Today I travelled to Noro, an industrial town 45 minutes north of Munda. The town itself has been built and developed through the tuna. SolTuna employs more than 2,000 members of staff in their canning factory. The few days before I arrived the canning had to stop as they had no fish! Apparently, production should be up and running again on Thursday.
I settled in, grabbed some supplies and was just about to make myself some lunch – PB&J sandwich. When one of the ladies I had previously met, working with “Days for Girls” said that another of the ladies was doing a talk over lunchtime and would I be interested in going down. I was really interested in the work these ladies were doing, so I thought it would be an opportunity missed if I did not go down (I also might get a free lunch).
SolTuna has set up a hostel for the ladies who come to work at the factory – many of the ladies come from all different provinces in Solomon, staying for a few years and then going home. Vera was helping the ladies make sanitary products, skirts and bags. The women could hardly be pulled away from their sewing machines for lunch. It was lovely to see them so interested in the work they were doing. After lunch, I helped (said a few words) Vera do a talk on germs, the human body and healthy lifestyle. This programme was key at trying to keep girls in school for longer.
In the afternoon I walked down to the town – about 1.5 km from the Inn I am staying at. The town itself has grown hugely since SolTuna arrived, and there are many newly developed shops. There are a few places I plan to go tomorrow to talk to them. And I found a coffee shop with coffee beans!
I wandered into town to talk to some Ministries. The Ministry of Fisheries was away this week, but the lady who I spoke to seemed reluctant to talk to me. One phrase she mentioned was “we aren’t affected by climate change or sea level rise because of the lagoon”. At this point I knew I wouldn’t stay to speak to her any further – this was her opinion, but I was concerned that someone working in the fishery industry would make such a statement.
I then found the Town Clerk who invited me for an interview later that day. It was lunchtime, so I decided to try the café I found yesterday. I was not disappointed – fish cakes, chips and a real coffee for SBD$55 – around £5.50!
The Town Clerk, David, was a very interested man. He had a lot to talk about and many examples. I did think, however, that maybe I should handle all these with a pinch of salt, as the science sometimes didn’t add up. I learnt a lot about Noro, the economy, customary land and the growing market.
The day started of great, I had emailed SolTuna the day before asking whether I could meet them. Jim Alexander said we could meet on Friday – perfect. I did a quick workout, ate breakfast and then sat down to start reading through Solomon school curriculum. I always head into town once I think people will have settled into their office – Solomon Time. But today was just not going to be my day. Every office I went into, the opening times would say “9:00 until 15:00” and no one would be inside, or the office would be locked.
Despondent of trying offices, again and again, I went for a coffee, emailed a few people and set out my plans in writing. I went back to the Ministry of Land and finally, someone was in – not the guy I needed. I arranged I would come back Friday afternoon.
Happy that my Friday was going to be a busy day, I headed back to the Inn for lunch and to spend the afternoon pouring over coral reef policies and conservation plans.
Today was meant to be a busy day – two meetings set up and a possible third is the Ministry of Fisheries was back in town. I sat waiting for 10 am to arrive to head off to SolTuna. At SolTuna I spoke to John, a local man who had worked for SolTuna and the previous companies for 31 years! The interview/conversation started off slowly, but once he got talking it was easy to extract information. He was a father of 10 and said his relationship worked as he was always truthful to his wife.
I headed to my favourite café for lunch before my meeting with the Ministry of Land. The Minister of Land was very nervous and again said that he didn’t know how he could help me. I tried to ask a few questions, but he didn’t let me in his office and was very reluctant to speak to me.
I got the idea and left – I’ve come to accept that someplace I just won’t get answers from.
My flight to Gizo wasn’t until 4:30 pm. It’s a Saturday, I thought I would have lunch before I left Noro in my favourite little café I found there – turns out they’re closed on Saturdays! I decided to wait for a bus to Munda, where the airport is and have lunch and the trusted Agnes. After waiting 30 minutes for a bus, the whole market seemed to pounce on it, with me left standing there. I was angry and annoyed that I would I would have to wait even longer for another one! But a lovely lady said I was going to all the way to Munda, whilst others were getting on a few km's down the road. And after a few people getting shuffled around I squeezed in – a bus capacity of 12, I think there were 20+ people in there!
I headed for my plane at 3 pm and was greeted by a sea of white faces! A couple asked why I was here, and a few were from the UK and knew Sandhurst area. A short 10 minutes in the plane, a short boat ride and I was back in Gizo.
Time for Gizo round 2.