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Update on volunteering in the Solomon Islands by Torin Price

Hello from the Solomon Islands. Here’s an update on my progress in my year teaching in a secondary school in the South Pacific.

My school is Selwyn College, it lies on the western side of Guadalcanal (the main island). The secondary school is church run and has an enrolment of roughly 700 pupils, although the campus was designed for half of that number. Last year I was teaching 150 students, meaning I’d taught over a fifth of the school. Please don’t ask me to recite all their names, I think at most I got about 50 of them pinned down. This year, since I’ll be teaching longer, I might manage 100 at a push.

The subjects I covered were a mix of Maths, Physics and Agriculture to 4 different classes. Maths was the most enjoyable by far, this may be true because it was the only subject, I had comprehensive knowledge on. I do have my advanced higher in physics; however, I was teaching it to that level, but with added topics I’d never seen before. Agriculture was my mistake. I thought it would be a good idea to teach a subject I’d never been taught myself. It probably would have been fine except the teaching notes I was given were a muddled confusion which left me spending hours trying to link up the topics. Next year the most obvious subject to teach again would be Maths, but I may be tempted into teaching Physics again.

The first month spent here is probably best described as hitting the ground running. Prior to coming here, I had only taught two 40-minute lessons. So, with this lack of knowledge, it meant trial and error was very much my style, little by little though I’ve begun to improve. I think the skill I’m becoming most proud of is my use of chalk on a board – not sure I’ll get to show this off back home mind, not very many blackboards anymore. Overall, teaching is a great experience that comes with highs and lows.

The people of this country really are what make it special. The open warm heartedness of the people is amazing. Everywhere you travel to you’ll be given a warm welcome and probably some tea and crackers. People here are very curious to find out where I’ve come from. Even asked “does your home have lions?”, a real question! Even though they speak a slightly altered version of English known as Pidgin, conversations are easy because the language is a mix of poorly pronounced words and the rest is filled in with onomatopoeic words. Sadly, BREXIT does make it into the conversations sometimes, even out here nobody is free of it!

In this country it may be Elizabeth who is Queen, but Christ is King. EVERYONE is a Christian. I myself break that trend, however this hasn’t stopped me from involving myself in the community. Nearly every Saints day is celebrated by the various religious communities. The celebrations take the form of a morning service followed by breakfast which is immediately followed by feasting and finally, once you’re stuffed, traditional dancing to top it off. The dancing is not very serious, but some do dress up in traditional gear such as tree skirts and war paint. After trying it I’ve decided it is like a work out so perhaps Zumba should send some scouts out here.

Solomon is the most chilled out place in the world. Everybody enjoys a laid-back lifestyle in which they are able to do enough to get by and then spend the rest of their time relaxing. Now this does sound nice and for a period of time it is great, but after a while you’ll start to become restless and want to do more. This brings up the idea of Solomon Time. It is unlike the time we know in Britain where we always work against the clock. Out here you’ll find the clock is often replaced with the sun meaning everything becomes a bit unreliable. You’ll make plans in advance to go somewhere, or do something, only for it to be changed about five times and cancelled minutes before it is supposed to happen. Solomon Time in small doses can be great, but too much of a good thing leads to a negative.

Living here has really opened my eyes, and not only to poor time management. The difference of being brought up in a developed country is huge. At my accommodation we don’t have: a microwave, a washing machine, a fridge, definitely no internet, and in fact electricity is only on from 7:00pm to 9:30pm. Without these, life sure is harder but you learn to live without. Comparatively so this accommodation is fancy compared to the average Solomon Islander. This experience really makes you thankful for what we have in our country.

Okay for those of you who are still scratching their head about where the Solomon Islands are, they’re a tiny set of islands that lie at the most eastern tip of Papua New Guinea. This means that they sit well within the tropics and experience the stereotypical coconut and golden sandy beach image. I’m finding it rather hot, though I’ll hold back any complaints because that’ll sound really hypocritical since I complain about the dreich Scottish weather. A bonus from my time here is that the sun has left me with a 007 tan (Sean Connery style).

The South Pacific is a hotspot for natural disasters. Thankfully all we’ve had was a cyclone which only brought down some trees. With the “Ring of Fire” nearby and as experienced it is occasionally visited by a passing cyclone, I am unsure if the Solomon’s are a very safe place to live. We’ll just have to wait and see if anything happens, though personally I hope not.

Humans though could be said to be a natural disaster of their own. In the way they are steadily altering and effecting the world out here. The problems include vast amounts of logging run by Malaysian corporations; the sea is viewed as the world’s largest waste bin, and rising sea levels cause islands to disappear. It’s sad to see but it alerts me to the need for more to be done. It is my aim to host a world environment day at Selwyn College this year to highlight the issues we all face as a result of our actions and often our laziness. Here there are a few attempts to reduce the impact of rising sea level, these are building concrete walls to protect vulnerable land from the waves and to plant mangroves to absorb the energy of the waves. Hopefully these will be successful but really, they shouldn’t be needed in the first place.

Christmas was a unique event for me this year. Very different to the traditional family, turkey and crackers I am accustomed to. I went to a Christmas service, slightly taken aback by the bells ringing out. And as usual there was a feast followed by dancing. This by itself was all very nice but it was later when we met up with two of the Selwyn teachers and were boated off to one of their villages that the most enjoyable experience took place. Christmas Games 2018. These games were held in various places in the village and were to continue up until New Year! The day’s events were blind tasting beer where both men and women took part for their respective teams guessing which beer they’d just tried, and secondly there was canoe racing which I’m sure doesn’t need any explanation. The racing was intense to stay the least, with one man passing out in the triathlon version. I think he was okay in the end – they dragged him off to a cold shower. This really was a Christmas to remember, even though I forgot it was Christmas Day.

Finally, I’d like to say thank you to my family, friends, donors, people from Kippen, you I disturbed by ringing your bell and asking for sponsorship, and everyone else who has supported me. For the record, I’m having a great time! When I return, I intend doing a presentation, but until then you can find updates on my progress through my Facebook – either my personal or fundraising page – or my Instagram account – torin. price.