Once inside the lagoon, the waves were calmer and we sped along the top of them towards the beach. The ocean, as fiercely independent as a headstrong toddler, tames once it has been encircled by a firm embrace of reef. A lagoon is a well of life, an undersea Eden where plant and animal sea life abound in prismatic color. It is a world waiting to be explored once you break the surface.
The island we were speeding towards sat low on the horizon. Little more than a glorified sand bar, Sikaiana sprouted coconut trees and houses, looking oddly like a head submerged in the water, with only the forehead and hair sticking above surface.
The beach in front of us was filled with brown figures. Sikaiana was a sister island to our Luaniua, and many of the people on the ship were kin in some way with these islanders. They had come out of their huts to anxiously watch the drama unfolding beyond the reef.
We touched shore, and several boys ran forwards to drag the canoe further onto the sand. The occupants of the little life boat all piled out, and somebody lifted my sister, brother and I onto the beach. Although the rain had finally stopped, dusk had now fallen over the storm darkened sky. The beach quickly emptied of people. Anna, Matthew and I stood there, holding each other's hands. We had nothing with us except for the clothes we were wearing. I don't think we even had shoes on. I thought about my mom, dad, brother, and the Aussie teacher who had been on the ship with us. Out beyond the reef, the Baruku sat low and dejected, an almost indiscernible black spot against the lighter blackness of the sea. I looked around myself. We were standing in the middle of an empty beach in the semi-darkness. I had started contemplating sitting down and waiting to see if my parents would show up, when a kind faced woman approached me.
"Hamai inei, okou haikama emoe kehale anau la," she said. I looked blankly at her. She repeated, this time using summoning motions and came a few steps closer to us. We drew together even more tightly. I was afraid of her foreign tongue and the unknown village she was beckoning us towards. My younger siblings looked at me as I stood in indecision on the alien beach.