The Marshall Islands are located half way between Hawaii and Australia. This little known country consists of 29 atolls and 5 islands which all together create a formation of two island chains: Ratak (Sunrise) and Ralik (Sunset). The geography of the capital Majuro is truly unique – the island is long (around 53km/33mi) and very narrow. It’s almost impossible to get lost.
Iakwe means ‘hello’ in Marshallese. It also means ‘you are the rainbow’. I haven’t heard of a prettier nor more uplifting way of greeting each other.
– Hi. You are the rainbow. – That little boy looked at me with his curious, big brown eyes and smiled. – Hi. You are the rainbow too. – I replied and my heart immediately smiled too.
I absolutely loved it. To remember this phrase is a must for every traveller as everyone in the streets of Majuro will greet you with iakwe and the big smile on his face. People are extremely friendly and well-known around Pacific for they peaceful nature and kind character. I find it the biggest asset.
The first encounter with the Marshall Islands has to be by air and it really takes your breath away. I’ve seen many amazing places from the window of the airplane but little can compare to what you gonna experience here. Since I joined aviation industry my favourite sound is the sound of the landing gears going down. It doesn’t sound too romantic at first but when you think about it twice it actually very much does. It’s like a lovely murmur or a whispering promise telling you: be happy, now your adventure will start. The aerial view of the atolls in Marshall Islands is so amazing though, that you don’t want to land – you want to stay in the sky longer and longer admiring the beauty of nature.
I arrived to Majuro in the beginning of May. I was really surprised by the overwhelming humidity which almost suffocated me the moment I stepped out of the aircraft. It was hot and humid and the weather was extremely changeable: the sun and heavy storms one after the other. I was so happy I made it there. I took the taxi from the airport, paid 5 USD, and tried to find the place, where my American-Fijian hosts – Katie and Joe – lived. There are no physical addresses, therefore me and the taxi driver had a real fun looking for the place. The map I had was no help either.
While we were driving we passed lots of colourful houses, smiling pedestrians, but the first thing that really drew my attention was the big sign saying: ‘No selling of alcohol or tobacco in this weto’. What the hell – is it a Muslim country? In my mind after those years in the Middle East it’s an obvious answer. No alcohol = Muslim culture. What an ignorant I am sometimes. The country is deeply religious indeed but it’s predominantly Protestant. In this case it is a strict Christianity that doesn’t approve of the alcohol. After years of unique colonial history and early contacts with Westerners the society adopted the conservative aspects of the religion. You will find the alcohol in the island but forget about shorts, mini skirts and reviling clothes. I hadn’t known about that before so I was endlessly grateful to Katie that she gave me a warning about a proper dressing decorum. In Marshall Islands to dress conservatively doesn’t mean to look boring: ladies in Majuro have an interesting taste in fashion wearing colourful, very loosely fitting dresses which always cover knees and shoulders. They look decent and beautiful but in their case the beauty doesn’t come with a dress, the beauty comes from within.
Getting around the capital is very convenient and cheap. There’s a flat price for a single ride, which is 75 US cents, and ride-sharing system is widely practised. It’s safe too. People are curious about you, they smile and ask few questions. I aways felt comfortable around them (both men and women) and answered all their questions with pleasure. There’s little to do in the capital itself. The main attraction is taking a stroll around the main street and interact with local people. There is a little, tiny museum explaining the history of the island and its inhabitants. It is small but pretty popular within visitors.
As I wasn’t exactly sure how to spend my short time in Marshall Islands best I went to Katie for a piece of advice. She recommended shopping for jewellery and taking a day tour to the nearby island. I followed her suggestions with no hesitation as she turned out to be an amazing girl who I could easily become friends with. I was impressed by her profound knowledge of the local culture and the easiness of using the native Marshallese language.
According to my taste the jewellery in Marshall Islands is the most intriguing and beautiful one around the whole Pacific. Majuro is a great place to shop for the hand-made, original, all-natural handicrafts. Exactly as Katie said. I liked the most the design of shell necklaces with a simple ornament and colour. The price varied around 10 USD each. I wish I had bought more as it was a great souvenir and a great way to support local businesses. To see that happiness of an old lady selling her own hand-made products was worth every penny. She was very happy – I could see that in her eyes.
Jewellery in general is a great way to preserve memories of the place we’ve travelled to. I recommend investing money in a small necklace or ring – it’s a personal and unique form of bringing the memories back. For me much better than the fridge magnets.
The one day trip to the outer island, when I’ve totally checked out of reality and fully checked into contemplative state of mind, deserves a separate note. It was a time of a true bon chic atmosphere, when I felt like a modern (and sexier) version of Robinson Crusoe. Exploring alone the hidden corners of tantalizing places – the places of exceptional beauty – really challenged me to figure out the real meaning of travelling solo. See you next time on the beautiful island of Eneko and till then remember about me and Bon chic Bon voyage!