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Report 16 - 7 August 2011 – Farewell Sri Lanka. Hello Honiara
Happy and sad
There were many things that we enjoyed in Sri Lanka,
including the friendliness and helpfulness of the people,
the abundance of low cost vegetables, fruit and seafood,
low cost TV and Internet, the almost total absence of
smoking and, by no means least, the beer! But there were
quite a few other things, partly due to the relatively
remote location and the fact that it was just coming out
of thirty or so years of armed conflict, that made it
difficult for us to feel totally comfortable there,
including the lack of things to do that weren't
religion-based, the apparent rush of the people, whether
walking, riding or driving, to get in front of everyone else
without the common courtesy that we are used to, the
free roaming dogs and cows, with their resulting trails
and the inefficiency and bureaucracy in everyday
However, to be fair, a lot of development is coming to the
north and north east and there are already two good
resort hotels in Trincomalee and many more are planned
for the region. They deserve some good times and we
wish them well and hope that the development will lead to
improvements in everyday living conditions and services
for the majority of the people.
From a work point of view Jack was completely happy with
his company's co-workers and the clients local staff but
felt very uncomfortable with the Colombo-based
Government and Funding Agency representatives who
made infrequent visits to the projects but who
nevertheless felt competent to make in depth
observations with apparent complete disregard for the
successful progress of the works.
That is 'the successful progress of the works' up until
the double 100 year flood events at the beginning of
January and the beginning of February. We have certainly
never experienced rain like it. Our home and office were
both safe as they were very close to the sea but almost
every road in our project was extensively damaged. The
estimated delay due to the additional work was between
two and three months for each road. The individual
project durations varied between six and twenty two
months so, for some projects, the delay was very
We were affected by the floods in another way. Following
the second flood the one and only road in and out of
Trincomalee was closed to all traffic and the railway
stopped running for a week or two. It was during this
time that we were scheduled to leave to meet our
daughters and Jack's sister and her husband in Singapore
for a holiday in Malaysia.
We were getting quite concerned as the departure day
approached as there was still no sign of either road or
railway being open. Fortunately, with the help of local
friends we managed to get seats on the only military
flight to Colombo during that period. Apart from saving
our holiday it was a very enjoyable, though very basic,
flight and the views from the low altitude brought
homeSri Lanka is already covered by multitudes of man
made reservoirs (known locally as 'tanks') and so
together with the flooded areas it looked like a series
of inland seas.
Needless to say we were delighted to be on our
scheduled flight to Singapore in the middle of February.
We met our daughters who had arrived from Australia
earlier in the day and had the usual joyful reunion. Then
the following day we caught up with Jack's sister Lilian
and her husband John whom we hadn't seen since Kim and
Sam were in Primary School.
Singapore to Kuala Lumpur
We spent a day or two in Singapore doing the rounds of
the tourist sites then Lil and John jumped on a coach
that took them to Malacca and then on the Kuala Lumpur,
Kim and Sam jumped on a plane that took them straight
to KL and Viv and Jack jumped on a train for a scenic
view of some more of Singapore and a lot of Malaysia.
The train trip was very comfortable but we didn't check
the food situation in advance and were very disappointed
to find that there wasn't any for sale on the train!
However they did provide us with a free piece of cake
for which we were very grateful.
Unfortunately the views were a bit disappointing as the
tracks were either lined with trees or set in a cutting
for much of the way and where there were good views
there was no way of knowing what we were looking at.
We are glad we made the trip but it is not a repeat
event and there is certainly plenty of scope for the
Malaysia railway authorities to encourage more
Jack had already spent a long weekend in KL while
waiting for a visa extension to continue working Banda
Aceh a few years earlier and so he had a rough idea of
the geography and the sites to see. But, in addition, the
girls arranged a scenic tour that took us to places he had
not heard of. All were very impressed with KL and can
thoroughly recommend it as a holiday destination.
Lil and John arrived a day later and stayed at the same
hotel so we were able to spend some time catching up on
each other's news while eating together.
The girls surprised us with an invitation to dinner at the
Petronas Towers on our thirty first anniversary. But,
unknown to us, they had also arranged tickets for a
concert by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra at the
same venue. There was a bit of panic as we discovered
that I needed a jacket and proper shoes to get in but I
was in good company as there were about forty others
queuing for the same items provided by the organisers.
The concert was magnificent and Jack couldn't have
asked for a better present though Viv probably could
have thought of something for herself!
From KL the family flew on to Penang while Lil and John
continued their coach tour via the Cameron Highlands.
We had wanted to go there as well but felt that the
additional driving would take too much out or our already
We were immediately impressed with Penang and even
enquired about the possibility of participating in their
'Second Home' scheme. We will look at it again in a few
years when people finally stop offering me employment!
We walked and took conducted tours and generally
relaxed and had a wonderful time. Lil kept updating us on
the changes since she lived there as a young RAF bride in
the 1950s. By all accounts not much that is recognisable
remains from that time. But I'm sure her memories
were enhanced by the visit.
The departure date came much too quickly and we can't
thank Lil and John (and their son Simon who financed
their trip) enough for giving us the excuse to have our
We all flew out on the same day in our different
directions and we went back to Sri Lanka with renewed
vigour to try to make things work for a second year.
Goodbye Sri Lanka
However, it wasn't to be and so we began our wind down
and Jack accepted an offer to work in the Solomon
Islands. Unfortunately, his replacement was not
available until the middle of May and Jack was due to
start on 1 June. This meant a very short stopover in
Australia so no time for Viv's annual checkup hence her
current trip back there.
Hello Solomon Islands
We had spent a long weekend in Honiara while working in
Nauru and, as it's a very small town, it didn't take long
to find our feet. However it did take much longer to
move to a permanent place to live and, after a month,
life in the hotel was getting to be a bit tedious.
In fact we found a house after a week in the hotel but
for various reasons we couldn't move in until the 1 July.
At last we have everything more or less sorted out with
the phone, internet and television connected.
Jack's job is up and running and he is looking forward to
building things again though this time it will be
correctional centres, staff housing, hospitals and health
centres and schools and/or the renovation of existing
In contrast to Sri Lanka there are a large number of
expats in Honiara and so there is much more for us to do
including a Hash House Harriers that we can both attend.
The only downside so far is the fact that the cost of
living is about four times that of Sri Lanka so we might
have to tighten our belt just a little bit!
But we are really looking forward to the next two or