Leaving my Fiji hotel, I board the airport bus with other travellers. Most of them are on their way home to Australia and have no idea where Kiribati is. I explain my travel plans to the islands for the next 17 days and feel like “quite the adventurer”.
At the airport check in, I am suddenly aware that 95% of my fellow travellers are islanders and I am the odd one out for the first time in my life! Many are taking supplies back home with them such as big Esky’s, rolls of insulation batts and who knows what else in cartons. I realise that is one of the few ways they can get these things into the country. Kiribati is so remote that shipping costs are exorbitant and often prohibitive. That is why I am carrying in our project supplies as excess baggage.
The trip is uneventful. The ocean below is empty. Kiribati is one of the most remote island nations in the world, straddled across the equator, smack bang in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
I glance out of the window and am surprised to see a coral atoll island below. It kind looks like it may be Tarawa, but it isn’t. We pass over a smaller island and then there she is, Tarawa! I feel a surge of excitement and anticipation for what lies ahead.
Tarawa is only 17 km square in area but it is stretched out into a long loop of tiny coral atoll islets, connected by causeways with a central lagoon. It looks like a lacy necklace floating on the blue Pacific Ocean.
Arriving at Teaotes home, we find her sister Bebe with 15 volunteers waiting under the shade of a tree to meet with us. They are keen young people who although somewhat shy are curious to see what I have brought with me, from Australia.
Teaote translates for me and the volunteers are shocked to watch me drink dirty water, sourced from the puddles on the road, through my Lifestraw personal water filter drinking straw. I have attached a clear piece of rubber hose to the mouthpiece so they can observe the clear water being sucked up through the water filter. They are excited there is an easy solution to make their drinking water safe. We then introduced and educated them about our natural remedy for easing the symptoms gastro for the babies of Kiribati. This was great news!
Dinner tonight is outdoors at Bebes and Nauniis house. It feels very authentic. Islander style living. We enjoy fish, rice and vegetables. The teenage boys put on a dance show for us. They love dancing. This is followed by Rosa performing an island dance as she balances a beautiful cake in her hand. We were certain she would drop it at some stage.
Guests are expected to go up and spray some perfume on the back of the necks of the dancers to keep them cool. Dopey me, is truly surprised, when they sing happy birthday to me. I just hadn’t made the connection, even with the cake dance. My eyes tear up at their loving gesture. I am crowned with a beautiful floral headpiece, like this one. A perfect island night!