So its time for another adventure with the armed forces. First it was Afghanistan, Iraq and other places I’m not allowed to mention in the middle east, this time the Solomon Islands.
After becoming independent from the British in 1978 there’s been all sorts of trouble over the last ten years between islands, ethnic settlers and what was a very corrupt government. More recently the Aussie troops, Australian Federal Police and an international contingent have been keeping the peace and sorting out the corruption. In 2007 there was also widespread damage and around 30 deaths after an undersea earthquake caused a tsunami. Without going into the whole political thing too much, the place looks to be coming along really well with the help of the RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands) and a lot of well spent taxpayers money. Australians are there for up to one year at a time working hard to help educate, train and lead this country towards a brighter future, so after being asked to pop on over to host some shows I jumped at the chance. Along for the ride my good friends Jed Zarb, Ami Williamson, Nikki Gillis and “the legend” John Williamson.
I hosted a few rounds of Friday night games, sang some songs, hosted a trivia night and even spun out the local islanders with a few magic tricks.
Friday night Games Solomon Style…
A Game of Peg Face in Honiara City. Someones got a camel toe goin on…..
I even made the front page of the local paper!
When we landed at the airport in Honiara we were greeted by about 400 local villagers, waving and cheering. We thought it was awesome, they love us! “Hello Honiara”, I was cheering and then someone tapped me on the shoulder and told me that they weren’t waving at us they were waving at their friends and family getting on the plane we just got off. Embarrassing….
We all shared rooms and roughed it a bit in the name of entertainment and I have to say I never thought I would be lucky enough to meet country folk music legend John Williamson let alone see him in walking around in his undies in the middle of the night.
The first show we had was at the Honiara arts center in the middle of town. We had nearly two thousand locals come out to see our show. I hosted the whole thing and threw in a few friday night games style events and some magic tricks to entertain the crowd. Special thanks to my good buddies Mez and The Wise Man who helped me translate to pidgeon for the crowd.
Unfortunately when Nikki Gillis was performing the power blew out and we lost half the crowd, but they came back an hour later when the Army supplied generators.Went back to the GBH (Gwadal Beach Hotel) base for dinner and a big night of wacky games between the Army and Federal Police.I was helped by the lovely Kylie, Jules and Tanya to organize peg face, pilchard eating, blindfolded soccer, obstacle courses and more.Next day there wasn’t enough room on the chopper to fly me to Melita with the bands so luckily for Tanya and I we got to go diving on a Japanese Sub wreck and troop carrier on Benigi Beach and Versalies. There are some amazing dive sites around the Solomons, more than beautiful coral and fish, there are amazing wreck dives from world war two when the Japanese, American forces went head to head.Kylie and Jules with the help of Tony from the Fedral Police who organized for us to go diving. Without their hard work we would never have seen such amazing sites. So thanks again guys.
As you can see the diving is amazing. We got down to about 30 meters and saw turtles, gropers, sting rays, mantas, turtles, trevally, angel fish and many other tropical species. One thing we had to keep an eye out for were crocodiles. There are many rivers around the solomon containing big ass crocs that are always messing with the villagers. Luckily none were around when we were diving today. This is a video of the wreck we dived on Benigi beach.
That night Tanya and I hosted the Trivia night where I pulled a few cool magic tricks and sang a couple of songs with covers king Jed Zarb. When in the Solomons we were told at all times we had to keep our on stage antics extremely clean due to the some 97% Christian population of the Solomons. Even though today we heard a song on PAWA FM by the Barefoot man that went on about stroking bananas, squeezing coconuts and drinking his cassava juice.
Next day I was on that station with DJ Joel who caught wind of my interest in the song. So much for keeping it above the belt. We then went to the local prison where there are more murderers per capita than anywhere in the world. The aussies help run the place and keep the prison guards in check who are known for helping prisoners escape. The main reason for this kind of behavior is the Wontok system where as if someone is in your tribe and in trouble, needing a job, money or any kind of help you must, as a member of their tribe oblige in anyway you can. In some ways this is where the corruption comes into play.
We then headed to an outpost about an hour out of town where one two charlie platoon were based to keep an eye on things. After an intimate show we noticed a lot of photos pretty girls on the wall next to a pile of letters. Apparently one of the boys sent letter and photos to Cleo explaining the lonesomeness of men in the army a long way from home with no female contact for months. When they’re bored they write letters back to their admirers who often send raunchy pictures and offers of many different kinds of fun.
That night we had the last concert in the Solomons at GBR, on the back of a truck for the Federal Police and ADF.
Amy Williamson did a great version of the Angels, Am I ever going to see your face again. JZ and Nikki Gillis performed their thing and John Williamson turned anyone in the crowd who wasnt previously into a massive fan.
I did my usual wacky games plus, fashions on the field won by an officer called Billy Gyatt, an army versus federal police arm wrestling comp, thumb wrestling comp and body building pose off.
I really admire the work that RAMSI and the local government officials are doing to help build this country. Fighting off Malaria, Dengue Fever and other local parasites while helping one of our countries neighbors in so many ways is an extremely admirable thing.
I hope that anyone who reads this, understands that the people of the Solomons really appreciate the hard work that these Aussie legends are doing and that we should too.
Local troops with John Williamson.