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First day on the job in Funafuti

I started my first day of work in Funafuti just like I would any other back home, with a cup of coffee before heading into the office. But this instant brew with lumps of milk powder floating in it wasn’t quite the same as a flat white from my favourite cafe next to our office on K’ Road. It was torture knowing that a few hundred meters away, sitting on the wharf, was my box full of supplies (including a healthy stock of premium brewed coffee from back home), untouchable until cleared by customs.

I headed downstairs and jumped on my racy red moped, only to realise it was a manual and I had no idea how to operate it. After fumbling for a few moments the landlord’s daughter came out and gave me a quick lesson, much to her amusement and my embarrassment. I could still hear her giggling as I wobbled my way away from the house. By the time I made it down alongside the runway to the government building I pretty much had the hang of the gear change. I made my way to the section of the Government building assigned to me, with a private office, quite an honour and started to clear the discarded papers from my desk, stacked the presumably broken office equipment in the corner, positioned the fan to provide just the right amount of breeze and proceeded to unpack my things.

After morning coffee with my new office mates I strolled across the runway to the TEC offices, passing through the construction site where Clara and her team were constructing the other PV system on the island, this one funded by the UAE.

Still not fully stocked up with food, I headed to the hotel next to the government building for lunch and ordered the fish, one of only three items the menu. I found a shaded seat outside right next to the turquoise blue lagoon. From here the outlook was almost idyllic, the coast of Fongafale islet curving around and tapering off into the distance, the water gently lapping over the hunks of coral lining the shore. The rubbish that lines a lot of the rest of the Island was free from view. Out came my meal, fish stir-fired with green beans and lettuce, with a mound of rice. I doesn’t sound like much, but was probably the most balanced meal I’d had so far in Tuvalu.

That afternoon was mainly spent in the office preparing for the installation, apart from a quick trip across the runway to visit Ampelosa, Head of the Public Works Department (PWD). Here came the first signs of trouble in paradise, Ampelosa who was feeling left out of the loop on the project. I talked him through our plans in detail and promised regular updates, and we parted on good terms. Small island politics always keep you on your toes.