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The Journey Back To Molokai (Part 1)

Monday, November 22, 2010

A few weeks ago, I was biting my nails as I sat in the commuter terminal at the Honolulu International Airport, waiting to catch my flight to Molokai.

I was heading back to the ʻāina for a short but intensive period of study with my kumu, ʻAnakala Pilipo Solotario (aka Pops).

Why was I biting my nails? Well…

Traveling to Molokai from New York City isn’t very easy.

It takes several flights and almost an entire day to go from door to door.

In a perfect world, I would fly directly from Newark, New Jersey to Oʻahu and then to Molokai. Sounds sweet, right?

But the direct flight arrives at the Honolulu airport too late for me to catch the last inter-island flight into Molokai. That means I need to fly in multiple legs (portions).

Multiple legs = lots of opportunities for things to go wrong. I’m usually a nervous wreck.

For instance… I flew through Chicago this time.

Anyone who has ever been to/flown through Chicago knows that that city is famous for its weather-inspired flight delays! (Especially this time of year when a sudden unexpected snowstorm wouldn’t be all that unusual!)

And… I travel with my tenor ʻukulele.

Yes–I know that the ʻukulele is a relatively small and compact instrument. And yes–I know that people manage to travel with much larger instruments every day. But the tenor ʻukulele (in the hard case) is slightly larger than the “acceptable, regulation-sized” carry on luggage that fits into the overhead bin. I’m a basket case, hoping and praying that there will be room in the cabin so that I don’t have to gate-check my precious “baby.” (And I’m always willing to serenade the flight attendants to help the situation, too!)

But this time all things worked in my favor as I headed to O’ahu: an on-time departure from Newark, an easy connection in Chicago AND my ‘ukulele didn’t even raise an eyebrow on either flight.

Once I arrived at the Honolulu International Airport, I took my time getting my baggage and made my way to the commuter terminal to catch my flight to Molokai.

That’s when I noticed the imposing storm clouds.

Now rain in Hawaiʻi isn’t quite the same thing as rain here in New York City. Rain can be an everyday occurrence in the islands–especially in the winter/rainy season. I didn’t think it looked too serious because I could see blue skies in the distance. It looked like a passing shower.

After I checked in for the flight, I sent a facebook status update saying that I’d arrived in HNL–and thankfully my hānai sister, Kolokea, saw it. She works for the TSA at the Molokai airport and sent a message to me immediately–the skies were dark and ominous over Molokai and I needed to try and get there ASAP before the day’s flights were cancelled.

Have I mentioned the planes that fly between islands are not very big?

In fact, some might even call ‘em “tiny.” I was flying on Island Air which uses the Dash 8. Those planes seat about 35 people comfortably. I was hoping there would be room for me to tag along on the earlier flight and was waiting on standby.

Although the flight to Molokai from Oʻahu is only 19 minutes long, it’s not a smooth ride. Even when the weather is perfect. Crossing the channel is rough–it often feels like riding a roller coaster. With storm clouds, the flight was sure to be more of an… um…”event.” And poor visibility can easily mean a cancelled flight. The landing strip on Molokai would be easy to miss–even in good weather. (The pilots amaze me. For real!)

I was relieved when they called us to board–and even more relieved when I learned that there would be room for me on the earlier flight.

In my mind, I could smell Molokai’s sweet breezes as we left the terminal.

But that relief faded quickly as I climbed the plane’s steps and approached the door. The flight attendant told us that we all needed to deplane. The flight had been delayed. We needed to wait for a break in the weather.


So, there I was, biting my nails (or what was left of ‘em!) as I waited to see if I was going to make it out.

To be continued…

One Response to “The Journey Back To Molokai (Part 1)”

  1. Burt Leich says:

    I love your blog. I’ve added it to my favorite bookmarks and subscribed in a reader. Looking forward to reading more posts by you. Thanks.