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Report 11 - 20 December 2009 - Life in Nauru
It is eighteen months since we arrived in Nauru and so we have now
seen all of the seasons - and all the public holidays! We have also
seen almost all there is to see of the island and that includes many
parts of the interior of the island that few Nauruans have seen,
We are now relatively long-term residents among Nauru's expat
community because, apart from those who have married local ladies
and those who have settled into Nauru Government line positions,
most expats are in and out as quickly as they can without trying to
manipulate their travel arrangements to stay for an extra few days!
Our weekly schedule is not very exciting and it hasn't changed much
since we arrived but we are trying to squeeze what experiences we
can out of what Nauru has to offer.
For Jack, work takes up much of his time while Viv keeps busy with
housework, cooking, visits from friends, TV and, very importantly, our
evening walks. We are lucky to still have the Sky TV feed from Fiji,
after a few interruptions to service, but it has not improved a great
deal since we arrived. Fortunately there are also numerous DVDs and
a few books going the rounds so that helps a lot to pass time in the
Because Nauru is in the wrong time zone for its geographical
location, it means that it doesn't get dark until 7.00 pm in the
evenings, so, after work each day we have been able to continue to
walk extensively through the 'Topside' tracks and pinnacles right
throughout the year. Now that we know our way round a lot better,
this often involves a lot of hacking through the undergrowth and
clambering over old, bare limestone pinnacles left behind after the
phosphate mining. Some areas were last mined almost one hundred
years ago and have long been 'off the beaten track' for most
Nauruans but the areas make fascinating 'bush' walks.
The oldest mined areas are near where we live and they were mined by
hand so the miners had to walk in and walk out each day. A small
railway and/or overhead cableways transported the phosphate to the
ship loading points and so there are many tracks along the routes of
the old railway with multitudes of short spur lines, but it takes a lot
of bush clearing to gain access to them. All the rails have long gone
though we frequently find bits and pieces of iron left behind.
We also encounter many old WW2 relics including bunkers, guns and
gun emplacements, latrines(!) and defensive walls all heavily concealed
in the undergrowth.
Any WW2 enthusiast should visit www.pacificwrecks.com (or follow
the link below) for a more detailed account of Nauru's war relics.
Alas, the Museum, like so many other Nauruan attractions, no longer
exists and the relics in the bush are fast disappearing, but it is still
an intriguing subject.
On Monday evenings (recently changed from Tuesdays) we walk
(sometimes with a bit of running as well) with the Nauru Hash House
Harriers. It is a relatively small group, with numbers usually in the
teens but occasionally rising to the mid twenties. Many of the
tracks are the same as the ones we walk on other evenings but we are
frequently surprised with something new. It is quite amazing that
somewhere with such a desolate appearance can be hiding so many
fascinating trails. Apart from the walks the company of the other
Hashers during and after is very welcome relief from our otherwise
limited social calendar.
For our first year the weather was very typical for Nauru, very dry
with occasional short, heavy showers. But since the start of our
second year in June we have had many times more rain than we
received in the whole of the previous year. This has been particularly
true since the beginning of December when we've only had one
completely rain free day. This has resulted in full water tanks and an
incredible growth of the vegetation on Topside. But the water in our
tanks is only used for washing so we still have to buy desalinated
water for drinking, and the vegetation that is growing wildly all over
the island is mainly of the non-edible kind. So it is really just a
further impediment to our evening walks. On balance, the extra
rainfall this year is not as welcome as you might think.
However we have done very well from the few plants that are edible
since the locals don't show any interest in actually making an effort
to pick them. Except for mangoes that is. The local mangoes are very
small and the trees are very tall and so most of the fruit is knocked
off when it is very ripe and it's hard to get to it before the locals.
However we often meet the 'pickers' on our walks and so we can buy
them at a good price before they take them home to sort and sell.
But, apart from mangoes, we've done well with wild spinach (callaloo
to Jamaicans), tropical almonds (like normal almonds but smaller),
guavas and pawpaws. This has been a great help to our diet which has
been very limited in Nauru as the little fruit that is imported is
Apart from work, evening walks and weekly Hash we have occasional
visits to a from other expats, particularly the many Australians here
at the expense of Australian taxpayers to help the Nauruan
government to run its affairs. We've also walked round the island
twice, once in each direction, and around the airport in aid of
'Elimination of Violence against Women' and Jack has just completed
a slow tour of the island to judge the District Cleaning Competition!
Jack even managed to turn out for the expat AFL team against a local
'oldies' team on one of the local holiday days. This was his first
outing under that code and, while not totally disastrous, was hardly an
inspired display. Mainly because he found hard to restrain himself
from tucking the ball under his arm and running through all those wide
open spaces rugby style!
The reason for the holiday on which the game took place was
particularly unusual. The day is called Angam Day and it celebrates
the occasions when the population figure rose back up to 1500 after it
had declined below what was considered to be the minimum for the
survival of the Nauruan race. This happened on two occasions in the
last century. (For more details check
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angam_Day) The local version of the
story suggests that after the special effort to increase the
population at that time, the Nauruans have never relaxed their
efforts in this regard! The population is now approximately 13,000
though only about half are full Nauruans . The rest are part Nauruan,
other islanders or short term expats.
But we have been lucky to have been able to get back to Australia
three times this year, at roughly three monthly intervals, for two or
three weeks each time. The reason was not purely recreational
however. When we were back in Australia last Christmas Jack had his
eyes tested and was advised that his cataracts 'had to come out'! We
let Samantha make the arrangements and, with the usual doctor's
disregard for personal schedules she arranged two operations and one
post-op checkup at three monthly intervals. So we had to follow
The operations were done in Brisbane but it allowed us time for a
short trip to Townsville each time to see the girls. Unfortunately
the second operation was not quite as faultless as the first and a
small piece of the old lens was left behind. This meant a third
operation and a week's extension to the time away from Nauru. But it
was a bit boring because it wasn't long enough to go to Townsville and
Jack wasn't allowed to do anything very strenuous. However it did
allow us to leave Australia a few days before the next flight to Nauru
and spend a few days in Honiara.
As our company has another job in Honiara we were the guests of the
project manager there, John Kolesar, who treated us royally and took
us on several conducted tours of local points of interest and to
several very pleasant eating spots, a change from Nauru. We even
managed a run with the Honiara HHH. Certainly worth the visit and
something we probably wouldn't have fitted in our schedule if it
hadn't been for the second operation. It's an ill wind .........
Jack's project, the new Nauru Secondary School, is nearing
completion and the rush is now on to complete the first stage before
the 2010 school year begins on 2 February. The extra buildings, added
late in the contract, have to be completed by the end of March,
We are now beginning to think about 'what next?'. But we are working
on the basis that 'a change is as good as a rest' but I think we might
not jump at the first offer until we can get our life style back on
track after our Nauruan adventure.
Kimberly continues to work in Townsville and her boyfriend, Chris,
continues his fly in/fly out jobs at the various mines around the
State. She is keen to return to Brisbane to follow her special
interest of computer animated architectural presentations but
doesn't want to leave Samantha who has decided to remain at
Townsville Hospital for another year, at least, after completing her
intern year. She hasn't decided on a specialisation yet and therefore
doesn't have any imminent plans to move on. She and her boyfriend,
Miklosh, have just bought (started to buy) a very nice house in
Townsville where Miklosh's upholstery business is situated, so leaving
there might not be so easy when the time comes.
|Loading phosphate from one of the cantilevers in Nauru
|The project starting to look like school