Immediately, friends began to show up and carry boxes down to the shore. The rain began to let up, so they piled the boxes underneath a big tree that would shelter them a little bit. We finally got everything down the hill, poured some yeast down the toilet to feed the septic system, and locked the house. We had secured two canoes to help us move everything to the Kosco, but only one of them showed up. Belza (Kiko's brother) and his guys loaded our boxes and Aaron into the canoe and headed off into the drizzle to unload onto the Kosco. What a gift that the pouring rain and driving winds from last night had slacked off!
Our neighbors huddled underneath the tree draped in towels and sporting a couple of umbrellas. What a great bunch of friends to stand out in the rain with us while we waited for the return of the canoe. Ofoaen was one of the first people at our house to help, and now she stood with her grandson, Rube, and chatted while Benjamin teased about putting Rube in his basket and taking him to Honiara along with our family. We watched the Kosco chug out of sight around the corner, and we guessed that it was moving to waters that were a little less choppy to make the loading easier. Many people were loading their bags of copra onto the ship to go into Honiara where the price is much higher, even when you have to pray freight charges for each bag.
Finally, we saw Belza's canoe come speeding toward us, so we hugged necks one last time and loaded ourselves into the canoe (nothing ladylike about standing in knee high water and crawling over the side of the canoe which is rocking wildly). We always have a set of bags that we keep with us at all times, things like the blue cooler bag with lunch inside, the backpack with the computer, and each child's individual backpack with precious things (like books and dry clothes) inside. Finally, we zoomed off to the Kosco, waving goodbye to Marulaon's shore. Belza certainly knew how to steer the canoe through the swells, and we really appreciated his efforts! Once we reached the Kosco, we climbed on board and began searching for a good place for our family to sit for the next several hours.
The kids really like sitting on top, and the breeze was nice to drive away the cigarette smoke and diesel fumes, so we ended up on top of the ship. Bonine helped us deal with the rolling and tossing of the ship, but the Kosco really handled the waves quite well. We all got settled in on the benches underneath the tarp which would keep off the sprinkles, but we knew if any big squall arose, we would have to go back down to a lower level.
We left Marulaon around 10:00 and arrived in Yandina (in the East Russells) around 11:30. They have a wharf which provides much easier loading and unloading, and also makes a nice place for a small market. Aaron went down to the wharf (can you find him?) and bought a few slices of watermelon for our family.
The Russell Islands are so beautiful We watched people paddling their canoes to and from the ship with the coconut plantations as a backdrop.
After another hour, we began to putt-putt our way toward Honiara. We began to see storm clouds piling up, and as the ship left the refuge of the Russell Islands and headed into open sea, we began to roll even more. We never felt unsafe. The Kosco and its crew are top notch (as long as you ignore the rust and the state of the bathroom!), and we are super thankful for them. As the rain picked up, Aaron and the three big kids went downstairs, but Katherine and I were cocooned with the umbrella and layers of water resistant mats so we stayed on top to sing hymns and enjoy God's amazing creation. However, when the cheap umbrella folded inside out, and the rain began to soak through every single layer I was wearing, I was thankful that Aaron decided to check on us. Katherine stayed toasty warm and dry throughout the whole ordeal, but the rest of us ended up soaked and cold. For the very first time during the daylight hours in the Solomon Islands, I was cold. We ate trail mix and shivered and looked through the pouring rain out from under the tarps on the side of the ship. I visited a little bit with one of our neighbors from Marulaon who was also going into Honiara.
Finally, around 6:00, we pulled into the wharf and spied our directors waiting to whisk us and all of our boxes away to SITAG. The girls and I went first in one vehicle with one colleague, while Aaron, Benjamin, and the other colleague stayed to get all of our cargo loaded. The girls took showers, got into dry clothes, and enjoyed some hot chocolate that another colleague had provided (I love my SITAG family!). About 7:20, the guys arrived at our SITAG house and began bringing in the boxes. Our director's family brought supper, yummy chicken pot pie and chocolate pudding cake, and we enjoyed visiting with them until we couldn't keep our eyes open any longer. The hot water in the showers is solar powered, but since nobody has been living in this house for several weeks, we had a little warm water despite several days of tropical storms. Thank you, Lord, for a safe journey despite the weather, for safe cargo, for friends who provide food, for a solid house to call home for the next little while. Falling into bed warm and dry has never felt so good!