Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Honiara, Solomon Islands

So we've arrived in the Solomon Islands in once piece - just one more flight on to Lata and we'll have completed the mammoth journey.

The best internet offerings here in the capital comprise of a grubby little room with a grubby little keyboard and a connection like those we endured 10 years ago.

The flight to Honiara had been changed without anyone (STA Travel for example) notifying us, but luckily it was later and we'd had the brains to double check time flights. We have also been advised to check the flight to Lata because 1) they might have no fuel so no flight 2) not enough people might want to be going so it could be cancelled!

The flight involved stopping off at Vanuatu along the way but it was a great flight and we got to spread out lots. It took forever to get through immigration - everyone was recording things in ledgers and files (no computers, no swiping passport barcodes etc). Finally it was our turn and we realised just how different their "English" is to ours - practically incomprehensible! The man only gave us a 30 day visa and when we told him we'd be hundreds of miles away on a remote island he wafted his arm over his shoulder and told us to see immigration the next day (it was 4pm, they would be closed of course?!!). Slightly worried, but holding it together we got a taxi from the airport into Honiara. [It should be noted at this point that the airport is only open when there's a flight about to go].

There's something great about taxi drivers - they just tell you everything candidly. During this journey we had pointed out to us the hotel that was burnt down in last year's riot and a boat on the grass verge (a whopping great liner) that had got dumped there by a cyclone sometime - no one has moved it. During the ride we had people staring at us, waving, smiling, calling over at us. This was in a taxi in the capital - what will it be like walking around on a far out island?? We told the taxi driver where we were going (Temotu Province) and even he said "oh far far far far away". Quite a feat to have someone in the Solomons think you're going far away.

The hotel is lovely and cool and has a fernicular railway taking you to your rooms. We had dinner and watched what can only be described as a techno take on island dancing. It was fun though and very very energetic. We on the other hand are lethargic most of the time and having midday naps because they heat and humidity is high. I've never felt humidity like it, it's incredible.

This morning we went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1 min walk from the hotel luckily!) and went through security (bloke with no shoes sat by a gate) and into the office. I have never before seen an office without computers. It was quite incredible. Luck was on our side - they only dealt with visa extensions on Mondays and Wednesdays. In fact, they only talk to people at the counter on Mondays and Wednesdays. Every day has a different function: signing passports, making passports, other passport-related activities. It seems things are given an alloted day once (or twice a week if you're lucky) and if you miss it, tough. A woman padding about in the office with no shoes on shiftily asked us about our trip and inspected our return tickets before gladly stamping our passports with a visa lasting us the duration of our stay. PHEW!!

Lata here we come.....hopefully.


Cal said...

I love reading about all this! The airport only opens when there's a flight... classic!

I'm still really surprised that you're managing to update! I'm surprised they have an Internet connection.

Oh do take some photos of this room that you get to by a furnicular railway - it must be breathtaking! Just take a few pics with no people in it so that you can post them up here and keep your anonymity.


PhD scientist said...

It does sound delightfully old-world, LM.

Of course, even the UK is not always quite as "mechano-efficient" as you think once you get off the beaten track. There used to be (still is according to the web) a scheduled flight to Barra in the Western Hebrides that used the beach there as its runway. If the beach is awash the flight gets cancelled:


Probably shouldn't admit this, but I am old enough to remember when Govt offices had no computers. When as a student I went to sign on the dole in the Summer it was forms in triplicate and ledgers all the way - this was the 80s. Computers would not have been a routine part of all offices until the very late 80s or even early 90s - apart from anything else, they were insanely expensive (two and a half grand in 1989 money for the first lab PC we bought, as I recall).

Some of this "things you can easily assume have always been that way haven't really" applies in medicine too. Twenty-five years ago if your grandad came to a UK hospital with an MI they would have dosed him with morphine, put him in a bed and told him not to move, tried to manage any arrhythmias and kept their fingers crossed. Clot busting therapies and so forth only became widespread in the mid to late 80s, well within the "practise lifetime" of today's more senior consultant cardiologists.

j00ni said...

phd sci: Don't worry, you're not that old rememberinga computer-less office. I rememebr the day my dad's work got their first computer - everyone had a half day off work for a party lol! (to be fair the computer did mean that twice-yearly stock inventory audits took <2 days rather than 5+)

TLM: Just remember, having computers doesn't equate to being better or more efficient - you only have to look at the undergrad admin team for proof of that fact

Oh and TLM/missbliss, good to see you are having fun