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Dion in the Solomons: Diesel, dust, skipjack and betel nuts

By: Dion Peita, Category: Science, Date: 29 Jun 2012

Over 3500 performers and arts practitioners from across the Pacific are converging in Honiara, Solomon Islands, for the 11th Festival of the Pacific Arts. Our Collections Coordinator Dion Peita reports from Day 1...

Diary - Day 1

What an amazing start to my Solomon Islands experience. After a 3 hour 45 minute flight from Brisbane to this unknown territory, I was greeted with the humidity and colour that you’d only expect while visiting the South Pacific. Last time I encountered this type of colour and cacophony of sound was from a well presented gentleman singing lullabies on his ukulele at the airport lobby beaconing guests to the Cook Islands. The hospitality of the Pacific is unique.

With the excitement of an eager student on his way to his first class I launched myself into the sound, the culture, and the local economy by taking an infamous ‘pimped out’ taxi. I was greeted with a smile that only be given in this region and that’s with those bright, stained red teeth from castigating bettlenuts! I truly don’t get the addiction? As a novice, I was polite, complimented him on his music (a hybrid mix of reggae with a dash of south pacific base flavours) and asked him to whisk me away to my hotel.

I’m enjoying the ride and sights from my taxi, with the dust and people-piled atop trucks without no seat restraints. Workplace health and safety would have a field day back in Sydney. The road rules are also entertaining this pillion passenger! I’m so glad I haven’t spotted a stray dog, as I know the drivers behave as rally car drivers and aren’t likely to think twice.

On arrival to my hotel, I quickly slip, slop, and slap to prepare myself for a walk to Honiara centre. My amble along Kukum highway has left me humbled, as the smiles of the locals disguise the hidden poverty tucked into the corners of the many lane ways. A small child entertains his grandmother while she hangs clothes from a make shift line, a quick glance from this perfect little person, and all is put right in Dion’s world.

I know that I’m nearing the Honiara centre, as the people are teeming, and the vehicles are starting to back up for some distance as diesel permeates the air. A local says ‘kia ora’ to me –‘hello’ in Maori language - by surprise, and I respond in kind. This gesture is starting to warm my senses to the local culture and attitudes towards visitors. As I enter the main market in Honiara I am greeted with smiles, crafts and strange and wonderful local produce to tempt this rookie.

Of interest to me is the fish produce that is being peddled by the locals for what seems to be extremely good prices for skipjack Tuna and other species of the oceans bounty. If I only the prices were this good in Sydney! The joy of local produce methinks.

Tomorrow, I will start my day by visiting two delegations here attending the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts, the New Zealanders and the Australians. This encounter should prove colourful and eventful; I think the Taiwanese bus has just this moment arrived.

The Festival of the Pacific Arts is the largest gathering in which Pacific peoples unite to gain respect for, and appreciation of, one another within the context of the changing Pacific. Dion will be strengthening Pacific networks, exploring resources for the Australian Museum's social inclusion project that assists marginalised Pacific youth in NSW, and presenting a paper at the Pacific Youth forum to be held during this period.

Next blog post

Dion in the Solomons: Celebrity status and a moment of reflection at Turtle beach