Holidays in the Republic of Kiribati

Kiribati: it looks like I’m stuck in the islands

You have to fly from Nauru to Kiribati with one stopover in the Marshall Islands. Yes, the planes here fly like buses, from island to island. It was still the same Nauru Airlines Boeing I flew in yesterday from Brisbane. I sat in the same seat 11A near the emergency exit. During the flight I hoped to get some sleep, but no such luck! According to Naur Airline rules, if you are sitting at the emergency exit you are not allowed to sleep, because you are responsible for the safety of the passengers and have to be on guard at the Eternal Flame like a soldier of the guard of honour. I guess it was even justified, because who knows how they service planes in Nauru. I kept falling asleep, but the sweet stewardess kept kicking me, reminding me of my duties.

So in a semi-conscious state we landed on one of the atolls. At first I didn’t even realize what atoll it was, because they are all the same – a thin strip of land, which stretches like a worm for dozens of kilometers.

It turned out to be the Marshall Islands. Some of the passengers went out, some went in. In 45 minutes we took off and flew to Tarawa Atoll, in Kiribati!

This island became famous during World War II. In Russia, it is not very well known, but in the U.S. everyone knows about the “Battle of Tarawa” – it was one of the major and bloodiest battles of the Pacific theater of operations. One would think, who gives a shit about Tarawa? It’s simple. In order to properly press the Japs in the Philippines and Japan itself, the Americans had to make bases in the Mariana Islands. But they were controlled by the Japanese, and it was not easy to knock them out without bombers. The closest islands where the planes could be positioned were the Marshall Islands, but the Japanese were there too. On the way to the Marshall Islands was Tarawu Atoll, which itself is very small, and no one really needed it. But the Japanese recognized its strategic position and entrenched there, building good fortifications. So the little atoll became an important strategic point.

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The Japanese had about 2,636 soldiers, the Americans 35,000. It seemed that there was no chance, but something went wrong. The Americans bombed out, destroyed the main guns and decided to land to clear the island. The problem was that the atoll was surrounded by a coral reef and there was no easy way to get to shore. The Americans waited for the tide, but miscalculated and the landing craft ran aground. The soldiers waded hundreds of meters and became an easy target for the Japanese. In the end, of course, the island was cleared and all the Japanese were killed, but many Americans were also killed, which greatly angered the public. People couldn’t understand why they had to pay such a high price for a small and seemingly unnecessary island located nowhere.

Soon the plane did land at South Tarawa Airport, the capital of Kiribati!

Kiribati is a multitude of atolls scattered in the ocean! It’s a 4,000-kilometer flight from west to east! The population here is quite impressive for such an asshole in the world – more than 100 000 people, half of whom live in the capital. The atoll where the capital is located:

Kiribati has one small problem. Scientists believe that due to global climate change, most of the atolls here may go under water in the next few decades. This greatly disturbed the Kiribati people, who have nowhere else to go. At first they asked Fiji for help, so to speak, they decided to agree that if the predictions begin to come true, they will resettle with their neighbors. But the Fijians were not happy about relocating 100,000 of some leftist dudes and politely refused. The president of Kiribati went to the UN and made a fiery speech saying everybody was fucked, that because of all those faggots who pollute the climate, fly planes, clear forests and drink smoothies from disposable cups, Kiribati was going under water! You have stolen the childhood of the children of Kiribati! But, unfortunately, either the President of Kiribati wasn’t as nice as Greta’s girl, or the public is more concerned about Sweden’s problems than Kiribati, but no one really noticed his fiery speech. The President was thanked, told that everybody was very concerned and would definitely pass some resolution, and that was the end of it.

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I passed the passport control fairly quickly, although the border guard could not find a visa in my passport. Russian citizens need a visa! And since we do not have a Kiribati embassy, the nearest country where you can get it is England.

Well, as an embassy, just an ambassador and his wife live in a small house in the suburbs of Glasgow, drink Guinness in the pub, eat fish and chips, once a week check the mail and put a stamp with visas. In such embassies usually everything is homemade. You send your passport in an envelope, call, they ask you to send money, and also in an envelope! You start to haggle that they will get the money only when the visa is ready or else they will drank all before their time. Get a visa can take a few months, and maybe a week, as luck would have it!

I, on the other hand, had no luck with the Solomon Islands this time. I had to visit this beautiful country of 992 islands! Russian citizens there also need a visa, but you can get it online. I prepared the whole package of documents back in October, sent them to the migration service and started waiting. A month passed, no one answered me. I thought that there was still time and decided to wait some more. The problem was that it was impossible to call Solomon Islands. Neither the hotel, nor the migration service, no one answered at all. I threw them emails, tried to call and waited for my visa. It was already December on the calendar, no one answered me! During this time, I found a personal cell phone number of Head of Migration Service, Facebook woman who processes payments, but no one answer.

Maybe there are no Solomon Islands? Maybe they were washed away years ago and no one knows? In general, I wonder how people find out that there are no more Solomon Islands? When a wave washes them away at night, in how many weeks or months will the world notice that they are gone? At some point I managed to get through to the Embassy of Solomon Islands in Belgium. The ambassador’s wife answered the phone, and it turned out that the embassy phone was the ambassador’s personal cell phone.

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– Yes, what a horror, I am very ashamed that they do not answer you! I’ll try to contact them to solve your problem, but it’s Christmas soon and no one will be working.

Apparently, people in the Solomon Islands stop working 6 months before Christmas, and start 6 months after. Near the end of December, the migration service said that they had not checked the mail, and generally not aware of my documents and asked to send everything again! And also to pay the visa fee. After that, all froze off and no one else responded.

As a memory of three months of unsuccessful attempts to get a visa to the Solomon Islands, I still have a picture of the head of the migration service, who became almost family to me during this time.

Dude. hope you’re doing well! Greetings to the family!

The airport at Tarawa is new, but very small. A simple, clean and neat hangar. I had arranged in advance with my hotel for a driver to meet me. The story with hotels here is the same as in Nauru. There are only a few of them, their phones don’t work, and there is no online booking, so you have to communicate by mail. And they don’t check your mail very often, and answer your letters even less often. But I managed to make a reservation and even get confirmation that I will be met with a sign at the airport.

I’m going out of the arrivals hall so happy, but no one to meet me. I got a little depressed. Apparently, my appearance was so miserable that the kind people decided to help me, without waiting for me to ask them myself.

– What hotel are you going to? – asked a pretty girl, dressed in a strange for these places business suit. – George Hotel,” I answered. – I’m sorry, but no one came from this hotel.

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I got a little sad. The hotel is 25 km from the airport, there are no cabs in the country, and even if my phone worked, you can’t call the hotel. What to do? I had already started to remember hitchhiking skills, but I’ve never had them, so I remembered the stories of friends and old movies. But then a girl offered to help!

– I called them now! They did not come. Let me take you to another hotel where I work, and they’ll pick you up from there! Our hotels are 5 km apart!

Basically, I had no choice, so I was glad to have help and accepted. The lady kindly accompanied me to her car, turned on the air conditioner and went to meet her client. I was sitting in a small Japanese car that hadn’t been washed in years. There was trash everywhere, some papers, cans, sand, cosmetics and a big red woman’s purse lying on the seat. A dirty car did not fit in my mind with a very neat young girl in a snow-white blouse.

Soon I was bored with sitting in the car and I went to buy a SIM card from the local shop, but the Internet was so slow that not a single page came up. I could not even do a speed test. But every five minutes a Telegram message came up. Soon the girl came in with a huge Canadian! He and I flew in adjacent seats, but we didn’t communicate on the plane. The Canadian came here to work! He is a diver and “restores coral reefs.” I never understood exactly what he was doing, as my English wasn’t good enough to understand all that diving and coral terminology. The Canadian is not the first year here, knows the island well, so his questions to the girl made me wary.

– Is there any hot water? – Is internet still on a voucher? – Is the electricity still on?

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There is a good road along the atoll, one lane in each direction, people drive very carefully. The average speed is about 20 km per hour, because there are speed bumps, children and animals everywhere. In general, you can not speed. And why should you rush somewhere, if you are on Kiribati?

In about 30 minutes we stopped at the curb and the girl said that I was going to be picked up by a member of my hotel staff. It was hellishly hot outside, somewhere around +35, which in the island humidity made any person a sleepy fly. Soon a white Toyota RAV4 with a cheerful man showed up.

– Hi, my name is George! – My new acquaintance greeted me in perfect English. – Good afternoon, I thought you promised to meet me at the airport! – I decided to be indignant, but there was not a bit of regret or remorse in George’s face. – Yeah, man, I’m sorry. Here’s the thing, you know, our driver went to a bar to get drunk last night! He got four broken fingers and a black eye. Poor bastard. Don’t worry, it’s very safe here, I can’t even imagine what you had to do to get busted in a bar. Anyway, here’s my advice! Don’t get drunk if you get drunk! You’ll be fine. – I’m not going to any of your bars, but why didn’t you at least tell me you weren’t coming? You knew yesterday you couldn’t make it. – Yeah. Right. I didn’t think about it. – But the guy behind the wheel didn’t even know what was wrong. So what if we didn’t meet him, we’re in Kiribati!

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