The question that has befuddled man throughout the ages: "Does a bear shit in the woods?". The answer seems obvious, "Yes" making the question purely rhetorical. However I can reveal from the island of Nukutoa, four degrees off the equator, that here the answer is "No!". Who does then? Well... Zane does! along with the two hundred or so other men on the Island.
What am I on about? Well most people I discussed the trip with seemed quite curious about what the toilet arrangements would be. Basically while the women go in the channel between Nukutoa and the island to the north (all the Islands on the atoll can be walked to as the water is only thigh high at low tide) the men have our own toilet island. If you look at the googleearth shot you will see on the Eastern extremity of the Island a group of trees joined to the Island by a narrow causeway that is submerged at high tide.
Whenever the urge strikes (I enjoy it about 6.30am) I stroll down to the woods on the point (toilet paper discretely in bum bag, no pun intended), find a nice group of trees and a nice view out to sea and then hoist up my lap lap..... sweet sweet relief. My only objection is the highly efficient squatting position makes the joyful experience all too quick. Then overnight the combination of heat, rain, bugs, wind and sun break down whatever is deposited and my favourite spot is generally fresh for more action the next morning.
Ahhh the island life.
Anyway here we are after nearly three weeks on the Island, Briar and I are now officially married in Island terms; it seems all you need to do here is for the guy to spend a few nights in the woman's hut and voila! We are however confusing the locals with our flexible gender roles....I don't think the men were impressed today to see me doing Briar's laundry!
Week one was all about trying to cover the rush of ceremonies and local events while trying to deal with the climate and about a million different things happening to my poor skin... cut feet, sunburn, heat rash, chaffing, prickly heat, mountains of sweat (which makes operating a camera very uncomfortable!) and just to really make me happy some jelly fish stings up my legs and arms...sigh, 'twas expected but still rough. However that all sounds dreary when most of the first week was actually amazing. We were given a veritable palace to call home complete with western style beds (i.e. not on the floor) and a lockable closet for the gear. We are on the western coast of the Island and five big steps from the back door would get you in the water at high tide (11 at low tide). The food has been incredible and plentiful and the couple Sio and Sini who have given up their house for our stay are really lovely and always keep an eye out for us. Every night when we arrive home from shooting a hot dinner is on the table (fried turtle and steamed sweet potato tonight and as usual enough to feed six people) and our kerosene lamp is lit. It gets dark here by six and if we're not home a search party usually goes out!
The effects of the rising sea level here are immediately obvious and quite severe and claims that the Island was a metre above sea level I now see were slightly exaggerated. The Island is about 90cm above high water by my reckoning. I have attached a couple of photos for this blog entry. This first one shows the high tide very close to going into the island's schoolgrounds - the building with the tin roof is one of the classrooms. The land level you can see is pretty much as high as the rest of the Island...With the right winds the water has flowed through here in the past.
These next two photos show the island's west coast in the 1970's and now.
Now the present day shot is at high tide while the archive may not be, so it is not necessarily a fair comparison. I will, however, try and get a shot at low tide soon that will show that, regardless of the water level, the damage by the sea levels is immense. The white sand beach along the coast in the 70's is no longer here - instead the underlying jagged coral is now exposed in its place.
People here put the issue largely to the back of their minds and while they are happy we are here making a film the attitude is generally that they'll deal with the crisis when it reaches crisis point....I find nothing too peculiar about this as I think all societies act this way, especially ours, in that no one really deals with problems no matter how serious until the problem encroaches enough to make ignoring it not an option. For the moment people here can ignore the issue as it's not quite a day-to-day hindrance to them in any way (although a few times a year it becomes an issue). For now they sit and hope that someone with the knowledge and resources will come and guide them through.
Power is running low so I'm going to cut this short for the sake of charging our camera batteries. Next update I'll talk a little about the gear and how it is holding up. I'll end this one by saying a big thank you to Pete Fullerton who helped me wire up the electrics before I left and so far it's been working a treat... more thank-yous to come in future entries.
Mum I'm still alive and will call soon by sat phone.
Happy New Year to all.