Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Great bus service

As mentioned previously the local bus system around Auki is great. Everyone piles in, pays SB $2 and jumps off wherever they like. We discovered children were free one day when a small girl in school uniform stopped the bus, looked in with her lovely eyes and cheeky grin. Then suddenly we were ambushed by 8 other gorgeous giggly girls who acquired the remaining 3 seats. That was a very fun ride!
The buses themselves are mini vans with a driver and collector in charge of the sliding door. They come in a variety of conditions, often adorn with soft toys, CD’s hanging in the windscreen, rust, stain marks on all surfaces, with noises ranging from the radio, grinding of gears, to the psssssst of a local approaching his stop. On a journey to work one day the door of the van slid right off. It took both the driver and collector a wee while to replace it using two jandles to plug it in. At the next stop the sliding door preceded to fall out again. Meanwhile the driver had his own problems, while trying to drive off (he had no first gear) he rode the clutch leaving a much to be desired smell of burning.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Weapons of mass destruction

The battle of supremacy in the kitchen continues. We have brought out the big weapon – our ant-proof pantry! The concept was mine based on a childhood Thai cupboard, and the craftsmanship Rob’s! The tuna cans ideal size; filled with water at each foot are the key to its effectiveness. Vigilance is still required as we discovered an invasion after a piece of cellotape fell close to the wall and the ants formed a bridge to launch a counteract!

Unfortunately we have found this pantry is not rat proof! Much to my discomfort my first encounter with the rat was alone at night, when reading a book he appeared right under my feet! To my credit the scream was not vocalised and Rob was not notified of our new adversary until morning. The next encounter resulted in his eviction. As you can see from the photos a new method (as we have no traps) was designed. Cornering him by the fridge, one route to the front door was formed and when all was ready, Rob ‘encouraged’ him to exit. Rob did say it was an amazing sight to see the rat launch himself off the balcony into the dark! (As you can also see I took the safe advantage point – for recording purposes. Unfortunately the rat moved too fast to be photographed).

Thought it might also interest you of another weapon we use to great affect – the sieve!

Monday, 19 May 2008

Of greener grass

I don’t know how else to say this, but I am in love. We have just been to the most beautiful and idyllic place I have seen yet in this country; it was everything that I hoped the Solomons would be, really. And now I am suffering from a fairly severe case of “grass is greener” syndrome. It’s all relative, I suppose, we liked Honiara well enough until we got to Auki. Now we think Honiara is a hole. We liked Auki very much until we got to Atoifi. Now, well, fill in the blanks I guess!

Steve, his trainee Willie, and I travelled over to Malaita’s second hospital over on the east coast last week. Atoifi Adventist Hospital has no road access, like most of eastern Malaita, so for us it meant a good couple of hours getting over to Atori by truck, and then a half hour in a boat to Atoifi. I felt mildly unwell after the rough ride in the truck (I’m sure the potholes were enough to induce a slight concussion), so I hate to think how the patients feel when they make it, via whatever means they can, to the hospital.

We didn’t know what to expect of the place, and thought we should prepare for the worst-case scenario – three days of sleeping on the floor, being stared at and not spoken to, eating whatever we were able to purchase locally (perhaps an exclusive diet of bananas, seeing as they don’t require cooking). What we got was a lovely (by Solomon standards, and I am okay with this!) self-contained flat, multiple warm welcomes from a number of staff, vast quantities of lovingly prepared food from several local families, and requests for further visits. As if that isn’t enough, the surrounds are peaceful, the people are friendly and the staff really want to take better care of their patients and would like our help to achieve that. More than a volunteer could hope for, really.

The evenings are even more serene than the days, and as the sun sets and brief twilight settles over the bay and its artificial islands*, the locals walk down to the small wharf (built by the EU). People set off over the quiet waters in their dugout canoes, children splash in the shallows or jump off the wharf. Somehow this doesn’t frighten the fish, who are quite content to flip around and make ripples across the mirror-like inlet. Many of the makeshift rigs (metres of line spooled around plastic bottles) still reel in enough for a little bit of protein with the evening meal. And most importantly of all, people sit down, or stroll together to engage in the national pastime, “stori stori” (talking).

When the sun departs for the day, and only the moon is left to light the sky, even then Atoifi is peaceful. The trilling of the crickets seems somehow more muted than Auki, and the silence is palpable between their songs. Only the occasional cry of a cat can be heard, and the mangy dog population I would put at less than three. I slept without ear plugs, and it was bliss.

Ah yes, the grass is very green on the other side at Atoifi, and I am very pleased to report that this first liaison is only the beginning of a beautiful friendship. There are lots of lovely things that we look forward to doing with the team there, but I won’t bore you with work talk, rather I’ll just revel in the knowledge that we get to go back.

*Malaita (and probably a number of other provinces, I’ll let you know when I’ve been there!) has many man-made islands dotted around its coast. They have been built on top of areas of reef by some very enterprising people who were struggling for land. So they made their own, out of rocks they collected and deposited at low tide. These people are the “saltwater people”, who, naturally, tend to do most of the fishing. They depend on the “bush people” for root crops such as taro and kumara, as the soil on the artificial islands is not generally amenable to growing these. There is a huge amount of anthropology and history literature available, about most of which I’m not that well informed, really. But Roger Keesing is one of the gurus, so if you’re interested, he would be a good author to look up.


Add yourself to our guestbook each time you drop in!