Winter comes to the South Pacific

Why was this past month so wonderful?  Because more than half of it was cloudy.  After all, June 21 ushered in ‘winter’.  On two or three nights we have shut the bedroom fan off!
Much of the month was full of rehearsals for a play HAMS (Honiara Amateur Musical Society) put on this past weekend. “A Muffled Shriek”—a comedic spoof of the Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery.  6, count them, 6 deaths. At the end the stage is littered with bodies, and the line is “Looks like the Yacht Club late on a Saturday night!” And yes, the Butler did it (well, 33% of it) ... and I was the butler. Good fun, and I met some nice people.

Several outages of power and water have reminded us what a pain it was during the first six months because of the rationing of utilities. One particular incident: our neighbour phoned us at work to say that the water authority was in the process of removing our meter and cutting us off. It emerged that the landlord had never registered the house, and so we were pirating water. Fortunately we were able to sort it out in a couple of hours. Interesting: on the monthly bill there is an item called “standing charge” which is almost as big as the charge for the water; it is for the cost of paper and postage for sending the bill. Again interesting: we learned from neighbours that before our house was finished, for awhile the shell served as a “kwaso” (moonshine)making place, and was raided by the police.

Over the past few weeks a team of bulldozers and excavators has been breaking down and clearing the remains of most of the Chinatown shops which were burned in the April rioting. It continues to be a pretty depressing sight that we walk through to and from work every day. Oddly, the work stopped when it was about 75% complete. The construction project at our house—building a concrete verandah at the front door and slab around three sides of the house—enjoyed a 2-day life-span before petering out. So typical.

With similar timeliness, a big rosewood story-board carving we had commissioned was delivered yesterday: it had been ordered 5 months ago. It depicts various aspects of the 19th century head-hunting days in the western Solomons.

Our own work stumbles along. We developed a ‘survival plan’ to see if it’s even possible to get our literacy organization (LASI) going again. Key feature: a ‘core working group’ of committed people as a sort of substitute for the moribund board of directors and non-entity director. Held a ‘life-or-death’ workshop for this group ... and about half of them turned up. Even so, we have succeeded in sending out a pair of experienced workers to see how many of the former field operations still exist, and one worker succeeded in getting a new literacy school started here in Honiara. Indeed, people may not be very effective as planners and thinkers and managers, but this woman arranged a bang-up official opening, complete with lots of speakers and a feast. So there’s a little bit of new-life spirit coursing, at least temporarily, through LASI‘s veins.

Some family news ... First-born Ken turned 35, while his wife Wakako is working in Japan for the summer; last-born Graham has just gone to Banff for the summer, where he should see quite a bit of second-born Alec who lives there; daughter Meg is due to deliver our second grandchild in a few weeks—and we won’t be there (self-pity, self-pity).

A spate of long weekends: Whit (Pentecost) Monday and Queen Elizabeth’s birthday in June, and SI independence day today (Friday). Our own July 1st Canada Day was a rather muted affair. Not much in the way of parades or fireworks going on here. At the end of last Friday afternoon, we toddled off from work to the CUSO office and had a beer or coke and some taro chips with the two office people. Biggest thrill on Saturday, the day itself: draining and sanitizing our rain tank to get rid of the mosquito larvae. Life is not always exciting.

Disturbing items in today’s Solomon Star newspaper ... We told you earlier that the man who was elected MP in our riding was imprisoned on charges of intimidation and inciting the April rioting ... and was then named Minister of Police and Security. His trial began this week—with a big problem. One witness revealed that he had been offered $20,000 (SI) to withdraw, and now several key prosecution witnesses have ‘disappeared’. Further, there are a number of independent reports of arms being moved into Honiara by this politician’s supporters. Oh dear.

Almost every night we watch a TV episode on the computer: it was ‘Lost’, then ‘24’ and recently it’s been a mixture of ‘Veronica Mars’ and ‘CSI Miami’. We have silly reward systems like that. For Mar, her treat for making it back up the hill to our house at the end of the work-day is a can of Coke and a bowl of peanuts.

Observations:

- Trees called ‘carborite’ burst out a few weeks ago into a profusion of hair-like pinky-purple blooms ... which then they shed, to form amazing magenta carpets on the ground.

- Neighbours’ houses erupting into cheers in the middle of the night—as goals got scored in World Cup soccer matches in Germany

- Amazing honesty and helpfulness: as I left a mini-van bus, $500 (Cdn70) dropped from my pocket onto the floor ... a man stopped the bus as it pulled away, in order to give me the money. On the other hand, someone bumped into Mar’s back-pack and pinched $400 (a bit less than Cdn 60) from it.

- Bare-bummed smalfala pikinini (little kids)

- As for adults, breasts are no big deal: many people show no shyness about appearing in their bra ... but thighs are a different story: many women even wear shorts under their skirt or dress.

- Ants: a tiresome pain - everywhere a bother, and they often bite (we kill the itch with vinegar)

- Big campaign here to get “The DaVinci Code” movie banned because it’s anti-Christian ... despite the fact that there is no cinema in the Solomons, and the movie-rental places got burned out in the rioting.

- Sundays in some ways are as busy as other days—because a big chunk of the population observes SDA (Seventh Day Adventist) sabbath on Saturday, and works, runs a market, filling station, etc. on Sunday.

- The handle of the big dipper has recently been visible, even though we’re at 9 degrees south of the equator.

- Neighbours Janet & Lyndelle’s tireless work to beautify our little (6-house) valley with flower and shrub plantings, and weeding so as to develop a carpet of clover; they like us because we also weed and plant.

- Smell: fish boiling on Agnes’ fire ’ yuk ... Smell: fresh French baguette as you pass the Hot Bread Kitchen ’ yum

- Sound: repeated playing of the current hit ‘Bon, mi Aelan bon’ (I’m Island born) ’ infectious (at first, for awhile)


That’s it for the 10-month report.

Rob & Mar

Again I apologize that this is a sort of bulk newsletter ... but again I tell you that it is really good to hear back from you, and then we always correspond on an individual basis, usually with a photo. There, is that enough incentive for you if you haven’t been inclined to write’  smile

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Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/07 at 12:07 PM
  1. thats interesting

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/11 at 07:52 PM
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