24.000 kilometres away

24.000 kilometres and 11 time zones in 2 ½ days. People who rely on a steady biorhythm should not travel to the Pacific. It takes a lot from your body! Breakfast in the plane to Hong Kong feels like dinner, dinner on Fiji seems to be lacking cornflakes and on Kiribati the rooster crows while our ‘Dutch systems’ crave for sleep.   Yesterday we landed in Kiribati on the main island of South-Tarawa. The only road follows the shape of the island and takes us along wooden sheds, brick houses and an actual house of parliament. Nowadays Tarawa houses half of the 100.000 Kiribatians. One of them is Claire Anterea, our guide and interpreter for the upcoming 17 days. She tells us that Tarawa is, for Kiribatian standards, urban area. Many people gave up on the traditional livelihood from the outer islands and travelled to the capital island. On Tarawa people hope to find a job as guard, waitress, policeman, or… The prospects on jobs are not positive: 80% of the adults is unemployed on Tarawa. A large number which raises the follow up question: what kind of life did these fortune seekers give up? What would it be like on the outer islands?             From Tarawa International Airport we fly with Air Kirbati to Marakei, an outer island about 80 kilometres north. Due to a combination of luck, reasoning and our craving for a good adventure Marakei became, in about three minutes our ultimate destination. At least from the air it stays that way. The island lays beautifully in the midst of the boundless Pasific. From the 33 atolls that make up Kiribati Marakei is the only one from which the lagoon (shallow inner sea) is nearly completely surrounded by land. This land looks like a continuous ring of palm trees. Between all the green we notice something what looks like large houses. They prove to be maneaba’s; we discover later on that these community houses function as meeting room, dining room, concert hall, cinema, playground and elderly club simultaneously. After we land on the sand patch we bounce in the back of an old pick up to the village of Raweai. We look forward to discover together with the 220 inhabitants the life at an outer island. Diederik Veerman        

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