After arriving and finding out that there were no sim cards, my first task of the day was to purchase and set up a new sim card – allowing me access to home, Solomon contacts and in general making me feel that little bit safer. I was told that getting into town was easy, stick out your arm and a bus will stop. The buses being minicabs, everyone piles on and they whistle when they want to get off. The security guard and I stood outside the gates, trying to flag down a bus, but no one seemed to want to take me. Some of them seemed full and others completely empty. Finally, a car stopped and said they’d take me into town, being the new white girl in town, I was charged SBD$20 instead of SBD$3 if I got a bus. I was not too impressed at this point, but SBD$20 is about £2, so I couldn’t be too mad.
I brought my sim and 1GB of data for 14-days for SBD$100, approximately £10. The next issue was getting the sim to work. I had assured myself that when I left Australia that my phone was unlocked – according to EE after 18 months your iPhone is automatically unlocked. However, I must have read this wrong, or this process needed to be requested. My phone and sim did not work. I was left with no phone, no internet access and not too sure what to do.
After grabbing a coffee in the Breakwater – a very British café, it made me feel slightly more home. I decided I needed to get my research permit. This was essential to get today as the weekend was approaching and I fly to Gizo on Monday. After searching for a while the correct building, I finally found it. I paid by fee and was given my research permit; 2 pieces of paper which have never been so valuable to me.
Today I was at a bit of a loss as to how to start my research, it’s a Saturday so no one is at work in the offices. The lack of internet access means contacting and arranging meetings is a growing issue. I was able to secure free Wi-Fi in the ‘Lime Lounge’ café, I may be drinking lattes until my departure for Gizo to gain connection to the outside world. Arriving at a weekend may have been a planning error on my part.
So, I started the day off at the Central Market. A place filled with life, the sellers sold all different types of fruit, vegetables and clothing. They sold food in heaps rather than weight, many of the vegetables I didn’t know what they were. The market was full of life and you could really see the sense of community.
Next, I visited the art gallery in town, their art is very focused on their life surrounded by ocean. Many of the paintings depicted scenes of the ocean, island life and their connection to it. The work came from artists across the Solomon Islands, it was interesting to see some of the Solomon Island culture on a canvas. I wanted to explore the National Museum, but as it was a Saturday it was unfortunately closed. There is very little else to do in Honiara and as many of the NGO’s offices were closed I spent the day writing a blog and looking for contacts online.
Today is Sunday, and that means everything is closed. I spent the morning having breakfast at The Ofis (my Airbnb), toast, jam, butter and honey. The bread was thick and delicious, I covered it in a thick layer of butter and honey to keep me fuller for longer. I watched the children a few houses over play in the sea, parents washed clothes and some deposited rubbish into the ocean. The lack of current meant the rubbish floated slowly away, with kids swimming not too far from it.
Later that day I wanted to upload a new blog and get in contact with family back home. I ventured off to the Lime Lounge, brought a coffee and sat waiting for the Wi-Fi to work.
Tomorrow I fly to Gizo in the afternoon, everyone I talk to says it is beautiful and that I will really enjoy it.
After checking out of my Airbnb at 9 am, I took a taxi into Honiara, after queue all the way into town – the issue of having only 1 main road and little in the way of a high way code. I made it to Lime Lounge, where I had breakfast, sat on their Wi-Fi and waiting until I needed to go to the airport. I think there’s a theme here; Lime Lounge and Wi-Fi.
With many flights often cancelled, delayed and even taking off early, I didn’t want to risk missing out on my flight. As the planes are so small, they sometimes give your seats away if you are running late. I arrived ‘very early’ as my taxi driver said, but I didn’t want to run the risk. I checked my bag in and took a seat in the airport departure lounge – no bigger than a classroom, with a small shop on one side.
I started talking to a pastor who was dropping his friend off at the airport. We got talking about the research I was undertaking and gave me some very interesting views on the issue. Finally, someone I could speak to about the impacts of changing sea level – let me just say, his views were not the same as mine!
After 2 short plane rides – the prettiest I have ever been on - I arrived in Gizo. The airstrip is in the middle of the sea and the only access it is by boat. After a short boat ride and a walk later, I found myself at Rekona Lodge. With free Wi-fi in the common areas, this place felt like luxury!
Honiara, I’m afraid to say is not the city for me. I understand that Solomon Islands has a very low GDP, they therefore have very little money, and this is reflected heavily in their city. I can appreciate the lack of funding to build roads, new infrastructure and services. However, there is an enormous amount of rubbish, in the streets, in the water ways and in the ocean itself. This along with the busyness of the city, the lack of things to do (unless you have a car) and the highly expensive western cafes, I feel I could not settle in this city, but it was nice to pass through. Hopefully, my 3 night stay at the end of this month will be slightly different.