The vigorous lapping of the waves signalled the arrival of Omar first, even before his brother heard the familiar sound of the outrigger boat.
Perhaps it was the 6-hour bumpy van ride from downtown pueblo, followed by the stomach-churning two-hour banca ride until the easternmost coast of the Moro Gulf, but Omar swore there was that persistent low-pitch vibration that filled his ears with a whimper. Omar held his nose shut, and then blew into it. The whirring sound was still there. He yawned a couple of times—POP! Pressure finally equalized in his Eustachian tube. It had been years since he last visited his hometown, but one did not simply forget the lessons of one’s youth.
His brother, Abdel, was waiting for him by the docking site at the edge of a makeshift hut on bamboo stilts. What he lost in weight, he gained in the length of beard that now reached up to his chest. Whit his plain white robe and black skull cap, Omar thought Abdel looked like an Imam and felt suddenly uncomfortable in his sweat-drenched shirt and jeans.
Abdel extended his arms to welcome his little brother. “As salaam alaikum,” he said, and proceeded to engulf Omar in a tight embrace.