Have you heard of Christmas Island?

Trip Start Aug 31, 2007
Trip End Nov 03, 2007

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Flag of Kiribati  ,
Sunday, September 9, 2007

Wow, what an exciting day! Christmas Island is the largest coral atoll in the world. Named by Capt. James Cook, who spotted the island on Dec. 24, 1777, Christmas Island or Kiribati is a mere 1,300 miles south of Hawaii. The people of Christmas Island are Micronesian and originally came from the Gilbert Islands about 2,000 miles west. The total pop. is 3,300. There is a hospital, hotel, post office, school and several churches. I had a rare chance to visit them all today. Our ship anchored off the island and it was an adventure to get ashore. I was in the 2nd tender. The tide was extremely low and the shuttle hugged the shoreline to avoid the rocks. The weather was warm and balmy, turquoise water too beautiful to describe.
On shore, I joined 5 others who had brought a suitcase full of school supplies. I didn't bring as much but had been scrounging the ship the past few days for pens/writing paper and a bag full of shampoo, soap, etc. We hired a taxi van to drive us to the school. Today was the first day of school for the 600 primary students. They were so excited to see us! The children learn English and were anxious to have us speak to them. The children sat on the concrete floor at small wooden tables. No computers, of course. It was difficult to say goodbye. "Mauri" means hello and "say-boo" means goodbye. We got some terrific photos.
Our driver took us to the luxurious (ha ha) Capt. Cook Hotel. I was looking forward to a pitcher of margaritas, perhaps a facial at the spa (ha ha). The hotel is a block wall building in need of paint. Small rooms and bathrooms, about like a Motel 6 in the U.S. They encouraged us to please come back and stay. I have no idea how to get here!
We stopped at the local Catholic church. Beautiful stained glass windows but no pews. We guess everyone stands. The local cemetery was also a moment to remember. As expected, there is a high infant mortality rate here.
Our driver also took us to his home-a real treat. It was a one room home, made of concrete block. No furniture, just a rattan mat they lay down on the floor to sleep on. There was an 11 mo.old baby sleeping on the floor. The kitchen was a tiny L shaped room with a refrigerator the size of a wine cooler and a small stove. The family was warm and friendly and happy to show us their home. Most of the buildings have no doors, just a cloth hanging at the entryway.
The post office is a picnic table topped with palm fronds (palapa). The hospital was clean and the doctor spoke English. As with other places, we had to take our shoes off to enter. Concrete floors, antiquated medical supplies and operating room and a small equipment sterilizer. Also like many other buildings, no doors, no windows, just a cloth blowing in the breeze. Part of this island still has no electricity so you can see how remote it is.
I went back to the ship to charge up my camera battery and then returned to the island where we were greeted by singing children and adults doing the local dances. Quite a treat.
Met up with Gwen who said she and many passengers were disappointed Princess stopped here, nothing to see or do. She did take a tour around the island but didn't make the stops we did. It was exactly as I had pictured the island and I feel fortunate to have been able to see what I did. We're on to Bora Bora next. I'll try to find an internet cafe there and write some of you individually. The ship's computers are 40 cents a minute and very slow.
My birthday is tomorrow....I'll be 65! It is also the 2nd formal night. What a great way to celebrate!!!

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