Home away from home
Posted on 29 October 2014
The beauty that is Solomon Islands...On my way to Gizo, snapping photos through the scratched up airplane window was my only means of capturing the beauty that is Solomon Islands. None of my photos did it justice. I also wish I could have gotten a shot of the Gizo airstrip. Airstrip. Not airport. You can Google it -- it's essentially a small island paved for airplanes to land and take off. You then have to take a boat to town.
Upon arrival in Gizo, Sara -- my new housemate/colleague/fellow Canadian -- came into town to take me back to my new home away from home. While the house is a 25 minute walk uphill from town (with a 98% chance of wiping out on your way down), it's absolutely beautiful. It's perched atop a cliff overlooking the ocean and has a large balcony for endless enjoyment.
Interestingly, Chinese people are not a rarity in Solomon Islands. Being a Chinese-Canadian, I have struggled with this since arriving. In a nutshell, some mainland Chinese families have opened up convenience stores, which are slowly taking over the towns. Given that they are here strictly for business purposes, the Solomon Islanders are not overly welcoming as they are with the other ex-patriates. The other day, I was walking with a Canadian and an Australian (both blonde-haired), and the locals never gave me a second look; meanwhile, the two others received abundant smiles and hellos. It's not the fact that I am ignored, it's the fact that the colour of my skin (or race) here dictates who I am and where I come from. Even a tourist couple from Australia said they thought I was visiting family. Come on.
It's really unfortunate that I am often associated with the Chinese people running these stores because they are rude to their customers and condescending to the locals. The owners sit atop unnecessarily high chairs overlooking all their workers, and every transaction goes through them. You can imagine my discontent with this. With that said, Solomon Islanders are very nice people. After a re-assuring smile or "hello", they are happy to talk or help out. I look forward to changing the way Solomon Islanders view Chinese people (or, at least, Chinese-Canadians).
In other news, the strategic planning sessions for WWF-Solomon Islands have begun. This is a great opportunity for WWF to develop a national strategic plan specifically for Solomon Islands (previously grouped with Fiji and Papau New Guinea), which will conform to the WWF international program standards. This includes everything from drafting our very own vision statement to identifying our priority programs for the next 5 years. Even though it's my first week in the office, I feel very involved in this process, much attributed to the project lead from WWF-Australia and the country manager from WWF-Solomons. I am excited for the next few days where the team will be narrowing down the country's priority programs and strategies. We'll be getting into conceptual models and a variety of different analyses, including a SWOT and Stakeholder Analysis.
Amidst all this strategic planning excitment, I had a minor setback yesterday after morning tea and snacks. No biggie, but I accidently ate some peanut butter. Allergic? Yes, yes, very allergic to peanuts -- I found myself wound up on the bathroom floor. Lying on the floor of a public bathroom in Canada is already highly unappealing, never mind lying on one in Solomon Islands. I was just so excited about our catering service. Who wouldn't get excited for spaghetti pizza?! All is good though, I live to tell the tale (and took a very scrupulous shower when I got home). After one of the sessions, my host supervisor Shannon Seeto informed everyone about my allergy and I gave an Epipen demonstration. I swear I will return to Canada in one piece.
October 2014 - April 2015