Day 100 (September 11, 2021)

The following is written by Kel Rohlf using third person perspective:

Day 100: Final entry. Les and Kel Rohlf moored at Port of Everett on September 10th, 2021 and woke up on their boat on September 11th, 2021. Aware that it was twenty years after a national tragedy AND their 100th day away from home. Very aware of the gifts and privilege they have experienced day in and day out.

Kel sought and found many souvenirs on their journey, always with Les’ caveat in mind: “You can get it if you have a space to stow it.” Kel is very creative.

Before embarking on their adventure she purposely packed fewer items than usual. For instance, she only brought a dictionary, a bird guide book, a book of poems and a Bible. Along the way she collected other books, some to collect, some to read and some to transform into journals.

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The Stowaways
Close-up of the book pile
Another close-up
This book hopped in from the bookstore at Friday Harbor, WA
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The Journals

As part of the routine they had developed on their trip, Les kept notes and Kel rambled on about one aspect or another regarding their experience. She usually read Les’ notes, then composed her thoughts. Yesterday she read his description of the waves as they crossed the open waters of Cattle Pass and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. He wrote, “The waves were not too high, but were confused as we made the transition.” His descriptive choice of confused waves caught her attention.

She knew what he meant because she was rocked by those waves as they cruised along. The word confused intrigued her enough to pull out her dictionary. The dictionary sheds this light on the word: “unable to think clearly, bewildered, lacking order, jumbled.” Its roots in Latin offer this layer of meaning: “mingle together, mix up,” which evolved into the word confound.

Very aware of how her sorrow at the end of their journey mingled with her great joy of having experienced it, she felt both gratitude and a keen ache for more. She also felt more than confusion regarding the griefs recently poured over those close to her. And even the pain of strangers, more than bewildered her, as sense of hope burbled up, despite the brokenness.

She tried to bury the memory of twenty years ago. She worked hard cleaning to assuage the pain and helplessness she felt. Weary from the hard work of cleaning and preparing the boat to take it home soon, Les asked what she wanted to do for dinner. A sub sandwich sounds good, she offered. Les found a local place, and with less than 30 minutes until it closed, they drove to the shop, got confused by the directions and finally parked with 5 minutes to spare. As they walked up to the door, a man, who seemed to be the owner, looked to be closing up early. He was. Their faces must have looked hungry. The man said, “You hungry. I’ll make you a sandwich. It’s okay, you come in.” They gratefully accepted.

As he took their order, and shuffled around his shop, he remarked on how unbelievable that twenty years had past since 9-11. They nodded; Kel winced, because she had avoided the topic all day, and felt some remorse for not being more moved by the significant anniversary. As he slathered mayo on the rolls, sliced fresh deli meat and offered them chips and soda as part of his meal deal, he began to share his story.

He came to America 46 years ago, and had his sub shop for 36 years now. He pointed to a laminated newspaper clipping on a table, remarking that his shop was the longest lived small business in Everett. He wrapped their sandwiches and told them he was from China. They didn’t have to ask why he left, he volunteered the reason.

To give them background to his journey to America, he started with a history quiz of sorts. It was the early 70s, and a U.S. President opened relations with China, making him aware of opportunities not considered before. He paused for the quiz, do you know your U.S. President who did this? Kel quickly answered Nixon. He was impressed, telling her most people didn’t know. Maybe he was kidding or maybe he was applauding her knowledge, she wasn’t quite sure.

He placed their sandwiches in a bag, and finished with a little more information on how he got here. With a dramatic pause and the incredulous memory of it, he told them, he and three friends swam from China to Hong Kong to escape Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

Kel asked him his name, as he handed them the bag. He answered, Wai, but everyone here calls me “Sub Man.” She smiled and thanked him once again for the sandwiches. As they walked back to their truck, Kel found it hard to express her feelings.

The Sub Man made them sandwiches for their hunger, and refreshed their appetite for hope in a world that seems so famished for it these days.

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Sub Shop No. 26 in Everett WA

To read more about Wai Eng, the Sub Man click here.

Know this: God is God, and God, God.
He made us; we didn’t make him.
We’re his people, his well-tended sheep.

Enter with the password: “Thank you!”
Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
Thank him. Worship him.

Psalm 100:2-3 (The Message)

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