24 October 2013
We've found that the Allied presence on Guadalcanal kind of pervades the island. For starters, there's the mural map at our hotel, identifying important sites during the war as well as Allied ships that were sunk in the harbour (and the reason this is called Iron Bottom Sound).
Taxi drivers all offer to take us on a tour of all the historic sites. Resorts feature WWII wrecks on or near their property: rusted out tanks and personnel carriers, dives to sunken warships and planes. The airport features the propeller of an old plane, presumably from the war. It's kind of like an amusement park war cemetery, if that makes any sense.
And we aren't sure, but the port area with the cranes to load/unload freight may be Point Cruz, the staging area for the Allied ships and planes. (We aren't sure because, while the tourist book says this area is right in town, nothing is really labelled. It's one of those cases where if you know where it is, you're set. And if you don't know, well, you kind of have to guess.)
At the same time, there's the traditional
Solomon Island culture. A wonderful building at the airport features pillars that are carved figures in the indigenous style. I'm not sure of the significance of any of the figures, but they are just fascinating. The first guy, with the metal embellishments, looks so much like the masks of the Dogon people of Mali - I'm sure there's some connection there.
Then there's the trippy guy who is half human and half fish. Fish head, human body, fish for feet, holding fish in each hand - you know there's some legend there, right? Some fisherman went fishing, fell into the ocean, and turned into a part fish so that he wouldn't die - some story like that. Alternatively, he met a mermaid while he was out fishing, they fell in love, and he became part fish so he could live underwater with her.
I'm not too sure about the other pillar - the shark, who has a person's head at the end of his tail, is eating another person. Or turning into a person. He has a person's head in his mouth, so you can interpret that however you'd like. I personally don't trust sharks, I see it as the shark eating the man. Although there is a village on a lagoon up north who has a legend about the sharks who helped their ancestor back to the village, and they live in harmony with the sharks in their lagoon. So I don't know, maybe this is someone's representation of the shark towing the man back to land. (I can only hope.)
We stopped at the central market - always fun. There's something so exciting about the hustle and bustle of open air markets, with colourful displays of food and fabrics, piles of produce like edible mosaics, noise and chatter of conversations and sellers proclaiming how wonderful their goods are, and all kinds of odours, some pleasant and some, well, more pungent.
Rainbow umbrellas seemed to be the most common covering, protecting people and food from the relentless sun. I love the umbrellas - they make sense, they are easy to transport, they probably are inexpensive - and they are bright and cheerful and just a little bit whimsical.
The Solomon Islands are about 9 degrees south of the equator, so it's a pretty hot and intense sun. And thus far, each day begins sunny, getting very hot by mid-day, and then by mid-afternoon the clouds come in and everything goes dark and grey, and often the rain falls.
Heading back to our hotel from the market (and having stopped for some lunch), we pass an area that, well, we aren't sure what is going on. It seems to be a cultural village with an arts and crafts market, and I included a little information about that in yesterday's blog. Anyway, something big was going on in there today - there was a big crowd of people, more market stalls, some floats that looked as if they belong in a parade, and a whole bunch of police officers directing traffic and getting the vehicles out of the village and onto the main road, which is incredibly busy most of the time.
This may be part of the festivities leading up to the Miss Solomon Islands competition, which takes place on Saturday, 26 October. We've seen posters all over, tickets are on sale, and we aren't sure but the actual competition may take place at this festival village. There's also a sign saying something about this being the Governor's Village and something big happening on 31 October - as I said, we aren't sure if this is a tourist promotion thing, or a cultural festival like Carnival in the Caribbean - but it makes things interesting.
So one of the floats had some teenage boys dressed up in the traditional warrior clothing, complete with loincloth and body paint. Of course I had to run over and talk to them, ask if it was okay to take their pictures. They all gave me big smiles and agreed to pose - and, well, you know me, I taught teenagers for years, I love this age group, they just make me laugh. So this group of 3/4 naked adolescents all posed for me, holding up their clubs and shields and spears, as I'm directing them to not block each other's faces, and to look mean. First photo, they are all laughing and playing and being the usual wiggly puppy dogs that teenage boys tend to be.
I told them no, you're dressed as warriors, I want to see mean faces. MEAN! Look like warriors.
So they gave me their Pacific Islander "I'm going to eat my enemy" face! YAY, got my mean looking warriors!
I thanked them very much, told them they did a great job of looking mean (and heard a few women laughing at the whole thing) - and I walked away laughing.
This is exactly why I love teenagers, and managed to spend 25 years teaching them - they are just too funny! Never mind that we're in the Solomon Islands, that I don't speak pidgin English, or that I don't know a lot about their culture. Kids are kids, and they like to show off - and this crew did a great job!