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Long boats and lettuce: Trina Brown book launch

By Holly Tregenza

HAVE you ever paid $16 for a lettuce?

Really, $16?

And could it even be anywhere near good value?

Absolutely according to Trina Brown - worth every cent.

Context is the key - and when Trina was living in the Solomon Islands a leafy, green lettuce ranked as a luxury item.

And the experience – confronting, fascinating and ultimately very rewarding – has left her with stories to tell and wisdom to share (the Solomons, not the lettuce).

This weekend, the once Kyabram local will be launching her book, Clairvoyant among the Coconuts at the Echuca library.

Part memoir and part self-reflection guide, the book is a love letter to the time Trina spent in the South Pacific.

During that period, she worked at a school called HOPE in what most consider the slums of the Solomons, teaching English to children and showing them self-worth.  

“A lot of people don’t go there because they consider it quite dangerous,” Trina said.

“It was my job to help about 70 children with conversational English.”

It wasn’t just Trina giving out lessons though; the locals gave her plenty to think about, and she came away with a deeper understanding of her life and values.

“No matter where you are in the world, you need to be accepted,” she said.

“The locals know who is there for the right reasons and who is not and they accepted me pretty quickly.

“My proudest moment was when the school coordinator, Pastor Gerry, said to me he knew God had put us together to help this community.

“He said, ‘to us you’ll always be a Solomon woman, even though you are white fella.’”

What makes her acceptance so remarkable is that she is not only a teacher and meditation instructor, she is also a clairvoyant medium.

“That means I see into the future and the past, and can speak to people from the other side,” Trina said.

“It’s not something that is generally welcomed in the Solomons, which has a long history with Christian missionaries.

“Not long before I got there, four women were killed because people believed they had started the measles epidemic,” Trina said. 

Her limitations as an outsider meant trust was a necessity for survival.

That meant getting into longboats on open seas and not knowing if she’d get to the other side.  

“You have to trust the people around you, and you have to get the trust of the islanders,” Trina said.

“The first time I walked down the street as the only white lady they all looked very big and intimidating.

“But then the local I was with told me I had to smile and say hello to people as I walked past, and as soon as I did that, they didn’t seem that scary anymore.”

And it’s not just the local culture and traditions that were an adventure in trust. Trina also found herself in some sticky situations in the somewhat wild terrain of Solomon Island wilderness.

“Once I climbed an active volcano with three big, burly men and I slipped and started to slide down an embankment, literally into the volcano. Luckily, my guide caught me, but the whole climb ended up taking us eight hours,” she said.

Another time, a long boat trip between islands that should have taken an hour and a half took three.

“You don’t have life jackets and the sea can be horrendous. I honestly didn’t know if we would survive,” Trina said.

But all in all, the greatest adventure was the whole journey itself.

No surprisingly, Trina still goes back to the Solomons at least once a year.

She has to – there are now two children named after her, an ode to the impact she had on families while working in the HOPE school.

“It was just so life changing,” she said.

“That’s why I wanted to write the book, and what I want to share.”

To hear more about Trina’s year on the islands, make your way the Echuca library this Saturday, from 1pm–4.30pm. The book will be available for purchase.