Wow! Where did January go? I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking that but at the same time I am looking forward to February and March. I had originally planned to return to Truk Lagoon (Chuuk) this month for the anniversary of Operation Hailstone but unfortunately the efforts of my fellow researchers currently on the island have not been able to conduct a new ground survey because of land permission implications and usual island politics. Be that as it may, things have sorted themselves out with the constant and diligent help of my good friend and advocate Bill and they are back on track. I will now make plans to return for a third time sometime in the late spring and hopefully jump light years from where we all left off. With each visit, huge amounts of information has been discovered… Sometimes meaningful and sometimes not. It’s all useful in understanding not only what happened in Truk Lagoon before, during and after the war from the perspective of people that lived through it and how it heavily influences the remnants of evidence that the Hawaii Clipper ever visited the islands. This experience has left me frustrated and joyful at the same time. Crazy you say? Perhaps.
At great personal cost in money spent, time lost, effort wasted and hours upon hours of research that yielded only a few paper cuts, I have also grown deep roots of friendship and respect with others that have also shared my burden by donating their own time, talent and reassure. Thank you for the past few years of staunch support and guidance. I have grown to appreciate many things that I have taken for granted, and that alone was worth this entire effort even if 99% of the folks out there don’t even know about the Hawaii Clipper.
Funny story: I spent the first four days of an eight day visit waiting to visit the island of Tonoas because as I approached with my guide in a boat he spotted a palm branch sticking straight up on a rocky outcrop near a traditional landing area. He said.. “Oops, sorry but we must go back.” I asked why and he said there was a funeral and the island is off limits to non residents for four days out of respect. Well this news really sucked but what can you do right? So we waited for four days and I tried to make my time useful by interviewing local islanders, adjusting to the time change and luckily chartering an airplane to overfly the island and shoot video. On the fourth day my guide and I returned and the palm branch was still there… He said it must still be going on… And I was not a happy camper. Before he could turn around I asked him to continue on course, make landfall and just ask if they funeral was still going on. If so, when would it end and could we come back sooner? Well we land and guess what… The funeral was over two weeks ago and no one felt like going out to get the branch because fuel is expensive. Nice.
My friend Bill offered me this bit of advice and it has been something that keeps me from wanting to pull the rest of my hair out. He says not to expect anything at all, ever. That time has a very different meaning in the islands and that if someone says I’ll do this or that next week, that it means someday. Also, if I try to coordinate anything, and I mean anything, via phone, internet or smoke signal, it’s virtually guaranteed not to result in reality until I physically show up. His advice has proven true more times than I can count so this is why I am headed back again.. But this time, with a plan C, plan D and even E,F and G.
Enough of my rants… Time for work. Thanks for staying in step and your thoughts and good vibes are always appreciated.