Solomon Islands Journal
PACE e BENE AUSTRALIA
From Violence to Wholeness
FACILITATOR CO-LEARNING PROGRAM
In partnership with Catholic Church Solomon Islands and Caritas
April 7–27, 2008
Day 1 Saturday April 6
Brendan arrived in Brisbane on the ‘red-eye’ at 7am on Saturday morning April 5th, about an hour later than schedule….an auspicious start to this adventure. Carole’s husband Steve was there to greet him and take him to further repose for the rest of the morning…an afternoon of catching-up and planning for the work ahead…followed by a grand feast, packing and early’ish night.
Day 2 Sunday April 7
We were due to depart Brisbane for Honiara at 930am on Sunday April 6th. We arrived at the airport and were told that the flight was delayed until 1pm. All bags checked on (despite last-minute anxieties that we were about 10kgs overweight – the bags we mean!).
So we waited….walked and talked….and waited. Then we were up and away – the adventure begins for real…
t an hour into our 3.5 hour flight, while celebrating our departure and our first PeB Australia venture overseas, we had just been served lunch when it was announced that the plane was returning to Brisbane due to a failure of the radio….and so we arrived back where we started around 4pm. It was quite amazing – there was a remarkable sense of calm around – with everyone on board accepting that this is how it is – just like open space in action – we’ll get there at the right time!
After another hour of waiting around at the airport, we were told that the problem could not be fixed and we’d be put up in a hotel overnight and fly out next day (Monday 7th) at 6pm.
So off we went – into reverse gear – back through Customs, collected our bags and got on a coach that took us to the Siebel hotel in the heart of Brisbane. Just as we got on the coach we heard the guys sitting behind us chatting – and one of them was from Ahoghill in Ireland – a wee village about 20 miles from where Brendan was born….amazing! So we had a good yarn and ended up having a couple of drinks (or so) and dinner with them at the hotel – the Irishman worked with the commercial financing arm of The World Bank and the other, a retired Canadian bank manager, worked as a banking consultant….we had a very interesting dinner conversation…eh!
Other people we ran into during this leisurely, luxurious interlude, were
‘A.D.’ a young surfer from the UK who was going to Gizo to help rebuild village houses after the tsunami last year – his story was inspirational: his friends had been surfing there when the tsunami struck and had escaped with their lives. They had been so touched by the help they had received from the local people that when they got back to England, they couldn’t settle and began to raise funds from their families and friends to take back to help the villagers rebuild their homes. And so AD was on his way to help them….quite a journey for a young man of 20!
Sumaglien – a black South African woman, now living in Sydney, who had great warmth and humour….going to visit her husband who was an engineer in Honiara. Her stories of living in SA during apartheid were deeply moving…
Day 3 Monday April 8
Good sleep, morning walk along the river and filling breakfast of anything we fancied….
Had a meeting to plan our first day’s work, packed our bags and had another hearty meal before the coaches came to pick us up at 3pm
And so off we went again – no Solomons Airlines staff there to greet us, we queued up at the Check-Out and noticed that our flight was now scheduled to depart at 8pm – a further delay of two hours….learning to be patient and nonviolent with what is beyond our control…again!
Eventually we boarded a very recent model Air Vanuatu plane and departed – this time making it all the way to Honiara, arriving at 1245am Tuesday morning to stutter through Customs and eventually be picked up by Adam Elliot and Peter from Caritas and delivered to the King Solomon Hotel….”don’t get too comfortable guys, we’ll pick you up in the morning around 655am for an 8am flight to Gizo”….and then our story really begins….
Day 4 Tuesday April 9
A brief sleep, a quick shower and out came the bags to the airport once more….
Trouble negotiating the pot-holes and huge lakes of rain that had teemed down the day before….not quite sure when the flight will depart…hang around and make sure you’re ready….about 9am we took off and squeezed into a wee plane with very loud engines and little space to move….
And flew over the islands all the way to Gizo – landing on a jungle cut-out airstrip on an island not much bigger than a footy oval – where we were greeted by two Islander women, Janet and Beata from the diocesan pastoral council, with garlands of frangipani flowers to place around our necks….what a welcome!
Then into a long canoe (motorised thankfully) and a ten minute journey across the strait to the main island and the Gizo hotel….a lovely place right on the shore and with beautifully carved trunks and grass roof – the rooms were more normal – functional and comfortable.
So – here at last and a great feeling of relief and satisfaction….we’d made it after four days of travel for Brendan and three for Carole….we could settle in and unpack…
But first a quick walk-about around the immediate area and visit to the centre where we’d be working for the next four days….
The earthquake-cracked breeze-blocks of the St Peter the Apostle Cathedral, the temporary (semi-permanent) replacement marquee, the Caritas-built project centre that is coordinating rebuilding projects for tsumani refugees, the pastoral centre….the local market stalls….then to the hotel for lunch – and what an introductory lunch – fresh king-fish with all the trimmings – time for a siesta!
Afternoon spent getting ready for our first day’s work….20 participants all set to go…!
Anyway – more about that in next chapter…
Day 5 Wednesday April 10
After a relaxing night’s sleep and simple breakfast in the hotel, overlooking the ocean and the early morning activities of the market and the fisherfolks across the road, we traipsed off to the diocesan pastoral centre – about 3 mins walk away – a solid fibro meeting hall recently built with a donation from the Sydney diocesan Catholic Education Office – and were welcomed by our hosts. Whatever program we had planned was superceded by the appropriate protocols of these people – that is, we start (at 830am) with a welcome to you, you can respond and then we have a break for kye-kye (food). We’ve only just had breakfast – no matter – so, we were warmly welcomed by the group, we responded by delivering the Message Stick that Carole had been given by the Catholic Aboriginal Ministry in Brisbane which says that we come in peace and seek safe passage in the country (the message stick remains for the duration of the workshop and the group presents it back to us to take on to the next workshops in Honiara and Auki) and then we had a break for a big spread of sandwiches, fruit and drinks…..when we were all ‘full’, we could then begin the program! What wonderful hospitality and generosity – in Gizo, it is very important to greet visitors the right way.
Finally we got started and our program went pretty well throughout the day…we had occasional translations into pidgin when concepts/instructions/interpretations were a bit difficult to understand (or ‘savvy’). We gradually engaged the group more deeply and by the end of the afternoon, especially after we had covered a good chunk of ‘Jesus – the nonviolent activist’, they were fully into it with vigour, humour and much raucous laughter….how freely their expressions after the initial shyness and formalities of the morning.
We maintained a steady pace and managed to complete about 75% of the day’s planned program – which was pretty good according to ‘Solomon time’! We were continuously adjusting to the pace of the people and the energy-sapping humidity….we were pretty stuffed, though well satisfied by the end of the day.
So back to the hotel, a couple of throat-sliding cold local beers (Solbrew), a walk around the market, a refreshing shower and a delicious dinner of fresh local seafood that had been swimming somewhere around the islands earlier that morning!
Day 6 Thursday April 11
Early rising with the sounds of the marketplace and outgoing fishermen drifting across the road – breakfast of fresh local fruit and off to another hard day’s work at the coal-face!
The group continued where they’d left off the evening before and were soon busy creating and planning their own sessions for delivery later that afternoon…..with the first group reveling humorously in the knowledge that they were the first indigenous ‘Pace e Bene facilitators’ in the Solomons! And they did a wonderful job – showing that they clearly understood the essential core elements of their work and their translations into activities, role-play, storytelling and local singing – they just love to sing and will pull out a chorus at the drop of a lava-lava (the local sarong-type wrap-around) – all profoundly moving for us….we continuously had to check out with each other that this was for real!
Another full and fulfilling day – also hot and humid again – and we were ready for the cool relaxing breezes that flowed through the bar overlooking the ocean – oh, and we managed a couple of cold beers as well!
Later after dinner, we were treated to a wonderful evening of entertainment from the local dance and singing group – guitar playing islanders squatting in a circle on the floor with one guy perched on the end of a pile of 4 meter lengths of bamboo playing ‘base’ with what looked like the sole of a shoe…fascinating sounds and movements.
The sponsor of the group was a local ‘forester’ called Jerry (Jeremiah) who had apparently been awarded an MBE and had met the Queen. He was pretty sozzled as he proudly watched his band playing to the small mob of visitors in the hotel bar….
By this time we had really confounded most of the hotel staff and most of the many locals who came to talk with us – how could we be there ‘together’ and not married??? This provoked much giggling from the young waitresses and receptionists who thought this was a real big joke!
Day 7 Friday April 12
Early morning rising for Day Three of our FVTW training – and there had been lots of noise during the night – with folks partying near our hotel room. We had a another good day with the group with their wisdom and expertise really coming to the fore in their practice presentations…we witnessed a particularly inspirational drama of Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio story and the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida….these folks really love their drama!
At the end of the day’s presentations by the group (they all ‘passed’ of course), we introduced them to the Elm Dance to connect in solidarity with the people of Novozybkov (the most contaminated, still-inhabited city in the world today). Many of these people had lost friends and family members in the tsunami and the Tensions and so were carrying a lot of grief and suffering within themselves. They found the Elm Dance story of association with the suffering of others in far-away Ukraine to be beery meaningful and moving….and these folks love to dance and to express their prayers in the rhythm of their bodies – this was a wonderful way to end a fantastic day’s engagement with the core of spirituality of nonviolence here in Gizo…
While Brendan went off to visit the local Caritas office, Carole was approached by Ignatius, a Gilbertese Islander man who lived on an island called Ca’aan and who had traveled over for this workshop, and asked if we would like to come back to the island with him to spend Saturday evening with his tribal family. Wow – what an honour to receive this invitation – and what a wonderful opportunity to visit an outlying island and meet the people there – we said if it was ok with the planners and we could get back in time for our departure on Sunday, we’d love to!
We rounded off our evening with another celebratory treat in the hotel – an exhibition of local dancing…we managed to stay awake long enough to enjoy a couple of beers and the experience of yet another flavour of the ‘Happy Isles’…
Day 8 Saturday April 13
Today our last day with the Gizo group- a time for reflection and feed back from the participants on what they needed to be able to do this work and how PeB could support them. There was great excitement from people on taking the spirituality of peace and nonviolence into their community….we heard about the need to continue supporting each other, about the need for materials and resources, about how to integrate this within the diocesan pastoral plan and about the desire to stay connected to the Pace e Bene vision in Gizo…
Work was to be followed by Kai Kai (not necessarily how it is spelt) the all important sharing of food. A great feast awaited us in the leaf haus. Brendan was very excited at the prospect of getting stuck into the feast of fish, noodles, taro, fruit, rice, etc. First of all came some singing, speeches from Joseph the Diocesan Pastoral Co-ordinator and Janet. Ogeri, the MC was in great form, humorous as always. After eating, the presentation of gifts took place and Freda and Lucy danced their way to us as we all sang ‘The love of Jesus…’
What perfect gifts – a lava lava (sarong) and T shirt for both of us. Brendan and I then had to respond. I felt very emotional and it was difficult to say the things that should be said but then Brendan can always be trusted to fill in the gaps. We presented to the Diocese of Gizo a framed picture of St Francis with the Wolf of Gubbio plus the prayer Make me an Instrument of your Peace (a beautiful piece hand-made by Carole herself!). To finish off proceedings the Message Stick was returned to us to continue our safe passage around The Solomons.
We quickly dashed back to the hotel to sort out our stuff so that we could get to the canoe on time. On finding that it was not leaving until 2.30 another quick dash back to shower. Then getting back, we left on Solomons time which is always a little bit later than arranged.
Our journey took over an hour, traveling over crystal clear water viewing some of the most 990 spectacular islands that make up the Solomons. As we hit the open sea, water broke over the canoe Brendan became drenched – this was more fun than a day at Dream World (must be some local Brisbane haunt!). First stop was Noro to drop off Freda, Eunice and Lazarus. Then back across the water to Canaan to the home of Ignatius and Sr. Theresa.
The Tsunami April 2, 2007 had also caused much havoc here – no loss of life but much destruction to homes. The tide also comes in much further now leaving mud to be negotiated at low tide .
Women were in the newly built Community space ( like a long house), fund raising by playing bingo and making grass mats. Once more we were a source of interest and amusement to the children who rarely have guests particularly white ones. Sr Theresa became our host in the home that she shared with her sister, Sr Veronica. Giving up their bedrooms for Brendan and I. Festivities had been planned to fare well Fr Alfred the young priest stationed at Gizo. While Brendan slept Theresa showed me her vegetable and flower garden carved out of the bush (jungle) which she is very proud of particularly her cabbage patch which I know as Ceylon Spinach. There really isn’t any paid work for the people of Canaan but they are able to earn a little by helping Theresa make and maintain the gardens. People just came and went from the Dominican sisters home, another sign of a shared community.
At 8pm Father Alfred arrived we shared conversation and the joys of using Aerogard to stop the ferocious mossie bites. Its amazing what I in my western culture takes for granted.
It was well after 9pm before the bell was rung for the start of the celebration. The bell is rung a different amount of times depending who is being called. All I can remember is that 5 is for the youth, 1 is for a death, but thankfully that didn’t occur during our visit. Everybody sits on the floor there but they made sure that Brendan and I had a chair as ‘this is not your way and we want you to be comfortable’.
The seating arrangement in the long house was formal. The men ‘heads of family’ sat cross-legged on the ground at the front of their own family group on a grass mat, while their wives and children and other adults sat, sprawled or slept on the ground behind them. The shape was rectangular leaving a space in the centre where the dancing and activities were to take place.
The president for the evening, Samuel, one of the tribal leaders, announced the commencement of the proceedings in Pidgin, and welcomed the special guests for the evening, Fr Albert, Brendan and Carole. He then sat down and another man stood up, one of the tribal elders, who then welcomed us in ‘language’ (the local dialect of the tribe) – thanking us for coming to visit his people and hoping that we would enjoy our time in the village. This was followed by a group of local boys/young men doing a traditional tribal dance – the tribe originated in the Gilbert Islands – dressed in grass aprony mats which they used to beat out a rhythmic beat – and finished their first dance by placing a crown of flowers on the heads of the special guests.
The music, recorded traditional and contemporary songs/dances, came out of two huge amplified speakers and a cd player – run off a small generator – enough to fill the whole the length of the long house – which was about 50 metres long by about 20 metres wide.
This was followed by a couple more dances, then some more welcoming and then the food was placed in front of the men – who always ate first – each family group had prepared its own dishes. After the men had had their fill, the food was passed behind to the others in the family group….no further comments required!
For the next two hours we were entertained by various dancers – some boys, girls, young women, mixed groups – and some wonderful traditional singing to accompany these…all the while the family-head-men sat cross-legged on the floor watching, laughing, and appreciating the feast of their traditional party…
After a couple of hours, we were invited to stretch and shake out – we thought this meant we could stand up and go for a 5 min stroll – what it meant was that we were called out into the middle of the group to dance with the locals – and we were ‘up for it’….it was amazing – they all had a good laugh at the two white strangers out there trying to dance….so for a few minutes (which seemed like an eternity), we were the entertainment! Thankfully Carole can dance…!
The second act included a round of traditional tribal dances that were led by the older men – and these were absolutely stunning….the sounds, the movements, the rhythm, the chanting….the grace with which these people moved was awesome….the pounding pulsation of their inherited stories was mesmeric – and we didn’t touch a single drop of alcohol!
When we thought it was nearly over, we experienced yet another peak! We had been invited earlier to say something about why we had come to the Solomon Islands and now the two participants who had accompanied us back to the village were asked to show something of what they had learned from us. Sr Theresa spoke about how the nonviolence of Jesus had moved her and Ignatius, one of the family leaders, spoke in his own language about the ‘dance for the trees’ (The Elm Dance) that we had used to connect us with the people of Novozybkov and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster….and then we were invited to show them the dance – so the four of us moved into the circle – everyone’s eyes followed us, there was total silence in the hall as we slowly walked through the steps of the dance – and as didn’t have the music to accompany it – we decided to go with the local music – and before we knew it, we were whirling away at four times the normal speed of the Latvian lament that usually accompanies this dance….we were breathless, intoxicated and totally immersed in the joyful expression of the moment…it was amazing…we signaled to others to come and join us and twenty young people rushed out into the middle to expand our circle….for the last few minutes of the dance….totally wonderfully magical!
We were absorbed by the moment and before we had too much time to rest, we were called out again to finish the evening with a mixed-dance to end the ‘entertainment’….wow!
And so there was a final speech by the presiding leader and everyone was thanked for participating. We were fare welled by an excited mob of young and old alike who shook our hands warmly and thanked us for coming to visit them and see their village.
We negotiated the swamps and returned to our house around 1am for a few hours sleep before reboarding the canoe and setting off for Gizo around 630am in order to be back in time for Mass in the cathedral at 9am….with a fond ’sapo’ (goodbye in Gilbertese) to our friends on Canaan Island
Day 9, Sunday April 14
We arrived in time to shower and change for Mass. With Brendan running on Island time and Ireland time we were running tight for time resulting in Janet politely coming to look for us in case we didn’t know what time mass started. Thankfully the Cathedral is only a few minutes walk away. The Cathedral was packed and we were taken to seats especially reserved for us. Janet formally welcomed us to Mass and the service began. It was presided by an energetic, 75yr old Aussie Dominican of Irish descent. We were able to participate in English and Pidgin. The children were in their Sunday best and the Dominican Sisters, postulates, brothers and priests in their whites.
The Eucharistic bread and wine were danced up the aisle to the alter by 8 young women and girls. The readers and Eucharistic ministers were all women.
After Mass there was a bring and buy sale for the Sunday school and I managed to buy a length of sugar cane that I found impossible to eat.
Raymond and Beata offered to take us around part of the Island where the Tsunami had caused the worst havoc and where the refugees had resettled. I got to ride in the back of the open truck with Beata while Brendan sat in the cab. It was so hot but thankfully as Raymond got up speed and I held on for dear life a breeze was created.
I learnt of Beta’s struggle and heartbreak over the last few years. They lost everything in the Ethnic tensions and then again in the Tsunami. It was faith that got her through. She had also been able to come to a place of forgiveness for those who had destroyed her home.
Where the Tsunami did the most damage is an idyllic looking space. Sweeping white beaches shaded by coconut trees, azure water. Vegetation has grown back and if it wasn’t for some remnants of piles of concrete we could be forgiven for thinking that nothing had taken place there. But for those people who now live in tents or buildings that are covered with tarps there is no forgetting. Many have moved up into the hills where there is no view of the water, others have just built much further back. These are fisher people still too afraid to go back to the water. We wound our way up the dirt road into the hills where people have cut back the jungle to make simple homes and plant gardens to feed themselves and a few flowers for visual beauty. They still walk miles for water which we witnessed with a family walking back in the blistering heat, father with water can in one hand and naked toddler riding high on his shoulders, sweat pouring down his body.
Near the end of our car trip we were able to grab coconuts from the roadside sellers and quench our thirst with the liquid inside. Back in Gizo, we just had time for a quick beer, grab our bags and head off in the canoe to catch the plane back to Honiara. We had a sense of sadness as we fare welled people who had really entered into our hearts and spirits.
We were collected from Honiara by Peter, one of the Caritas staff because Adam’s wife had been injured and was needing to be flown back to Australia – and taken to Honiara Hotel as there was no water at the Holy Cross Transit Centre where we were supposed to stay. Bit ironic that there was so much rain pouring down everywhere and yet the Centre had no water! We were knocked sideways with the luxury of this place and also the noise from the guests in the pool.
Day 10 Monday April 15
After another hot and restless night, a light breakfast we took a walk around China town. It had been almost totally burnt to the ground in the tensions but now had some rebuilt shops filled with a variety of goods. Many local staff are employed but only one person takes the money – usually one of the Chinese owner who sits on a high stool overseeing the business. It seemed that the local Islanders were employed as shop assistants and security – and this may have been different before the Tensions. Apparently Chinatown was attacked by the gangs who were angry at the business successes of the local Chinese shopkeepers and only a few shops somehow survived.
We were collected by Adam at 230pm and taken to meet the Archbishop – Adrian Smith a Marist man from Dublin would you believe! We had a good yarn and he is very supportive of our work and hopes that it goes well and that we will continue to support the people in the diocese….a very positive and affirming meeting – it helped our credibility when Adam told him that the people in Gizo had phoned him that very morning to tell him how good the workshop had been for them – this was something that had never happened in the four years Adam had been there…!
And so we headed off to view the venue and prepare for the next program – with a few folks in the back of the ute – through the streets of Honiara, teeming with rain-soaked people walking along, and out into the area of Henderson where the Dominican Retreat Centre was located – we discovered that this was one of the main areas of fighting during the Tensions and many people had died in the surrounding lush green fields and bush….sort of an appropriate place to be holding a nonviolence workshop…
The meeting room looked great and the participants were mostly residential – 13 women and seven men (including three priests) some had flown in from neighbouring islands and were already setting up the place for the next few days….then we discovered that none of the hand-outs we had forwarded weeks beforehand had been copied and so there was a bit of panic to ensure that we’d have the necessary materials ready for the next day….good job we’re learning how to be nonviolent!
Back to the hotel for the evening and final preparations for the start of Pace e Bene Two – another exciting adventure into transforming the world – island by island!
More to follow…..
Day 10 Tuesday April 16
We drive out to the Centre through the peak-hour traffic of Honiara – mostly pedestrian – with many riding in the back of utes and various trucks…arrived at the Centre and began to get ready for the group….some of our materials were there – some were not – such is life! So we started off with a welcome and the handing over of the Message Stick – and the day grew as it was meant to – gradually building up a trusting rapport and relaxed relationships….these folks are eager to see if we have a sense of humour and if we are prepared to join in with their dancing/singing – that’s never a problem for us – so we’ll have a lot of new moves to share with the mob back in OZ! The rest of the hand-out materials arrived eventually – they were at the venue all in good time and our day finished well.
Drive back to the hotel, through the rain-sodden, potholed roads and into air-conditioned comfortable rooms, about 50 metres from the bar, restaurant and huge swimming pool – a wee bit of a contrast to the surroundings at the daytime workshop – providing welcome respite from the heavy humidity of the very overcast Honiara heavens…
Day 11 Wednesday April 17
Torrential overnight rain made sleeping difficult. The rivers were swollen and flowing fast. The participants had also slept badly and many were concerned about their communities who live in low lying areas. Our day started with the joyous singing and whole body movement that we have become accustomed to here in the Solomons. Some people arrived later having crossed flooded waterways to get here.
Our programme schedule was running behind but we have found that it is better to take the time and really allow this work to be moved by the spirit, both human and Holy. We have been having ‘Five Steps’ on the 2nd day and hearing the truth of both parties using a tea mug is a real winner, with great participation by everybody.
We took example from the Gizo team and numbered off the participants to encourage a little mixing as it was a bit blokey on one side of the room. So we had our 5 teams of 4 to present the sessions A-E and they went off to start working together. We had been encouraging people to speak in the language they were most comfortable and not be concerned if us 2 Audis didn’t understand. The group interaction was amazing with pidgin being the language of comfort.
Our day finished as it began with song and movement – we were bonding more deeply. We rejoined the Honiara peak hour of trucks, utes and buses overflowing with people. A truck full of logs had people precariously balanced all over it – nothing unusual from this amazing part of the world. It is rather surreal for us to return to the comparative luxury of our hotel but we do enjoy the running water and a cold beer after the sapping heat and humidity of the day.
Day 12 Thursday April 18
We’ve been replacing breakfast with cups of tea and a couple of ginger biscuits – gives us longer sleeps in the morning and we certainly don’t need any more food! The local team who are catering for the group are ably led by a very large young Fijian woman who knows how to feed hungry Islanders…we get a very substantial morning tea at 10am, consisting of tuna sandwiches, homemade scones and a selection of bananas, paw-paw and pineapples…then there is a solid cooked lunch at 1230 followed by afternoon tea of more fruit and sandwiches around 3pm…!
Day three of our program went very well – with each group presenting their activities in great style – lots of singing, dancing and role-plays – yet another fantastic drama of the St Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio which involved everyone in the group. The Archbishop visited and had lunch with the group – a great sign of support for this initiative.
We had a very intense change of energy in the afternoon with the presenting group (on the theme of Nonviolence Tools and Strategies) telling some of their personal stories about nonviolent responses to violence that surrounded them during the Tensions…these were very moving, emotionally-charged and deeply engaging for the storytellers and for the whole group – tears flowed and many were obviously touched by the openness and courage of the presenters, three out of four of whom were men.
One man told of being dragged out of his car with a gun held to his head by a band of drunken masked rebels on the road to visit one of the distant parishes in the bush – miles away from anywhere… after telling him he was nothing but a trouble-maker, with his meddling peace-making attempts, they said they were going to kill him as a warning to others. Despite his anger and his fear, the man calmly turned to rebel holding the gun to his head and said something like: “Ok you-fella, if you gonna shoot me, then go ahead and do him quickly now and get him over with for both our sakes”. The gunman started to shake uncontrollably and eventually pulled the gun away – the moment of crisis passed and after several minutes of calming down, the man said he needed to leave to get to his destination and offered the men a lift into town….which they gratefully accepted!!!!
Some time later, one of the rebels came and confessed that he was the man holding the gun and asked for forgiveness…..
As other stories were told, the atmosphere in the room became heavy and intensely engaging – a sharp contrast with the humour and jocular nature of the earlier dramas and dancing… a very powerful experience for everyone.
As this session ended, we needed to dance and to relieve ourselves of the heaviness of grief and sadness – and an opportunity to celebrate these wonderful stories of courage, compassion, and intuitive nonviolence in the face of violence….
The last session of the day, on Creating Nonviolent Communities, produced another meaningful activity focusing on land claims and disputes, the cause of many serious and destructive conflicts in these islands. It was treated more light-heartedly – while still getting the message across – and gave us a rousing end to the day with the local, well-loved Community Song – yes, with accompanying dance-actions!
So we headed back to the hotel, weary and drained from the events of the day….that cold beer went down well and Brendan actually swam 20 laps of the pool to release some of the pent-up emotional energy.
Day 13 Friday April 19
Huge claps of thunder and torrential rain punctuated the night – interrupting sleep and providing spectacular sounds and smells to awaken the senses….
And onwards to the last morning – a summary of the program, a few final comments about the nature of nonviolent cultural change and the need to be clear about, and committed to, ‘what we are FOR’ as well as being stimulated by ‘what we are AGAINST’ ….’without a vision, the people will perish!’
The group broke up and started to work on their plans for where to go next with this work….and produced clear actions, including the formation of the ‘Honiara Pace e Bene Team’, with a President, a vice-President and a Secretary….fast movers, eh!
We concluded our presentations by performing the Elm Dance together – which they loved – and then the ‘formal procedure’ of the local culture – where we were thanked and presented with gifts and invited to respond, which we did with our gift of the portrait of St Francis – and then, you guessed, the final rendition of the Community Song…with high energy actions and jubilation….
Then the traditional Kyi-Kyi (special feed) which was another great spread and we were finished!
Packed up the venue, loaded as many people as we could onto the back of a truck and headed back to town….
That afternoon we had a meeting with an ex-pat American woman called Mia Rimon who has been coordinating ‘socio-cultural research on Gender-based violence and Child Abuse in Micronesia and Melanesia’…we had been introduced previously by email through Bishop Bernard O’Grady – and Mia was really interested in our work and how it was going…her project findings are due to be released soon and will confirm the horrendous local statistics about ‘domestic violence’ – with a view to introducing legislation in this area for the first time. There may be possible ways of working together with the emerging leaders of the three diocesan workshops…the initial contact has been made and we’ll where the spirit moves.
A quiet Friday night with another 20 laps of mindless, fast-floating for Brendan followed by a couple of beers and a good feed before a long sleep….
Day 14 Saturday 20
Ah…..a slow and peaceful morning with no rushing around…how blissful!
Adam picked us up around 10am and took us to the local ‘Aussie shopping centre’ where we could use the ATM and visit the pharmacy to stock up with more Aeroguard and toiletries….and have a leisurely breakfast.
Then a walk through Chinatown where it started to pour down – Carole ran into a shop and bought a big umbrella – and in true accordance with Murphy’s Law, by the time she got outside the rain had completely stopped! Ah well, a contribution of Au$6 to the local economy…
Back to the hotel where Brendan met with Ross Andrewartha, a Tassie man working with the local Forestry Dept courtesy of AusAid…our common interest was in Open Space as Ross had heard about it through Michael Prince (friend of Brendan’s in Perth) and had tried it a couple of times after some long-distance email and skype coaching support from WA!
We had a great couple of hours yarning about the potential use of Open Space in the Islands…while sipping a jug of local bush lime juice by the poolside…the economic impact of the upcoming end of export logging in SI will be tremendous for this country (there is only about 3-5 years left in total before the country is totally logged out!) – and this is the single major source of export income – so there will be some cold hard realities facing the fragile economic infrastructure of this country in the very near future – and there is little being done to prepare for what might happen as a result! And so, we shared a few thoughts and ideas about the need to gather together those who care about this and to see if their wisdom, energy and responsibility could lead to some tangible action for the future….we’ll see how the spirit moves….
And then, another quiet evening – except for the band playing very loud music at a local fund-raising dinner in the hotel bar – and has just now finished – so I can put this away and get to bed just before midnight!
Tomorrow (Sunday) we head off to Auki where much of the internecine violence occurred during The Tensions – where we will provide our final workshop from Tuesday – Friday in a residential parish centre about an hour away from the town….will be a bit remote and email access unlikely – so will get this off before leaving….
Day 15 Sunday April 20
In sapping humidity we walked through China Town into downtown Honiara. We were a bit concerned as hundreds of people were walking in the opposite direction to us. They had all been to church – we had missed Mass as we didn’t know where the church was. If only we had asked we would have found that it was so close by. To console ourselves when we came across the ice cream parlour called Frangipani we went in and treated ourselves to the array of flavours that were available. One of us contented our selves to a single scoop of banana whilst the other tucked into chocolate and orange double serve.
As we walked back I thought my umbrella had become one of those things you bought “just in case”
the heavens opened up and we were very wet despite taking shelter in the security post at the hotel.
We were due to check out of our rooms by 1200 but thankfully Caritas got us extra time but at a cost as we found out on the bill!
Adam collected us and deposited us at Henderson Airport that was again afloat with water. Having to weigh ourselves as well as the luggage gets scarier and scarier as the Kgs seem to keep rising.
Our plane was late as we had to wait for the co-pilot who was on another flight that had been delayed by bad weather. The co-pilot was a young guy who was well over 2m he was nearly bending double to get through the aircraft. He had an amazing sense of humour as well and apologised that we would not have an inflight movie today.
Our flight was half an hour to the first stop on Malaita – can’t remember the name of the place but it seemed that the whole of the village was there to meet someone or send them on their way. You literally walked out of the vegetable gardens onto the airstrip. Up, up and away again to Auki. We always wonder to our selves if there will be any one there to meet us and will we be recognised. We were greeted by parish worker Francis and his mate Jacob a prison officer. A touch of deja vu with airfields and prisons. They had been waiting for some considerable time. The plans were changed and we were to go to Dala Parish tonight and start the programme on Monday instead of Tuesday as all the participants had arrived and were in place.
After traveling for a good 20kms some times good and often badly potholed road we arrived. All along the way local people had got very excited at seeing white fellahs but the best excitement was when we arrived at the Parish amongst the tropical paradise. There were kids and adults everywhere. The vehicle suddenly stopped and we had to get out to face the mini warriors – they made it as terrifying as they could. They had to make sure we meant no harm before being allowed to enter the Parish area. They really loved it and they had been waiting for hours to do this. We were bedecked in floral garlands and processed along a pathway strung with flowers to the hall where our programme was to be held.
We were graciously looked after by the Parish Priest Fr Clement, fed and watered and given rooms with beds and mossie nets. He had also borrowed a generator so we could have power whereas he normally talks by the light of a kerosene light. To bed then to sleep with the sounds of gentle slapping ocean just metres from our building and to rise at 6am for daily mass.
Day 16 Monday April 21
The roosters started crowing around 430am and it became light about 530 and we strolled up the village track to the open-sided church for mass – the whole village of Dala is Catholic – about 3000 people all living around the parish-village. Originally founded by Marists about sixty (?) years ago…..the village comprised members of many different tribes who had been ‘converted’ by the early missionaries and brought to live beside the church.
The singing in the church was wonderful – hauntingly melodic with the unaccompanied vocal harmonies of the men and women who all knew when and how to join in and when to allow the solo-leader to sing out – all in native language – so beautiful in the early morning smoke-mists of the leaf-houses with a the bright green topical backdrop and the repetitive lapping of gentle waves on the shore a few metres away….a wholistic worshipping experience indeed!
Afterwards we returned to the priest’s house for a breakfast of boiled eggs and freshly baked scones washed down with hot tea…..and then off to begin the workshop with 23 eager participants preparing in the Parish Hall, which was laid out in fine style with large wooden tables and benches arranged classroom style in front of the blackboard….we were wondering if what we were bringing here would have any meaning for these people, most of whom English was their third or fourth language (after one or two native tongues and pidgin) and if the resources we were using would make any sense at all….
The group comprised of 14 women and 9 men from the three parishes in the local deanery of Melaita – Booma, Auki and Dala. How would they, living in such different, tv-less, internet/mobile –free zones receive what we were offering….
We began as usual with a welcome from the local community and then in response, Carole passing over the Message Stick with the words of peace, respect and honour, seeking safe passage we travel through the territory….and then we were into our program, naming and grounding ourselves in the spirit of ancestors, influences and Jesus….well we needn’t have had any concerns here as the group moved quickly into the flow of the process and were soon animated and engaged….the day went quickly with a very high level of understanding and engagement displayed, really active participation in role-plays and dramas, and a wonderful sense of humour, singing and dance that we’d become accustomed to experiencing here…
During the day we also had a visit from the Bishop Chris (a USA Marist who had been in SI for 30 years) who was bringing two of the Marist Leadership team around the village to discuss plans for the return of a Marist presence to the parish after a number of years absence – to run the local school which was currently government controlled….he welcomed us and offered us great support for this work.
By the time we’d finished and walked over to the beach to watch the sunset and the return of the fishing canoes it was time for our ‘daily buckets’ (the substitute showers while the water supply was cut off), a meal with Fr Clement and Deacon Peter and Sr Erminus…and off to an early bedtime around 9pm….the generator supplying our power (with only enough fuel to keep on for lights from 630-1030pm)….drifting off to sleep to the gentle lapping of the waves and the final chorus from the participants singing themselves to sleep in the parish hall about 30 metres away….
Day 17 Tuesday April 22
Overnight was relatively cool –the first experience we have had of any discernable difference between day and night temperatures. Protected by plenty of aerogaurd and a mossie net it had been a comfortable night for sleeping. Started the day with early Mass and we whities were the first into church. The kids sit on the front rows with pews (benches made from rough-hewn timber) built to their size. Their concentration is not on the mass but with their heads twisted around staring at the white fellas. Some times they give a little smile and a wave or maybe just wait until we get out side of church and have a proper look.
Father Clement informed us there would be no water today while the village ‘plumber’ fixed the pipe that had been deliberately cut through while he was away. Apparently things have not been the same with regards to respect for people or property following the Tensions.
The participants were eager and on time so we promptly got into today’s programme. We have such excellent group participation, with most people wanting to give feedback after every activity, that every thing takes much longer and our plans run further and further behind. But they are loving it especially hearing the stories about the radical Jesus. And they so get into the swing of role play – or drama as they prefer to call it – it makes it all such great fun. At each of the places we have a class comic, always a man and just so funny and has all the participants in stitches.
Time to break into groups this afternoon and start preparing for presenting their own sessions tomorrow. What a place to prepare – under coconut palms at the edge of the beach with a setting sun as a back drop.
A few questions about how do we do this and then they get stuck in. What great people – having a go at all of this. For some in this group English is their third language.
After showering with my bucket and a few mugs of water it was time for a hearty meal. It was a treat tonight as a special supply of fish and chicken had been brought in from the Caritas fella, Francis, from Auki. While the village of Dala is right on the edge of the ocean, there has been no fish available on any of the days we’ve been there – our main meal has consisted mostly of rice, tinned corned beef and sweet potatoes.
Tonight, we had some pretty heavy conversation post dinner and what could be done to create some space for dialogue between factions and maybe even provide some nonviolent alternatives….
but as I sit and type, the beautiful melodic voices of the participants are wafting across from the meeting hall soothing and preparing me for a good nights sleep…
Day 18, Wednesday April 23
Not a great sleep last night – a few disturbances in addition to the heavy humidity and mob of mozzies – including that they couldn’t switch off the borrowed generator which cranked on till nearly midnight, and then, around 2am, someone arrived to see Father with a sick child who was throwing up just outside our windows…all in the life of a ‘bush-priest’. Fr Clement is a very interesting young priest – a local from Malaita, aged about 35, he knows the people and the culture very well. He studied for the (diocesan) priesthood at the seminary in Port Moresby (PNG) and is very well read, very passionate about social justice and a seemingly intuitive practitioner of nonviolence, hardly surprising as he counts Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jnr, Oscar Romero and Nelson Mandela among his heroes. He has been a priest for about seven years and four of them in this parish of Dala. His house, originally built by the Marists about 60 years ago, has been burgled a few times by ‘robbers’ who have taken most of his cutlery, cooking utensils, and even his clothes, usually when he is away visiting other villages overnight or on weekends. He cares passionately about the people, their poverty and the actual and potential violence that surrounds these seemingly happy and idyllic people…. we’ve enjoyed our mealtime conversations with him together with Brother Peter, the soon-to-be-ordained deacon who is on placement in the parish and Sr Ermina, a feisty local Daughter of Mary Immaculate nun who works in the nearby parish of Buma, both of whom are attending the program. Unfortunately Fr Clement has been unable to participate as each day the local demands on his time have proved impossible to ignore…dying here requires a pretty speedy funeral service!
Anyway, on with the show…we had decided to give the groups more time to prepare their presentations yesterday afternoon (having taken a long time unpacking Jesus the Nonviolent Activist stories which they loved!) and so now have all five modules scheduled for this final day – with the option of holding one over until tomorrow morning if need be – having a 3.5 day program is much better specifically with the pace we need to work at here and the depth to which participants are seeking to understand the underlying concepts – most have never even heard of the term ‘nonviolence’ before coming on this program.
Well, the presentations were really fantastic with plenty of action and participation in each….the people feel very comfortable and accustomed to the basic formula of a session beginning with a welcome and opening song and prayer, then an introduction to the topic and outline of the timeline (they only ever list the sequence of the session and never the actual time – mmmm, wonder why!), then a drama or story, then some discussion about this, a summary of what has taken place and then a final song, dance and prayer to finish. We had allowed up to 45 mins for each group, to be followed by about 20 mins of feedback from the presenters themselves and the rest of the group – and in fact most of them only took up about 30 mins for their presentations and we invariably ended up with about an hour’s feedback….everyone wanted to contribute to this…fascinating dynamics – and mostly all in pidgin of course – except for the bits they really wanted us to hear…
And so the day went very well, finishing with high energy and in good time….there was to be a ‘feast and a party’ on this last night together.
The party began around 6.30 with Brother Peter having bought over a massive speaker system connecting to his tiny MP3 player, and to Brendan’s laptop computer…turn on the genny and the rhythms of Melanesian reggae rock the air. The music has to stop for a while so that we can have the formality of a dinner of fish, chicken, rice, noodles and greens and some red cordial. And then the MC runs the programme of speeches and we are given gifts of necklaces both from the participants and the Parish of Dala presented to us by Caroline and then Fr Clements. This was unexpected and our gift to them was not yet wrapped. Oh well tomorrow.
With the formal elements completed it was time to push back the tables and crank up the music. We were starting to be joined by picininnies looking through the windows but not being game to come inside.
Wow did we dance, all of us men and women together, such energy, such connection, laughter and drenching perspiration. We had to hold the frivolity for a while because the school principal had bought his TV and DVD along for us so we could watch We Were Warriors segment from a Force more Powerful. A little bit of discussion and then back to the dancing. We included the Elm Dance…… young men from the village, who thought they were just going to watch, got roped in for a dance. They have an amazing childlike laugh and shyness. One jumped straight out of the (open) window to deal with his embarrassment. Finally into bed around midnight drenched to the skin. It had been an incredible night.
Day 19, Thursday 24
And so we came to our last day at Dala parish – up for the farewell Mass at 630am and Fr Clement stuck doggedly to Vatican time while some of the group straggled in Solomon time…nevertheless, the singing was lovely as always… today the participants provided the music and led the singing.
Since we’d eaten most of the provisions at the big feast the night before, breakfast this morning was hot tea and dried crackers!
Fr Clement, arriving late for breakfast, informed us that he had been making arrangements with the villagers to supply us with a pig for our final lunch – a traditional Malatian custom to farewell important visitors…Carole looked absolutely stunned when she then saw one of the local women walking past the window with a sizeable pig draped over her shoulders…and, even more apprehensive when we went outside and saw the poor trussed-up pig tied to a tree beside the cook-house…
No matter, on with the day, and off we went to the parish hall for the final morning to finish off the program and give some time for the group to plan their next steps from here….which all went well and according to the schedule – right up until the last wee bit of reporting back the plans and ‘commissioning’ one of the group to bring these to the review and evaluation meeting in Honiara on Saturday….just as we were about to finish and conclude, someone voiced their frustration about the recurring frequency of short-term external programs funded by NGOs and Aid agencies and how these were mostly benefiting the providers and not really assisting the locals – how frustrating it was to have access to some initial training or formation and then to be left languishing in a void when the one-off or one-year program came to an end….the cat was out of the bag (or the pig was out of the poke!)…and triggered off a flurry of supporting comments and illustrations of such experiences among the group – many of whom felt anger and frustration about being ‘used’ or exploited – encouraged or enticed to give up their time away from their duties with their families to attend programs and then be left with no capacity or resources to follow-up on what they might have wished to do….about how it is very difficult for them to even find the money to buy fuel for transport or to provide food for the participants in any program….and then going further into the way in which Aid money allocated to Malaita was prioritised and distributed at the local level, with seemingly little consultation or collaboration with the grassroots people….
And so this very passionate discussion continued as we sat listening to people raise their voices in anger and protest at the lack of respect they felt was accorded to them in these situations….it felt as if some breakthrough had occurred in their own capacity to ‘speak their truth’ and it was a privilege to hear these feelings being aired in our presence….we had been told by different sources that the Solomon Island people would not show their true feelings or speak their opinions in front of strangers – the culture of hospitality and politeness to visitors prevented them from such disclosures. We had just witnessed an expression of genuine reaction to the context surrounding the provision of our workshop, with absolutely no hostility towards us, but with real frustration at the potential repetition of previous ‘project-processes’ that engaged their hearts and energies and then left them ‘appearing like fools’ in their communities when there was nothing to support them beyond the initial initiatives. They then asked us to do what we could to make their feelings known at the evaluation meeting
We breathed deeply, thanked them for their honesty, assured them that we had heard what they had said and would confirm their representative’s summary of their views at the meeting….and then we finished this scintillating session with a suitable song: Go Now You Are Sent Forth…!!
After a short breather, we then began our own conclusion of the program, using the customary Solomon style of presenting the order of events and inviting people to participate along the way…it was particularly delightful to hear the ‘nonviolence’ song that one of the groups had composed being sung in the finale!
We finally got to lunch about an hour behind schedule and…..there were many varieties of ‘this little piggy’ finally served up.
Then it was time to depart as participants piled into the Caritas utes to begin the hour’s trip on the dirt road back to Auki. We hugged and fare welled extensively. Our promise to Fr Clement was to send him much wanted books and journals and a heartfelt plea for us to send medicines.
Journeying to Auki we could hear shrieks of laughter coming from the back of the truck – it was Caroline as they recounted stories from the party the night before…
We were dropped off at our Motel and took the chance to explore Auki town which is a couple of street blocks with a very busy market situated next to the ocean. There was still a lot of fish for sale. we stood and watched the unloading of 40 gallon drums of fuel from a ship by muscle bound young men and pushed up the road and loaded on to a little truck by young kids. Other kids did what kids do and that was just strip off where they are and jump into the water entertaining themselves with little bits of debris floating around. We were greeted by a local man called Reuben who just happened to be the last premier of Malaita. He was instrumental in setting up a permaculture training project with aid from Japan and also a shop and restaurant to sell their wares. Lots of people want to connect with us somehow, whether it is with a smile or a hello. The other thing we have noticed here is that it is very natural for young and older adults of the same sex to walk hand in hand…very Melanesian we are told.
Another night in another bed, with a lukewarm, trickly shower…..at least it’s running water!
Day 20 Friday 25
And so we are awakened in the early hours by torrential rain drumming on the tin roof, we have a late breakfast and the company of a couple from Bathurst doing project work on bee keeping around SI…
The rain finally eases and we deposit our bags in reception and walk up the hill to the church offices to meet with Bishop Chris, Francis from Caritas and with some of the local participants from our program in Dala….
Then off to lunch with the Bishop – a very amiable youngish Dominican from Long Island USA – who has been in SI for many years – he is going home on leave for about 5 weeks from Monday and most of his time there will be taken up with fund-raising….the local bishop is ultimately responsible for raising about 75% of the diocesan budget and so his work will be cut out for him as he visits family, friends and other groups to ‘encourage’ donations to the Auki diocese….a working holiday if ever there was one! We feel for the burden this brings to a very pastoral priest who’s first love is to be with the people…
We visit a recently opened Organic café in the town – where students at the local school of permaculture sell their wares – and have tasty fish and chips for SI$15 (about Au$2.50) each….and enjoy the company of the bishop….
Then a walk around the thriving market, watching the interactions in the selling of the day’s catch as the fishermen swat flies off their freshly caught fish, displayed on a tarp in front of their stall, and hear from the locals about how the system works….purchase some beautiful hand-crafted shell necklaces and bracelets, made by local women, with money withdrawn from the nearby A&Z atm…how convenient!! The women have spent hours collecting the shells from the beach, drilling holes, grinding, polishing, threading and creating stunning designs in return for a few dollars – we just walk across the road and pull money out of the wall!
Then off to the airport for the departure and the 30 min flight back to Honiara, where we are met by Adam and transferred to the King Solomon Hotel….hot showers, our first beer for a week and a tasty dinner consumed just before the rowdy karaoke party starts…what a contrast from the past week’s experience…here, Friday night is smokey, noisy and raucous – we head off to find a quiet spot to prepare our thoughts for the evaluation meeting tomorrow morning with representatives from each diocesan group….
Day 21 Saturday 26
Adam collected us from the hotel in the morning and, after picking up Janet who had traveled up from Gizo at the Dominican house, we made our way to the Holy Cross Transit House and met with Lynette (from Honiara diocese) and Br Peter from Auki diocese and another Peter from Caritas – the Bishop also joined us for a while….our purpose was to review what had happened and see where we might go next.
After hearing about the ‘noticings, learnings and applications’ from each of the diocesan representatives, and from the facilitators’ perspectives, we concluded that the project had achieved what it had set out to do by way of providing participants with an understanding of the key theological and spiritual underpinnings of the From Violence to Wholeness program; developing the capacity to translate and facilitate this program in their own communities; and beginning to create together a network of FVTW facilitators in the Solomon Islands.
Next steps were identified for each diocese and for the country as a whole, with the three representatives present becoming the ‘reference group’ for coordinating the emerging initiatives within the country – and with Lynette in Honiara being the contact person. Exciting plans were proposed to ensure that the group would be able to work on dreams/visions, strategies and resources, ongoing formation and experimentation with what they had learned from these introductory workshops.
And so we finished our program with an affirming reminder that what we had shared with the groups in each of the three dioceses was indeed useful and appropriate at this time in history…..pace e bene!
We then returned to our hotel and began the process of writing up the report from the meeting…and completing our journal….while the rest of Honiara went to a big soccer match – the local team was playing a team from New Zealand in a qualifying game for the World Club Championship – and unexpectedly won 3-1 (apparently it was just way too hot for the Kiwis) – so there was much celebration that evening around the streets of Honiara!
We had been invited to dinner with Ross Andrewartha and some friends – and were picked up around 630pm by Ross – and what a dinner it was – food for the body…and soul! Ross had mentioned that his partner, Tricia was originally from Belfast and that she would enjoy meeting me. Well, believe it or not, we were actually related (in an Irish way) – Tricia’s family, the McErleans, had left Belfast for Manchester to escape the Troubles when she was about 8yo – but her grandfather was originally from Clady in Co Antrim (about 20 miles from where I grew up) where many of my relatives lived – and one of mother’s sisters had married a man called McErlean from the same village – so, we claimed our ‘cousin status’ and celebrated with another drink! Needless to say, Tricia and I shared many laughs and stories as the evening progressed – some of them must have been true!
Another young couple who were there had very good friends who lived close to Carole in Caboolture (outside Brisbane) – and so this small world of ours was condensed into a fascinating ‘party’….
We had a grand evening – with superb calamari cooked lovingly by Ross and a magnificent fish dish prepared by Tricia followed by chocolate mousse and Irish coffee!!! What an unexpected delicious and delightful way to end our time in the Islands….
Day 22 Sunday 27
Our final day in the Solomon Islands and in Honiara – and we had one final treat in store….today was the celebration of Bishop Adrian’s 25th (?) anniversary of ordination as Bishop – and there was a great celebration in the Cathedral – officiated by the Papal Nuncio who had traveled from PNG.
The singing, dancing and ceremonies were awesome – with traditional dancers, playing their hauntingly spiritual pan-pipes, taking pride of place in the processions. We were spellbound sitting in the midst of a packed church – not too hard to identify as ‘strangers’ – and also easy for our friends from the Honiara program to spot us and say g’day!
And so the morning ended with farewells and a return to the hotel to pack up and prepare for the last pick-up by Adam and Peter from Caritas (those guys must be absolutely sick of the toing and froing from the airport!)
…Carole took the luxury option of sitting out in the tray of the ute with Peter while Brendan, as usual, had to occupy the front seat and keep Adam company (there is a well-ordered protocol in SI about where people should sit in vehicles…)
And so, the departure – only a wee bit behind schedule – and two tired Pace e Bene’ers were grateful to be met by Carole’s husband Steve and daughter Danika at the airport for the half-hour drive home to hot showers, comfy beds and peaceful sleeps…journey’s end!
(except that Brendan had another five hour flight next evening to get back to Perth! And so after a quiet, slow and relaxing day of debriefing and report writing in the beautiful flora n’ fauna surrounded gardens of the Powell Paradise, once more to the airport and the ever-reliable Qantas jet across the Red Centre to arrive uneventfully back in the West – safe and sound, with a huge bag of experiences and learnings to savour….)