Subject: Re: Obscure airports and fowl-ups
Hi Ziners:

Not an airlines foul-up, but I had to spend 6 hours waiting in tiny Seghe, Solomon Islands, for the flight to Honiara on Guadalcanal. I had flown in from Gizo, which was a slightly larger airport than Seghe, but not by much; Seghe comprises one small quonset hut, a police barracks across the "runway," the runway being a grassy swatch cut out of the surrounding jungle. I was the only passenger making the transit stop.

I love all furry creatures; well, all except spiders that is, and while I was contemplating my navel while sitting in what passed as a waiting area in the airport hut, I noticed that the ceiling was literally crawling with humungous spiders who were busily webbing up the entire roof. They were too close to the top of my head for comfort, so I fled.

I thought a relaxing bush walk would calm my nerves, but I hadn't been in the country long enough at that point to acclimatize (90+F and 96% humidity) so gave up and wandered back through a small village, where I was immediately set on by two huge, angry dogs. I am as afraid of loose, angry dogs as I am of spiders ... so I yelped for help but my voice gave out mid-yelp. A lady, tending her taro patch, wandered over, along with a man who popped out of his hut up the hill to see what was going on. Life looked like it was moving in slow motion, but not the dogs, one was leaping at my throat, which I was trying vainly to protect by swinging my sun hat in front of it. The two villagers ambled over, hissed at the dogs and they fled, tails between their legs. The whole village turned up in short order, everyone commiserating and appologizing. I appologized in return, saying I was a wimp and I shouln't have reacted so badly ... turns out the dogs belonged to the resident Peace Corp couple, who had left on a 6 week trip home and who had not made any arrangements at all to have the animals looked after. One lady told me that all the villagers were afraid of the two and the children were often too afraid to go out and play. So I didn't feel quite so foolish. The all marched me in a clump to the one and only trade store in the area, where the concerned proprietor, who had been staring up the hill at all the activity, promptly sent someone to find a chair, sat me down and gave me a nerve-soothing coke. And refused payment.

I eventually made my way back the the airport, and decided I needed another something to calm my nerves. Busy spiders and rogue dogs in the space of an hour or so was just to much for my frazzled nerves. I had to ask directions from the police station across the way - the only other trade store was hidden somewhere in the jungle, and a young constable was ordered to take me there. We chatted pleasantly, he in Pijin, me in broken English, when he suddenly decided I needed a husband, and he needed a wife, and an older wife suited him just fine. I had a little difficulty convincing him that as he was a couple of years younger than my son, I didn't think it was such a good idea. Eventually store was found, more coke was consumed, and he took me back to the police station. As I left I heard him telling the police chief "man blong himfala, gone, finis." (My husband and I were separated at the time).

A couple of hours later the ferry I had sailed in the year before pulled into view, so I dashed over to the police compound to have a good look (I have a soft spot for that ferry). The young constable was not there, but the police chief, relaxing with his men who were sitting around chewing betel nut, decided to extol the virtues of a marriage between a younger man and an older woman. He launced into a monologue (in Pijin) and all the men agreed with him, nodding their heads and grinning from ear to ear. He was obviously acting as an emmisary for the young constable, and kept stressing the point that an older woman knows how to look after her husband, does everyting for HIM, works for HIM, etc. I couldn't think of a polite refusal, and suddenly blurted out, "Hey wait a minute. I'm an independent western woman, I look after MYSELF first and foremost." Dead silence, then as one they all cracked up laughing, shouting "Tru! Tru tumas!"

So, the marriage was off and no-one's nose was put out of joint. The remaining few hours waiting for the plane were spent playing ball with a group of schoolchildren, the runway being their only playing field. The small plane had to circle twice before we cleared enough room to let it land, and I had a send-off to beat all send-offs. Even the cops came to say goodbye. Then it was back to the big smoke of Honiara (all three streets of it), my home away from home.

Nadine Vancouver, Canada