Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Perspectives on Palmerston Island

Today we depart from Palmerston Island, an atoll in the Cook Islands inhabited by 44 people. Or is it 64? 35? Ask the different residents and you'll get a different answer each and every time. But in the end, it really doesn't matter; because the instant we stepped on shore, we were swallowed up by the overwhelming love of a people whose hearts truly know no boundaries.

Welcome to Palmerston!
They introduced us to their lives with a hospitality that I never knew existed. Upon coming ashore, we were invited to Sunday church service, to spend the night with a host family, and to get beat ~embarrassingly~ in a volleyball tournament. We toured the children's school, the solar panel site, the graveyards housing late loved ones, the pigpens and the lagoon. We ate poisson cru and drank too much tea and laughed late into the evening. We learned more in the past few days than could ever be compiled into a single blog post, but I know that we each sail away from this place, and from the people who make it the wonder that it is, with a broadened perspective waiting to be shared.

After four days and three nights spent at Palmerston, the crew of the Robert C. Seamans feels a little quieter. In our last few hours on shore, and during our leaving, people seemed a little more lost in their thoughts:
their feet are still running circles around palm trees with Stephanie and James and Carly and Joy; their ears are attuned to the hymns of Sunday Church; their bellies are uncomfortably full of taro and parrotfish and coconut milk; their hearts hold on to the warm embrace of host families saying goodbye on a hot Tuesday afternoon.

Palmerston sunset
Out here, I sometimes worry that the important memories I make, which will forever shape my perspectives, might get lost at sea. I worry I'm not journaling enough, I'm not taking enough photos, I'm not soaking it all in, like my dad told me to. And then I think about my afternoon aloft four days ago. It feels like years ago. I think about the friendships we made on Palmerston. They feel life-long. And as quickly as all of these moments are passing me by, it feels like every one of them is etching something into my perspective, into my person. I couldn't for the life of me tell you what that something is yet, but I have two weeks, and then a whole lifetime, to work it out.

With all the love in my salty, sandy, coconut-filled heart.
Thank you, Palmerston Island.

-Robby Haag

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