Least Visited, Day 2: Arrival in the Marshall Islands...it's just like home (kinda)!

December 28, 2018

more on this delicious meal later on in the post...

We land in the Nauru airport at about 3am, and my FINAL flight from Nauru to the Marshall islands is ahead of me.

The plane stopped in Tarawa before landing in Nauru, and I slept through most of it. It was weird being on a plane making so many stops without exiting. I was afraid of missing my stop, like I was on a train. The worst part was when I awoke upon landing in Tarawa, fell asleep, then woke up again and we were stopped again. I asked an attendant if this was Nauru. He laughed and said “no, we’re still in Tarawa. You haven’t been sleeping for long.” Eventually my sleep magic worked and time passed for us to arrive in Nauru.

The colorful Nauru airport

So. Nauru. It’s small. It’s smaller than the island I live on in Vanuatu. Therefore, the airport is appropriately small. When we exit, I notice there’s some sort of observation deck or bleachers for people to come and sit and watch planes land, which approximately six people are doing on this Friday morning at 3am.

Security is a quick bag scan and I walk through to the gate lounge, which is decorated like a hostel. There’s two mismatched couches on one side, but then about a hundred of those airport seats that are standard for sitting at your gate. The walls are random colors. One is orange sherbet, one is a faded purple lilac and one is mint green. There is hibiscus-print fabric draped over the windows for curtains, similar to what I see in the village in Vanuatu. The signs for everything are hand painted in lettering I only see at old-school butcheries in Chicago.

We eventually board the plane. A few drink offerings and snacks later, we arrive in Majuro, the Marshall Islands, around 8am. Fun fact! The runway for the Majuro airport is wider than the actual land mass. They had to build land up in order for the atoll to be able to house an airport. Therefore, upon landing, there is ocean on either side of us.

Immigration was a long process, because the airport is simply too small to accommodate the number of passengers to make it any faster. It’s fine, and expected. It is, after all, just one flight, but checking in that number of people with only two officers took at least 45 minutes just to get to me, and I was only halfway down the line.

Some elderly veterans (I presume) are working the customs area. They just give me a vibe that they’re American war veterans, you know?

I meet up with the YPT tour group and we hop on a bus to the hotel. The ride is nice in the morning light, and I see lots of plants similar to those in Vanuatu. It’s like a village in Vanuatu, but with lots of cars.

It’s an atoll, which again means there’s ocean on either side of us. The land is wider in some parts more than others, and the land is quite flat. Fun fact! The highest point above sea level is 10meters, and it isn’t even on this atoll, which means Majuro is an even lower altitude.

We check into the hotel and have our freedom til the evening, so I decide to explore a little on foot, even though my feet are suffering from cramps and blisters from my 6 hour stopover in Sydney. Woohoo travel!

pizza, donuts, butterfinger....I miss you, america

I ducked into a dozen small shops along the one road in town. My favorite was Payless Shopping, a massive grocery store that was no fancier than ABM in Vanuatu, however, the goods proved I was in a different place. In the back of the shop, there was a bakery and fast food restaurant. And in that bakery were…DONUTS! Giant, frosted donuts. For one dollar. I haven’t seen a frosted donut in ages. I excitedly ordered donuts and Hawaiian pizza for my lunch. In Vanuatu, M&Ms are not as ubiquitous as they are in the states, and require some describing. Here, I order a donut with pink frosting, and she asks which one. I say “The one with the candy pieces” and she says, “you mean the M&Ms?” I get emotional. Yes, the M&Ms. You know what they are!

After eating in the little dining area in the corner, I explored the store and resisted hoarding pantry goods that I hadn’t seen in over 18 months, like boxes of Funfetti cake, cans of refried beans and packages of Butterfingers and Whoppers. It’s easy to compare prices to those in America, as the currency here is USD.

I walk around town a little more and make some observations. It reminds me of Luganville in Vanuatu, in the way that it’s a shade-less long stretch of a main road. There’s a lot of window-access shops like in Vanuatu, too, where a customer can walk up to the window and buy chewing gum or cooking oil or a bottle of water. Gasoline is a whopping $5.10 a gallon at the Mobil station, though I’m unsure what the current pricing is like in the states. The local school is bordered by a barbed-wire fence.

The kids in town are super friendly and not shy at all. I get dozens of hello’s and “how are you’s” as I walk around. One kid holds out his hand and asks for a high-five. In Vanuatu, it’s “hand slap” so I am gleeful at the verbal reminder of the phrase from back home.

After walking an exhaustive amount, I take a cab back to the hotel. Cabs function like buses in Vanuatu, where it’s a cross between hitchhiking and Uber Pool. It costs $1 and takes you wherever you want to go, sometimes picking up others along the way. Here, it’s easier than in Vanuatu, as it’s only one long road.

At 6, the group convenes and we walk to the Marshall Islands Resort for dinner, which we discover is out of a lot of menu options, as expected for a remote Pacific nation. I get a small Mexican salad for $6, and we all hang out until late.

I walk home with a Londoner in our group named Paul, and my eyes light up at the sight of a roadside fast food joint that sells….MILKSHAKES. It’s 11pm. They say they’re open til 4am. I am gleeful at the idea of late night shakes, and they are only FOUR DOLLARS! I get chocolate and it’s so thick it gets stuck in the straw! This is a fantastic experience. I haven’t had a quality milkshake in ages, and for a normal price.

After returning home to the hotel, it’s time to finally get some quality sleep before our day exploring Enoko Island.