It is, surely, a sign of approaching senility when a man who announces his distaste for travel to his fiancée, declares his wish never to change his routine, emphasises his determination to stay at home, speaks of his desire, not simply to visit his relations in America – that, after all, might well be credited to a praiseworthy familial piety – but as well to do so via Tonga and Samoa.
That, at least, may have been Susan’s view.
We did it that way, anyway. I think it actually cost more (a bit); certainly took longer.
But I enjoyed it – even the delays.
Such as our departure. I don’t remember exactly what time we were supposed to leave Auckland – maybe 10 in the morning. In fact we didn’t leave until something like 4 in the afternoon. The reason? Air Pacific – which is now called Fiji Airways – had only one aeroplane – and something was wrong with it (our return flight was by Air Pacific but on a Qantas ’plane) – I don’t remember what. The engine dropped off or something J Anyway, they had to fly in a part – or perhaps a new engine – so we could leave.
Which we did, landing in Tonga and then Samoa, briefly, going on to Honolulu. Sue especially remembers chatting with an American whom we picked up in Tonga. He was in charge of something like the insurance for the King of Tonga, lived in Honolulu, and had to fly to Tonga every three weeks or so. He was, she says, pretty drunk by the time we left Tonga.
We had to stay overnight in Honolulu, because our flight arrived in the evening, after the last flight to Hilo – and doing so was a wonderful thing, because we stayed with Ken Rehg.
Ken had been one of my closest friends when I was a linguistics graduate student. Most of the rest of our fellow students were no longer in Honolulu; Ken was. Ken picked us up at the airport, bedded us down in his house, and drove us to the University the next day. It was a trip of many reconnexions – in the linguistics department itself (George Grace, Bob Blust, and I think I ran into Anatole Lyovin, who had been my teacher and was now a Russian Orthodox priest); and Sue and I wandered around the campus a bit, reminiscing.
We had only a short time there, however. In the afternoon we were off to Hilo.
This also was reconnexion time. We stayed at my father and mother’s house in Hilo – but an astonishingly wonderful reconnexion was with Greg Trifonovitch.
What can I say about Greg? If I almost owe my Christianity to Candace, I do, perhaps, also to Greg and his Baptist church. Greg had been a graduate student when I was, though a couple of years ahead of me. In the two years from September, 1968 until September, 1970, my life had pretty much gone to the dogs – and come back up again. As I have written earlier, I came to Christ at the very end of December, 1969. Quite apart from my expectation, September, 1970 saw me return to the University as a student – and a new Christian. I remember how excited I was to tell Greg (who I knew to be a Christian) that I had become a Christian. His reaction was little disconcerting: “What?! That’s impossible! My adult Sunday School class has been praying for you for two years!” How little our faith may be that our prayers will be answered.
My first few years as a Christian were ones in which I struggled through many uncertainties, since I had had no Christian background to work against. Greg, again, with his wife Bev – now gone to be with the Lord – was my great help and support.
And when, in the summer of 1974-5, I was called to Yap to give instruction on the new orthography we had developed, I stayed at Greg’s house in Honolulu both going and coming, Greg advised me to put a proposal to them to hire me to help. In March, 1976, when Sue, Johnny, and I moved to Yap, it was to do a job which would not have happened had Greg not encouraged me.
So it was that, when we went to the Big Island, we, knowing that Greg and Bev had retired there, determined to see him.
We drove to their house south of Hilo – ‘volcano side’ – one evening, past what Sue still thinks of as the ‘monkey trees.’ Large tracts of bush, these were, which were inhabited by tree frogs which made the most amazing noise. I think I recall we went to see Greg twice, once in an evening, and once during the day. The day trip was because we had heard that C-J – Charles-James Nice Bailey (that is genuinely his full name) – was living near Greg.
He was! He lived in a house shaped like a large letter ‘O’ – rooms all ’round, with a central atrium or area – and the rooms mostly were filled with books. C-J was a memory from when Susan and I had been together in Honolulu. He was surprised to find we were Catholics now. C-J, a native of the American South (South Carolina, perhaps, or Virginia) was Greek Orthodox.
And we spent two or three nights on my father’s farm in Pa’auilo, with my sister. Her son Kaleo made us the most amazing coffee – from the beans on their coffee plantation, which he roasted in a frypan there on the stove.
San Francisco – well, the connexion with the flight to Chico was supposed to be enough time. It was – barely. We arrived at San Francisco airport – where we had never been before – to find that gate to the small ’plane to Chico was nearly a mile distant. We were told to take a taxi. I didn’t know where one was, nor exactly how to instruct one. We ran. We got there to find someone telling us to hurry! Hurry! so we did, and made it. I don’t remember when I was last so panicked.
And in Chico we spent a week. There was far too much that happened, in that one week, to retail it. Peter took us to Oroville, where he and I had lived through our last years in intermediate school and our high school years. We went to Mass. Edna, Kathleen, and Kathleen two sons Zach and Joshua came and spent – what? a couple of nights? – in a motel.
And Candace came out from New Jersey. Susan had last seen Candace in, I think, 1982; I had last seen her in 1970. This was in a way the height of the trip, for both of us.
I have gone into some detail about this trip. I confess I do not find descriptions of people’s travels interesting, and, except for those of you whom we saw, do not expect this post to interest many. But it was important, I think, for me in that it brought me back to much of my early life in a way that will not likely happen again. I have been asked, at times, whether I would want to go to Yap again. I have said I would not wish to – and that is probably fundamentally true, except for this: that a large portion of my adult life was oriented around Yap, its language, and its people. Yet … it is different from what the trip to Hawai’i and California in 2003 were. This is partly because the people I connected with on that trip were my family and persons I had known when quite young; but partly, also, because it had not, after all, been all that long since I had seen some of them – my brother in 1997, for example; Edna and Kathleen in 2002. Sue and I left Yap thirty years ago. Some of the people we knew then are still there; many have moved on, or died. I do not know whether I would not simply find such a trip more upsetting than anything. I shall not worry about it, in any case; it is unlikely to happen J
One other thing happened to us whilst we were in Hilo, however; Adele returned to Pukekohe from Martinborough.