On Tuesday morning the 5th of January we were well on our way to being ready for the Bikoi’s arrival around 10am. It had been pouring rain all morning (I mean really pouring, sideways wind-blow downpour) so we were reluctant to stack all our cargo outside on the porch and pouring rain isn’t exactly the type of weather you want to be boarding a boat in either. So anyway we were getting ourselves ready to go, packing up the house, the final house cleaning, box taping, friend good-byeing etc. etc. However, well before 9am we heard shouts from towards the water “Bikoi! Bikoi!” At first we thought it was kids playing around but then some adult messengers came bearing the same news. Meanwhile the clouds had parted and the rain stopped. The Bikoi was early so it was a mad scramble to get the last things done. But it was great to see the community come together in order to safely get all children, adults and cargo accounted for and loaded onto little canoes and boats to be taken out to the Bikoi. Unfortunately this mad dash at the end didn’t leave sufficient time for proper good-byes so we resorted to quick hand shakes all around as well as quick parting words. Melissa hung a necklace around my neck, smiling half-heartedly and another women hung a string of beads around my neck as well. I climbed into the chiefs overloaded motorboat with the entire Choate family perched on top of the cargo and watched with tears in my eyes as we pulled away from shore and headed out to the waiting Bikoi. Once at the Bikoi there wasn’t any more time for tears and we all climbed over the side while our cargo was transferred. Katherine was handed to me and then a Solomon Island’s child was handed to me as well so that her father could have two hands free to help Aaron with the cargo. Joanna bought some lelenga from her friends and continued saying good-bye to those who were out marketing the Bikoi while she went in search for a place for the family to sit down. The Bikoi was a lot emptier than it had been on my way out to Marulaon but that didn’t make it any less crowded. We eventually sorted ourselves out, children back with their parents and found a place to sit in the back of the boat.
Once we were sitting down I noticed my friend Grace who had been with me on the ride from Honiara. I called her over and introduced her to Joanna and we storyed a bit again. Later on we shared yet another bonding experience of emptying our stomach contents over the side of the boat due to rough waters.
Other than the rough seas, the ride was quite pleasant. We talked, Sarah and I took a walk (over sleeping bodies) up to the top deck, observed dolphins swimming alongside the ship, watched the islands pass by, the kids read, did puzzles, played with stickers and even slept. And after just 5 and a half hours we arrived back, safe and sound in Honiara.