AT just 21 years of age Bob Meyenn decided to pack in his job as a teacher to head to the Solomon Islands to commence a two-year work placement.
It was 1966 when Mr Meyenn signed up for new challenges in the third-world country in a teaching position that would change his life.
“It’s the best thing I ever did, just living in another country that has a very different culture to you,” he said.
“You’re a different person having done that, different language, different food and different culture.”
In an era long before the internet Mr Meyenn said the mail was collected once a week by canoe.
“You had to paddle across the lake once a week to the mainland,” he said.
His teaching contract was at the Goldie College on Banga Island which catered for senior primary and junior high school aged students.
“It was physically stunning at Roviana Lagoon, tropical fish, the cowry shells and [there was] virtually no cash economy,” he said.
It was while on this initial appointment that Mr Meyenn met his wife to be Val.
Following the completion of his two-year contract Mr Meyenn, along with Val, signed up for anther three-and-a-half years, although this time Mr Meyenn was the headmaster.
It was a life-changing experience according to Mr Meyenn and he has taken many of the things learnt during his time in the Solomon Islands into his everyday life.
“It makes a huge difference to my work and my life, it made me a lot more inquiring,” he said.
One of the funny experience he reminisced about was ironing a week’s worth of business shirts with an old coal-filled iron only to find that whoever was up first in his share house the next morning had already used them.
“The idea of personal property was just foreign to them,” he said.
Mr Meyenn will be one of three speakers at a free session tonight who will talk about their volunteering experiences overseas.
The session put on by Australian Volunteers International will be held at the Orange Ex-Services’ Club from 6pm to 7pm.