Getting a car
Getting a car was not on the agenda. We sold our car the day before we left New Zealand thinking that we wouldn’t be car owners for the next two years. That was naive of us.
We got our new car today and her/his name is Zamzam. We didn’t call it that ourselves but was told the car was called Zamzam because a previous owner came from Zambia. Now we can’t stop calling the car Zamzam (at least it sounds fast). Zamzam only has three doors, a speedometre that doesn’t work, but it does have a functioning radio!
There are pros and cons to getting a car and for us, the pros were so much more attractive than the cons.
Five reasons to get a car
1. You get to go to the beach
None of the beaches within the vicinity of Honiara are swimmable. Buses don’t go as far as the beaches and taxis can get a bit expensive as the closest beach is about 20 minutes out of town. Bikes could get you to the beach… if you have a bike. Exhausting all of those options, the only other way to get to the beach is by relying on friends to take you places… if you have friends.
2. Shopping takes only half a day
Unlike home where supermarkets are a one-stop haven for everything, shopping is a chore that will make sure you travel across the whole of Honiara. For fruit and vegetables you go to Central Market; flour, sugar and canned goods from the Bulk Store; Number 1 Meat for meat; Panatina out east for especially expatty goods like rock salt or chia seeds; and the Hardware shop for all the other stuff you couldn’t find at all the other places for all manner of things like hardware, jandals, and soda water. Doing all that on foot gets old real quick.
3. You can wear flash things to work
It is a persistent 30 something degrees here so during our first few weeks here Nid swapped out the standard long-shirt and pants office wear for short-sleeved collared shirts and shorts. Borderline professional. By the time he gets to work he already has pit stains the size of Texas. Driving to and from work means he can sometimes wear long-shirts and pants and still smell fresh as a daisy.
4. Your social life expands
I prefer to spend my money on important things like coffees, not taxis so for the first few weeks while Nid was at work, I spent a lot of time walking, shopping and doing chores because that’s all I had time for. Now that we have a car I have expanded my social life by about 800%.
5. It’s just bloody convenient
My motto in life, convenience.
Five reasons not to get a car
1. Cars here are expensive
Cars aren’t born here. They all come from overseas which makes the investment quite an expensive one. On top of that, literally every second-hand car you buy here has a problem with it. It is so hot and dusty here and the roads are just awful – cars that come to Honiara will likely die in Honiara. I have only been in a handful of cars that haven’t made any strange noises and usually, these cars are near new or belong to the families of rich contractors. Expect something in your car to break at some point because it will. Eventually. In saying that though, petrol is cheaper than New Zealand. Plus!
You wouldn’t believe it when I say the traffic here is worse than Auckland, but it is. Honiara is basically one road and it will literally take us about 45 minutes to get to Nid’s office if we don’t leave before 7:45am. It takes Nid half that time if he just walks and takes the bus.
3. You have to stand in a long line for half a day to get your license
We haven’t done it yet but we know it’s coming. Anything that involves beaurocracy administration in the Solomon Islands is something you want to avoid if given the choice. For example, we went into the bank five weeks two days ago, stood in line for an accumulated two hours, and still haven’t got a bank account.
4. Compensation is scary
All cars here must have 3rd party insurance. That’s great – fine by me. But the scary thing is this Solomon concept of ‘compensation’. If you hit someone or something that belongs to someone, you are liable for the payment of this, ‘compensation’. Apparently, the victim just conjures up a number or bunch of items in their head and demands you pay that much or else. So basically, America.
5. You don’t get to walk
By walking, you really do get to see a lot of the community and the community gets to see a lot of you. Having a car will put you in an expat bubble and you will miss a lot of bizarre things: packs of street dogs, frog roadkill, squishing giant African snails under your jandals, trying to avoid clumpy betel nut spit. Plus, no one says good morning to you when you’re in a car.