We have been back in the Solomons for almost a week now. It has really gone fast. The first few days we concentrated on getting our cargo that was shipped off the wharf. We accomplished that on Friday afternoon and have slowly been getting things put away.
This week we have opened a checking account, gotten our cell phones up and running, purchased internet time and dongles and learned how to purchase power for our house.
When we left the Solomon Islands four years ago, we closed our account with the electrical company. When renters started living in the house, they had to have ‘Cash Power’ installed. The same power company provides the service, but a special meter was connected to the house that uses a pre-pay system.
Now when we need power we go to the electricity office located in one of the shopping malls and tell them how many dollars of power we want to purchase and they sell us a voucher with a special code. When we get back to the house, we punch the code into the control panel of the meter and we are good to go.
We will need to be on our toes to make sure we don’t run out of power unexpectedly. The power is generated by diesel fuel-fed generators. The fuel is imported and expensive so electricity is expensive as well. Tim calculated the cost of the power here – we are paying ten times as much as we did in Dallas. I can tell you that I have become fanatical about turning off lights and ceiling fans.
Another project for this week was to complete Sarah’s application for her student visa for PNG. We needed a couple of documents we didn’t have including a medical report and a chest x-ray.
We found a doctor who could do the exam right away and she sent us to the hospital for the x-ray. Once at the hospital we had to walk to the far end of the complex to the cashier’s office. This is the window where you pay for x-rays, medical tests, morgue charges and embalming. The charge for the x-ray was $20 Solomons – less than $3.00 US!
There wasn’t much of a line in the x-ray department and soon we had the film in our hands. There is no radiologist at the hospital to read the x-ray – the one radiologist the Solomon Islands has is currently in Taiwan for six months. We took the x-ray back to the doctor who read the film and signed the x-ray form for the visa.
We were able to lodge all the documents at the Papua New Guinea High Commission and were told to check back on Thursday – the last day to pick up the visa before we leave on Saturday.
On Tuesday, Tim was at the High Commission to lodge our visitor’s visa application and was given Sarah’s passport with a TWO year student visa stamped inside. Yeah!
(It’s now Wednesday)
Today I went back to the bank to pick up our checkbook. You know you live in a small place when the woman at the bank saw me and went and got my checks without asking who I was or what I wanted. She pulled out the ledger for me to sign for the checks when she noticed that the checks said, ‘Watzke’ instead of ‘Matzke’.
The remarkable thing about getting checks here is that someone with a rubber stamp with removable type and an inkpad actually stamps the account number and name on each check. So, it’s back to the bank tomorrow to pick up another checkbook with the correct spelling.
While I was out this morning I went to a small grocery store that often has a ‘mark down’ area. Usually things in this section are nearly to their ‘best buy’ date. With the high cost of food here, I’m happy to buy things that are marked down. Today there was a bag of ‘icing sugar mixture’. Icing sugar is the Australian name for powdered sugar and ‘mixture’ means that some corn starch was added to keep it soft.
In this case, the corn starch didn’t work and the bag was full of hard clumps of sugar. It wasn’t enough to put me off – I figured I could sift it again and it would be ok. I took the sugar home and sifting it was slow and not very effective. I tried hammering it with a small meat mallet, but that only turned the big lumps into small ones.
Then I decided to try something drastic. I pulled out the meat grinder attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer and started feeding the lumps into that. Warm, almost finely grained powdered sugar began falling out of the holes. Success! I’m not sure when I will need the sugar, but I will have to try and use it before it returns to cement again.
Sarah is transforming her bedroom from the Narnia theme of her youth into bright and funky teenage colors. She won’t be using this room much, but she is enjoying making it look fresh and new again and ready for her return at Christmas.
Another project we will need to tackle is cleaning out our rain water tank. Rain water is collected from the roof, runs through gutters and into a fiberglass water tank below the house. Tim filled our 5 gallon water cooler and carried it up to the house for us to use for drinking water. He held a small plastic strainer under the watertank tap as he filled the cooler to catch anything that might be in the water.
Apparently the strainer isn’t fine enough because today when I filled a jug with water, I noticed little mosquito larva ‘swimming’ in the water. We will have to clean out the gutters and put in the gutter screens we brought to keep them cleaner. The water tank will need to be cleaned out and then refilled when it rains again. Basic living in the tropics takes a lot more time than it does in the USA. We are looking forward to being well set up and functional!