My South Pacific adventure appropriately started in the Solomon Islands, the most remote and least visited of all the countries on my journey across 6 countries. It was fascinating, enriching and very unique.
Honiara is a hard to describe place. Wet, muddy, dirty, bare are some of the words that come to my mind. There wasn’t any infrastructure or places to eat at, the roads abruptly stopped just outside of the main urban area and then there were just unpaved barren paths with very few and far in between cars. It did not help that it was raining and therefore the dust turned into mud. It made everything look even less developed.
Despite all of this, my week in Solomon Islands was sprinkled with several incredible experiences. I witnessed a starry sea one night when a storm kept me stranded and nature decided to show off with its beautiful luminescent plankton (you can read more about a Starry night in Ghizo here) but perhaps the most incredible of the moments was when I flipped through the only newspaper in the country made of exactly 15 pages.
We had already been to the same cafe twice in 3 days, there weren’t really a lot of options to choose from and that seemed like a regular Joe cafe serving cakes and coffee. It was as bare as the rest of the city but it felt relatively familiar and even cozy. I looked like I had slept out in the rain. Mud was covering my entire legs from walking around continuous puddles, and my feet and flip flops were hard to tell apart from the dirty ground.
I was about to finish my 10min read of the national newspaper when a piece of news stood out: a ghost sighting.
There it was, in plain sight, on a half page of the newspaper, next to an article on a rapist, an account of a ghost sighting, a good ghost it seemed, and one which did not mean bad, according to the author. I had to look twice.
At first I thought it must be a joke then I realized they were pretty serious about it. The story goes like this.
At that time, the Festival of the Pacific Arts was being held in Honiara. It was a meet-up of all sorts of arts, music and traditional dances from various countries in the Pacific congregated in Honiara. There were performances and celebrations and more people than usually gracing the streets of the capital.
The journalist recounted that one of the carvers for the Festival was reviewing the photographs of the carvings with the organizers when they realized that one of the photographs had a bright light on it reminiscent of the ghost of Gela who goes by the name of Bulutetete. Gela is an area in Solomon far from Honiara.
The ghost appeared on the photos next to the carver as he posed with his works. The carver goes on to explain that when he saw the photos he remembered that the choice of what to carve has actually been a vision he had one night when he was thinking about the best design for the festival.
It was in his dreams that the ghost had showed his appearance and this is how the carver made his piece.
To corroborate all this and try to understand why the ghost had decided to appear the carver and festival chairman went to speak with one of the elders from Gelda who indeed confirmed that the image looked like the Bulutetete.
So why did the ghost make an appearance? At that point I was curious.
It seems that the ghost was both pleased with the carving and showing his presence as a way to tell his people, who were visiting Honiara for the festival, that he was there to protect them.
But of course, the only ones who could fully understand what the ghost wanted were the tribal leaders in Gelda and not the mere humans.
Unfortunately I could not figure out what the ghost was trying to say beyond that because I never saw a follow-up story on what the tribal leaders may have thought.
As per the Festival, it did indeed go ahead without any issues – it did not even rain despite the torrential rain that happened on the days leading to that, so maybe the ghost brought with him a calmer weather.
I still wonder if that was a joke. To me, the whitish discoloration on the photograph looked like when we used to develop a photo that had been over exposed to the sunlight. Or am I missing something? I doubt a digital photograph would have showed a ghost, but yet again, I am quite skeptical.
Have you ever seen a ghost? 😉