We managed to take out one of the rental boats last Sunday morning, which is easier said than done when you can finally sleep-in later than 0530. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a morning person. Sunday is our “Saturday” and Monday is “Sunday” due to the time difference between us and the states, (we’re a day ahead) and I still have trouble wrapping my head around something so engrained in our vocabulary. We went to the north east to an island in the Kwajalein Atoll called Bigej. I have heard that pronounced by the Americans here alternately as “Bee-Gee” and “Big-Edge”, but a welder who came with us cleared it up by telling us his Marshallese co-workers say it almost as “Big-A**”, so naturally we emulate that pronunciation.
We had a perfect, slightly overcast day and Bigej seemed somehow to have even clearer water than Kwajalein, which I didn’t think was possible. There were so many reefs and a whole jungle and waves and shells! It definitely warrants many more trips, which I will gladly take. Check out this movie trailer I made from our trip in iMovie, I think it’s going to be a blockbuster!
I should take a moment to correct my former mistakes by saying that my morning bike ride is most definitely not three miles (though it often feels that far). In actuality, the islands’ total square mileage is only 1.2!!! The entirety of Kwajalein Atolls’ land mass, 97 individual islands, is 6.3 square miles, a fact that completely blows my tiny mind! How small we humans truly are, and how amazing that is! I plan to do more research on the area so that I can write with better authority about this amazing place in the future.
We are lucky to have many hours to read while at work, as there isn’t much to do topside while one diver works for two hours. We all pass around books and analyze and refer to parts easily between us. So far I have read five books. “The Old Man and the Sea” took the least time, but but sticks with me the most (a couple tears shed for Santiago, I’ll admit). I brought “The Rum Diary” by Hunter S. Thompson and we all agree on the undeniable similarities of his 1950s Puerto Rico with our modern day Kwajalein. I guess island life is sometimes universal in its uniqueness. We joked that our stories from here could be titled “The Hamilton Diaries” after our favorite and most frequented beach.
July seems to have passed by in a minute. I have the schoolchild instinct, still, to fear and hate the dying of summer (warmth and freedom), but this close to the equator all I need to worry about is slightly more rain. We’ve had a very wet dry-season, with more than 200 percent of average rainfalls for the last few months. When the rain and air are so warm, though, it’s only slightly inconvenient on the bike ride to and from work, but one day my leather work boots actually FILLED with water and couldn’t dry for two days. I don’t know what I was thinking bringing only one solitary pair of deck boots with me. Overall, I did well packing, but I had no idea really what to expect of working here. I hope Xtratuf will ship out here (my bottom boots are finally and unfortunately falling apart, too).
My phone is stuffed with sunset pictures, each day seems to get better and I hope that I don’t lose that feeling. I understand how the island could start to feel two sizes too small (1.2 sq.mi.!!!!), but it still seems so much bigger than I expected it to. And there are other islands and tons of interesting people and many activities I have yet to explore. Also, there cannot be enough said about enjoying my work. We’ve essentially been vacuuming the sea floor for weeks (no woman jokes!!), but I am warm and comfortable and learning and improving every day, and that feels good. I wish everyone the same for their days.
Never forget what comes after, and only because of, the rain.
Thanks for reading! Next week I’ll take you through the battlefield tour to see some of the World War Two history of the island. I’m looking forward to learning about it!