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The Solomon Islands: Saying Goodbye (Part IV)
If you haven't already, start from the beginning: The Solomon Islands: The Journey Begins
The final day in Baraulu came quicker than I had imagined. We gathered in the church for the evening to celebrate with the entire village. They prepared a massive feast for me and my classmates. After eating, we continued the party on into the night, sharing goodbyes, collecting PO Boxes, and laughing. I was given some parting gifts and headed down the muddy path towards bed for the last time. Early the next morning, I threw my clothes into a bag and said goodbye to my host mother, Gladis. I left most of my things for her to have, along with some coloring books and things for the kids. Most of the village was already on the dock waiting to send us off. After saying goodbye, we hopped in the canoe and set off back for Munda to catch the bi-monthly, 22 seater, departing flight to the capital, Honiara.
The flight out of Munda I was feeling a mix of emotions. I was sad to leave the friendly faces and the beautiful islands with all its creatures, but it wasn't real life for me. I had to return to my family, friends, and school. I was leaving with many things; seven rolls of film, multiple journal entries, some wood carvings, a shell necklace, mystery cuts, and mosquito bites, but none of these mattered. The experience was a dream come true, another checkmark on my life list. I had been on sensory overload from the moment I arrived in Munda one month prior. I thought about all that had happened as we flew towards Honiara. I sat with my headphones on, gazing out the window at the hundreds of islands scattered below between the turquoise water.
We landed safely in Honiara and checked into a hotel. I felt how Leonardo DiCaprio's character in The Beach must have felt when he left the seclusion of the beach and goes to the bustling mainland to get supplies. For no real reason, I felt sick, literally. I spent the next two evenings sweating in a hotel bed, swallowing pills, and venturing outside only a couple times to grab some food from the open-air market next door. At night, over the noise of the car horns, I reminisced about the sounds I had grown accustomed to hearing at night in Baraulu. The church bell ringing for evening masse, or young children singing soft hymns over the buzzing of jungle insects. I thought about being in my room with the rats and spiders, with the view over the lagoon in either direction, one window for the sunrise, and one for the sunset, and I missed it already. Here, out the hotel window, I could only see cars, masses of people at the market, and rusted scraps of metal in a distant shipyard.
I would be back in Los Angeles in a few days time, and the Solomon Islands would again only be seen on TV, or read about in books, or as a little string of dots on the map in my apartment. I would never forget what I had learned, the memories I accrued, and most importantly, the people I met. Joining such a unique and foreign culture for just one month, was such a great experience. The people of the Solomon Islands are some of the most genuine people I've ever met, with little more than the sand and sea to call their own. It's refreshing and inspiring to see such simple joy emanating from within. Wealth, to a Solomon Islander, is measured by smiles and laughter, not nickels and dimes. Looking back on the experience, it will forever remind me to stop, take a deep breath, and recognize that very breath as a great gift. I may be returning to California with an empty bag, but with a full heart, bursting at the zipper.