Sunday, August 05, 2012

Time to toughen up

Honiara is not the worst place in the world to be. But it can be tough. In the course of one day I managed to get groped in the middle of town in broad daylight by one young man, another threw his melon peel in the direction of my crotch in an intentional way, and in the evening I was harassed by two drunk men, each apologising for the behaviour of the other. And that wasn’t even the day I got pickpocketed. It’s become a challenge to get through a day in town without such eventualities. 

However, it’s not only in Honiara that you can be surprised and scared. Within days of the pickpocket experience, I was off on my first site visit to a village half an hour’s hike in from the beach in East Guadalcanal. The walk itself was not overly demanding, but nevertheless, I was looking forward to arriving at the village. Suddenly, out of the bushes came a group of warriors dressed in the traditional dress of leaves, and surrounded me. One grabbed his hands around my neck and held on firmly. Others were shouting and seemed very angry. Suddenly my colleague was nowhere to be seen. I began to panic and fear the worst – that I was under attack. Then, as suddenly as it began, my neck was released, and everyone started shaking hands and ushering me into a clearing where the whole community had gathered for a welcome ceremony. I have to admit that there were tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat from the surprise of it all. When my colleague re-appeared, and I told him in a wavering voice that it might have been nice to have been warned about this little welcome ceremony, he simply shrugged and bemoaned the fact that he had been unable to get a satisfactory photograph of the event. I guess I just have to toughen up and get used to it all.

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