Back to reality
Years ago – the sort of time scale (20 years?) that I left between leaving the Solomons and revisiting them – Soul2Soul was the most listened to dance band in London. It’s not island reggae, but I quickly began to enjoy their music, and especially “Back to life, back to reality…” It’s an anthem with meaning!
Today the travelling ended. The passports are locked up. There are no plane tickets or plans or reservation vouchers to guard.
In short, we are back home with milk bottles on the doorstep and a lawn to mow. Everyone is beaming – even now with jet lag when it’s 6pm but feels like 11pm. Actually I’m not beaming, I’d have been v happy to stay in the Solomons for months, no years, longer. I miss staying with ML and her lovely family, the beautiful food and those blue skies.
London at 5.26am when we landed was grey and a tad cold.
Back home I’ve tackled the jobs that build up after three months away – the mountain of post especially. I’ve also done the family washing (suds’ law), mended the wooden dugong and helped Nell sand her carved dolphin (woodwork), buried poor Snowflake our pet mouse who, once dead, was placed in the freezer and fortunately didn’t get defrosted in the new microwave. The microwave is not technically new – it’s from a neighbour who gave it to our housesitter Christina, and I guess we should play with it to see how useful it is, or not. I’ve also picked up the dog from kennels where he ended up for the final week of his staycation and amply reapplied red mite barrier to the hen house in a bid to tackle these horrible pests before the hens arrive home. Then, in case the pesky critters had crawled on to me I removed all my clothing and did another load of laundry…
So busy at home, though upsettingly I’ve found out that my uni teaching hours have been halved.
Reality is like London weather (I’m thinking it never rains, but it pours). What I have to do is ignore all the inconveniences and find some good tricks to recall all the happinesses and lessons learnt over the past three months travelling. In short: smile more, listen more, do more and realise how lucky it is to be born with a British passport, in Britain.
Back to the here and now
Here’s what the girls are feeling as they settle back to breakfasts of butter, granary grains and lashings of marmite!
NELL: “I don’t want to tell you what I learnt because you’ll think I was really stupid. But… I can now picture the globe and all the countries and think about their different climates and realities. I learnt that in the Solomons the sky is much clearer, that might either be because of less pollution or where it is positioned.
“I found that it is a lot easier to breathe in a hotter place if you have asthma which is incredibly annoying as I do not like hot climates – they are too hot. In fact I spent about half an hour in a cool house in Singapore which had fake rain. I loved it, I could have stayed there for one whole day. I learnt that the countries all around the world have different currencies that can be more or less than English pounds, so if you visit a different country it is quite hard to know what you are paying – whether it is a rip off or not – unless you have taken time to learn about the exchange rates. I also found out that England is one of the well-off countries compared to the Solomons and other small Pacific islands because there they still have houses made of leaves, without proper windows (but that’s because of the climate). No one complained about being poor. People make their own houses which is extremely impressive. And I think a TV would be very expensive, and not everybody has one. But in England if you don’t have a TV or computer it would seem quite weird.
“I was really excited when we got on the plane to London, even though it took 13 hours from Singapore. But it actually seemed pretty quick because about 10 hours of it I was asleep! When the plane arrived at Heathrow airport I was really excited. It seemed really strange seeing all the lights of London compared to Honiara, which is about the same size as a tiny town in England which hardly anybody knows about. Anyone from there who has come to London would probably think it is one of the biggest cities they’d ever seen, and they’d be right. the UK has 60 million citizens, whereas Australia which could cover most of Europe only holds 20 million people. It’s really strange because you’d think they could fit a lot more people in. I think I know why – it’s because most of Australia is uninhabitable, for example we spent three days crossing the Nullabor Plain on a train which is incredible. We boarded in Perth, I felt like we should have got on the train in China or Russia or somewhere just from the amount of time it took.”
LOLA: “Going around the world I’ve learnt so many things. Like people are so kind and I’ve learnt a different language. I’ve learnt about different animals, and volcanoes. It’s hard not to when you see one. I’ve seen many things on my travels but I’ve come to realise that none of them hold the same place in my heart as my home. That sounds really cheesy! I think it will change me for good, I think I’m more relaxed but I think I’d like to put more effort into the things that I do, because I see now I’m so lucky to live in England and get these experiences and opportunities in things like music, riding. The classrooms in my school are so different to the Solomons. In the Solomon schools everything is bare. There are no posters, no carpets, no proper desks. Half the kids didn’t seem to even have books. And the books in the library at one of the schools I visited had all been eaten by white ants! People say state schools aren’t nearly as good as private schools, but I think state schools in London have so much more stuff, like computers and posters and paint on the walls, than the private school we went to in the Solomons. However the kids there really concentrate and learn so much better because they know it’s the only chance they will get. In England you have to keep going to school until you are 16, but in the Solomons you can get failed from school at 11; 13; 14; 15 and 16. To have a chance in life it helps to stay at school until 16!”