Note: This is the fifteenth of fifteen parts. Click here to read from the beginning.
By the end of the month, most people in the world will have experienced 31 days. I will have experienced 32 because I lived through Jan. 20, 2016, twice.
When I left Majuro on Jan. 20 in the evening, I traveled over the international dateline somewhere around midnight, and the date reset to Jan 20. It was a whole new day, though, very unlike the one before.
On the first Jan 20, I experienced my last Majuran sunrise, ran through the streets for the last time and packed my suitcase and carry-ons, being careful to pack my precious shells securely.
I visited Molly’s class, taking photographs to bring into my grandson’s first grade class, along with letters Molly’s class had written to Eli’s classmates, and I also watched Molly lead a small-group reading lesson.
I then headed to Waan Aelõñ in Majel (Canoes of the Marshall Islands), where I had an appointment for a canoe ride at 10 a.m. Let’s just say this particular escapade was not what I expected.
Clearly, I knew not to expect an American canoe, but I did think I would be sitting in the canoe; instead I was perched on it. I got soaked to the skin, continuously. But that wasn’t the worst part.
It was very windy so my captain headed for home quickly, meaning he needed to swap the mast from the bow of the boat to the stern. A gust of wind knocked him down, and the 20-foot mast and sail fell into the water.
“No problem,” he told me several times, and indeed, he got things righted, and off we headed for shore again. But soon afterwards, we nearly slammed head on into a fishing boat. It was an experience, as even he agreed.
After returning, I lay in the sun at the Marshall Islands Resort, drinking in the warmth of the afternoon, then I headed back to Molly’s school to watch her lead an after-school soccer practice.
Molly, Emily and I then set off for the airport, where I had fabulous fish and chips. I cried my heart out saying goodbye to Molly and felt terribly torn sitting in the waiting area to board the plane.
But I thumbed through my photos of home in my iPhone. Seeing my boyfriend, Sal and Eli, and my home brought me to tears again. I knew I was headed in the right direction.
The first Jan. 20 ended on an airplane bound for Honolulu, and the second Jan. 20 began on the same plane when it landed, and I woke up.
I took a shuttle to my hotel and went to bed at 4 a.m., waking at 9. I had coffee in a new shop down the street that wasn’t there a month ago and went for a walk and sat at the pool.
The difference between Majuro and Honolulu was incredibly apparent to me—the tidiness in Honolulu struck me. My own new perspective was also stunning.
On the way to the island at this same hotel, I saw it as small and grungy. This time, I saw its beauty with fresh eyes: it was impeccably clean; the pool area had actual lawn furniture, which I hadn’t seen in 28 days, and it was all lined up neatly and orderly; and there were lush and lively gardens surrounding the pool that I had failed to notice the first time.
I had Chinese for lunch at the pool and set off for the airport at 3 p.m. I bid farewell to warmth and the second Jan. 20 when I boarded the 5:10 p.m. flight to Chicago.
I am home now and settling in, immensely grateful to be home and safe but missing Majuro and Molly, too. It is a mixed blessing, having returned from a warm land and foreign culture.
But my mind is already churning over what is next.
To adventure, culture, experience—and living through one day, twice.
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