One thing I am already heartily sick of over here has nothing to do with the Solomon Islands and everything to do with the kind of Australian male that is attracted to the place. There must be something about the idea of a mission, to a potentially dangerous country, involving police and the armed forces, that really attracts these guys. It’s such a great opportunity for them to prove themselves and make sure everyone around them knows how capable they are. As though the very act of being here were an assertion of their competence, which is utterly daft because it really isn’t that difficult to live here.
So I thought I would provide you a field guide to the Overtly Capable Australian Male in Honiara. This isn’t as exaggerated as you might hope.
Spotting in the Wild: That’s easy. About one in every three or four Australian guys in Honiara is like this. They are mostly in their early fourties to mid-fifties, slightly to very overweight, and wear horrible shorts, something that exposes their greying chest hair, reflector sunglasses and gold jewlery. They drive enormous 4Wds with no-one else in them, and when on foot they look around them as though they were peacekeepers searching out enemy forces in Baghdad.
Contact: When trapped in conversation with one of these fellows, remember that he wants you to act as though you are actually addressing James Bond. In fact, he’s probably a logistics expert, or someone with a job in the police force that never involved actually doing any police work. But boy, is he cut out for this wild adventure. You can irritate him very easily by failing to give him the appropriate level of awe and respect, or by attempting to tell him about any of your own activities, even if it reading a book. Consequently, it is best to avoid him. That’s what everyone else does.
Commonly Used Phrases:
“Tapping into your local network” = bullying the housegirl into getting you cheap food
“Really getting down at street level” = walking back to the hotel
“Living here for quite a while now” = living here for six months
O.C. Aust. Male: “We made it out to a little place called Visale. Road was rough as guts but we made it through…you really have to watch yourself out there, mate. It’s basic. Nothing like the Lime Lounge, I’m telling ya” (the Lime Lounge is the cushy expat coffee shop).
Me: “Yeah. We went there and had a picnic recently. It’s nice.”
O. C. Aust. Male: “No but…(he searches around in his mind for a way to disagree with this)…Well, anyway, you should watch out after coming back from a place like that. Always remember to, um…put Betadine on any cuts you might get. They can get infected…”
Me: “Uh, Yeah” (thinks…’oh, not another one…’). “I have to go to the toilet.”
I return to strike up conversation with the interesting Irish lady doing a marine biology survey in the far flung provinces, and notice him later attempting the same conversation on someone else. It’s what he’s here for.
Subspecies: ‘shipwreck’ (location – yacht club).
Not to be confused with: Actual police or military personnel. These are much fitter, far less tedious, and have a habit of playing down the danger of any situation they have been in..even though quite a few actually have been to Iraq.
Seriously: Another distinguishing feature of the OCAM, sadly, is the pervading sense of desperate loneliness that hangs about them. A lot of them have no families over here, or at all, and I think they spend much of their time alone at home or drinking at the hotels. The new RAMSI policy of bringing over people with families rather than single guys certainly makes a lot of sense, I think.
Anyway I have to go get Erin from Kindergardten. It will be tough, but I’ll make it through. I’m just that kind of guy…