Now THIS is a thank you note!

A few blogs ago, I mentioned that we sent a Pijin Bible to Queen Elizabeth. Recently we received this special thank you note from Balmoral Castle. Pretty cool!

In case you can’t read it, it says:

Dear Mr. Matzke

Thank you for your letter of 4 August enclosing a copy of the Solomon Islands Pijin Language Bible which I have passed to The Queen.

Her majesty has asked me to thank the Solomon Islands Translation Advisory Group, the Solomon Islands Christian Association and the Bible Society of the South Pacific for sending her such a thoughtful present. I am sure that the Pijin Bible is a very fitting addition to this year’s celebrations of the 30th Anniversary of Solomon Islands Independence.

The Queen has further directed me to send her good wishes to you and to everyone at the Solomon Islands Translation Advisory Group, to which I would like to add my own.

Congratulations on a remarkable Achievement.

Yours Sincerely

Edward Young

The Deputy Private Secretary to The Queen


Saturday night in Honiara

The girls are now on school holiday. We’ve had a busy week and just felt like doing something different tonight. So we went out to eat at a Chinese restaurant. That was fun but rather than just go home we decided to drive around and see the Christmas lights – ours!

We live on the edge of a valley so we drove to the other side of the valley to see if we could see our own Christmas lights. Sure enough in the distance we could just make out the colored flashing lights at our house. Decorating a house with lights is not done here so our lights are a bit of a novelty.

The other night Tim and I went to a function and as we were leaving we were surprised to see a tall evergreen tree in the distance flashing with red lights. So to night we went exploring as a family to see if we could discover where the tree was. It didn’t take us too long to find the tree and along the way we were rewarded with another house with a string of lights.

Yes, it’s been another exciting Saturday night in Honiara!


Blue Monday

Yesterday (Monday) turned out to be a bit of a blue Monday. It wasn’t just the gray clouds and lack of sun that made it feel that way. When Tim was in town running errands, he pulled out on to the main road and was hit broadside by a car. Tim is fine, but our new (to us) vehicle is damaged and will have to spend time in the repair shop.

We are thankful that Tim and the other driver were unharmed, but we are pretty discouraged about the vehicle being damaged. At the moment we have use of one of the vehicles that our group owns.

The police are investigating to determine who is at fault in the accident. At first glance, it appears that there was probably fault on both sides. We do have insurance – so that’s good news, though we are not sure yet just what it will cover.

Thank God with us that no one was hurt.
Please pray for a speedy repair of the vehicle. Our experience with car repairs here has shown that it can take a while to get all the parts and for the car to be returned to us.


What’s in your pocket?

When taking down the laundry, I noticed there was something in the pocket of Emily’s shorts. As I went to see what it was, it moved and made a hissing sound. It was this rhinoceros
beetle and it didn’t want to leave Emily’s pocket.

These harmless insects are fairly common here and we often see them in our carport at night. Sometimes they get flipped over on their backs and can’t get upright again. When they are disturbed, they make a loud hissing sound.


You know you live in a small place when…

Tim left this morning to stop in at a literacy workshop in town and to run some errands. Shortly after he left, I remembered something I needed to tell him before he went to pick the girls up at school.

We got a cell phone this week so I thought I’d give him a call. Three times I got a recorded message from the phone company that the call couldn’t go through. I called the phone company and they told me he must have the phone turned off. Rats!

Then I remembered that one of the errands was a stop at a hardware store for paint. I called the hardware store and asked for the warehouse. When the clerk answered the phone I explained I was looking for my husband. “Have you seen a white skin man, balding, mustache, wearing glasses and buying paint?” I asked.

“No” said the clerk. “There was a guy in here earlier, but he was with a woman.”

“Well” I said, “if you see a man like I described, can you ask him if his name is Timothy? And if he says yes, please ask him to call home.”

Ten minutes later, the phone rang and it was Tim. Even though Honiara is the capital city, it still often feels like a small town.



Note: Sorry there haven’t been any new blogs for a few days. I was ready to write up my market trip Friday morning, but the power was out for a while. Then when I had power Friday night, there were technical glitches and the photos wouldn’t load. I hope you enjoy a trip to the market…

After I dropped the girls off at school, I headed to the market to stock up on fruits and veggies for the weekend. I came home with a loaded market basket and then some more. I thought you might enjoy seeing what I bought.

One woman had lots and lots of ‘bushlimes’ which are a small lemon/lime type fruit. Bushlime juice is very refreshing! I bought 80 bushlimes at a cost of $20 (less than $3.00 USD). When I got home I put them in a bowl and poured boiling water over them. This softens the skin and makes them easier to juice. Later I juiced them with the juicer attachment on my Kitchenaid Mixer. Then I poured the juice into ice cube trays to freeze. Later I put them in a plastic bag or container and keep the bushlime cubes in the freezer for making juice quickly and easily.

I bought a few small tomatoes. In the market, they are placed in little piles worth $1.00

($.20 USD).

This is a small pumpkin. It cost $10 ($1.40 USD). We enjoy baked pumpkin.

Emily requested some guavas. This is a pretty good sized one. I hope she likes them – I tend to buy them ripe and the girls like them a bit green.

This bundle of greens is called “Chinese broccoli” and it does taste a bit like broccoli. It takes 3 bundles to feed our family and each one cost $6 (almost $3.00 US). Usually we chop it up and cook it in a little water with chopped onion. Yum.

Sometimes we can find green beans, but more commonly we find these ‘long beans’ in the market. I don’t like them as well as regular green beans, but they are OK. You may notice that the bundles of vegetables are wrapped in a leaf to keep them together. What a great bio-degradable way to package!

This unusual looking vegetable is actually the flower of a type of grass! The outside of the rough husk is covered with tiny hairs that can stick in your skin. The part that you eat is the white flower inside the husk.

When it is steamed and served with a cheese sauce on it, it almost tastes like cauliflower. This bundle cost me $8 (a little over $1.00 US)

There were lots of pineapples in the market and the one I bought cost $12.00 ($1.70 US) and it is sure to taste much better than ones you can buy in a grocery store in the USA!

I bought this chicken from a woman I know who was selling chickens in the market. It weighs a little over 2 pounds and cost $50 ($7.15 USD). Chicken is expensive here because all of the feed is imported since there isn’t any grain grown in country to feed chickens.

My just for fun purchase was the flowers. Saturday is the best day for finding flowers at the market, but I lucked out with these two bundles (which included some orchids) for $10 each ($1.40 USD).

My last purchase was a watermelon. I’m terrible about picking out good ones, so I enlisted the help of some local women in the market to help me choose a nice one. It worked because it is a nice red color inside and tasty, too!


Taco Bell Solomons Style

We had some wonderful meals in the USA and especially enjoyed Mexican food. However, Emily and Sarah have been looking forward to eating our homemade Mexican meals that we enjoy here in the Solomons. Eating Mexican food here takes quite a bit more work than in the USA.

First we start with pinto beans. We buy them at the bulk store in town. They have been in the freezer for about a week to kill off the extra ‘protein’. (weevils)

The beans are washed and then put in a pot of water that is brought to a boil. Then the heat is turned off and the beans left to soak for a while. If I plan ahead, I do this the night before I want to cook them.

After the beans have soaked and swollen a bit, the water is drained off and changed with fresh water. (This is supposed to make the beans less ‘gassy’.)

The beans are put on to cook again with lots of onions, garlic and some beef boullion. They cook and cook and cook all day and occasionally water is added to keep them from boiling dry. A pressure cooker speeds up this process, but mine isn’t working. However when our crate arrives at the end of February, I will have a new one.

When the beans are soft, we mash them with a potato masher in a cast iron skillet with a bit of oil and fry them.

Meanwhile the flour tortillas are in process. The flour is sifted for weevils. Then I mix flour, baking powder, salt, oil and water together in my Kitchenaid mixer. The dough is formed into balls and left to sit for 15 minutes.

Then the dough is rolled out into tortillas that are cooked on a cast aluminum griddle on our stove. This process works best with a couple of people working together. Tonight everyone was helping and it all went much faster. I forgot to take a picture of us eating our bean burritos, but they were tastier then Taco Bell!


Routine – a Tuesday in Honiara

Our daily lives are starting to develop a bit of a pattern. We wake up about 6:00 am. The girls are pretty independent in getting ready for school, which is great. They sometimes need help making their school lunches as it is much more challenging here to find things that are quick and easy to throw together for lunch. I’ve been making bread in my bread machine, but the girls aren’t real impressed with my attempts at making a healthy whole wheat bread. The recipe isn’t quite right and the bread is pretty dense! Lunch meat is very expensive here so it’s usually tuna, cheese or PB&J; on the bread.

Tim faithfully makes me a cup of coffee to get me started. While that is going on, I check my email and Skype.

Emily feeds the dogs and Sarah, the cat. Emily is responsible for preparing the food for our pets. As dog food is expensive here, Emily cooks a big pot of rice in the evening. Tim mixes a small amount of rice with a little canned dog food which Sarah feeds to Slinky in the evening and the morning. The rest of the rice is mixed with part of a can of dog food and Emily gives it to the dogs in the morning.

Tim and the girls leave for school about 7:15 with a stop on the way to pick up the Solomon Star, ( the local newspaper. They arrive at school about 7:30, which gets Emily there in time for the morning exercise routine in which the kids in her class are expected to participate. Motivation is high to arrive on time because if the kids don’t complete the exercise before school begins, they have to do it during their morning break time when it is much hotter.

After dropping off the girls, Tim heads to our office to attend the morning prayer session with our collegues. After that, Tim will meet with our director and another colleague to discuss our upcoming group conference at the end of the month. During our group conference, all our teams in the Solomons will get together for a week of spiritual feeding and group business.

In between meetings, Tim will be working on email and making plans to meet with one of our national literacy collegues, Francis who happens to be in town this week from the village.

Another house project he is working on is to put in additional power outlets. Since we have had a number of walls removed due to the termite damage, we are taking advantage of the open framework and adding the outlets. Most of the rooms in our house only had one outlet and that doesn’t provide enough for clocks and other appliances. Imported Australian Power outlets a cost almost $25 USD each unless we are willing to put in cheaper ones that are made in Asia.

I’m continuing to work on cleaning the house. The curtains all need washing and some of the bed linens as well. I haven’t tackled washing the walls and ceilings which also needs doing to remove mildew stains. (See photo at right.)

This afternoon I am hosting the expat* ladies Bible Study. The group hasn’t met since late last year, so this is a chance to get together and catch up with each other. We’ll also be discussing what we would like to do in terms of a Bible study this year. (
*expat – short for ‘expatriate’, a person who lives outside their native land. Our group is made up of members of the diplomatic, business and missions communities around the capital city.)

At the moment, I am waiting for the guys with the termite baits to arrive. We can’t hear the termites in the floor anymore. We aren’t sure what that means – probably that they have moved on to some other spot in the house. We hope that we can find a place where they are active to place a bait. We have spotted termites outside the house which we will also target today.

This evening the girls’ school is having ‘Meet the Teacher’ night so Tim and I will attend that. Most nights we are home and enjoy playing games and reading which has been nice.



Our washing machine has made quite a lot of trips to the repair shop over the last couple of years, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to find out this week that it wasn’t worth repairing after a recent breakdown.

In Honiara there are not a lot of options for buying appliances. There are some smaller stores that sell imported goods of questionable quality from Asian countries, but there is really only one store where you can buy imported Australian appliances of reputable quality.

This afternoon we went to that store to see what our choices were. There was only one brand available and 2 different models to choose from. We decided on the larger copacity one because we can wash our curtains and larger items and it wasn’t a lot more expensive than the slightly smaller one. The store did agree to give us a small discount and deduct what we had paid for the last repair on the old machine because it still didn’t work. $821.00 US dollars later we had a new washer. It’s not fun spending that much money when you weren’t counting on it, but not being able to shop around for a better price or a different choice makes the shopping experience harder!

Yesterday we took our TV into a repair shope to have the wobbly RCA jack resoldered. The TV still worked, but we had to find ways to hold plugs into the jack so they would make a good contact. The repairman said it would probably be ready in the afternoon. When the Tim went to pick it up, the repairman said that now it wasn’t working at all and it might not be repairable. Today the news is that it needs a new part and may be repairable. The part will have to be ordered from Australia before we know if the TV can indeed be repaired. In the meantime it’s one less distraction. I guess we can go watch the washer spin…


A Trip to Town

Yesterday we ventured into town to do some shopping. Honiara has a population of about 40,000 people so it is not a very big place.

First stop was Woodford International School where the girls begin the new school year on Monday. There were lots of familiar faces to welcome us and give us hugs. We found out who the girls will have as teachers. Sarah is thrilled to know that her best buddy, Ela, is in her class. Ela is Australian and her parents are part of the business community here.

Our next stop was to Ela’s house so Sarah could spend the day with her. They had a wonderful time reconnecting and playing together. Lucky for Sarah, Ela has a nice pool to swim in and she was able to cool off there.

Tim, Emily and I spent the rest of the day shopping and stopping at various stores to take care of business. In Honiara there is no one-stop shopping. Getting the basics takes visits to numerous places. It was very hot and sticky in town. The air condtioning in the car would just start to feel cool when we would park the car at the next stop.

Everywhere we went, we ran into people we knew. We even managed to have lunch with friends and got our first taste of fish and chips – a family favorite.

One of our stops was to the business that has been treating our house for termites. Unfortunately they need to come up on Monday to spray again as we have found a new trail starting up one of the cement posts under the house. They cartainly are determined to eat us out of house and home! Now that we are back we can deligently watch for any more trails and we should be able to keep them at bay.