Settling into Island life

Due to the uncertainty around the customs clearance, and absence of much else to do I had given the guys the morning off. After enjoying my morning coffee that had left a grainy sludge in the bottom of my cup I got a call to inform me that our shipment was cleared for collection. I rallied the guys, organised the truck and we made our way down to the wharf. The driver's son, who must only be 7 or 8 was scrambling around the cab of the truck and Masi and Peni in the back, joined today by Uniuni, a fit man in his sixties, wearing a floppy straw hat and long grey beard - the only real indicator of his age. After scrambling for the keys to the container and eventually resorting to bolt cutters we were finally underway. The inverters, cabling and other small items were loaded onto the truck along with my precious food supplies from back home. By the time we unloaded the equipment at site and made it back to the house it was after 5 and the guys decided they’d had enough manual handling for one day so we lifted my groceries up to the first floor balcony with the hi-ab rather than battle with the stairs. Much to the amusement of all of the neighbours who came out to watch the whole spectacle.

As I unloaded my provisions with much excitement it felt as if I was setting up the Funafuti branch of Countdown, with the rows of tinned and packaged food lining the shelves.  Just as I was finishing up I was joined by Carolyn my new flatmate, a girl from small town Massachusetts here on a study grant. Both exhausted from the heat of the day we made our way down to the jetty by the hotel to go for a swim.

The rain was setting in as we arrived, but was more of a drizzle compared the usual torrential down pour. I dove off the crumbling concrete jetty in to the crystal clear water of the lagoon the sound of the rain on the surface like a thousand tiny bells as my head came above the water. The temperature of the water was bath like compared the chilly Pacific waters in the Bay of Islands I had been swimming in only a few days earlier. The balmy water a welcome reward for enduring the stifling tropical heat. As we were swimming a group of kids appeared, some doing back flips of the jetty, while others set up fishing lines. The sun was just beginning to set, and the water was alive with activity, small boats motoring past, fishermen casting their lines of the larger wharf to the south, and a myriad of locals on the shore and bobbing in the water a couple of hundred meters to the north. Further out in the lagoon the lights were appearing on a curiously large number of ships, at least four of five. Most looked like the medium sized cargo vessels that are the mainstay of Pacific shipping, but we couldn’t figure out why so many were in Funafuti at once.

That evening, despite all of the new ingredients to hand we went out for dinner, round the corner to the Chinese restaurant, upstairs in the town council building. The frazzled owner / cook / waiter came up to us a few minutes later to take our order, apologising profusely for the wait. Apparently there was a function next door he was catering for, and based on the volume of food moving through there were a lot of them.

Afterwards we met Masi at the bar cross the road. Unsurprisingly the live band which was scheduled to start an hour earlier was just getting underway, we grabbed a round of VB (the only beer on offer) and found a seat for the start of the show. Masi, who I was beginning to realise knew everyone on the island, started giving me the background on the band members. The five male members were all seafarers who had worked on the same boat together. The female singer had married an Australian man and was back in Funafuti visiting. I got a run down on almost everyone else in the bar, but didn’t keep track.