Originally I was meant to go to Zambia, until John gave me a last-minute call asking if I wanted to go the Solomon Islands instead. Of course, my first reaction was to look up where this tiny bundle of islands were located. After looking at pictures of the stunning country and listening to John explain what the project involved, I was completely onboard.
The next step was going to training and meeting my partner who I would be sent overseas with. I ended up bumping into Noah in a chippy in Oban. At training we were hit by an absolute avalanche of information, but it was great fun and I was absolutely buzzing to start my year.
Saying goodbye to my family and getting onto the plane was when it all became a reality. After a lovely thirty-two hours of travel it was finally time to see the country that was to become our home.
We spent a few days in Honiara which was barely big enough to pass for a town in the UK but was the hub and capital of the Solomons. We met our country rep and the headmaster of our school who were both as warm, friendly and smiley as everyone in the country. After this it was time for Noah and myself to head up the coast to Selwyn College which was a mixed boarding School situated on the edge of the rainforest and in front of a stunning beach. Only after a few minutes after leaving Honiara the scenery turns into breathtaking beaches and dense hilly rainforest and the true beauty of the Solomon Islands presents itself. Noah and I were both absolutely blown away for the full two hour drive up to Selwyn.
When we arrived, there was plenty of screaming and shouting from the students and all the staff had great big smiles and it was all very overwhelming. We were soon given classes and there was quite a big learning curve on how to teach a class of up to sixty students English who have a massive range of ability, while only equipped with chalk, a blackboard and a textbook. Both Noah and myself were faced with the same problem of having extremely shy students. We initially struggled to fully interact with the class as they were not used to our teaching techniques of including the class, rather than standing at the front and making them copy from the board. Despite that it didn’t take long until I had my classes acting out scenes from plays and writing out their very own short stories. Noah and I also helped coach the rugby team, which we both really enjoyed. It was brilliant to see the teams hard work pay off when we won the national cup at the end of the term.
For our first holiday break Noah and I went and spent a month over Christmas in one of our fellow teachers’ rural villages on another island. It was an amazing experience to see how these tiny little self-sufficient rural communities’ function and survive. I have so many great memories from that month but some of the highlights were seeing the look on the local village kids when they saw a white person for the first time. Spear fishing at midnight on Christmas Eve catching fish, lobster and squid on the island reefs for the Christmas meal and celebrating new years with the entire village. It was incredibly uplifting to see those who had so little live such happy and fulfilled lives.
The final week of the holiday was spent in the Western province of the Solomons and we went to a dive lodge on its own little island. It was a joint venture between an American lady named Lisa and the local family who owned the Island. Lisa had employed and trained the locals to run the small lodge and to be dive masters. That week was the experience of a lifetime, everyone there was so kind and generous, and it was so much fun. However the diving really stole the show as I was absolutely blown away at everything I saw from the massive Manta Rays to the little Shrimp Goby. The sheer scale and complexity of the life was incredible to witness, and I will never forget that week.
I decided that I wanted to teach maths in my second term as it was always a subject I enjoyed at school and it was a subject that not just the school, but the country was performing badly on. I was initially faced with the same problems of shy students, but I knew what to expect and I tried to make my classes as active and relatable to my students’ own lives as possible which they really responded positively to. This was shown by improvements in all my classes mathematical ability.
The same term the main coach of the rugby team left the school and Noah and I took over the role of coaching rugby. This was great fun especially considering the ACOM games was coming up, the ACOM games are every 3 years and all the church schools in the country come together and compete in a variety of sports for a week. It was a great week as we stayed with the students and won every match and Selwyn took home the overall trophy.
On our final holiday before heading home we emptied our bank accounts and managed to spend another week at Lisa’s dive lodge which was just as special and mind blowing as last time. We also spent a week surfing at Cloud Break in Fiji which was the perfect place to just chill out and absorb everything from the year while having a bit of fun on the waves.
I would just like to thank Bramshott Trust for contributing so much towards the most brilliantly incredible and most rewarding year of my life.