Sunday, 5 April 2015

A new adventure in Honiara in the Solomon Islands




We arrived Honiara on April 1st and I have to say I did think we were victims of a completely bizarre April Fool’s joke. Despite the lovely beach and the enticing yacht club posts on Facebook this town is a very challenging place so far. 

The town itself is located along one long road between 2 bridges that are single file bridges – so the traffic is horrendous because only one way traffic can use the bridge at any time in either direction, and everyone is in a car. We were told this morning that another bridge is being built and will open in 2017! Also this morning we spent 45 mins in traffic to cover about 6 klms (we really could have walked it faster but it was so hot we would expire!). Thus we have made a decision that we need to live in the town centre and not far from Ron’s work so that we can walk around or catch cabs if necessary. Having said that, it was Easter Saturday today and there were a lot more people on the road than might be at any other time – so I am prepared to say ‘let’s wait and see’ – but we will live in town. That decision is going to cost us hugely financially as town accommodation is very expensive – more expensive than Sydney and Abu Dhabi for something that is nowhere near the standard you would expect in either. My focus is on getting something comfortable, secure and with a pool, airconditioning and reasonable furniture. We will only be able to afford one bedroom so I guess we won’t be able to have anyone come to stay, which makes me very unhappy! Maybe we can organize a fold out sofa, but I am not sure who would want to come and sleep on one L. There are a few hotels to stay at, the best one being the Heritage Park Hotel which is next door to the second best one which is the one we are staying in – and there is a significant difference between the two, although we are very comfortable here – it is just a bit old that’s all.

The weather has been dry, although we are at the end of the wet season and should expect to get more rain this month. It’s been dry since cyclone Pam made her way down to Vanuatu. The streets are just as you would expect in a developing country – worse than what they were in Vanuatu – the usual holes and ruts and footpaths that are pretty dodgy, but we will get used to walking with care and watching where we step.

The population in Honiara is much larger than in Port Vila and seems to be crammed into a very narrow plain along the seafront. There are ridges above the town that have housing and then there is quite high mountainous terrain above that and it is not inhabited. The roads that go to the housing on the ridge are OK but many are unsealed and I think could be a bit difficult in the wet weather. A 4 wheel drive is essential if you live up there. We are not sure we want to buy a car as there is not really anywhere much to drive to! The sealed roads run out just out of town and become impassable in rain. Most transport is by boat to areas beyond the sealed roads. I don’t think we will be investing in a boat. However there are cruises that can be arranged to the nearby islands for outings – snorkeling/diving and swimming. It’s not advisable to use the seafront for swimming as the town drains into the water from three rivers that flow into the sea – it’s a bit to icky for swimming.

The people have been very welcoming and Ron’s colleagues look like a great bunch of people to work with. He has had a pretty comprehensive briefing from a NZ Education Adviser from the Ministry who has great corporate knowledge and experience and will be working with him. 

We will now be sending for our shipment from Abu Dhabi to get underway, with the extra bits that have been identified to come on to Honiara. As you know it was a really protracted process to exit Abu Dhabi and as a result we have resolved to live more simply and to not accumulate. We loved our home and the comfort of it in Sas Al Nakhl and have no regrets about how that happened as we enjoyed and appreciated every day of it and what we had there – often pinching ourselves and reminding each other of how blessed and grateful we were. However it was a huge task to make the move out, complicated by all the ADEC exit procedures that seemed to be never ending exercising in pushing and shoving, demanding and negotiating.

The thunder is rolling in, so I think we might be in for a wet evening here in Honiara. We met a man on the flight who sat next to Ron and they chatted a bit. He and his wife, Les and Jan, were in the café when we went for breakfast this morning and have invited us out to dinner with another couple. I am hoping this may be the beginning of some new friendships and will sweeten the adventure a little for us.

We have very limited access to very expensive internet so I will be reactivating the blog with this post and hope that you can log on to it from time to time to catch up with us. Of course I will also try to keep in touch by email but it will not be so easy as it has been up till now.


Thursday, 6 September 2012

Dubrovnik



Hotel Lapad on the harbour in Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik Old City walls
On our way from the airport to our hotel we noted the really rugged Croatian countryside. Huge mountains follow the thin coastal strip for the length of the Croatian coast. In Dubrovnik the mountains are very close to the sea and you get the feeling that they guard the coastline as a formidable barrier. It is not so long ago that Croatia was involved in war with neighbouring previously Yugoslavic states. Along the mountains there are stone walls that delineate the farms and surround the houses. As time went by we marvelled at the amount of these stone walls that stretched all the way along the coast for hundreds of miles.
The city of Dubrovnik bears the scars of the war and it is not difficult to find evidence of the conflict in the streets of the town. However there is a sense of ancientness, particularly in the old city, that withstands the passages of time and probably many wars. The old city is magnificent and Croatians are justly proud of it. We strolled the small alleyways and shops and sat and had a coffee amongst the buildings that are apparently from the 14th Century. I came across a vendor selling watercolour paintings of the city and we bought one as a souvenir. I have to say that Croatian ice cream is just gorgeous - or maybe it was just that we were having such a lovely time the ice cream reflected the way we were feeling!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Venice



In Milan, Lake Como was gorgeous and the Duomo Cathedral and adjacent Galleria were quite magnificent.  However we found the rest a little ho-hum and so I was really looking forward to Venice.
And so we boarded the train with some excitement and the anticipation of a lovely train ride.  We weren’t disappointed. Once out of the city, the scenery was just lovely. Rolling hills, the Alps behind and dotted with villages, vineyards and monasteries on hill tops. Most beautiful was the scenery around Verona, including Lake Garda – which we marked for a return visit on our way back to Milan.

Arriving in Venice, we were deposited right at the main canal to then sort out where our little hotel was. A beer and a coffee later we found the right ferry and were soon ensconced in our quaint little room. Comfortable and cosy would best describe it. But as with all places on the island, it was just a short walk to a multitude of canals & gondolas, cafes, boutique shops and delightful scenery. 

Of course we visited the major square, Piazza San Marco, several times. It is simply stunning. And better still for being able to sit outside listening to music from the many combos playing at the various restaurants while enjoying a simple meal and glass of wine. 

A visit to the glassmaking artists on the island of Murano was of course mandatory. We stopped at the first one off the ferry and watched one of the “workers” doing his thing of producing pretty little swans – about one every 5 minutes. What wonderful talent. Then perchance we were treated to a private tour of the upstairs gallery by one of the managers. (It pays to show interest and be the last out of the viewing area!) How gorgeous. Glass sculptures, plates, figurines, vases, etc all in a multitude of colours and styles, some over a metre high. 







And so then the next day it was off on the short flight to Dubrovnik, Murano jewellery and plate securely packed.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Lake Como - a lovely day out

It was difficult to post to our blog while on the road with the iPad so I decided not to try and to wait until we returned home. Back in Abu Dhabi now and reminiscing I thought I had better get this information up before we totally forget it all - surprising how the memory of a holiday fades quickly as you get back to normal.

Having had a good look around Milan we had a day to fill iin and decided to take the train to Lake Como. The trains are frequent and efficient and clean. Although the seat allocation is a bit dubious. We would have been happy to go second class but the ticket seller ignored any notion of understanding us enough to book second class and insisted that we go first class - obviously we looked like tourists with money!


So off we went to Lake Como for the day. On Arrival at the railway station we could see a "scar" on the hillside and were told that it was the funiculare! Well we both love going to the top of hills and getting in a good look at the surroundings so off we went to find the funiculare station on bus number 4. Here are some photos from the top and also from the bottom. It was a lovely warm and sunny day and nice to be out walking.

It is late summer in Italy at this time and all the flowers are out and the trees have their leaves. It was lovely to see green countryside and water after the desert of the UAE.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Visiting Italy again

Once again we are in Italy.We have commenced this holiday in Milan. I have to say I really do love this country for its ancient archictecture and the coffee!
We spent the first day getting our Italian understanding up to scratch and Ron has slipped nicely into his few Italian phrases with no trouble at all and the Italians really respect that - they go the extra mile if you just give it a go. However I need 6 months in one place before I am confident of a few phrases so I simply pass the baton to Ron.

A modern day contraption that has served us well in many large cities is the double decker rideon/getoff/getbackonagain bus trip. Milan has 2 circuits and we have done both of them now several times. Of course Milan is famous for the Duomo, a Catholic Cathedral that took over 600 years to build. It is spectacular, both inside and out. It is also the financial and economic capital of Italy and is one of the fashion centres of Europe.
Here we are on the big bus tour of Milan

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Our Grandson

I was reminded this afternoon that, with his first birthday also passed, I still have not posted a blog about the arrival, and progress of our first grandchild, a boy - Quinn Mackenzie Stalenberg.  So very remiss of me indeed. And I crave Quinn's forgiveness.

Quinn -  as you read this some time in the distant future, realise your Opa is beginning to suffer from occasional memory lapses. Many have cruelly called it early onset Alzheimer's - but don't believe them. Others claim it is the result of over-indulgence in things vinous -and sadly I'm compelled to admit they may have something there !

Quinn was born to our son Michael and his wife Rebecca (Bec) on June 4, 2011. And a much anticipated arrival it was. We were treated to multiple facebook and private entries on his pre-natal progress, and since then have haunted Mike and Bec at every opportunity for multiple photographs and You-Tube clips.

So Quinn i now 13 months old and is already showing signs of being a lively, intelligent, inquisitive, and delightful boy full of personality. He has passed all the important milestones of teething, crawling and mischief making expected of a 1-year-old and more. He has learnt to swim and has a good voice, which is exercised at all the right times.  Last week, he finally got his wish and talked his parents into buying a new car.


So welcome Quinn - We miss you and wish we could share much more time with you. - Rest assured that when we return permanently to Oz, we will assuredly make up for lost time. Temporary kidnappings may be required !!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Time is slipping by

Well, this blogpost is rather overdue indeed. Looking back there are no posts for many months so I thought I would just bring it up to date and maybe try and make a commitment to keeping it so. We have really just become very lazy! I think there are two things that make it this way - one of them is that life is life wherever you are and maybe we are slipping into thinking that it is all not so exotic anymore. What silly thinking! I think we are taking it all for granted and perhaps letting this jetsetting life become humdrum to us. The other thing is that when we are both working and busy it is not always the first thing we think of to update the blog! I also think that membership of Facebook has taken a toll on our journalistic skills and that has meant we rely on Facebook both to receive and to send out news and that is really not such a great idea.

So where are we up to now? Well Cheryl has had just over 18 months working for Cognition Education Limited and Ron is still with the Abu Dhabi Education Council. Cheryl has been the HR Consultant for the company working across the region and getting in some trips to some far flung places like Kuwait and Qatar. However that position has now been defunded, meaning that Cheryl's job will end soon and she is once again looking for work in Abu Dhabi. Ron has continued with ADEC and in addition to managing his cluster of schools has also been acting Head Cluster Manager a few times for the Abu Dhabi Island group and is currently the acting Manager of all the Cluster Managers! He is really enjoying the work.

Life in the Enirates has always been interesting and different and that remains the case. We have been able to develop a core of wonderful friends from the work we are doing and the community we live in. Moraig and Brian Minns have become close friends and we spend quite a lot of time with them. Liz and Mark Stevens have moved to Dubai and we don't see them quite so much but love to catch up when we can. The ADEC bunch that Ron works with is typically a gregarious and interesting group of people and the same applies to the Cognition staff. So it is quite pleasant to be here.

There have been troubles in this region over the last 12 months with the emergence of the Arab Spring, however apart from the significant impact it has had on some of the people we work with whose familes are in those troubled countries we have been largely unimpacted here in the UAE. Many people who have jobs here are finding that they are not able to change positions and that they have had to return to their country of origin. I imagine this is particularly difficult for people who have found safety and security here and now are faced with the prospect of returning to countries where their homes and families are effected. We feel quite safe here and our residency visas are secure as of now.

I will try to get some photos up of recent events over the next week or so - something to bring you up to date with things pictorial!

In the meantime we are safe, well, happy and contented to stay for some time yet.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Cyprus - Day 2 and 3


Cyprus – Days 2 and 3.
We woke both days to a blue sky and blue ocean. Not just blue – th kind of blue you see in the best picture postcards. Deep, bright sapphire. Temps around the 25 in the morning were a welcome change from the 35+ in the UAE. A lazy  start, then a stint in the gym, followed by breakfast and a swim, and getting some serious tanning begun, filled the first few hours both days.

Yesterday we decided to do a bit of a tour into the mountains. And so off we went at around 12:30’ish in the little Kia.  This is definitely the smallest car I’ve ever driven. A bit like a sewing machine on wheels – but thankfully it seems up to the task and we zip down the motorway to our turn-off into the foothills. The countryside is quite bare and stark. Signs of recent wheat/hay harvests are here and there, but otherwise there is little obvious agriculture, and certainly no grape growing to be seen (disappointing, that). A few villages pass and we stop for a coffee. The deep, small cup, boiled type that gives your heart the jumps and keeps you awake for the next 36 hours – yum. 

During coffee we decide to head for a monastery, about 30km ahead. The road takes us well into the mountains and the vegetation slowly changes from barren to sparsely wooded to forest. We pass charming picnic areas, a little old church dating back to the 1100s and push on over unsealed roads. Finally the monastery,  Macharais, is in sight – and quite spectacular (http://www.kypros.org/Sxetikos/Monastiria/MachairasE-1.htm). Apparently it also dates back to the 1100s.

Moving along, we wind our way over the top of the next mountain and begin the slow descent back towards Larnaca. Along this route we encounter a sizeable village called Lefkara, which turns out to be a little tourist hub for lace and silverware.  Totally charming and beautiful. An hour here and the call of an afternoon drink is too strong to resist so, with wallets untouched, we head back to the hotel.

Finally, dinner calls and we head out to a nearby local restaurant where we gorge on slow cooked lamb, pork and beef with assortments of veggies and salads. Best part of the evening is the live music trio – a guy on the balalaika, another chap on keyboards and woman with the loveliest singing voice. Replete with food, wine and lots of lilting Greek folk songs we return to the hotel and sleep soundly.

Day 3 begins as above. At around 1 o’clock we drive along the local coastline towards the nearest town – Agia Napa (pronounced Aiya Napa).  But there are again some sights along the way. Yesterday was filled with beautiful blue skies  - today is spectacularly so. And the ocean is the brightest blue I’ve ever seen. We stop to gaze at a little chapel on a headland, some tourist boats groups of people snorkelling in that deepest of blues. Agia Napa is pretty – lots of nice looking streets, but also a bit disappointing. Every shop is either a tavern, restaurant, or tourist souvenir shop. However it does have a redeeming feature. Hidden behind all these tourist traps is a lovely old chapel and monastery (I'm beginning to think that every town in Cyprus has one or more of these). And so after some browsing, a beer and buying a few essentials, we return to the hotel for a quiet end to the day, reading (and writing this!).

Tomorrow we’ve booked a cruise up the coast. I’m hoping the ocean and sky are still as beautiful and blue as today.