The long overdue update…

It’s been eight months since our last update. After New Zealand, we arrived back to Buala and proceeded to have no meaningful internet access. We have been updating via Instagram, and many of you have followed us that way. If you want to go back and enjoy eight months of photos, our Instagram accounts are @mikehicks and @racheldehicks.

Keep reading to get a brief rundown of the past few months:

In March we headed back to Isabel province after a wonderful trip to New Zealand in February.

On the beach in Christchurch, New Zealand.

It was a whirlwind trip driving from Auckland to Christchurch via a ferry from Wellington to the southern island. We went initially for the ASAO (Association of Social Anthropologists of Oceania) conference in Auckland and we ended up tacking on a vacation for nine days at the end. Although we tried to cover way too much of a beautiful country, it still allowed us a nice vacation and some relaxing time seeing one of the most beautiful and least populated places on the earth. It reminded us of the size and topographical diversity of California but with the same population as just San Diego county. We arrived at a beautiful beach, in the height of the southern summer on a Saturday, and were the only people there! It doesn’t get much more relaxing than that!

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Our private beach on a Saturday on the southern island of New Zealand.

Back to March, we arrived back to Buala and Rachel went straight back into research mode and Mike immediately hurt himself by putting a carabinier through his hand hanging a bag to filter water. He managed to keep it clean, avoid snorkeling, and make it to April.

At Fera Island enjoying a BBQ and Swim day in April with Lionel, and his granddaughter, and the rest of our Buala family.  Mike was very sad that he couldn’t go snorkeling because his hand was still healing.

April was national election time in the Solomon Islands. Although we were fine and completely safe in Buala, there were some disruptions in Honiara over the results, more on that maybe later in another post. April was also the Lenten season which meant wonderful pageantry and celebrations. It was a great time to watch as the local Anglican Church took everyone through the season leading to Easter and concluded with more wonderful feasting.

Palm Sunday procession in Buala.
Rachel on Palm Sunday.

At the end of April, we got a chance to visit Tirotonna, a village inland and up on top of the hills near Buala. The hike up takes locals an hour, it took us three! We were treated to a wonderful meal and some amazing views once we made it!

The view from Tirotonna out over Fera Island. 
The aftermath of the muddy hike up to Tirotonna.
The hike up to Tirotonna was 4 miles of these muddy stairs.

May was a hard month! Rachel got sick early in the month and after two weeks of worsening symptoms, we made a difficult decision and hopped a flight back to Honiara where Rachel had better access to IV antibiotics, more advanced medical care, and if needed daily flights to Australia. We never did figure out exactly what she had, but we believe she had both bacterial and viral infections at the same time and her body just couldn’t fight both. Once she got the IV antibiotics her body was able to fight off both but it basically took the remainder of the month to recover. In our original plan, we were supposed to head back to Honiara in June but since we had spent most of May in Honiara, it presented another hard choice, she needed to complete the research in Buala but was at least a month behind where she needed to be. We decided to head back to Buala in June and extended our stay until the end of August.

Riding the boat to the airport in Fera to head back to Honiara.
We are thankful for the IV antibiotics, but being sick sucks!

Before we left Honiara in June, the Isabel Provincial Youth Forum hosted a four day festival in Honiara for all the youth and Isabellians based in Honiara. It was a great time filled with four days of music, dancing, and fun.

Akson choruses at Grereo Festival.
Kastom dancing at Grereo Festival.
The Tirotonna Ward group at Grereo getting ready to perform.
Kastom shield dancing at Grereo Festival.  Grereo means shield in one of the Isabel languages.
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More dancing at Grereo Festival.  As the shirts say, the festival and dancing is was a way for Isabellians to claim their identity and embrace their heritage.

June was the provincial election season and also proved to be an interesting time to be in the province. Sadly, our adoptive family had two of the grandparent aged siblings pass away within a few weeks of each other. This too was hard as we felt the loss among the family, and as best as we could, attempted to support and mourn with them.

We started July with a fourth of July celebration and US flag raising, a wedding, a birthday celebration for Lionel (our good friend and our adoptive family’s patriarch and the local chief), and ended the first week celebrating the Solomon Islands Independence day. The flag-raising was a great event, a local family made us a U.S. flag and we taught everyone the star-spangled banner and God bless America, and the newly appointed provincial assembly speaker gave a nice speech. We then went out to Fera Island where we served BBQ’d cheeseburgers and hot dogs.

With Lionel and our homemade US flag and bamboo flagpole after the flag-raising ceremony.
Mike dancing with the Buala Widows at their Solomon Islands Independence day celebration.  We were invited as special guests to join them to celebrate.

The rest of July flew by but included a youth festival in Tithiro, a village a few miles away. Rachel was one of the speakers at the Youth festival and it was a great time with more feasting!

Rachel speaking at the youth festival.

In August we flew back to Honiara for a few days so that Rachel could focus on notes and a journal article and we could attend the 77th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II. Mike presented a wreath in honor of his grandfather Wayne Strickly who served in the US Navy on the USS Hale. The USS Hale was here in the Solomon Islands a couple times during the war. Mike’s grandfather joined the ship after it had been here, but it was still nice to honor him and remember those he served with who did serve here in the Solomon Islands.

The wreath we laid for Grandpa Wayne.
Laying the wreath at the 77th-anniversary ceremony.

We spent the end of August back in Buala for the 117th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity to Buala and the Maringe region of Isabel, and the 100th Anniversary of the start of the Mother’s Union organization on Isabel, and more feasting!

The Bishop of the Diocese of Ysabel and some of the priests after they dedicated the monument in the background.

In September we came back to Honiara. Rachel has been back a few times to the school she was at last year reconnecting with many of the teachers and students. Last week Rachel celebrated World Teacher’s Day with teachers from the school by performing a dance with them from Malaita and teaching them a country line dance.

Rachel with the teachers she danced with at World Teacher’s Day celebrations in Honiara.

As we have been going fairly non-stop since March we decided we needed a vacation and made a trip to the Western Province for a scuba dive trip. The Western Province has the best dive spots in the Solomons. The water is crystal clear and the reefs are absolutely beautiful with some of the most pristine and untouched reefs in the world. It was a relaxing week and we managed to make nine dives and get in some relaxation.

Diving one of the World War II plane wrecks in Western Province.

We have one month left in the Solomons, Rachel is busy following up with connections and doing final interviews as she wraps of this stage of research. Mike is volunteering some with ICTSU, the Solomon Islands government IT support unit to stay busy. We have lots more to share and hopefully, we will have time and feel inspired to post more in the few weeks before we start our journey home via Australia in November. We are looking forward to Thanksgiving at home in California!

Rachel at the World Teacher’s Day celebrations in Honiara. 

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