Leaving my island is easy. Coming back is the hard part.
Boats leave almost every weekday to go into town, and usually I can just hop on one of those, ride the boat for about an hour to get to a village where someone has coordinated a truck to pick us up, and arrive in town.
The way back is less straightforward. Recently I had a typical adventure in finding a ride back to Ha’ano.
Monday morning, I woke up at the PCV’s house where I stay in Pangai. By that afternoon, I hoped to be in my own home.
7:30 am: I call a friend in Ha’ano and find that, indeed, a boat has left Ha’ano. I even get the names of people to look for. Mission: Find 2 ministers from Ha’ano or the boat driver.
8:50 am: While riding a bike around town looking for these people who don’t have cell phones, I see the boat driver. He tells me to go to the Church of Tonga’s building so I can ask the ministers what time we’ll leave. His directions and my lacking Tongan leave me clueless as to where the building is, so, after riding around a while looking for it…
9:05 am: I ask for directions. With a semi-clear idea of where the ministers might be, I go to the church. Empty. I go to the nearby building. Empty. I eventually find someone who tells me they are in that nearby building I had just searched.
9:15 am: I find someone who is better informed, and he tells me they are in the church building around the corner.
9:30 am: As I sit outside the church waiting for the meeting to end, a different minister than those I am looking for asks me who I need, and he goes inside to tell the Ha’ano minister to come talk to me.
9:45 am: One of the Ha’ano ministers tells me we’ll be leaving when their meeting ends, maybe 10:00 am. He tells me to take my things to the place where everyone waits for the truck to go to Ha’ano. I hurry back to get everything in order, lest I get left as has happened before.
10:05 am: As I heave my bags down the road, I run into a third minister from Ha’ano carrying a handful of tobacco leaves. We go to a different place than I was told to go to catch the ride. (Had I not seen him, I would have been up a creek, waiting at the wrong place.)
10:10 am: I realize that no one is coordinated and we aren’t nearly about to leave, so I go buy a gas canister.
10:45 am: Now with my gas canister, carried by the boat driver, I return to the group. And we continue to wait.
11:15 am: Eventually a vehicle is arranged to take us the 30 minute ride to the dock.
11:45 am: We leave the dock.
12:40 am: We arrive in Ha’ano.