IT may seem strange to be looking for a boyfriend in a place called Fatboys, but this is where I found myself last week, at a resort in the Solomon Islands. And there’s not a fat boy in sight. Named after the character Joe who ate too much and slept too much in The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, life in this South Pacific resort revolves around the same delicious concept. Drinking, eating, snorkelling and sleeping. And I have bagged the best bed of all, the Honeymoon Suite overlooking the lagoon where reef sharks circle in a hypnotic symphony at night. Two things strike me about my room: Am I the first woman in history to spend the night alone in this suite? And why is there a replica of a human skull among the collection of seashells on my balcony?
I’m in the Solomons searching for a solo man and am reminded that it was only about 100 years ago that the islanders liked to eat little white girls like me. But these days you’ll find a place infused with rustic romance and islanders as warm and welcoming as their aqua lagoons. Meria, 25, warns me it’s not going to be an easy task finding a husband here, as things are very different around these parts.
“Here the ladies are mostly shy, even if they have an interest in men they don’t ask them out. Before there used to be arranged marriages. My grandparents had an arranged marriage,” she says.
“Our age group is educated and goes to Fiji and New Zealand and Australia and Japan and most pick their husbands or wives from outside.
“But between islands there is no intermarriage because of former head hunting. In Honiara you have to convince a guy to marry a western woman. Here the men are very shy. Even though they appreciate a lady they are quite shy.
“If you spend three days in a location they are used to talking to you but the western woman has to start up the conversation.”
Unfortunately, my travel schedule has me staying two nights at most in each location, so Meria’s three-day rule blows away with the south-east trade winds.
I decide to enlist the help of Stella, 42, who married a Fijian man and now has a 4-year-old son.
“We don’t date in restaurants and stuff. We sit along trees and playing fields. We don’t sit down for candlelight dinners. We do it by our eyes or pass messages through a person we call Solair after Solomon Airlines,” she says.
“Our parents don’t allow dating so we use a friend or a sister or a cousin to do it for us. Sex before marriage is very big but very secret. Once someone in the family knows they can demand compensation money.
“There are a lot of things to do with dating here.”
Stella says mixed marriages are considered OK and that the women in the central province of Malaita are considered the most beautiful.
“Each place has their own beauty…fair blue blonde, ginger blonde to purple black. Most of the locals go for their own colour. We are multiple-coloured people. Some you will see are black black, some are chocolate and some are black blonde. We speak Pidgin English, that’s what unites us.
“Most of the western men go for western region women with curly black hair, black skin and pink lips.
“Western women like their hubby to be hard working both in bed and out of bed. Nowadays you can find a rustic farmer boy with tough hands.”
I spend the next few days looking at the hands of every man I encounter, while secretly hoping they like very white blonde coloured girls.
Still no closer to catching my solo man, I ask a local bloke. Panda, 37, says Solomon Island men are good lovers because “they like the girls”. And he should know. Panda and his wife Sarah have four children aged 9, 7, 5 and 4 months.
“A man looks for a nice wife who is good looking, hard working and educated. We have lots of small islands here, you just go and choose one,” he says.
“He needs to have good resources, some land and a hard job. It is very easy to find a husband here. Once you go to one of the boys and say ‘I want to marry you, they will says yes…no question!’
“They love the white skin. There are lots of good boys around. If you come to me I can help you to find a good man. I think you will be the boss and he will do everything for you. He will think ‘I’ve got a white lady’ and he will treat you like a Queen.”
I don’t end up finding a fella, but I do discover a forgotten paradise. The Solomon Islands is sunsets, seashells and sandbars. It’s local markets of cod, wrasse, green coconuts, peppers, peanuts, mangoes, watermelons and bright red betel nut smiles. These are dugong days set to the sound track of the babble of the ocean crashing over the outer reef. Here are the “Hapi Islands” where optimism spills out of shop names such as Excellent Fashion, Fantastic Hardware, Happiness Shop and the Yes OK Shop. Home to three main groups of people – the Melanesian, Micronesian and Polynesian – there are more than 900 islands spread across 1600km of ocean and more than 70 languages spoken here. But my favourite phrase of all is in Pidgin English: “Me lukim iu behind” which means: “I’ll see you again.” Yes, I’ll be back, and I’m sure my solo man will be waiting for me.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau – http://www.visitsolomons.com.sb and Solomon Airlines – http://www.flysolomons.com