Friday, 9 October 2009

Kiribati Ti a Bo

And so my 'journey' to Kiribati comes to an end. I've certainly learned a lot this time. Really, really enjoyed J Maarten Troost's account of his two years in Tarawa. He seems to balance quite well the contradictions of life on a Pacific island.

I guess most of us assume that Pacific island life is a bit like being in paradise. We still harbour 19th century illusions of 'the nobel savage', inspired by the paintings of Gauguin and the writings of many others. Troost is quick to point out the draw-backs of living on a hellishly hot piece of rock in the middle of nowhere, with little in the way of entertainment and a real possibility of catching a life-threatening disease.

However, he also does something which is even more important. He defends Kiribati and it's people, their resilience and outlook on life that is refreshingly different to the rest of us, the I-Matang.

Coming back to life in Washington DC after two years in Kiribati, I could really relate to his sense of separation and the reverse culture shock he experiences. Something similar happened to me on my return from almost two years in Uzbekistan. I don't think young Westerners realise, when we're embarking on these intense journeys outside the first world, just how profoundly an experience like that can change you. I know I've never looked at the world the same way again.

One thing that Troost mentions though, that I haven't experienced, was the temptation to stay in Kiribati. Like Half Dead Fred, he worries about getting marooned in a lifestyle and culture that is not his own. I never really felt tempted in that way. I was always going home from the outset and I still wonder what it is that makes people completely drop out in places like India and Thailand. I guess I might never really know this.

Anyway, couldn't find any CDs or other music from Kiribati, but good old Youtube allows me to share two I- Kiribati songs I've been listening to.

The first clip seems to have been shot by I-Kiribati ex-pats living in the Solomon islands and shows some of the joy and happiness that singing brings to I-Kiribati people. The comments with both videos are also quite telling.

The second video is obviously a love song and I like the fact that it has subtitles so you can sing along in Gilbertese!

The image is of Tahitian Women on the Beach (1891) by Paul Gauguin, and is in the public domain.

Coming next . . . L
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