Thursday, July 19, 2012
I jolted awake when my alarm rang at 3:45 a.m. I washed up and carried my backpack and bag downstairs to wait by the door for Sue Bell top pick me up for the airport. Christine woke up early to give me a hug and kiss goodbye. Sue pulled up at 4:15 and in a daze, Cayla and I made our way through the Sydney airport. Our flight to Brisbane went smoothly. We took the air train to the international terminal and made our way through security without any trouble. Cayla and I ate a breakfast of muesli, fruit, and yogurt at a cafe before boarding our plane for Honiara.
Cayla lent me her kindle to read Heaven is for Real on the way. I read for the entire trip and can’t wait to finish the enlightening and amazing account of 4 year old Colton’s encounter with God. Cayla and I couldn’t contain ourselves when lush green islands came into view from our tiny plane window. Tin roofs and small huts were visible from above. We landed and climbed down the stairs into tropical humidity and warm sunshine - a complete change from the cold temperatures in Canberra we experienced just yesterday. The airport was tiny and we breezed past the two check in stations. After converting our money into Solomon Island Dollars, we sat on a bench outside to wait. We weren’t exactly sure who was picking us up, when they would be there, or what they would be driving in. Several people told us to remember that Solomon Island time means things will happen as they will. So we made ourselves comfortable, and I prayed that they didn’t forget about us.
Lo and behold, and smiling, enthusiastic Sister Catherine (Catie) had half her body out the window of a white pickup truck, waving and calling to us. She gave us a hug and kiss hello, and welcomed Cayla and I to the Solomon Islands. Sister Catie saw the plane landing, and realized it was time to get us. She went out to the road and hailed down the first car she saw and asked for a ride to the airport. Brother Henry happily picked us up. I hopped in the bed of the truck with Sr. Catie, and Cayla sat up front with Brother Henry. We drove along the main road which had various fruit and vegetable stands set up alongside it. First stop was Panatina, one of the sisters’ houses. We met several of the nuns and a woman from New Zealand who was their English teacher. All were extremely kind and welcoming. We sat around their table and snacked on bananas while Cayla distributed notes sent from Annie Wendel to the friends she made on her fellowship trip last summer. We didn’t want to hold up Brother Henry, so we only stayed a short while before heading for Sr. Catie and Sr. Stephany’s home at St. Joseph’s School, Tenaru.
The dirt road made for a bumpy ride in the back of the pick-up. We passed the teacher’s houses, the chapel, and the school before getting to Sr. Catie’s home. It is raised above the ground on stilts right next door to the student’s living quarters. Sr. Stephany met us at the door and invited us inside. Cayla and I talked with her while Sr. Catie went back to the airport to get her nephew Francis who was arriving from Gizo to return to St. Josephs for the term. It is evident already that Sr. Stephany is a strong, wise woman. She told us about her family and a tragic incident that killed her mother. A coconut tree fell on a car her mother was in and killed her, leaving six children and a husband behind. It was so humbling to her of Stephany’s difficulties, and I appreciated her opening up to us.
When Sr. Catie returned, we sat down to dinner. Sr. Stephany said grace and the two broke into a welcome song. Their eyes sparkled and their smiles grew as they gave Cayla and I a traditional welcome. It was so heartfelt and joyous, I couldn’t be happier to be here. We ate chicken, corn, rice, and vegetables for dinner. I have to be careful with the water here and be sure to boil it before drinking. The sisters insisted that Cayla and I sleep in their beds tonight. We tried to persuade them to let us sleep on mats in the main room, but they wouldn’t be swayed. Their hospitality is incredible. They sent us to bed because we’ve had a long day. I’m grateful to have arrived safely and to be in the hands of the Dominican sisters.