I am back in the Solomon Islands to finish a quest I started three years ago.
Here's the backstory.
The man on the right in the video is Wilson. I found him at his house, sitting in the same spot, having suffered a stroke that took away his ability to walk around.
He remembered me well. His brother lives in New Zealand and called him to say he saw him on the internet.
Wilson told me the name of the village where he thought Jack lived and found a driver who would take me through the middle of the island. The driver wanted about $1000.
My travel partner, Elan, and I went to the Ministry of Land and got them to show us some maps of the island.
We found another way to get to Jack's village by going around the coast of the island on public transport for as long as the dirt road would take us. At the end of the road, they said we'd be able to hire a boat to take us the rest of the way.
Wilson sent his nephew, George, with us to make sure we got there in one piece…well, two pieces.
8 hours on the back of a flatbed truck with about 30 other people. Reached the village of Sulofosa at midnight. We slept in a shack until 3am, when high tide allowed the boat to pick us up. We continued on in total darkness; me snuggled between sacks of potatoes and Elan bear hugging a barrel of oil.
The boat dumped us off at the house of some guy named Dudley.
We slept on his floor until dawn broke, then got back on the boat.
We arrived at a Catholic mission/school on the coast. The kids could see two white people coming in on a boat from a mile away, so by the time we got there we had a whole mass of people staring at us.
Remember the scene in Apocalypse Now and when they finally reach Kurtz's village?
We hiked about a mile inland and finally reached Kalafasia, Jack's village.
We found him sitting underneath his house.
I shook his hand and said I'd come a long way to meet him because I owe him some royalties.
His sons spoke English, so I explained my situation, and that I wanted to help their community. I asked if they had any medical or educational needs.
We formed an ad hoc committee of Afunakwa's adult male descendants, with the understanding that they would decide what their greatest needs were. At the time it seemed getting prompt and reliable medical aid was the main problem, since their local clinic is far from the village and is only visited by a doctor a few times each year.
Getting medical treatment in remote regions is obviously a common issue that's not easily solved. It's the government's job, and even though they rarely do it adequately, outside meddling (especially half-assed meddling) can tend to make things worse.
My main goal was just to establish contact and a means of continuing the conversation — ya know, someone I could friend on Facebook. The residents of Kalafasia are several days journey from the nearest internet connection, but I learned that Jack has a son, Godfrey, who is a school teacher and lives closer to the main town on the island. Jack sent another son, Clay, to go with me to town, find Godfrey, and set him up on Gmail.
Before I left, we took some photos around the village.
This last one is of Clay's daughter, named after her great grandmother, Afunakwa.
I stopped by at the mission, found the headmaster, and paid the annual school fees for all of Afunakwa's descendants who are of age. It cost slightly more than my monthly cable bill.
And, of course, the obligatory…
George, Clay, Elan, and I took the long journey back to Auki, where we contacted Godfrey.
I took Clay and Godfrey to the Telecom center, where they used the internet for the first time.
Here's a challenge: try explaining Google.
I set Godfrey up on email and taught him to send his first email, then opened my account and replied to him.
Believe it or not, I've since heard back from him a couple times. After a quick tutorial, he had no problem doing it on his own.
The plan for now is to reconnect twice a year before he heads back to Kalafasia for holidays. I can wire money into his bank account once we have a clear idea of how it will be spent. We still have to figure some stuff out on that front.
We said our thank yous and goodbyes. They explained that they were very surprised I came to find them, but "grateful for the blessing."
Me too, fellas.