Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Transportation in the Solomons

Colleagues of ours recently asked for prayer concerning transportation woes. I asked for permission to share their request and their subsequent decision so you would have a better idea of the challenges facing village teams here in the Solomons. We are so blessed to have only a seven hour boat ride on a relatively dependable ship. If you life, you can look at pictures of Bikoi and our friend's perspective of her time on the ship.
From J and A:
"We wanted to let you know about a challenge that we are facing now, both for you to pray and also to give you a glimpse into another aspect of life in the Solomons. We are really trying to get out to the village for one more village trip before we come home for furlough in late April. We generally have two ways of getting to the village. The first option consists of a six hour ship ride to the island where we work, followed by a five hour ride in the back of a flat bed truck that is completely filled to the max with people and cargo, and then followed by a two hour motor boat ride to get to our village. It's not a joy ride, but it's doable. The biggest problem is trying to stay protected from the intense equatorial sun during the five hour truck ride and two hour motor boat ride, both of which are during the hottest part of the day.
"The other option consists of going by ship all the way to our village. This would entail a 24+ hour ride on the way to the village and a 52+ hour ride on the way back from the village. Ships in the Solomons are generally quite overcrowded. We get there four hours early to find a small space on the floor to sit down. Having cockroaches crawl over you is a guarantee; on some ships, the occasional rat runs across your leg as well. You are responsible to bring whatever food and water you need for your family for the duration of the trip as there is nowhere to buy food. Occasionally, when you stop at a village, some ladies will paddle out to sell coconuts to drink or roasted fish to eat. However, you can't count on that. The need to stay hydrated is counteracted by the desire to avoid the bathroom on the ship as the ocean swells quickly cause the contents of the toilet to slosh all over the bathroom floor leaving a mess that is best avoided. Ships, at least to our area, are very irregular. At best case scenario, a ship comes to our area every two weeks. At worst case, it can be a month before a ship comes. While ships here make Americans shudder, it is just a part of transportation in the Solomons that everyone accepts as normal.
"Our challenge now is that we have heard that part of the road across our island is impassable because of damage done from all the rain. That means that the only way for us to get to the village is to go by ship. We have done it all before, and while arduous, we have survived. However, this trip is complicated by several factors. First the time factor. A and I have commitments to be involved in a workshop in February, and we don't have the option of getting stuck in the village for an undetermined amount of time. Second, we have a seventeen month old son. While a 24 and 52 hour boat ride is barely doable for adults, trying to bring an active toddler on a trip like that is an incredibly daunting thought. Finally, being four months pregnant, still feeling nauseous, and trying to bring enough food and water for a trip like that adds an extra challenge.
"So, we don't know what to do. We really want to get to the village, but I don't know if we can handle being on the ship for 52 hours with the above factors. Will you pray that the road will quickly fixed, and pray that we have wisdom to know what to do. Also pray that we won't be able to get out unless we can find a way to get back in...."

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