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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Newbie Honiara Guide: What to Bring Part Two

Alright then...we've covered what to bring your luggage...moving on to the shipping allowance. If you are lucky enough to volunteer and/or work for an organisation that will pay for your stuff to be shipped to these lovely isles, here is what I think you should focus your packing energies on. Of course, what is important to me (e.g. shoes, pink electronics, diving knives) may not be important to you. So use at your own risk.

If you have a substantial shipping allowance:
Here are a few ideas of what to bring if you have a substantial shipping allowance.
        1. Bedding. BRING FITTED SHEETS! I hate making my bed at the best of times, so without fitted sheets, I lived a life of frustration and angst (just kidding). Honiara doesn't really have any fitted sheets, I HIGHLY recommend bringing your own. Also bring a blanket, I know it sounds crazy BUT you will get to the point in the cooler season when you might feel slightly cool at night. It took me about five months to get there but my little throw blanket is now always on my bed.
        2. Exercise equipment. Gyms here are pretty average and most charge about 50 dollars Sollie per visit. Its a better idea to get a nice home gym going. Running is fine here but be prepared to be followed by gangs of pikininis (children) screaming and laughing at you and to be harassed by men (if you are a woman). I recommend some weights (or those band thingys), a swiss ball, and perhaps a treadmill.
        3. Small appliances. Bring your favorite toaster, jug, food processor, blender etc...Small appliances are expensive here and not very good quality. Our toaster (which was quite cute, it had a plastic fish on the handle!) broke within two months. I had to bring one from N.Z. when I came back from Christchurch. I sent a few things over, including my stick blender that has a small food processor unit. It works great and takes up very little room. I highly recommend taking anything that is multipurpose and durable. Be prepared to leave it here.
        4. Knives-bring some good can buy decent knives in Chinatown but they are kinda pricey.
        5. Herbs, salts, oils etc...I'm a bit of a foodie and I love my hickory smoked rough sea salt. I also love my Nando's Peri Peri sauce. I can't get either here. Bring fancy herbs, salts, oils...anything you feel like you can't really cook without, here. If you have the room, why not?
        6. Bring your balls aka sports equipment. Bringing extra sporting equipment like soccer, rugby and basketballs will endear you to the locals. The Solomons Islanders particularly love their football (soccer), so consider bringing a few extra balls. Also a small air pump won't go wrong.
        7. Tupperware or Sistema storage containers. Okay, here in the Sollies there are ants, cockroaches and rats, oh my! They love food and you don't want them to get into your food. Bring really good storage containers (I love Sistema) but its up to you. Be aware that rats are particularly aggressive and can chew through the plastic so the tougher your containers are, the better.
        8. Bikes. You can bike around Honiara, in fact I've seen quite a few pedallers lately making their way to the beach, going for a snorkel and then biking back. What a great Sunday morning! If you are out in the provinces, biking is a great idea. Bring a mountain bike rather than a road bike, your ass will thank you. Oh and bring a bike lock! Again, be prepared to give it to a local person when you leave.
        9. Kayak and/or surf/body boards. Kayaking here would be amazing! You can purchase a dugout canoe here for about 500 sollies but the balance is quite different than a kayak and tipping out is a big possiblitiy. I recommend bringing one if you can afford it and have space. Surfing here is AWESOME (according to my wantok Eddy). The breaks have NO ONE on them and they are pretty amazing. A body board would also be pretty cool here too.
        10. Kids toys/equipment/etc...I am not a mum so I can't really advice you if you are parent. Here is what I Would recommend though: the toys here are pretty cheap and are incredibly breakable. Bring robust stuff from home or ask a local carver (there are many) to make you some wooden toys. Again, my housemate makes these, so send me an email if you are interested. Also, if you want to get in touch with the parents group, I know people who are involved, so feel free to email me for contact details.
        11. Life jackets. There may be a time when you have to travel by boat and there are no life jackets on board. Bring your own, if you want, to ensure you are safe should the boat capsize.
Furniture is pretty good here and most houses come with the basics. You don't have to bring your refrigerator, freezer, washing machine unless otherwise advised by your agency.
Don't Bring:
There are going to be some items that you will definitely NOT want to bring here. These are my ideas:
  1. Expensive jewelry. If you want to keep it, don't bring it. I would never recommend any bringing any kind of expensive or sentimental items here. The chances of it getting nicked or lost is high. If you are married and want to bring your rings, I suggest buying or wearing only a simple band. Wearing a big diamond around Honiara pretty much targets you for petty criminals. And also, in a country where the cost of your ring can feed a family for five years, do you really want to be flashing around that kind of wealth? I know I wouldn't be comfortable with it. But its up to you. Also, I purchased almost all of my jewelry here. I like the local accessories and I don't worry if it gets lost or broken.
  2. Your entire pantry. First off, don't bring tins of tomatoes or fruits, you can buy it here. By bringing your entire pantry from home, you are kinda a weirdo. Why would you want to come here and just eat the same food you ate at home? Why not just stay at home? It might be slightly more expensive here but by bringing your tin of Watties Beans (again you can buy it here) you are also wasting shipping room. Buy local, if you can bring yourself to do it. I figure the less processed food you eat, the better for a number of reasons.
  3. Your car. You can buy a car from Japan and ship it here, usually for a cheap rate or purchase it from another expat (someone is always leaving). If you love your car, don't bring it here. If you do decide to bring your vehicle here, be prepared to pay a mint when you return to your home country in repairs on shocks, tires and the chassis. This place is killer on cars. I recommend purchasing a little 4wd vehicle, the roads here are very bumping and there are lots of potholes. My personal favorite (and perhaps next vehicle purchase in N.Z.) is a diesel Toyota Hilux. I love those grunty beasts; they can go anywhere.
  4. Your designer clothes. Clothes take a beating here, from hard water to over enthusiastic house meres. Bring a small capsule wardrobe (see clothes above) and then go to the kalico (bale or second-hand) shops. You can purchase great stuff there. Plus, you don't want to be wanker showing off your expensive clothes from home. Remember, people make very little money here, so being understated in your wardrobe is probably best.
  5. Art: Don't bring your own art, unless you are prepared to part with it. This climate is killer on canvas. There are some great local artists (my housemate Mackenzie is one of them) who is happy to be commissioned to do specific work for you (email me if you want to know more about this). Again, doing this helps the local economy and you can take the art home with you as souvenirs.
  6. Your pet. Again, if you want to, go ahead. I do know a couple people who brought their animals and its fine. However, Honiara's animal kingdom is a brutal place. The streets are lined with feral dogs and cats and chickens (most are mine, I can't help but keep on adopting these cute fellas. Shade, my kitten, is the latest adoptee, and at five dollars Sollie per tin of Solomon Blue, he is fairly affordable to feed). There are lots of lost dogs and cats that need a good home and a little love, even temporarily. IF you bring your beloved cat or dog, keep them indoors or on your property at all times. Leaving your animal to wander around is a recipe for saying goodbye to your beloved pet.
  7. Chocolate. BRING AT YOUR OWN RISK! It will melt as soon as you get off the plane. You might be able to get away with it but pack it in a separate bag so you don't get liquid chocolate all over your stuff.
  8. Your important documents. Other than your passport, I would only bring copies of your important documents. Mold loves paper, so just bring copies and store the originals at home. Same goes for photos.
  9. High end electronics. Leave your Bose speakers and Wii at home. I mean, if you want to bring it, fine, but remember that by bringing it here, you run the risk of having it stolen. Expat houses DO get targeted by thieves.
  10. Wine. I mean, if you want to bring your 200 aussie bottle of wine, thats cool, but consider that you are going to have to run your air conditioner to keep it cool (if its a red). Also, there is no guarantee that its going to come to you in one piece or that some of the wine won't go missing. Save your money and buy locally. Yeah the bottles here aren't as great as it is at home, but you can still get a decent bottle of wine.
  11. Fancy china and glassware. Unless you are hosting state dinners, don't bring expensive china here or flatware or expensive glassware. Tessa and I purchased six beautiful water classes and within seven months, only one remains. Things break often here. Aus Pak is a great place to buy sturdy plastic plates and flatware for good prices. Most of the Chinese shops have a pretty good selection of affordable glass ware.

Basically, when packing, balance between needs and wants. Think about what you want to have, how much time you have here and how you want to use that time. Its great to have a WII and an XBOX 360 but do you really want to spend your time indoors when you could be out socialising, getting to know people and being active?

I know what my answer is.

And there endeth my two cents on what to bring to Honiara....


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