We were up dark and early and preparing to leave Marulaon around 7:30. The sounds of Morning Prayer drifted through the air. About 6:45, Belza, one of our drivers, came over and told us that during church everybody could hear the Kosco passing by the other end of our island.
So, once again, we shifted into NOW mode, and hustled down to the shore. Aaron, Benjamin, and most of our things went first while the rest of us waited for Chief Leonard and his motor canoe to arrive. You know who your true friends are by who helps you load the boat - Margaret Rasol and Daisy were the faithful few who showed up. In a way, I'm glad that we longer have a huge going away party every time we leave the village because it means that our friends trust that we are coming back again soon.
Chief Leonard sped us along, around the corner of Marulaon Village, past the little strip of white sand where Brennan proposed to Edi, past Fly Harbor school with the new girl's dorm, and around the corner where we saw the Kosco already churning out of port on its way to Yandina.
The ship's captain saw us and called out on the loudspeaker for us to go ahead and approach, and we saw the foaming white water in front of the ship decrease. Chief Leonard drove us around to the side of the boat and the ladder dropped down. We took one look at the broken rung and decided to go around to the other side about the same time that the captain told us to go around to the other side to load. I'm not scared to climb up the side of the ship, but I'm not stupid, either!
The ship was fairly empty because most people have gone out to their villages for Christmas and few are going back to Honiara on Christmas Eve. We found a space to spread out underneath a bright green tarp that was ripping into pieces.
I still find it hard to believe that Jason and Kayla were willing to go through all of this uncertainty and stress that we experience every time we go back and forth. They were so flexible and such a big help, and, as always, our kids were awesome, too. No matter how exhausted everybody is (and ship day always wears me out), my four treasures choose to embrace this adventure and serve as a good example to their Mama.
About an hour later, we arrived at Yandina, and Aaron went ashore to see what kinds of food were at market. He found an amazing array of delicious food and bought us green coconuts, bananas, pineapples, kora (like scalloped potatoes), and suta on a stick.
As the ship pulled away from the wharf, one of the guys on board tossed coins onto the wharf for a green coconut. One of the people at the market tossed the coconut, but it slammed into the side of the ship (which kept going). So another green coconut was tossed. This one sailed to middle of the ship, fell through the bright green tarp, and landed on my crossed ankles, which broke the coconut's fall and saved it from smashing.
One of the things our friends weren't used to seeing was a live pig brought on board in Yandina. The pig was laid right in front of the doorway that led to the bathroom. So, Kayla jumped right out of her comfort zone when she needed to make a "comfort stop" and step over the huge mama pig.
The eight-hour trip was full of singing, laughing, reading, visiting. God gave us smooth seas and cloudy skies - the perfect combination. And he gave us friends to share the journey. Friends who just jumped into life with us and became the brother & sister/uncle & aunt to help ease the sting of being far away from our blood family this time of year.
Amidst sprinkles, we pulled into Honiara earlier than anticipated. No space at the wharf on Christmas Eve echoed no room in the inn. So, the Kosco parked next to the Fair Glory, and we began the long process of moving our cargo from one pile to another.
From one side of the Kosco to the other side, from the Kosco up to the deck of the Fair Glory, from the Fair Glory to the wharf, from the wharf to the truck. Each pile needed a guard, and each box and bundle needed somebody to carry it. So, we all spread out, the eight of us and our two SITAG colleagues who came to pick us up, an everybody had a job to do among the throng of people.
When we finally had the truck loaded, I realized that Jason and Kayla had just enough time to go over to Honiara's beautiful central market, one of my favorite places. So, Aaron, the kids, and our two colleagues headed back up to SITAG in the truck with the cargo, and Jason, Kayla, and I drove over to the market to do a little bit of souvenir shopping.
God's timing is always so perfect. At that point in time, all I wanted was a big, green coconut. I was SO thirsty and sweaty. That coconut hit the spot. Then, while we were looking at earrings, my friend, Grace, married to a man from Marulon walked up and hugged my neck. She was headed back to her village to see her parents for Christmas. A few minutes later, as I was buying some passion fruit, I heard, "Kunuhanin meahobea!" (good afternoon), and I looked up into the face of a woman from the Russells. I can handle market chatter in Lavukaleve (barely!), and straight from the village the words were fresh in my mind. So, I got my passion fruit and renewed an old acquaintance, too.
We got back up to SITAG and found boxes unpacked, a Christmas tree already lit up, and a marvelous supper provided by a colleague. The one dark spot on an otherwise marvelous day was that we couldn't find Katherine's backpack. Her bag has Sarah's Christmas present from Katherine in it, some books, some baby dolls, some of Katherine's clothes, and my computer.
So, after singing Christmas carols together, we went to bed with prayers for a safe retrieval of the backpack as a Christmas present.