Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Solomons to Australia, Pocket Full of Dolphin Teeth

My last day on the Solomon Islands was a pleasant, leisurely one. Yesterday's scuba diving was so intense that I was happy to just do a little touristy shopping today.

I finally met a cab guy that I liked so we drove around to a couple places and then I had him take me to the airport as well afterwards. Alen Luis was a pretty nice guy and we exchanged some pleasant conversation. He did partake in the betel nut which I've probably talked about 10 times here but it is truly revolting. There are street stalls all over the place selling the things. They have a green husk that you discard with a normal looking nut inside. I guess I should try it before I knock it, but as people chew/suck/whatever one does to a betel nut it turns your spit and your teeth blood red. Alen's mouth was just a warzone.

I tried to explain to him that Luis is a king's name and that I was from St. Louis which is named after the king of France. I'm not sure if he knew what I was talking about.

We drove past a little shop that was having some sort of promotion with a wheel that you could spin to win prizes. I asked him what sort of prizes you could win and it was hard not to laugh when he said "a bag of rice".

I was using my phone in the cab to takes pictures and write notes and I saw him glancing at it a bit. "Do you have a spare phone?" I had to break it to him that no I only had the one phone. It was probably just a super naive question so I let it roll off with a smile but if someone in the US asked the same question it would have had a little "be a shame if something bad happened to you and that fancy phone" sort of vibe to it I think.

Yesterday I saw that giant sign that was advertising the RAMSI peacekeeping force was leaving the Solomons. I asked him if he thought that was a good thing. "No because the people of Solomon is bad." I've pretty much only had contact with service industry workers but everyone has been very good to me in the Solomons. The taxi guys especially have been kind and always seemed to appreciate the work. I've had lots of 3 dollar cab rides.

Surprisingly they use their turn signals quite a lot here even to change lanes.

I had to give the Honiara Central Market a peek before heading out. We were driving around looking for parking and a man stuck his head near my car window and asked if I needed any lobster. Nope, I'm good. Alen and I had a good laugh about that. This ought to be interesting.

The market was pretty crowded so I didn't take many pictures because I was trying to keep a good hold on my personal belongings. There was a pack of police walking through the lanes of stalls yapping about something on a megaphone. I asked around about that but I never got a good explanation. 

One woman had little piles of peanuts sitting on a wooden table under a big umbrella. The piles got larger little by little and so did their meager asking price. The care with which she was selling these tiny little bits of produce was touching. I pretty much had to buy some. I picked the pile marked $1, which is about 13 cents US. I shelled the first one and popped it into my mouth and it was like wet for some reason. The taste was also not good. So... those became my present to Alen when I returned to the cab. He appreciated it.

There was a good assortment of handmade jewelry around so I bought Lydia a few things. One pair in particular looked like a couple of palm trees made out of bone or sea shells or something. While the lady was bagging them up for me I asked her what material they were made out of. Dolphin teeth. Yowzer! They were pretty small so I was confused about how these would be collected. "Do you find them on the beach?", I asked. "No", she replied while miming the removal of teeth from her mouth with a pair of pliers. What the heck did I just buy?

We stopped back at the hostel one last time to pick up my luggage and head out. I liked the place.

We drove past a mall and I asked Alen if that was a nice place.
"Yes they have soaps there."
"Soaps are something like supermarket."

When I lived in Japan I remember thinking it was odd how nice and new all the cars were there. There are no old cars in Japan. There are no damaged or rusty cars in Japan. It was a mystery where they all went until I traveled the developing world a bit more.  Used Japanese cars are all over the place. It's funny because they often don't bother peeling off the stickers and other junk so you'll see a mean looking dude in the Caribbean driving down the street in a van that used to be a Japanese daycare school bus.

I stopped for a couple of beers to give to friends back home as presents.

Alen and I: peanut buddies for life.

When I got to the airport the Australian couple who were having the retirement party were there getting ready for their flight back home.

Other countries have much more festival immigration lines.

I boarded my first flight to eventually meet up with the girls in Melbourne. This is about to become a much different trip.

I had a layover in Brisbane again. Lucky for me I had my trusty Priority Pass on hand to entertain me during my wait. Usually you get entrance to a lounge but when one isn't available some airports just give you an allowance and you can spend it at restaurants. I think the allowance was really generous here, maybe $40? I had my first Australian avocado smash. They are really fancy versions of avocado toasts and this one was really really good. it was nice and citrusy and had snow pea pods mixed in.

I finally met up with the girls in our downtown Melbourne Airbnb. We swapped tales of our travels while we'd been separated. It felt like weeks had gone by with everything that I'd been through. I told Lydia I'd probably aged a year since she saw me last. They'd been living it up without me, apparently not sleeping under mosquito nets.

Lucky for us we still had plenty of things still left to see!

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