Sunday, 15 September 2013

Retrospective: Island Living






A long time ago, when I was 22, I went to live on an island for a quarter of a year. It was a calculated move; I had just completed university and wasn't entirely sure what to do with myself. Orama is a campground and community on Great Barrier Island (NOT Reef; that one's in Oz!) about four hours by fast ferry from the city I call home. I had been to Orama before for camps, but never for more than two weeks at a time. That was about to change.

It was an isolated place, even for the time. Nowadays it has wireless Internet and everything. But I had no need of outside contact except occasional phone calls from home. The first couple of weeks - after Christmas - were very busy, because the annual summer camp was in full swing. Hundreds of people were using the facilities and as a volunteer, it was my job to help set up the dining room for breakfast, clean public areas and so on. It was like a little town all of its own.

Then everyone left except the long-termers, and we all relaxed just a wee bit. All the rooms, cabins and apartments continued to be rented to holidaymakers, requiring cleaning in between, as well as the usual upkeep and feeding the inhabitants from the gigantic kitchen - still the largest and most efficient one I have ever seen. You could easily fit a whole house into that thing, and two or more in the dining room. Even so, we often ate outside that summer.

That was also the summer I started writing my first novel in earnest. It would take seven years to complete, and even then it was not finished - it is due to be republished in time to come - but here is where the seed began. Of course, pretty soon after I came home from Orama, I moved to Germany. I was glad to have soaked up some true Kiwi ambience before going away.

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