Coconut Dreams

After a long week of downpours the sky has finally dried out (relatively). The worst day of the monsoon we all packed our work clothes in dry bags and did the bike ride in bathing suits. Palm trees were knocked over in the winds and coconuts scattered the parts of the road that weren’t flooded. Eventually, when it was apparent the storm wasn’t just passing through, work for the day was called off and we were shuttled back to the man camp in trucks for safety.

 

For some reason unknown to any of us, there are two machetes onboard the dive barge and I’ve been wanting to learn how to open a coconut with one. I kept forgetting to nab one on the way out, so when I was staring out over the water the other day, lost in thoughts of the future,  imagine my delight when one floated straight to me! I grabbed it out of the water and got to hacking. And hacked and hacked and hacked…

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The wrong hard way to open a coconut

The thing about coconuts that I’ve realized is that it takes patience, hard work, and perseverance to get to the sweet reward inside. Without getting too abstract or sentimental, I felt like this humble coconut bobbing in the saltwater was a sign from the universe. At the exact moment my thoughts were overtaking me about what’s next and what I want from life and how badly I want certain things to happen, a perfect symbol of   forbearance and tenacity floated over to remind me to be here now and sweet things will come my way at the right time. The smiling nut now sits on a shelf in the shack and we call him Cousin Nelson.

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Hard work pays off

Ever since the first one, I’ve been scooping coconuts into the basket of my bike for chopping practice. The inside of the husk is a thick, fibrous protection for the nut, but I’ve also found that the less mature coconuts haven’t formed the inner shell yet. It actually is a hardening of the fibers that form the shells we’re familiar with, and that I now use to demonstrate some of the best Monty Python moments for people who haven’t seen the Holy Grail yet.

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They also stain your hands black, I’ve discovered

We’re still doing six tens at work since we’re in a good flow driving sheet pile and Labor Day weekend has been pushed back (yeah, I guess they can do that). I managed to get my orientation cruise done for my captains license (not a real captains license) last Sunday, and on the ninth I’ll do my practical test. If that goes alright I’ll finally (after almost three months!) be able to rent the boats here and explore more of the lagoon and the ocean side of the island. I can’t wait!

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Brand loyalty

Just like the coconut, my new boots arrived at the exact moment I needed them most. The old ones tore yesterday and I thought I was going to have to tape what’s left of them onto my ankles to dive. My new coveralls were not such a blessing as it turns out I am about two feet smaller than a mens medium. I’ll have to break out the sewing kit I guess.

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Waiting out the storm

Thanks for reading! My world revolves around work at the moment and it’s the small pleasures like learning about coconuts, honing machete skills, and daydreaming that keep that world from feeling too small.

 

Biga**, soggy boots, and Summer reads

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.

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Well, this is Kwaj, but I didn’t take many pictures of Bigej

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!

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Land-Ho!!!

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.

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Come join us for a stormy sunset

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.

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Sittin’ stand-by

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).

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Waaaaay back on Independence Day we found a beach swing before the fireworks

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!