Sunday, April 4, 2010

home to the filth & decay

The hotel kitchen does not have any fruit; only eggs and cardboard bread that would survive an atomic bomb. So with no brekky, we leave for the ferry terminal and the promise of home by early afternoon. The “Strait of Death” is glassy, a bonus of traveling at this time of year, when the lack of wind and swell make the conditions far from menacing.

We are met at the wharf by Nixon, our regular bemo driver, who barely raises the corners of his mouth in greeting. A wet fish handshake and we are on the road. We stop in the island’s main town for an uninspiring lunch of rice with green beans, and visit the new marketplace to stock up for dinner. The middle of the island received reasonable rain over the wet season, but as we travel south, the green recedes to brown and the land is almost as parched as in July.

Home, sweet home is a mess. The decay over five months is astounding; if you left for over a year there would be a ruin to return to. Goats got into the back garden and ate what little green they could find and termites attacked the tank stand, two floorboards, the daybed and the island cupboard. Everything is covered in a film of dirt and salt scum, with piles of gecko & cockroach shit, dead ants, spiders and rust. The furious scurry of roaches from their nest in our bathroom cupboard nearly sets off a panic attack, and the smell of the waterfall of shit down the shelves has scarred my olfactory sense.

The job ahead is overwhelming and I want to run home to my mummy and a nice cup of tea. Tom is equally fraught; however we set ourselves short term goals and begin. My aim is to get the bedroom ready before dark, while Tom takes down the tarps and tin cocooning the main house. By sunset, the bedroom is habitable, with a clean mosquito net and new sheets. The kitchen is still a no-go zone, so we take our meager ingredients to Gerry’s house next door and use his facilities.

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