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Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite
Crocodiles and Kaleko: Dangers and Designer Clothes in the Solomon Islands is an entertaining and informative memoir. Paula Henriksen arrived in the Solomon Islands in 2010 to manage a multi-million-dollar health program for the Australian Agency for International Development as part of a multi-national peacekeeping and aid effort. She wasn’t an inexperienced traveler, but it quickly became apparent that living and working in the Solomon Islands was going to be a very different experience. “I was in the land of the long wait, where nothing went according to plan,” Henriksen writes. “I’d always believed I was an adaptable person, open to new experiences. Living in Honiara was testing that belief.”
In flowing and descriptive narrative, Henriksen reflects on her two years in the Solomons, including preparation, arrival, the pressures of the new job, her new friends, her new home, and the experiences that made the Solomons unique. While she shares some of her uncertainties and frustrations, it’s with an overall attitude of adventure and anticipation. “It was the right time to shake up my life,” she writes. Crocodiles and Kaleko is as much a statement of the outlook on life and philosophy she developed while she lived there as it is an engaging memoir.
Whether it was tackling malaria and diabetes rates; managing the heat; driving the intrepid (if often in the garage) four-wheel drive “Bertha;” paddling a kayak; swimming with the sharks; negotiating the cost of handmade baskets; or maneuvering through taxis, boats, airplane schedules and markets in pidgin, Henriksen learned to appreciate the experience. Living and working in the Solomon Islands proved to be an introduction to an unforgettable place, people, and culture. “The country was recovering from recent instability and people anticipated a better life ahead... We were all buoyed by hope and I continued to ponder a future that successfully combined development with tradition.”