Views, vistas, and visitations… a tale of daring-doo in the wilds of Solomon Islands
Friday, 16 October 2015, Hang’n in Honiara once again. The wind blows a cheerful tune. A dry Sou’Westerly blows. I have been gone so long I have forgotten the seasons, the patterns. As one old comrade, W.E., would say; “there are two seasons in these islands, the wet season, and the wetter season.”. But it is dry for Honiara, and throughout the islands.
A talcum powder haze covers the “city” like a cotton-wool blanket. The air is thick.
Incessant road works haul in loads of coral based aggregate. The huge, old, upraised reefs that are the ridges of Honiara are easy to utilise. When used as “fill” and rolled and beaten and whomped into the road, the dust is as fine as talcum powder.
There must be a chronic bronchitis that effects everyone. I see a lot of snotty, weepy looking kids. I feel it. But I see a lot of healthy looking people. Gorgeous young people. Of course, as always, I think of the little ones. The babies here are something special. And, I hear you, babies everywhere are something special. That miracle of life sorta thing. Then they grow up and become little shits.
Reminds me of an old bit of prose:
Moved my view from my “house” to the “Big House” where I am cooking supper. I’m cooking a big ass’d pot of old-fashioned beans.
Bought some dried red beans yesterday and put them in water overnight. Granddaughter, Electra, asked why I was soaking them. My answer was because they were dry.
A big pot of meat sews on the stove here. Onions n garlic with the soy n vinegar it marinated in. A couple nice hot peppers. Cook till soft n nice.
A bigger pot of beans is on as well. Soaked n washed n now going through the first boil. Once soft I’ll drain n mix it all with the meat. A bit of fresh tomatoes, green peppers, more chillies… serve with rice.
Louis Graham is coming through town this eve. Lou was a CUSO in Gizo from late 80s into early 90s. Married Connie Whickam, they moved back to Calgary and raised a big family. Lou n Connie have a house in Gizo and Lou was just back for a short visit.
So, in classic SI fashion I try to track him down. I knew he was in Gizo. I sent emails but he sure as shit ain’t on line. Either by choice or by design of the gods of Gizo internet, who knows? But email ain’t happening. So, of course, I call Roland at Gizo Solair.
I knew Roland as a kid. A nephew of Charlie Panakera’s, Ro waited tables and tended bar at the Gizo hotel in the middle ages. He eventually got picked up by solair, was a flight steward, got married and chose to stop flying and take a job in admin. He has always been a hard working, smart, willing guy, and he did well. Ages ago he got posted to Gizo as Manager there.
So I call Ro and say, “Ro, Mi look outem tamboo blo iu from Canada”. He laughs and says in is very pleasing way, “Mike, long time me no hearem voice blo iu”… so he took my number, gave it to a runner who got it to Uncle Louie, on the hill. Lou rang me shortly there after.
It was a fun, magical island experience.
So beans n beef on the stove, Paul is at Ranadi So he’ll pick Lou up. I get to sit n write n manage my stove.
Paul has amazingly good basil here. Strong plants with heaps of green leaf to pick use. My hands smell like basil.
There was an era in the 90s when we learned to take a mess of garlic, a pile of basil, and a cup of ngali nuts. Run them through the crank-driven food processor and you had pesto. Presto-pesto. Add pasta and smile.
I drove through town to just have a look around. I wanted to write but I needed to go have a look first. I got in on Tuesday but have not been out much. Busy with Paul and settling back into the islands. I am here for a month.
It takes more slowing down than I remember. I feel like I should be in a hurry but no one gives a shit. I try to figger out why I am in a hurry and find no answer. So, today is Friday, it took two-full days to get my governor regulated to “island speed”.
I drove from Rove to Henderson. The town traffic is always slow. W.E. said he took the driving in Honiara as a dancing lesson from the gods. Patience is required.
But once I slow down I smile and see more. I’m not really going anywhere so the pressure should not exist.
A good looking new hotel-casino is being built on the shore side, across from Rove, but a couple blocks down. It’s not a good thing, a casino, but there is a positive economic impact somewhere in there… the guys building the place, etc. They appear to be doing a very good job.
Not like the concrete monstrosity that now sits on town ground. What a mess! It’s terrible. An eye sore. A health risk.
From the Post Office and the PM’s offices down into Point Cruz there is little changed. The new hotel and high-rise office block that used to be the GG’s residence has been around long enough to be old now. Behind the Mendana Hotel, what used to be the cenotaph, got sold and is now a dive shop, adventure sports place. A boutique hotel and a nice restaurant can be found on the shore side.
Traffic from Point Cruz to Henderson moves at one speed, slow. It appears as though traffic around the market hits a 40kph/ 30mph and sticks to that speed. Its interesting at such a speed. If you would be in a hurry, you’d be screwed. Both lanes meandering down the road at the same speed. At some places it becomes an arbitrary 3 lane road. Basically busses on the left, cars on the right n taxis in the middle, n all over.
I believe the speed is due to the bad roads and the fact that most cars, more than 3 years old, have no suspension.
By the old college (which is now the SI National University) I saw a bus load of shiny new white folks… I remember when I first arrived. I must have looked similar. All eyes n cameras n smiles and oos n ahhhs… nowadays the busses are much bigger and air-conditioned.
The dust is horrendous. Did I mention the dust? Paul rides a bike. I asked him how he does it? He said you gotta get used to it. When he goes away he comes back to being congested n ill, then he’s OK. I used to smear the inside of my nostrils with Carmex. Then honk out huge dark looggies… doesn’t everyone look at their snot?
So, where were we… Hangn in Honiara. Drivn through town to waste some time n search for a story…
There are heaps n heaps of shiny new vehicles. Mostly bigger in size… Toyotas, Hyundai’s, Kias. Saw one Hummer. Mostly are 4×4 type buggies. SUVs or big trucks. The taxis are by and large Toyota wagons.
One thought I had, as I saw a line of flags at the SINU, I hope they are educating the population. Without it there shall be trouble. And maybe with education trouble comes too… There is a palatable tension in the air.
You can see a lot of mid-class families in vehicles doing their doings… A sign of an emerging middle class? Business a usual? A positive sign for the future? I think so. Mom n dad both work, they’re urbanites. Honiara is home. I know many families who are well into the second and third generation of Honiara bred islanders.
So, beans are bubbln away. Lucky 13 is outside with Nancy.
Nancy is a family tradition. Tho not a blood relative (she is from Santa Cruz) She’s been in and out of the family for ages… a housekeeper, a nanny n surrogate mother to Mendozza. She makes bread just like I luv it n does tropical fruit juice (paw paw n cucumber) like no one else. Recently, as Paul tells me, one of the newer housekeepers companied to him… “Nancy olsame boss lo house, ia”. Paul told the new gal, “Nancy is the boss”.
Where am I? … I built this compound 5 years ago. 7 dwelling on 2 lots. 3 levels, on high stilts, and plenty of deck space. Total of 14 “bed rooms’, 11 baths and 11 kitchens/ galleys/ small kitchens. Big decks between all. A pool on the lower deck. We’re up on “Tasahe” ridge. I can see from Cape Esperance to Lunga. Huge views.
I have “my house”. Paul and his tribe of damsels have one of the Big 3 bedroom houses. The other Big house is communal kitchen transient lodging and TV room. Two of the dwellings are “studio apts”. One duplex is office space and one is laundry/ storage. 2 dwellings are nice, one room homes. Connie has one and Terry the other.
I am cooking for my invited guest, Lou Graham; son, Paul, daughter in law, Betsy, their adoptive daughters, Tolia, and Electra; baby Lucky, and most likely, Nancy. Nancy tends to stay late, help with supper and the baby. She covers the bases for the young parents.
Part of it is the training of a new mother… Betsy is young, this is her first, and though she has been a good care giver of many children, this is her real-life training. And Nancy is a pro. A perfect teacher.
In residence we have our pack of Ridgebacks… Bean, Iowa, Lauru, Rhett and Scarlet. There are two rottie cross pups as well. I don’t know their names but they are keepers. Paul n Betsy got them from friends. They fit in well.
I do not know the names of the other housekeepers or the security guys. Shame on me! But I been gone a lot. I am just a visitor.
The sea and sky are the same colour. The dry weather has to break. The sky is hazy, the air is thick, the seas are dead calm. It has to break.
Listening to Los Lobos… nice dance music. Lovely Ballads. Good music.
Los Lobos leads to Lou Reed… What a perfect day…