I do feel I have a bit of catching up to do, blog-style, as the Green House team of Survivor Auki have been particularly lacking in utilities of late. As you will surely have read, the electricity is off more than it is on, but our troubles extend a little further back. During the time of the Telekom strike, our power was also under threat for a few days, and next came the water emergency…
A couple of months ago, our landlord signed us up for the new cash power system, where a meter is installed in your home, and you pre-purchase kilowatt-hrs instead of waiting for a bill. It works a bit like the pre-paid mobile phone system where you receive a receipt with a code to enter, which tops up your credit. Fair enough, really. In the provinces, however, the system is dependent on communications with Honiara, who doles out all the codes. When the telephones for the entire country are near-knackered though, the system’s flaws become apparent. It was a Wednesday morning, and with 22 kilowatt hours to go (usually we use 5 – 6 per day), we thought we’d top our credit up, allowing some time for SIEA to fax Honiara etc. We heard nothing from them, and the weekend (when the office is closed) was creeping closer. By Friday night we were down to 5 units, so it was a DVD-free, anxious weekend. STILL nothing on Monday, and our wonderful RAMSI friends had us around for dinner to save us a bit more power. Tuesday morning I marched (well, cycled) around to SIEA, and my heart sank when I saw a man on the telephone giving Honiara what for. I figured I would stand there and wait my turn to do the same, but was relieved to see the lovely SIEA lady smiling at me and handing me a receipt and code. Phew!! So with about 0.3 kwh to go, we were now in the clear. For a little while…..
A week later, we were looking forward to my parents and brother arriving on the weekend, when Steve happened to be outside and downstairs, and gave our main water tank (which supplies the tap water inside) a friendly tap. It answered with a very empty-sounding echo. I noted my shower that evening was quite warm….and I hadn’t turned on the hot tap. The penny was dropping…..perhaps it was significant that our tank had stopped overflowing when it rained….. Ah, such city people that we are. No problem, said I, we’ll just turn the town water on to fill the tank until we can get up on the roof to fix the presumed blockage. The town water tap was jammed in the off position, and now we faced a water crisis. No one in the vicinity had a ladder (a few people corrected me when I asked them in Pijin “oh, you mean landa”. Why??!!!), and it was early in the morning before the SIWA office opened. Lucky for us, one of the SIWA-truck-driving SIWA employees spends many of his waking hours driving up our road, and he stopped in at the place across the road. I ran over and begged him to come and fix our tap. He looked at me with little enthusiasm but said he’d send someone.
He was, despite my initial misgivings, true to his word, because by the time I got down to the office that afternoon, they told me the tap had already been fixed, and the stopcock would be replaced today too. And it was. And then a son of a friend came and fixed the drainage problem the next morning. Just like that, our water crisis was averted. Nice that (a few) things do work in the Solomon Islands.
Now even with the town-wide power crisis, we have huge amounts of water – even though SIWA can’t run their pumps, we seem to have come into another rainy season so our trusty tank is constantly overflowing again (that dripping never sounded so sweet!). Rob and Lara, in the Yellow House Survivor Auki team, however, continue to experience water shortages.
Our added headache has been the succumbing of our computer – something about the Solomons means that even previously functional items stop working at random intervals. I won’t describe this in detail, but just mention that Steve was exceptionally anxious without his precious machine, but has since started to implement a few healthier habits, such as starting to practice that guitar that he wanted so much but then has not actually picked up for more than a couple of days at a time. Due to his cleverness, he was able to accurately diagnose the condition as a blown power supply unit, find the only one in the country (over at Honiara) suitable to power up his machine, get a friend to pick one up in Honiara and send it over on a chopper. We are again proud owners of a functional computer, and Steve is smiling again.
Let's hope things get back to normal soon...