds. As the torrential downpour ceases, young boys kick a football around on the grass between the houses and lopsided cooking sheds that lie underneath hanging electrical wires. The young bodies throw themselves towards the ball, brown limbs and flashes of white soles as they run, fixated. A goal is scored and they whoop, one cartwheeling, another attempting a one-handed handstand, showing off for invisible spectators. The game ceases momentarily as the ball flies over a hedge and against the mosquito-netted veranda of the town pharmacist. A lithe body runs through the trees, throws the ball back and the game instantly continues. Fat, lethargic rain drops slowly slide off the leaves of banana trees, and sleeping bats hide from the rain under the fronds of the coconut tree.

I walk down the main street in Buka, beads of sweat wearily rolling down my spine. The market on my left hand side, it’s high, woven dome sheltering women from the heat. Piles of mango and coconut amongst the elongated eggplants, yellow tomatoes, tiny capsicum, and endless piles of choko, ibica, cabbage and pumpkin tips, green leaves spilling out from tightly wound vines onto the abraded concrete floor. To my left, the bright signage of Chinese-owned trade stores and men taking refuge from the sun under the narrow awnings, exhaling exhaustion and spitting the juice of the buai on to the dust. Viscous, crimson marks on the white coral road. Further on, the boat stop, full of banana boats jostling for a position in the small bay. Some are loaded with rice and beer to take to the mainland, some full of school children, so packed that six-year-olds perch on the bow like minute figureheads. Skippers converse with no words; a raised eyebrow, a tilt of the head, a brief hand gesture, and the chaos is transformed in to a complex ballet of churning motors and imperceptible motions. 


The temperature has dropped and the clouds have been hanging low for weeks. The hot, thick, searingly blue heat that I love has turned in to a grey, humid, heavy lethargy. The cooler weather has brought the rarely-heard song of the cicada out of the fractured and thirsty ground, a sound that makes my heart ache for New Zealand. We haven’t had a proper rain in a long time. People dig wells in their back yard in the anxious struggle to find water, while the newspaper stories outline failed crops, uncommonly cold frosts, schools having to shut early to allow children to go home to search for water. Brightly-coloured buckets stand guard around the house, collecting the last few drops of water that fall from the gutters high above. I sit and watch the droplets painstakingly hang on to the rusting aluminium and finally, slowly, fall in to the buckets. The air smells sweet and as I breathe in the rainforest and smoking rubbish and the ancient reef and damp grass, I listen to the cicada and think of the brackish wind that means home, of standing atop the hills at Makara, of feeling like I could be the only person left in this world.

No comments:

Post a Comment