Breaking free of Solomon Islands – time to leave
Day 2,227 since October 10th 2013: 189 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross).
We are on schedule
The good ship “Capitaine Quiros”, which has kindly been facilitated by our friends at Neptune Pacific Line, is due to arrive in Honiara on Sunday. I am ready for her. She will somehow become our home until early December.
What just happened?!? Was that another week already? It feels like it just blasted by (last weeks entry). By the way - we recently passed 2,222 days of the Saga and 3,333 days wont happen untilI three years from now. I spent most of this week staying at Island Breeze AirBNB which is operated by Lo and Manuel. I unfortunately never got to meet Lo as she was in Brazil but Manuel was around and took good care of me. They have six hens in the garden which lay six eggs each day. So you’re welcome to fresh eggs every morning if you can find the eggs in their huge garden. I never found a single one. But Manuel knows what he is doing and made sure there were always eggs in the kitchen. He is a pretty cool guy who simplified works within the preservation and health of forests all around the world. He is German and has been working in Solomon Islands for the past two years. Lo is Brazilian and works for JICA which I have stumbled upon all across the world. Too bad I never got to talk to her about it.
With my feet up at Island Breeze AirBNB.
One day took the next. Some days I wouldn’t even leave their home. I’d just get some work done. Sleep a bit more than usual. Watch a few movies and read in my book. Their home is near the American War Memorial so within a few minutes of walking I had spectacular views over the green hills which the Japanese and US Americans fought so hard to dominate in 1942-1943. The Japanese were kicked out and it was a turning point for WWII. However Solomon Islands is so much more than World War Two stories. People have lived here for at least 4,000 years and the first European ship arrived in 1568. I wonder what life would have been like around here? Sparsely populated for sure. It is too hot for clothes. The islands’ ocean-equatorial climate is extremely humid throughout the year, with a mean temperature of 26.5 °C (79.7 °F). People would have been nearly naked. Coconuts, papaya, fish…the occasional raid by a headhunting tribe. Tattoos used to be a thing around here but the European Christians saw it as paganism so it was condemned and almost disappeared. It is coming back now with the youth claiming their cultural heritage. Island life. It is easy here in comparison to other places around the world. Clean drinking water runs out of the mountains and towards the ocean. There is food and fertile soil everywhere. Edible fruits grow left and right and the sea is full of fish. I’ve been developing a slight addiction towards SolTuna’s chili tuna!
The American War Memorial in Honiara. It glorifies war but has a nice view and entry is free.
I feel like Solomon Islands is in some ways falling victim to the same image as Vietnam in that a war dominates the narrative. Vietnam was packed with various kingdoms and cultural advances for thousands of years until the Vietnam War got its soundtrack. WWII mostly touched the Solomon Islands for a year seventy years ago in a history of more than 4,000 years. Well, WWII is certainly more relatable to the western world (which started it) than the 174 languages which are spoken across these islands. For a lack of a better word the Solomon Islands are paradise. Honiara which is the capital is more like a village than a city and it has lots of cool things going on. However it doesn’t represent the calming sound of the waves hitting the shore, the chirping birds, the wind in the trees or laughter of children playing in the sand. For that you need to drive about twenty minutes out of Honiara. If you drive forty minutes out of Honiara you pretty much loose the signal on your phone.
Change is upon Solomon Islands and they too are living in 2019. In most cases they are ahead of us as they are far closer to the International Date Line than rest of the world. As such I am now ten hours ahead of my native country…the Kingdom of Denmark in the Great North of Europe. When I get up in the morning my fiancée goes to bed. The best time for us to communicate is now during my afternoon and her morning – before I go to bed. It doesn’t make a long distance relationship any easier. But we are pulling through. I am essentially living in the future compared to many of you. When the sun shines on me you people are in the dark. Would you like to know the lottery numbers? Nah – some of you are right here with me. My Aussie friends are in this time zone too.
Laundry day Saga-style.
I’ve done a bit of socializing since returning from the Western Province. I’ve had several great conversations with Manuel (Island Breeze AirBNB). He once lived on Borneo and sort of introduced the concept of a hammock to the locals. Certainly the locals he was working with. I met up with Wayne Lorimer from Sullivans Shipping who are the agent for Neptune Pacific Line in Honiara. Wayne is the CEO and introduced me to Jeff Moore who is their Chairman. The three of us met up at Heritage Park Hotel. Those two gentlemen are quite the characters! It was a great encounter and plenty of stories were shared. Much like the Caribbean was nearly “Wild West themed” back in the 70s, so were the Solomon Islands. People come and go. Some stay. Jeff is a very well-travelled man who is less than twenty countries off for reaching all of them. So he is used to be the most travelled man in the room but not that night. He invited me back to his sons place for dinner and we said farewell to Wayne who had other business. That ended up being a very good evening. Jeff’s son James is a formidable cook and interesting persona himself. His girlfriends (from Fiji) was there too and together we enjoyed some lamb and wine before James took me back to Island Breeze AirBnB.
This well-traveled banner was given to me by Ross DK who have been a partner since the Saga began. Getting a picture for them isn't always easy though ;)
There is a great deal of kindness around this world of ours. I know that better than most now that I have seen and felt it across 189 countries. We still have work to do and the world is far from perfect – however never forget that the billions of people we share this planet with are mostly just kind hearted people who only want the best for themselves, the people they love and those who they encounter. As such I met up with the Solomon Islands Red Cross Society last week. They are located in New China Town which is actually the old part of China Town in Honiara but that is the way names go. If you are ever introduced to a guy nicknamed “Tiny” then he is likely huge.
There is no doubt that paying a visit to the movement across 185 countries has been a unique experience. It has also been a lot work!! For years I have been generating weekly RC updates on Facebook and Instagram calling them RC SUNDAY (Red Cross, Red Crescent, Red Crystal). Hopefully such updates have helped generate visibility while enlightening some of the aspects of the humanitarian work, which takes place worldwide. Perhaps someone based on those updates has begun volunteering. Perhaps someone has made a donation. Well…what is perhaps? I know that people have. People write me now and again and tell me that they have donated blood for the first time. They have made a Christmas donation to the RC or that they have begun doing volunteering work. Volunteering work does by the way not mean you need to spend ten hours week working for the movement. Although I have met people who do! You can volunteer a few hours each month and still be making a difference. There are more than 12,000,000 volunteers across 191 countries. The hours add up ;)
Solomon Islands Red Cross HQ in Honiara.
Here in the Solomon Islands the work I put in was rewarded with genuine hearth warmth from Solomon Island Red Cross Society. We sat down in a semicircle at their headquarters and I began to tell them about the Saga. Then they had a few questions for me which I answered as best as I could. We naturally also talked about what they do. The Solomon Islands Red Cross Society keep themselves busy across their nearly 1,000 islands with humanitarian activities within commercial and community-based First Aid Training, with Disaster Management, with Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion, they run Health Programmes, promote human values and much, much more. The Red Cross Special Development Centre in Honiara provides education for children with special needs and that especially caught my ear. We should all be thankful for the humanitarian work which is carried out each day. The RC movement began in 1863 and has now spread all around the world to nearly every country (191) and I encourage you to donate, volunteer or in other ways support the humanitarian efforts and alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable people. You matter and so do your actions.
A few days later RC Secretary General Clement Manuri invited me out for a spin. He picked me up in his 4WD and together we headed out of town making a stop on the way to pick up some refreshments. We were on our way to Vilu War Museum some 25 km (15 mi) out of Honiara but stopped along the way to check in on his two sons. They were enjoying the day at a beautiful beach together with their friends. As soon as you get out of Honiara the coast becomes segregated by countless small basic resorts which cater to those who which to get out of town for a day. After checking in on the boys we continued up the coast to the Museum and stopped in the shade under some trees. The woman who runs the place and is supposedly an expert on everything within the open air museum was in Honiara for the day so we walked about unguided. To me it looked like a private collection of airplane wrecks, canons and artillery from WWII. And it was quite a collection! The experience of walking about in an environment, which might as well have been a botanical garden, dotted with wrecked aircrafts of various kinds was somewhat surreal. Clement had been there before and showed me a few curiosities I wouldn’t have noticed on my own.
A US Corsair fighter at Vilu War Museum. I've heard that years ago the exhibition featured the Japanese planes with skeletons in them.
Clement comes from a part of the islands where they have “more than a hundred different types of bananas”. The entirety of this country might as well be a botanical garden. On our way back to Honiara we snacked on bananas and local nuts. Clement is a really good guy. We talked about Solomon Islands and we spoke about the RC movement across the world. How the Kenyan Red Cross has a privatized ambulance service with well over 200 ambulances and also operate a five star hotel (The Boma). How the Iranian Red Crescent has its own factory in which they produce uniforms, blankets, tents and more all while operating a fleet of helicopters. We spoke of how the Danish Red Cross operates in nearly a quarter of the world’s countries. We talked about the Thai Red Cross and how they have the world’s second oldest snake farm, which they use to a) generate awareness, b) create anti-venom for local snakebites and c) collaborate with WHO on finding cures and treatments for diseases. The Secretary Generals from all 191 countries will soon be meeting at the Red Cross General Assembly. They will check into hotel rooms, listen to speeches, make new contacts, learn from each other, generate more synergy and fly back to their countries a week later. I wonder how many of those Secretary Generals I would have met? It may seem daunting for a Secretary General from a small island nation to sit around a table with people from Kenya, Iran, Denmark and Thailand…but there is reassurance in knowing that they are all family working towards a mutual cause.
Yes, there are blond headed islanders around here. But not as many as you might think and mostly children.
I have been frequenting Tradco Shipping’s office. They are the agent for Swire and the ship I arrived on. Jenny is back now. She is the country manager and originates from the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in the Caribbean. Is that a country or a territory? ;) Jenny has been working in Honiara for about 18 months now and is definitely “switched on”. I love that expression. It is not everywhere I come across it but Jenny mentioned it in our first conversation in relation to someone else. “Switched on” means that someone or an entire group is attentive and functioning well. When I first arrived to Honiara my point of contact was Francis from PNG (Agency Manager) who also coordinated the talk I did at the office. Back then Jenny was traveling. I have been in and out of the Tradco Office a lot and am always welcomed with smiles and handshakes. When I came back to Honiara after a week or more in the Western Province, Jenny had returned and quickly suggested that I could stay at her home where she has a guestroom. So that is where I am now. Fortunately for me Jenny is not just a hardworking woman but she is also a formidable chef who even happens to have a refrigerator full of chocolate! Yeah – I’m well taken care of again :)
NEW VIDEO! Click on the image or HERE to view this short video!
NEW VIDEO! Click on the image or HERE to view this short video!
NEW VIDEO! Click on the image or HERE to view this short video!
I however left Honiara for a day to head out to a place called B17 on the map. Guadalcanal is littered with WWII airplanes, tanks, submarines and what not. It makes for some really interesting diving and snorkeling. An US American bomber lies 50 m (164 ft) into the ocean at 15 m (50 ft) depth. There are some self-contained guest huts there too and even a room for backpackers. It was Manuel from Island Breeze AirBNB who suggested the place. It took less than an hour to reach from Honiara as I shifted between three minibuses. The roads are not in excellent condition but the music the drivers play is cheerful. And everyone is so unbelievably helpful towards strangers. Even when they think I’m Australian which is not a favorite nationality to all around here. When I say I’m from Denmark then people get even friendlier as if that was even possible. It is a strange concept for people to grasp how far away from home I am. The entire “it is dark there when it is light here” thing is received as if I was telling people that a spaceship had landed. It is a weird thing to grasp and we will be going even further east…
I sat here and spotted hundreds of dolphins while eating fresh papaya.
B12 is quite the getaway spot. The grandmother who runs the place was sick with malaria and not feeling to well. As such I got to deal with the granddaughter on my arrival. She would have been around twenty years old and gave me a discount without me asking for it. I had my own hut less than a stone throw from the beach. I had a porch and set up my hammock which I had brought along for my small retreat. It did not take long before I fell asleep to the soothing sounds of waves coming in on the shore. Before the sun set I spent some time looking at crabs running in and out of their holes. I observed small lizards doing lizardy stuff in the nearby plants. Nobody was bothering me. A few dogs seemed curious about the newly arrived Viking and I had no phone reception apart from when I stood as close to the ocean as I could get.
My phone is rubbish at taking photos at night. However this full moon added enough light to do the trick.
I went to bed shortly after the sun had set. The next morning I got up and bought a papaya on the street side from an old man who smiled and said: “buy one get one free”. The daughter of the owner had offered me a slice of watermelon the day before so I handed her my extra papaya. Then I sat down at the terrace and looked across the ocean where I observed a hundred or more dolphins making their way along the coast. Pretty good way to start the day. A mouse had been to visit me during the night and had bitten its way through the plastic my bread was contained within. It had also removed a good chunk of the bread. It had furthermore thanked me by taking a dump on the kitchen counter next to the bread. Thank you Mr Mouse. The entire hut was fashioned by local materials, bamboo, palm leaves, wood, stones and stuff like that. Great little place. I left it around noon and made my way back to Jenny’s place where I have typed up this for you.
Just a little something Jenny heated for our dinner :)
And that is all there is to say this time. Well I guess I could add that Valli and Shu whom I met at the Red Cross brought me along for a viewing at the film festival in Honiara. We watched "HerStory" which was about the long road for women to be accepted as equals at Solomon Islands correctional facilities. And now Honiara is putting on a fashion show so stuff is constantly going on.The good ship “Capitaine Quiros” is due to arrive on Sunday and will likely leave Monday at the latest. I figure it will take two-three days to reach Nauru and that is a special country in every sense. Nauru is basically a pointy mountaintop sticking out of the ocean making it hard to build a port. So large ships need to offload containers with the ships cranes onto barges which bring them ashore. Ashore they are then handled by cranes for a second time and all of this naturally takes time. Throw in some island mentality and we are looking at 8-14 days in Nauru before the good ship, along with, continues to Fiji. And that is logistics for you. I’m sooooo looking forward to this leg of the Saga because it has been in planning for a very, very long time…and now it is finally all coming together. 7-9-13 and knock on wood ;)
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - ready for the next adventures.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga