May 8, 2010
I know the picture quality is poor--in fact we have a better photo of the farewell crowd--but this one is my favorite for some reason. I love looking at this photo, picking out all the faces of familiar friends. I don't know why I like this particular picture so much. Perhaps its because on every face I see the same thing--love.
It's been nearly a month since we left Saipan--it's taken me that long, accounting for the busyness of ordinary life here in America to recap it all. Already, that wonderful week back home is beginning to fade into the warm glow of memory. It all seems so far away now, almost as if it were the most marvelous dream. But the Feller loves to look at the pictures and videos of our trip. "Beach! Beach!" he'll say practically every day, and we'll take out the laptop to take a look. He seems to recognize "J" and "Little Sister"--one of his favorites videos is the five second clip of the two girls when I'd intended to take a photo but the camera was on video setting. He always squeals with laughter when "J" laughs. You can see the video, which does have a funny kind of charm in the post just below this one.
So, leaving home to go home was hard--but not as hard as the first time (though ironically, all three of us had a much harder time after this trip readjusting to life here). We had proved that we could go back--that the wide Pacific Ocean and the pricey airline tickets could be managed somehow. This time there were no farewell leis, no parting gifts, and I was pleased. Those things would have meant that we were visitors, unlikely to return. The lack of parting ceremony indicated we were just going away for a little while, but would surely be back.
And we will go back again--of that I'm sure. We're making tenative plans for next year, and if not then, definitely the year after. We're thinking we might go in the summer when we can stay longer and maybe work at the school for a month or so, if that's possible.
Of course, in another year or two Saipan will have changed yet again. Many friends will have taken their own Long Walks and the kids will keep on growing. Managaha Island will continue to be reshaped by the waves and the wind. Eventually as the years pass, we will come to be visitors there--knowing few and unknown to most of the people in what was once our community.
Yet, one never knows when and where the paths of friendship will cross again. We left Saipan Saturday night around 9:30 in the evening and flew to Guam where we had an eight hour layover. We had decided to get a hotel rather than sleep in the airport. So, emotionally and physically drained, "Little Sister", "Luke", Babs, The Feller and I took a taxi to the Guam Plaza Hotel (we had actually intended to go to the much more economical but more pompously named Grand Plaza Hotel, but I got the names mixed up. It turned out to be fortuitous turn of events). There we collapsed into bed for a few hours sleep. The next morning, while our drowsy group waited in the cab to go back to the airport, I checked us out. As I was going through the usual check-out procedures, I noticed something familiar about the hotel desk clerk. Something about her face, an accent I hadn't heard in a long time-it jogged a memory, and when I got a look at her name tag, I knew.
"Where are you from?" I asked
"Chuuk," she replied.
"Did you use to go to the SDA School there?"
It was Miroko. She'd been in the seventh grade when I was a student missionary teacher on the island of Chuuk back in 1994-1995. Her brother, Melford, was one of my students. I hadn't seen Miroko since the day I left Chuuk, and now 15 years later I run into her behind the front desk of a glitzy hotel in Guam. We chatted for a few moments, took a photo and then I was off to catch my flight. It was a brief but special moment, a reminder that while we have breath the possiblity of reunion with old friends is always just around the corner.
Miroko and me at the Guam Plaza Hotel, Sunday, April 11, 2010.
So will we move back to Saipan someday? Maybe, if the Lord wills it. But whether we do or not, in our hearts, our little island will always be home.
In the meantime, life here in America calls. Spring is in full bloom, and summer is around the corner.
Life is meant to be lived in the present, not in the mists of memory.
A blustery April day
My students at play. Mid-April.
And so we journey on.