a typical landing on a small island in the pacific ocean aboard a 727 jet could be described as "hair raising". the runways seem to be built out of rocks and coconut husks, with old coke cans as lights for the runway. as the plane gets ever closer to the ocean water, the desire to see land(safely) gets greater and greater, the time lapse between the two feels infinitely longer than what is real. at last! i see land!!! as the tires touch the "tarmac" the planes reverse thrusters are instantly applied. at this point it becomes moot, but i either wet myself from the fear of landing on this little piece of land in the middle of the ocean or from the amount of pressure applied on my bladder from my seatbelt as we attempt to stop on a dime.
like i said this is a typical landing on any small island, but kwajalain is not a typical island. owned by the military, kwajalain is a like an oasis in the middle of a barren desert. as you approach for landing at kwajalain, you look out your window and you see a very broad and spacious airport, and then nestled in between the airport and the ocean is a green nicely manicured links golf course. as you taxi down the runway you notice that there is an elaborate and extensive bike trail around the island. for those who do not wish to put forth any physical exertion, there are solar powered golf carts ready to escort you around the island. as you walk out of baggage claim it feels like you've walked onto a 1978 version of the truman show. perfect little roads with perfect little houses, all the amenities that an american thousands of miles away from home could hope for- fast food( subway, burger king, pizza,etc) movie theater, baseball field, basketball court, tennis court, and a skate park. there is a school for the military children, a hospital, a dentist. life's comforts have been brought to you in the middle of nowhere courtesy of the military. the only problem is... it's not provided for you. unless you are authorized to be there, you are not a partaker in the island of plenty. you can admire but you can not touch. as i was escorted through the island and to the ferry to take me to my final destination, i couldn't help but wonder if any of these amenities would trickle over to the nearby atoll of ebeye. after all the military developed this atoll for all the displaced natives of kwajalain. the answer to that question was only a twenty minute ferry ride away. across the beautiful blue lagoon ebeye awaits you. you realize rather quickly that you are ferrying from the island of plenty to the island of not kwajalain. sensory overload ensues. as you step off the ferry you officially have entered a different world. with reggae blaring as your soundtrack, you are welcomed to ebeye. kids litter the island(literally and figuratively). on roofs, in the streets, in the tree, and all over me. if ebeye was disney world(and it isn't) then i'm mickey mouse, and the doors to the amusement park have just opened. as you walk down the street you are greeted by a chorus of children asking for money or serenading you with the word- ri pellae (foreigner). they want to shake your hand they want to climb on you, they want you to notice them, because THEY have noticed YOU. there are always children on the street. when it rains the streets flood with water, ebeye has just become a water park for the children. they build little boats out of aluminum cans, they splash,they swim, they rejoice in their havoc. somedays the children "play" war. twenty five kids on each side of the street. they start chanting war, war, war.... and all of a sudden they all run at each other. playfully each side battles, the winning side having the fewest tears streaming from there snotty little faces. it's funny but i kind of envy the kids here. how cool would it have been as a child to hang out and play and run wild everyday with you and your buddies. setting your own rules making your own bedtime. nothing would have been more fun! i always thought this kind of life was just a story from some writers wild imagination. an island run by children, it's perfect. at least until piggy gets pushed of the side of a cliff and chaos ensues. it's not fiction. it's just life in ebeye.