Tropical paradise – white sands, blue water, frangipani trees, fresh fish and pineapple. Wandering barefoot in the soft white sand around a small coral atoll.
There is one shop here, open most of the time, where they buy sugar, soap, flour, tea. To earn cash the community members sell or trade vegetables and fish with neighbouring islands, or take the two hour (one way) boat ride to the provincial capital to try their luck at the bigger market.
The only source of water for drinking and cooking are six 9000 litre rain-water tanks. At the time of my visit two are empty, two are one quarter full, and two are locked – about half full. If it doesn’t rain soon all the tanks will be locked and the community will start rationing their drinking water. Sometimes they have to ration for more than a month.
The kids go to school, but they also have free time to explore and play. Time is ruled by the sun here.
The water is always changing in the sunlight – silver at sunrise, blue at midday, golden at sunset. The toilets here used to be over the sea, but the community decided they wanted to stop polluting the sea life they rely on for food and income, so dug pit toilets instead. But the island is mostly sand, and the water table is only two or three feet down. So the toilet pits are small and fill up quickly. They want a better sanitation solution.
They sing me a welcome song. Then put up with my questions and hygiene assessment games and wandering around their homes to look at their toilets and water wells. Then they feed me sweet hot tea, sweet pineapple, and local vegetables. I am given a handmade basket and serenaded by the church choir before I leave. The warmth and hospitality of this community is beautiful.