What makes you love somewhere?

This blog is temporarily about travel and homeschooling in Solomon Islands

Sometimes there are mountains in the driving mirror. Or silver clouds at sunset. Or a trail of dust behind an open-backed truck crowded with people and produce going to market. A snatch of song, Wantok is this year’s favourite or the smell of food cooked on hot stones. These are the moments I feel weak about Solomon Islands – crazily falling in love with it again after all these years.

Twenty years ago I arrived in the tiny Pacific Island country, the Solomons, a little bit shell-shocked to have opted for a two year contract as a journalist trainer in a place I frankly struggled to locate on a map. For a Londoner, those first few weeks were hard. I despised the one road, the lack of big buses, the small town feel, the crowds of young men hanging around. And then something happened that let me fall in love with a place head-over-heels. All I did was go for a walk.

Yes, a walk.

It was over some hills – a two hour trek uphill. Then down a big bank through the rainforest, via caves and waterfalls and pools and home along a river. I’d never imagined any place so magical. The sounds were exotic. To have to swim or wade most of the last part home down the Matanikao was extraordinary. I forgot about the heat, humidity, and teeming, biting insect life

That Monday I went back to the office a new person.

Time ticked on and I learnt a new language, made friends and thoroughly enjoyed working with my colleagues. Visitors from the UK came. Marmite jars emptied. Things normalised. But the immense pleasure I get from being in the Solomons has never worn away. I am so happy we’ve been able to spend two months here this year (2011) and that Lola and Nell have had a chance to meet my friends (and become friends with their kids!) and to love this country too. The Solomons is a place where I definitely smile far more.

I hope this happens to you one day too. Not the homesickness, obviously; the surprise attack of loving a place which you can stay in or treasure in your mind exactly as circumstances demand.

What isn’t much fun is having to say goodbye, I think each go finis gets worse. Years ago I was crying over a lost opportunity to live here; this time it’s goodbye to my lovely friend ML who has been the most generous host in the world – offering 4 of us a place to stay for 2 months after not actually seeing any of us for about eight years!! She is such a force of nature that I actually pretend to be her when I’m in a situation I feel that I can’t cope with.

Transition
Stocking up again on the way the Solomons makes me feel, or copying the way ML masterminds house, office and entertainment with panache, latte and a good bottle of red should see me burst back to the UK with reknewed vigour. Far better than being miserable about the possibility of not coming back to the place and people I love for a frightening length of time.

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