Back From the Gilbert Islands

An open letter written after returning home and discovering a big mistake…

I still can’t believe I lost all my photos. Yes, the Gilbert Islands One Hour Photo Shop is pretty sure they gave them to a man who flew in from Cleveland, Ohio for a few days. The night clerk was having a bad day, and he mixed up our envelopes.  And I didn’t realize what happened until we were half-way home.

It was so disappointing tearing open the envelope and pulling out print after print of Midwestern shake roofs. Imagine his surprise – sitting on the plane, ready to critique his shots, and instead stumbling across my pictures of the twins chasing the island pigs near the shore.

I still can’t figure out why someone would photograph a series of practically identical roofs in Ohio and then drag them out to a tropical paradise. And why didn’t he take digitals – I was sure that I was the only American who never made the change!

Then my neighbor made me so mad when she suggested that the Clevelander has probably spliced all the close-ups into bookmarks to stuff in his architecture textbooks.  But I think she’s still annoyed because I forgot to send her a postcard. last year.

I suppose I’ll just mail the roof photos back to the Gilbert Islands shop with a self-addressed envelope, and maybe he’ll do the same, and it will all work out.

Well, maybe my shots weren’t that spectacular, after all.  I keep thinking of the one where the twins caught up with the pigs, and you could actually see some Gilbert Islands crabs peeking out of the sand.  I wonder if you can actually see them – the crabs — in the photo or not?  The sun was setting and my exposures might have been off.  Well, perhaps, but I guess I’ll never know, now.

The funny part is that ever since we got back, the twins haven’t stopped talking about Cleveland.   They said they’re so sick of pandanus, which they call coconuts, and would want to see if we could actually track down the houses under the roofs. I tried to explain how difficult and potentially fruitless that search would be, but they keep googling “Cleveland roof lines” every night before they go to bed.

And when the kids returned to school, their teacher called to tell me that all they could  talk about were the roofs in Cleveland. She seemed quite delighted, and told me about her undergraduate years at Ohio State, and thought it was wonderful that we flew to the Midwest rather than some over-priced tropical hot spot.

At dinner, the kids change the subject when we reminisce about the tasty pandanus fruit or the pigs and crabs. And forget my alma mater, they’re too busy learning Ohio State cheers.

Something that I wasn’t going to mention – the other photographer also took a few coral shots and they were absolutely beautiful. I bet he used a tripod and flash.  The way the waves hit the coral and made them sparkle – he knew what he was doing.  So maybe I’ll send back the roofs (when the kids are asleep) and I’ll put his coral shots in our scrapbook.  I’ll send back the negatives, of course – but after all I’ve been through, the coral shots would be so nice to keep – and he can make more when he gets the negatives back..

Maybe this is silly, but I can’t help wondering what he thought of the pictures that I snapped at the Tarawa Airport.  I tried to capture the runways in an artsy way; it was my statement about how paradise is decaying.  And I think you can see a little bit of the terminal roof line – he might appreciate that. He might be saving it for his architecture class.

So glad I could work this all out.  We’ll swap his coral for my airport scene.  And the Gilbert Islands Photo Shop can be our middle man and handle all the arrangements.  It’s the least they can do.