The first adventure on the trip was actually getting to Kosrae. We flew from Oakland to Seattle, and then on to Honolulu. We had a roughly 14 hour layover, during which we explored downtown Honolulu at night (hint: if you’re not in Waikiki, you’re not missing much) and found a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives place. We also got to sleep for about four hours before our wake-up call for our 5:30 am flight to Kosrae. (Side note: having a 2:30 am wake-up call under any circumstances is just really, really wrong.)
We did have a good portent of our trip once we arrived in Honolulu. A full rainbow!
We did make our godawfully early flight, and waiting for the flight was great people watching. It was very easy to spot the people going to Kosrae. First, many of the women wore the traditional Kosraean skirts – for those of you not familiar, they’re skirts that fall below the knee that often have very elaborate stitching and/or contrasting pieces of cloth sewn in them. Some women wear muumuus. Clothing was one of the challenges for me in preparing for the trip. Christina (Roy’s youngest daughter) had told me of the conservative Kosraean culture: in the villages woman were expected to wear skirts or shorts that fell below their knees and to wear blouses or tops that covered their shoulders. This prompted several shopping trips for me, since I didn’t own a skirt that was below knee length.
The other item that separated the Kosraeans were the coolers everyone had at least one cooler in their checked baggage. We never did find out the contents of the coolers and why there were so many.
After takeoff, several hours later we landed in Majuro, in the Marshall Islands.
We were on the “Island Hopper” flight, which (as the name suggests) stops at several different islands. Thanks to TSA regulations, the plane had to be inspected by agents before every flight. Hence, at Majuro they ask for the passengers on one side of the plane to disembark and take their carry-on luggage with them, including everything in the overhead compartments. The TSA inspects that half of the plane, then they ask the remaining half of the passengers still onboard to move to the other side – including removing everything from the overhead compartment – so that half of the plane can be inspected. Then everyone who had gotten off earlier plus the new passengers were allowed to board. As confusing as that sounds, the airline/TSA failed to make it even that clear while it was happening, so it was very confusing as to where one needed to be and when.
Once that fire drill was done, everyone was allowed back on the plane and we were on our way to Kwajalein. Since we’d crossed the international date line, it was now no longer Friday – it was Saturday morning.
We were expecting the same routine at Kwajalein as in Majuro, but no. Since Kwajalein is a military installation, nobody was allowed off the plane except those who were disembarking. So the process in Majuro was repeated, but with everyone on the plane. At this point we were glad we were getting off at the next stop just so we didn’t have to go through another plane inspection.
Then, on to Kosrae! Two days after we left Oakland, we finally got our first glimpse of Kosrae!
Then the airport!
Getting out of the plane felt like walking into a wet blanket – it was over 80 degrees and about 90 percent humidity. We passed through immigration getting our passports adorned with spiffy new stamps, and then it was on to baggage claim.
Not exactly high tech. They offloaded the baggage onto a pickup truck, which then drove to the other side of the barrier. The unloader then pushed it through.
After collecting our baggage (finding our dry box among all the coolers) we went to customs. This was the conversation:
Customs: “How long are you here for?”
Us: “About two weeks.”
“Business or Vacation?”
“Are you bringing anything with you?” they asked, while eyeing our luggage.
“No,” we started to say while the second customs person asked, “Why did you come?”
“We’ve come to visit our daughter.” I explained . “She teaches at the high school.”
“Oh, WorldTeach!” they said.
“Yes, WorldTeach,” we echoed.
They lost all interest in our bags. “You may go. We hope you enjoy Kosrae.”
We were finally there! Time to meet Christina!