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Another Christmas, another country!
The problem with working over Christmas, while
everyone else is on leave, is that all your Clients' staff
want to leave a clean desk before they take off and so
you are snowed under with last minute tasks.
Of course, it's much better to be busy than twiddling
your thumbs but it would be much more enjoyable if it
were spread out a little instead of piling up when your
support staff are not available to share some of the load.
But that's all now a memory for this year (we hope) and
we can spend this afternoon catching up on this site just
in time to wish all our relatives and friends all the best
for the season and all that they wish for themselves in
2012.  (Depending on who and what you believe this could
be the last new year for all of us????!!!!! However, in the
absence of any concrete evidence we'll stick with the
optimistic view.)
Holiday and new house
For the dual purpose of catching up with overdue
personal business  (made urgent by the rush to leave Sri
Lanka at the last minute and the need to start the job in
Honiara by the appointed date) and in order to avoid the
'mad rush' season in Australia, we took half our annual
leave at the end of November/beginning of December.
Viv had already made a trip back to Australia for a
couple of months earlier in the year in order to help Kim
move from Townsville to Brisbane. Kim had wanted to
follow Samantha to Brisbane for some time and so we
decided to buy a house in Brisbane where she could stay
while she was studying and a place we could call home on
our return.
The girls actually chose the house and though Viv had
helped set it up, Jack hadn't seen it before this holiday.
Good to say that he was suitably impressed, though you
don't get a lot for your money in inner Brisbane. It is the
end townhouse (the one furthest from the road with the
private garden) on a block of three in the Brisbane
suburb of Windsor.  ( Jack liked it just for the address
so he could emulate the Queen and Jim Johnson!)
Our holiday was really no more than a two week break
from Honiara. Seeing the girls, shopping, fixing up things
round the house, shopping, exploring the area during our
evening walks, shopping, meeting Sam's new boyfriend,
shopping, trying new beers (there's a whole new range of
boutique beers to sample every time we get back to
Australia) and, of course, shopping.
(Unfortunately we didn't take our regular group photo
while in Australia and we haven't taken many of Solomon
Islands yet so they will have to wait until my next
report.)
Fortunately we were able to catch up with Paul Frame
over a brief lunch, just off the Pacific Highway near
Dreamworld, half way between Brisbane and the Gold
Coast, but we were unable to make the longer trip to his
home at the south end of the Gold Coast to see Yanti as
we had hoped.  
We also had a pleasant reunion with one of the engineers
on our last project, Velayuthan Khokulan, who moved to
Brisbane early in December.
But, very unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in catching
up with Ronnie Brown though we called her old number
almost every evening for the first week we were there.
If anyone knows her contact details I'd be pleased to
receive them.
Settling in
Between the beginning of June and the end of November
we managed to settle in fairly well to the life and work in
Honiara. We've made a large number of new friends and
found several new walking trails including some that we
had scouted out for our evening walks and some that we
had been introduced to at Monday evening Hash.  
Unfortunately, the same problem exists here as
everywhere that expats work, no sooner do you form an
enjoyable circle of friends than they start leaving as they
finish their contracts. You can only hope that your paths
cross again in the not too distant future though the age of
the internet has made keeping in touch much easier
nowadays.
Work
Jack's job started very slowly as one of the first phases
was to identify the infrastructure projects that would be
accepted for implementation. Unfortunately, apart from a
few projects that had been identified under the previous
programme, the Solomon Islands Government Ministries
weren't very forthcoming with their priority list.
However the work is now in full swing and our very small
team is flat out keeping up with the programme.
The main jobs are new and reconstructed prisons,
nowadays, politically correctly, called Correctional
Centres. The other jobs range from government housing
to minor maintenance work, fencing and earthworks.
Interesting work but sometimes a bit repetitious and
occasionally a little frustrated by bureaucracy.
 
Recent photos - no recent family portrait!
Report 17 - 24 December 2011 – Life and work in Honiara
Most of the smaller jobs are located in Honiara or
nearby areas but some of the larger projects that will
get going in the New Year are in some of the more
remote area of the archipelago. Already Jack has had
one overnight, exploratory trip to Western Province,
which is a favourite destination for holiday weekends
for expats. A very pleasant location which he won't
complain about visiting whenever necessary.
Social life
Despite our increased familiarity with life in Honiara,
we still lead a pretty quiet social life. We usually manage
a few beers after work with some friends on a Friday
night at the Iron Bottom Sound Hotel (named for the
part of the ocean nearby where WW2 armaments were
famously dumped) or one of the many other drinking and
eating establishments in the town.
We also eat out now and then but we still have a long way
to go to sample all the hotels and small restaurants on
offer.
Unfortunately the Solomon Islands dollar has been
getting stronger against the Australian dollar recently
and so things are beginning to get a bit more expensive.  
But still not up to Australian prices yet, and nowhere
near European prices.
2012
We are trying to save up as much of this year's annual
leave as we can so that we can use it to go to England
for the (probably last) reunion of my de Havilland
Apprentice friends in Christchurch in September.  
Of course, it doesn't make much sense to go there if we
don't take in Jamaica, USA and Cayman to visit Viv's
family and Jamaica, USA and Canada to visit Jack's
family and friends. That is all going to take some
planning (and saving) so it will be a little while before I
can post our schedule on this site (so that you can all
know when to take your holiday if our itinerary includes
your area!).
Sadly we probably won't make the trip across to Scilly
this trip. With the sudden death of Jack's brother
George earlier in the year his link with Scilly is greatly
weakened. So, unless Lilian decides to move back there
from the snowy regions of Ontario then it looks like our
last pilgrimage to Scilly has already been made.
Thanks
Thanks to everyone who has written to us during the
year. Please forgive us if we haven't answered promptly
(or not at all!). Nevertheless you are frequently in our
thoughts and in our conversations (usually in a good
context) and we look forward to our next get together,
hopefully in 2012.
We hope this report has gone a little way towards
making up for our poor correspondence efforts so please
keep in touch even if it is only the one annual newsletter.
Jack & Viv