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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

Flag of the Republic of the Marshall Islands THE MARSHALL ISLANDS


Mar 21. AILINGLAPLAP (Bouj) The boys that had watched our tent pitching came around the next morning. I think they wanted to see how are tent had held up.  Rob had slept in his hammock instead.  The strong breeze that kept the tent cool also caused sand and dirt to make it in the tent as well.  It was a trade off between coolness and cleanliness.  

Model canoes were lined up on the beach early in the morning in preparation for the races. Owners started testing and fine tuning their canoes to the wind and current conditions.  High tide had already passed at 7am so the races were held up until mid afternoon.  There must have been about 70 canoes that had been assembled by hand out of wood with plastic sails.  They were about 6-8 feet high and the owners had to weight the outrigger and position the sail just right for their canoe to make it across the lagoon to the finish line.  They were, of course, too small for anyone to ride so all of the work was done at the start and then the canoes were let go to sail on their own. 

Marshallese Boy at Bouj, AlinglaplapWe watched a number of the heats start. They had about 10 canoes in each.  The “sailors” stood on the reef with their canoes and at the signal let them go.  It was surprising how well some of the heats took off across the lagoon.  We couldn’t quite see the finish line so it was a good distance.  Some of the other heats became an immediate obstacle course as canoes tipped over or went skidding diagonally across the lagoon, cutting off other canoes.  The winner of each heat was a contender for the final race to take place on Saturday.  The stakes for this canoe race weren’t quite so high but the winner would walk away with $3000. 

We spent some time sitting at Mike Kabua’s table that afternoon, talking with Mary Lou, Bob and an American woman from Fiji , Laura, who worked publishing books on the islands.  They were feeding us at every turn.  It was becoming embarrassing.  They came out with some curry rice and just dished it up.  They came out with tea, hot bread, whatever they had going in the kitchen.

While were sitting at Mike’s table he sat down and we took the opportunity to apologize for having visited his family grave site without permission.  He was very understanding and didn’t expect us to know the rules, which is why he discreetly had someone tell us instead of approaching us himself.  I think it was a good lesson for us since we shouldn’t make any assumptions about customs in countries we plan to visit.  Unfortunately, while we were chatting away with people we missed the opportunity to take a ride on one of the real outrigger canoes.  Everyone raved about the experience and was impressed by how quickly the canoes raced over the water.  Being so close to the water really intensified the speed.  It was a shame to miss the opportunity but we hadn’t wanted to be too eager and thought the rides would continue throughout the day.

The strong wind across the end of the island kept it cool during the day but it was so strong that it was tiring to be on the lagoon side too long. The channel side was calm and when we ventured down to the tip to see about the canoe rides we saw some children preparing a large metal tub for a ride across the channel.  We weren’t sure what the big round tub was for until we saw them pull the wooden oars out of it and set into the water.  A teenage boy and two younger boys jumped in and the older boy navigated the “boat” across the channel.  They had a bag of food with them so they must have been making a delivery. 

The calm of the channel side of the island made it very interesting to comb the beach for shells.  There were abundant shells from small to large just lying on the ground.  We found a large conch shell and many large spiral shells. They were commonplace to the Marshallese and it was easy to see where they got all of the shells they used in their basketry and jewelry. 

That evening there was more entertainment sponsored by the island of Rongelap .  They had been preparing for Saturday’s Liberation Day Celebration and two flag poles had been installed in the elementary school field that was just beyond the Kabua gravesite.  They had also constructed a stage for the entertainment, covering the back of the stage (lagoon side) with palm fronds to block the wind.  That night they used the stage for some singing and a few people danced but most kept shyly to the back, lined up along the walls of the school. 

 Coral, Caitlin and I sat together and watched the other woman closely for our queue to go get some dinner.  Alan, Rob, Tomas, and Rion waited in their own group.  Before long we saw the women get a nod and they all went to the buffet with their heads lowered.  We lowered our heads and followed.  It was custom to lower your head out of respect.  The women were relatively few since most of the local women had spent the day preparing all of the food and were probably too tired to come to the event.  The men had a much longer queue to wait in since there were far more men present.  It was a low keyed evening and we went to bed shortly after dinner.

MARSHALL ISLANDS Majuro March 11 March 12 March 13 March 14-15 March 16 Alinglaplap March 17 March 18 March 19 March 20 March 21 March 22 March 23 Majuro March 24

FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA Kosrae March 25-26 March 27-28 Pohnpei March 29-31 April 1-2 April 3-4 April 5-7 Chuuk April 8-9 April 10-11

GUAM April 12-23