ARTICLES

Paying It Forward #4: Samoa, 2016

Paying it Forward 2016 was supposed to be in Feburary 2016, in Myanmar but due to a complete oversight and lack of planning on my part, I was deported on arrival due to having the incorrect visa. #lessonlearned #whoops What to do instead? Well, Talofa (hallo) Samoa! Yes, this awesome country was again the recipient of my annual Giving Back pledge. On the back of a Conference Keynote and 3 days of workshops, I added a fourth, complimentary day of workshops for all and any teachers or principals who wanted to attend, on Demystifying English Grammar and Tenses.   I was pleasantly surprised to see 80+ teaching staff turn up, during their holidays, to nut out the complexities of the English language and walk away with over AU$200 in donated resources and prizes. The Samoan people are an absolute hoot to work with, and this day was no exception. Faafetai (thank…Continue Reading

Ubud, Bali, my ‘other’ home

Ubud, Bali, my ‘other’ home

So people keep asking me ‘Why do you go to Bali so much?’ Simple answer, it’s where I can chill out, get a whole heap of work done, and get really well looked after.   I run a house, a business and have a very full life here in Perth, and LOVE it. But when I was looking at putting some moolah into an office here in Perth, I realised that the same amount would get me a whole villa in Bali – so that’s what I’ve done. I love it there, and because I keep getting asked ‘but why Bali?’, I thought it was time to explain. (and yes, there’s a spare room if you fancy a visit … keep reading!)   WARNING: you may find yourself looking for airline tickets by the end of this article. My top tip is to get onto the website http://iknowthepilot.com.au. Stupidly cheap airfares.…Continue Reading

Why am I publishing these stories?

Why am I publishing these stories?

  For 13 weeks in 2014, I published another part of my Kiribati story.   Why? Well here’s the long and short of it.    In 2010 I was lucky enough to be employed on an AusAID funded project in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in a country called Kiribati. I was posted to the capital atoll called Tarawa for an initial 4 month contract and these stories encapsulate what those first few months were like for a naive I-Matang (westerner) who had never stepped foot in the Pacific before.   After those initial perceptions, I am aiming to publish the stories of people who have lived in Tarawa for many years, first coming over as volunteers or engineers sometime in the middle of the last century. Their stories were collected around a table at the local bar and I can only hope that my retelling of the ups…Continue Reading

The Kiribati Chronicles

Before you start reading, want to know the story behind these stories and why we’re publishing a new part every week? Click here! Want to catch up on Parts 1 to 12? Follow these links! Part 1: You’re working WHERE?, Part 2: Coconuts can kill?, Part 3: Tip #3 – if you’re game!, Part 4: Exemplary Customer Service Lesson #2, Part 5: How to reduce your waistline in one simple step, Part 6: There’s a fine line between….  Part 7: When the foodie faces the frankfurter Part 8: The best road on the atoll is WHERE? Part 9: What do scorpions, coconuts and lightning bolts have in common? Part 10: Why stealing chateaux cardboard is completely understandable Part 11: Three sure fire solutions for immediate insanity Part 12: When’s the next flight out of here and am I on it?    Continue Reading

Part 13: If only they knew…

  NB: If you haven’t already read Part 12, please click here to do so first! This is a two part story, Part 13 being the second part!   The Deputy High Commissioner (DHC) clearly realised he might have just scared the living daylights out of all three of us and decided to try to back track; unfortunately for us, the damage was done.   John was getting jittery, Amy was nervously scanning the room whilst throwing me ‘let’s get the hell out of here’ glares, and the DHC was laughing nervously; ‘oh it’s really not that bad, it’s just our job to inform you of all the risks so that you know what you’re getting into. We are here to provide assistance but we’d prefer it if you didn’t get yourself into trouble in the first place so it’s best you know all the ins and outs.’   At…Continue Reading

Part 12: When’s the next flight out of here and am I on it?

Part 12: When’s the next flight out of here and am I on it?

When I originally posted this part of the story, it was prefaced with this warning:   Please note: this is a long one. I thought it better to post it all at once to avoid people completely freaking out. All is good. Make sure you get to the end before you start worrying!   I’ve split the original post into two – so make sure you stay tuned next week so you can read Part 13 – it’s a hum-dinger! ☺     Part 12: When’s the next flight out of here and am I on it? So Amy and I, as we’re new to Kiribati, have an appointment at the visa office to get our work permits sorted, and then at the High Commission to have our induction as foreigners working here. John, our boss, accompanies us so that all the paperwork will go through without a hitch. Sounds…Continue Reading

Part 11: Three sure fire solutions for immediate insanity

So after work on Monday we go to the local petrol station and after a hilarious bout of charades get someone to look at our flat tyre.   Various highly technological procedures are performed whereby soapy water is painted onto the tyre looking for a puncture and all is well as there are no bubbles being produced.       It is therefore deduced that there is coral dust in the valve and after a quick blow out and reinflation, the tyre is pronounced good to go. Ahhhh. Who needs Bob Jane when you have a soapy brush?   More charades ensure that the tyre is actually changed back onto the car and the wheelbarrow spare is put back in the boot; this in itself was a half hour rigmarole as the combination of nut and bolt and direction of said tyre in boot well was enough to entertain half…Continue Reading

Part 10: Why stealing chateaux cardboard is completely understandable

So we get home soaked and rattled but otherwise alive, to a completely flooded living room. Fantastic.   The storm has decided to lift off roof panels and find its way through our ceiling but our landlady is on our doorstep, hollering at us, convinced it’s coming from the louvered windows that we left slightly ajar.   Although the ceiling is visibly saturated with water, and even the ceiling fan is dripping, she won’t take no for an answer so we accept responsibility for the mess to placate her. Sigh.   We mop up the flood, close all the louvers firmly and settle into a night with no breeze and heavy humidity. Fan? Nope. I’m too scared to turn on the ceiling fan as the ceiling is still dripping water and decide that electrocution, although it would top off this comedy of errors quite nicely, is really probably not such…Continue Reading

Part 9: What do scorpions, coconuts and lightning bolts have in common?

Steale returns and we decide to leave the sanctity of the back porch and head out to Karia’s.   If I thought the potholes in the road were bad between Temwaiku and Betio, I hadn’t seen anything yet. Going out past the airport and towards North Tarawa, the roads take on a life all of their own. The potholes were closer to empty swimming pools and with the four of us in the car, the undercarriage scraped and jarred almost incessantly. At one point Barb, Ray and I got out so that Steale could try to navigate the car through the worst of them, but to no avail: the sedan was never going to fill the shoes of an SUV!   A little less than 5 minutes later, the driver of a mini bus passing us, started gesticulating wildly towards the bottom of our car. Flat tyre? Smashing. Just smashing…Continue Reading

Part 8: The best road on the atoll is WHERE?

Saturday rolls around and considering it’s my first day in Kiribati when I don’t have to go to work, I decide that a swim is in order. Surrounded by beautiful blue ocean and lagoon all week, I’ve been dying to get into that water for my first dip in the Pacific Ocean, and so we don our reef shoes and head out.   Yes, reef shoes. Like shoes made out of wetsuit material with a thick, rubber, sole like you’d find on a regular running shoe. We live right on the beach but need to walk out a hundred metres or so over the reef before we can get to water that comes above our ankles. Barefoot is NOT an option although you see locals doing it all the time. How, mystifies me. The reef is so sharp it rips reef shoes to pieces but their feet, which rarely see…Continue Reading

Part 7: When the foodie faces the frankfurter

Part 7: When the foodie faces the frankfurter

 Driving licenses in hand, off we head to the big supermarket, which is in Betio. Betio is the part of the island where a great deal of the population of South Tarawa resides; along with the better shops and restaurants, it also sports one of the highest density populations in the world. Now. One would probably associate high population densities with cities like Tokyo, or Mexico City even, but yep, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, on Tarawa, which is a tiny coral atoll, you can add Betio to that list. Go figure. I can hardly contain my excitement as we pull into a big dustbowl which is apparently the carpark of the big supermarket, Moels. If hopes could visibly be deflated, mine would have been sitting in a sad and sorry pile on the passenger side foot well, somewhere between the floor mat and the coral dust. It’s…Continue Reading

Part 6: It’s a fine line between…

 So day two on the job is as bewildering as the first.   As we get into the curriculum, I realise just how much there is to do: Steale has serious deadlines to meet and has been flying solo for the last 3 weeks waiting for me to arrive so there’s a backlog of work waiting for us to get sorted out.   My first job is to help the lecturers fill the holes in the assessment framework for the teacher training curriculum, which ordinarily wouldn’t be too difficult, if the lecturers were there to help.   A word on aid and development projects: the key to a successful aid and development project is ownership of the program by the people who are intended to benefit from it. Put simply, if you do all the work for them, or tell them what to do, there’s a fair chance they won’t…Continue Reading

Part 5: How to reduce your waistline in one simple step

  So off we go to the shop. 

Now this speciality shop is known as ‘I-Mart’ (name on the wall outside), ‘Nick’s’ (the guy who owns it) and ‘Blue Door’ (yes, the colour of the front door), depending on who you speak to: not confusing in the slightest. Buildings here are known by things like the colour of their front doors because there are no addresses. Yep. No addresses.   Our house, for example, is ‘3 houses before the Ocean Star store if you’re coming from Bonriki’. Fabulous. Another example of Kiribati direction-tastic, which I heard a few days later, was when Steale was asking a student about the whereabouts of the Catholic church. The reply was: ‘oh we measured it from your house: it’s 13 speed bumps towards Betio, ocean side’.   Now there’s a lesson for all of you English teachers out there, or anyone for that matter who…Continue Reading

Part 4: Exemplary Customer Service Lesson #2

Part 4: Exemplary Customer Service Lesson #2

  So we’re up at 6.45am, which is about 2.45am Perth time, and we’re about to leave for my first day of work. Our transport while I’m here, is Steale’s beast of a late 90s sedan, and its look is completed by 3 hubcaps and a racing sticker on the back windscreen. Awesome. As I’m thinking that the only place this car will be racing to is the scrapheap, I go to put my bag in the back and see a hermit crab hanging out on the back seat. Steale. Seriously? He laughs as he tells me, “No that’s definitely not normal!”, but apparently nothing in Tarawa ever is, so I’d better get used to it!   I’m in some sort of sleep deprived semi-awake state, as we’re bouncing up and down through the pot-holes to the college. Thinking I’m still dreaming, we see guys sitting in the back of…Continue Reading

Part 3: Tip #3 – if you’re game?

Part 3: Tip #3 – if you’re game?

  Another of our colleagues came round to introduce herself before we all traipsed off for dinner. Steale promised that as a special ‘welcome to the country’ treat, we’d be going to the premier eating establishment up our end of the atoll. Leaving the sanctity of the house we headed back out into the potholes and came across this traffic detour mechanism. Ingenious.   Driving towards food, I set about trying to pick out some memorable landmarks so I could learn how to get home, as there didn’t appear to be street names or house numbers of any description. I naively asked my colleagues what they had used when they first got there as it was all starting to look very similar: coconut tree, fence, coconut tree, hut, coconut tree, hut, coconut tree.   My question was met with guffaws of laughter as I was informed there was essentially only…Continue Reading

Part 2: Coconuts can kill?

  The flight into Kiribati was… well… interesting. After 3 hours of flying over serene, dark blue oceans, the landscape changed into dots of white sand and palm trees surrounded by crystal clear turquoise water. The land appeared to be only a single narrow strip and the closer we got, the more apparent it became just how thin it actually was. I had heard this country was sinking but was there seriously only that much land left? The parts that looked like they were larger areas of land were even full of water…. Where was the runway that would land a 737? Oh. Is that it? (look closely at the picture to the left….)   As we came in to land, the land disappeared and all I could see was water. Seriously, you could see the prints on the t-shirts of the fisherman in their boats we were that close to…Continue Reading

Part 1: You’re working WHERE?

Part 1: You’re working WHERE?

  For those of you who aren’t already part of our online community, here’s an excerpt from our latest newsletter: Lots of changes with SELECT Consultants this year, but the most exciting is that by the end of this year, I’ll have published that book I’ve been threatening to write for years… and the best part of being on this subscriber list? Is that you’ll be getting the book, chapter by chapter in the form of a weekly email that will land in your inbox. Cool huh?  Not already part of our online community but want to get onboard? Sign up here. Ready for the first part of the story? Here it is!   Part 1: You’re working WHERE? This may come across as completely nuts to those of you who aren’t accustomed to the sometimes highly unpredictable nature of the work that comes up in the world of TESOL, but what follows is…Continue Reading