One Month In

One month ago (and a few days), Mike and I landed in the Solomon Islands. I can’t believe we have already been here one month. Time is going quickly. So how has the last month been? It is hard to summarize in a few words so I will describe in categories.

Settling in/Living/Food
Our house is beautiful and so is the view! We love where we are staying and are thankful for the hospitality of those around us. Because our house is on top of a ridge, we get a nice breeze from both sides. With a few fans, we are adjusting to the heat and able to sleep through the night.  The sunrises and sunsets are always beautiful.

We are still figuring out how to plan meals and cook here. Mike is trying lots of new things but doesn’t enjoy all of them. We can’t find everything from home, but if you are willing to pay more, you can find most things; however, shopping is hit or miss – one week they have it, one week they don’t. Mike is missing Parmesan Cheese. I miss fresh berries, but the delicious tropical fruits here make up for that. Sometime in the future, I will write a post about the food here, especially delicious local kaikai (food in Pijin).

As for friendships, relationships grow slowly, but we have some friends. In addition to the human variety, Mike has also made friends with the local dogs and geckos.

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Mike with one of his little friends

Fieldwork/Research/Work
My fieldwork is going well. I am making good connections at a local school. Some of the students are becoming friends. I did surveys last week of Form 3 and Form 5 students and now have a bunch of things to compile and analyze. I also conducted my first interview with a Form 5 student (who took me to her church last week, read more here). That was a great conversation, but once again I have an hour-long interview to transcribe and analyze. I also passed out cameras for my first phase of the PhotoVoice project this week. Three of the students I trust, two I don’t know as well so I am hoping the cameras return to me in a week and they understood the project to take interesting pictures of their life. More to come on that later! Many more students want a turn with the cameras so we will see what I have time to do before their exams at the beginning of November! I have also made some good connections with local teachers. I will be going to Malaita this next week for World Teacher’s Day. I am excited about a local experience, to meet teachers from all over the Solomons, and to show off my kastom dancing skills (or lack thereof!). The teachers asked me to join their performance so they taught me dances from three different provinces. More to come on that in the weeks ahead! All that to say, I am making good progress, but also feeling a little tired. After the Malaita trip, I will need to figure out how to balance collecting data and processing data. I need to make time for both! I need to take a day to process through what I know so far to help me focus my research as I move forward.

Fieldwork Lesson #3 – Be present in the moment.  Findings will come in time.

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Form 3 Classroom during an observation

Mike is able to work, but the internet drives him crazy at times. He starts working around 6 am and works until the internet goes down between 12-1 (which varies depending on the day, weather, events, etc). Sometimes he can do a little more in the afternoon. Because the internet is slow and some other complications with the software he is using, he is not making progress as quickly as he would like. However, we are very thankful he has this opportunity to work remotely. We will see how it goes as we move forward!

General Health and Well-being
We both have been healthy, which we are quite thankful for! Our stomachs are often not quite normal. It could be the water, different foods, or who knows. So far it has all been mild so we can manage. We both have been feeling quite tired and a little drained over the last week. Personally, because I go to school each day around 8:30, I haven’t been giving myself enough head space to process and rest. So I need to create space for that. I have been feeling kind of stressed and anxious at times. I already want answers for my research questions, but I know that will come with time.  I am starting to feel overwhelmed in data and have questions about how to move forward and the portion of my trip to Isabel next year. Some planning for that will happen in the next month. The unknowns bring me some anxiety;  the cultural adjustment and research make me tired; tiredness and anxiety also add stress to Mike and me in our relationship. Saturday I was feeling kind of emotional and overwhelmed. Mike and I talked things through and then decided last minute to go to a local pool and have a little escape. We paid for a day use at the Coral Sea Resort (50 SBD for adults, about 13 US for us both), swam in their pool for an hour or so, and then enjoyed dinner poolside with an ocean view. It was only a few hours of escape but really helped refresh me. All of this reminds me of the importance to be present in the moment, be at peace with where I am at, and make time for self-care. Wasn’t Fieldwork Lesson #2 Self-care?? I imagine this will be a lesson I need to be reminded of throughout my time here!

So one month in, emotions have been up and down and cultural adjustment is getting to us. It still hasn’t sunk in we will be here for a year. We are coming home in December, which will be a nice escape from the heat and good connection with family. However, I imagine the 10 months after that will be a bit longer, but for now, I am trying to be present with the here and now and not worry about the unknowns. We are making memories and having fun (like our recent snorkeling trip to Mbonege Beach). I am excited about the opportunities ahead (a trip to Malaita next week), growing relationships with students, and the chance to share this adventure with Mike. We are both thankful for this incredible opportunity to live overseas!

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