The Solomon Islands are an interesting country. We didn’t expect to come here but nevertheless the place is growing on us.
The Solomons are often referred to as ‘Vanuatu’s poor brother’ (and Vanuatu is not particularly affluent either). Despite their poverty the people are friendly, welcoming and they smile a lot. They lead a very simple life. Except for the main towns like Honiara, most people still live in traditional villages with zero comfort. They live of fish and what they can grow on the land. It is very hard for them to generate any income. They can raise and sell pigs and, if any tourists are around, they try and sell traditional woodcarvings. But tourism is very thin. Apart from the odd dive enthusiast, there are hardly any holidaymakers around. And very few yachts visit these islands, especially the more southern provinces. So, I think you get the picture. No tourists, no income, and, on top of that a government that doesn’t seem to get involved. There is no welfare or social infrastructure to speak of. The education records are very low, school is not mandatory and most children don’t even finish primary education.
In summary, the Solomons Islands are the most remote and most traditional country we visited. And we noticed a few funny peculiarities recently.
Yes is the answer.
Whenever you ask a local a question, the answer, most likely, will be yes. Is is safe to swim here? Yes. So there are no crocodiles? Yes. So there are crocodiles? Yes, yes, no crocodiles. And what about sharks, are there any sharks? Yes. There are sharks? Yes, no sharks. How many people live in this village? Yes. What do you want to trade for these fruits? Yes. Do you want a t-shirt or an exercise book? Yes. Are you from this village or from the one at the other side of the lagoon? Yes. As you can image, this can be confusing at times.
Yesterday or last year.
The concept of time is pretty vague here. ‘Yesterday’ could mean last week, last month or even last year. When we asked Felix (a local) when was the last time someone used this mooring, he answered that the big dive boat used it yesterday. Ok, great. But when we prompted him for more information it became obvious that yesterday was not in fact this year or even last year. The last time they used this morning was in 2015. I guess to them it’s just all in the past.
Age is just a number.
Out of politeness we often ask for the ages of someone’s children. But funnily enough this is something the natives usually can’t answer. When one of the local guys came over to say hello with his wife and two kids yesterday, we asked how old his children were. I could see the father was trying to count out roughly how old the first born was and from there he tried to work out how much younger his other son was. And we’ve noticed this several times now. Parents don’t seem to readily know the ages of their children. For us it is usually one of the first topics when making polite conversation but it’s obviously not something that matters to the locals.
So anyway, the Solomon Islands are a fascinating country… I’m sure we’ll discovery more oddities as we get to know the place better.