Honiara is gateway to almost 1,000 islands and a melting pot of people from across the Solomon Archipelago.
It seems to be the national past time to complain about Honiara. Ples hemi derty an dusti tumus! - It’s too dirty and dusty! Foreign visitors usually don’t like it much either. It’s an organic place, bathed in the smells of spicy betel leaf and acrid smoke. But I have a soft spot for Honiara. As I make my way around the town, anyone that approaches me genuinely wants nothing more than to strike up a conversation, ask me how my day is and what I am up to in Solomon Islands. People are happy, friendly, and it is a safe place.
I’m spending a couple of nights here on my way to the field. I’ve begun my first day with a list of things to do, people to visit and supplies to pick up. However it’s inevitable that I don't get everything on my list done. It’s not merely the fact that things run on ‘Solomon time’. It’s also the heat, humidity, and rows and rows of Chinese shops that sell varying selections of the same set of core products. One has kitchen wares and non-perishable foods, the next has the same non-perishable foods and hardware, the next has the same hardware and kitchen wares! It means I spend the day walking back and forth trying to remember where I saw the big plastic container I needed. In the end, the heat clouds my concentration on the plastic container and I sit down under a big raintree with a cold drink and ‘stori’ with people instead. The conversations usually proceed the same way – where are you from? Are you married? Iu stap long time long Solomon Islands? - a question regarding how long I’ve been in Solomon Islands because people are surprised I can speak pidgin English.
From under the shade of a rain tree it’s a great place to people watch. Solomon Islands comprises almost 1,000 islands and the cultures, languages and appearance of people from across the islands are vastly different. The main islands are mostly Melanesian, the smaller outlying islands Polynesian, and there are Micronesians too.
Eventually the sun sets on another boiling day in Honiara. Kerosene lamps begin to glow warmly from the tiny wooden betel nut stands on the street where I’m staying. I’m packing my bags and double-checking I haven’t forgotten anything. Outside I can hear melodic pidgin and giggling as people stroll together in the cool evening air. Tomorrow will be a big day – setting off for Atoifi airport on Malaita.
Tyrone Lavery, AMRI
Dr Tyrone Lavery from the University of Queensland is the inaugural recipient of the Australian Museum Research Institute's Expedition Fellowship for 2015/16. Tyrone is playing a large part in AMRI's presence in the Solomon Islands over the coming months, where ground-breaking research on native mammal populations will take place. Tyrone's area of specialty is exotic bats and rats, hence his important role in the Australian Museum's Solomon Island Expedition. Tyrone will be providing periodic updates on his involvement in this research expedition, which can be followed through our AMRI Blog feed.