Auki, Solomon Islands Loose Ends

I am back in the Solomon Islands to finish a quest I started three years ago.

Here's the backstory.

 

The man on the right in the video is Wilson. I found him at his house, sitting in the same spot, having suffered a stroke that took away his ability to walk around.

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He remembered me well. His brother lives in New Zealand and called him to say he saw him on the internet.

Wilson told me the name of the village where he thought Jack lived and found a driver who would take me through the middle of the island. The driver wanted about $1000.

New plan.

My travel partner, Elan, and I went to the Ministry of Land and got them to show us some maps of the island.

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We found another way to get to Jack's village by going around the coast of the island on public transport for as long as the dirt road would take us. At the end of the road, they said we'd be able to hire a boat to take us the rest of the way.

Wilson sent his nephew, George, with us to make sure we got there in one piece...well, two pieces.

8 hours on the back of a flatbed truck with about 30 other people. Reached the village of Sulofosa at midnight. We slept in a shack until 3am, when high tide allowed the boat to pick us up. We continued on in total darkness; me snuggled between sacks of potatoes and Elan bear hugging a barrel of oil.

The boat dumped us off at the house of some guy named Dudley.

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We slept on his floor until dawn broke, then got back on the boat.

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We arrived at a Catholic mission/school on the coast. The kids could see two white people coming in on a boat from a mile away, so by the time we got there we had a whole mass of people staring at us.

Remember the scene in Apocalypse Now and when they finally reach Kurtz's village?

That.

We hiked about a mile inland and finally reached Kalafasia, Jack's village.

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We found him sitting underneath his house.

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I shook his hand and said I'd come a long way to meet him because I owe him some royalties.

His sons spoke English, so I explained my situation, and that I wanted to help their community. I asked if they had any medical or educational needs.

We formed an ad hoc committee of Afunakwa's adult male descendants, with the understanding that they would decide what their greatest needs were. At the time it seemed getting prompt and reliable medical aid was the main problem, since their local clinic is far from the village and is only visited by a doctor a few times each year.

Getting medical treatment in remote regions is obviously a common issue that's not easily solved. It's the government's job, and even though they rarely do it adequately, outside meddling (especially half-assed meddling) can tend to make things worse.

My main goal was just to establish contact and a means of continuing the conversation -- ya know, someone I could friend on Facebook. The residents of Kalafasia are several days journey from the nearest internet connection, but I learned that Jack has a son, Godfrey, who is a school teacher and lives closer to the main town on the island. Jack sent another son, Clay, to go with me to town, find Godfrey, and set him up on Gmail.

Before I left, we took some photos around the village.

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This last one is of Clay's daughter, named after her great grandmother, Afunakwa.

I stopped by at the mission, found the headmaster, and paid the annual school fees for all of Afunakwa's descendants who are of age. It cost slightly more than my monthly cable bill.

And, of course, the obligatory...

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George, Clay, Elan, and I took the long journey back to Auki, where we contacted Godfrey.

I took Clay and Godfrey to the Telecom center, where they used the internet for the first time.

Here's a challenge: try explaining Google.

I set Godfrey up on email and taught him to send his first email, then opened my account and replied to him.

Believe it or not, I've since heard back from him a couple times. After a quick tutorial, he had no problem doing it on his own.

The plan for now is to reconnect twice a year before he heads back to Kalafasia for holidays. I can wire money into his bank account once we have a clear idea of how it will be spent. We still have to figure some stuff out on that front.

We said our thank yous and goodbyes. They explained that they were very surprised I came to find them, but "grateful for the blessing."

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Me too, fellas.

38 Responses to Auki, Solomon Islands Loose Ends

  1. kim

    that was a beautiful story. i wish you would put up more videos like that with the stories of the people you meet in your travels. thank you for this post, made my day.

  2. It's a great story and I think, you made great acquitances. But... I have a question (if the cat will allow me to type now): WHY are they all BLOND?

  3. Ron

    Matt,
    You are a man of your word, when you say "I'll be back" you really mean it!
    I'm happy to read your journals again (like in the good old days, before you became famous...)
    Keep up the good work and keep down the weight you lost :-)

  4. Andrew

    I understand the quasi-famous...I've never heard of you before and have spent the last few hours catching up on the past 6 years of your journey - after a late night click on a friends facebook post onto another friends wall, that just happen to show up on my newsfeed. Yeah, that's how I got here...and I'm glad I did. Keep flailing those arms. Peace

  5. Liudmila, According to Wikipedia, "the Melanesians of New Guinea are one of the few non-white races and the only black race known to have a high blond hair rate." They actually have a higher occurrence of a genetic structure that seems to cause blond hair (Hair color genetics are still confusing to geneticists) than Caucasians.

    Matt, That is a great story, and a really good thing for you to do.

  6. Trina

    Hi Matt,

    quite a story. I'm desperately trying to get a hold of you for a short interview. I tried emailing you a couple of times if you could get back to me asap that would be much appreciated.

  7. Chris

    Why do you need to "figure" out how his royalties will be spent? Why not just give what is owed?

  8. Lee Nelson

    Whenever I have a crappy day, I play your video as it always makes me smile.

    If my day's especially crappy? I visit your blog and re-read a favorite or two.

    You make my day.

  9. Hi Matt, now u've found the right people. This is what things suppose to be. Well am proud of my BAEGU dialect in that Lullaby song to become famous in differnt parts of this universe.

    Well done!

  10. Mary Lou

    I've been away for a while and just came back to check up on you. Glad to see you are still doing "good". Almost anyone can do well, but you also do good. Since I have been freaking out at all the bad news lately, this was a great way to end my week and start my weekend! Thanks again.

  11. What an incredible way to tie up loose ends. You're such an incredible guy.

    One question: did you get the chance to listen to some of the elders singing Afunakwa's lullaby or any other songs?

  12. Ken

    Awesome! So great that you went there! Reading makes me feel like going with you! Good job!

  13. Linnea

    Hey
    Thanks for doing this. It makes me feel even better watching the dancing badly video, to know that you're paying the royalties owed.

    I do wonder, though - you're taking a lot of responsibility by being involved in how the royalties are spent. Is it really your business?

    All the best
    Linnea

  14. James

    I am a very cynical, misanthropic person. Pessimism is my middle name.

    Matt, you constantly show me that not everyone is cruel, greedy, and self-interested. You are an amazing person, I wish my sister could have met you.

  15. Thailand is a fascinating and exotic country to explore. I am going to Thailand for 6 days at the end of January. Thailand is a really cool place during the slow season. Thailand has huge variety picturesque sites.. In Thailand one can stay with local people instead of staying in hotels and guest houses. People can save money in this way and learn more about local culture

  16. Shay

    You never cease to make my heart sing and my eyes well up with tears of happiness. You are simply A-mazing!

  17. Emma Miller

    This is an amazing story, Matt! Your quasi fame gives you so much power to do great things. You should start a wherethehellismatt non-profit fund. I'd donate!

  18. Richie Rich

    Kudos to you. I am so impressed with your generosity. Many blessing to you and your family. YOU ROCK!!!

  19. Mark

    Hey man, flopped here by chance. I just got back from a month in the Solos bush as well. Awesome work, it can be a little hairy there still after all the unpleasantness that went on a few years ago but youre doing outstanding stuff. Youre a good guy and your attitude to being involved with the distribution of cash is spot on. Keep it up bro.

  20. chrissy cm

    i love that my husband & i have been on the same road you have been on. i know it hasn't changed a bit. we even caught a "canoe" from the same "wharf".your journal brings back many memories.

    thank you for doing your best to help the malaitan people.

    iu wan barava gud arikwao!

  21. Thank you for dancing around the world. It truly is a joyful universal language. My husband and I were Peace Corps volunteers in the Solomon Islands from 1982-1985. I did some clogging in the village of Rutoria during a night of "dance sharing" with our Malaitan hosts. It looks like things haven't changed much. Your photos could be ours. I'm a midwife now with Dance of Life Midwifery~and I'm still dancing!

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