Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mainland Again, Signing Off

Our adventure in American Samoa has ended, so therefore, so has this blog.  If I do start a new blog, I may write once more with a link for new address.  But here's one last post...

It's been exactly two months that we've been in our new home, and our boxes finally came from Pago, so I should be ready for a status report, right?

Well, things are going really well.  We're very happy to be with our family and friends here in the states.  It feels very different, but good.

Owen still thinks we live on an island.  He asked "What kind of dangerous sea creatures are on this island?"  The island of Utah.

This is what we used to do for fun.

These days we have fun like this:

This used to be school:

This is school now:

When we looked around we used to see:

Now we see:

And Ephraim's got a new look:
From Extension Agent/ Aquaculture Specialist

 To CNA/ Student

To catch you up on "The Master Plan", Ephraim wants to be a Physician's Assistant.  In order to do that he must apply for PA school next spring to enter school the following year.  We don't know where his PA school will be, probably eastern US.  In order to apply, he needs 3 more prerequisite classes and a million patient care hours.  (Million is approximate.)  He's working on the classes at SLCC and it's going great.  To get patient care hours, he did a quick CNA course in July, took the state exams last week, and has a part time job doing home health care.

We can't really afford to live on our own right now, so my parents agreed to let us stay with them.  My parents are so kind, humble, and caring.  I feel like we're at Rivendell with Elrond - a place of refuge where evil does not come.  I know that someday I'll have to return to my battles, but for now it's great to catch my breath in a peaceful environment.

I have one more year of online courses for my MEd in Curriculum Studies from University of Hawaii.  That's going really well, and I totally recommend it to anyone who wants a really great intensive masters program with super amazing professors.  (They're accepting applications for the next cohort now.)

Besides that I'm living my dream of staying at home with Owen and Linus.  We have so much fun!  I love it, and I feel so lucky that I get these few precious years with them at home.

In the meantime, the kids go to a great public school where my mom teaches, so they get to hang out with grandma everyday and ride home with her.  They are loving their teachers, their huge school building, and all the cool things like a big cafeteria, water fountains, a library with couches, a computer lab, big playground equipment, and lots of kids.

Mom and Dad have set up such a nice living space for us here.  They have a dishwasher, fishpond, garden, and even an elevator in the house!  It was kind of cold for us at night, but we bought lots of snuggly winter pajamas, and now we're fine.  We have been finding some fun stuff at DI, Ross, Target, Old Navy, etc.  It's so fun to go shopping again!  (Only wish we had some money:))

We spent lots of time this summer:
-at the rec center pool (which has a lazy river and water slide!)
-discovering new playgrounds everywhere
-going to reunions, weddings, and showers with lovely people who thought they'd never see me again
-getting established with the essentials: drivers license, insurance,... library card
-going to the temple which is now only 5 minutes away (Mt. Timpanogos).  It's a dream come true.
-streaming Netflix :)
-browsing my old journals and photo albums-- laughing, crying, or both
-wandering the grocery stores wondering what they do with all that food

I'd like to share some of my personal (and maybe subjective) thoughts and observations about this change.

From an email I sent to a friend:

"the kids are going to start school next week.  their school is big and new and lovely.  i can't help but reflect on all that we've been through these past years and i don't even know how to describe what i feel.  i'm happy for my kids, i'm confident they'll do well in school, i feel guilty for abandoning the kids who really need so much help on the island, and i hope that my kids don't forget their experiences in samoa.  i really feel like my kids have a special secret they carry with them that makes them very unique and gives them perspective."

Excerpts from my journal:
"The kids are excited to go to their new school.  It seems so big and beautiful and "normal".  I was a little sad/overwhelmed/thoughtful when enrolling them.  Just aware of the huge blessing they're getting by being at the this school.  I'll never take schooling for granted again.  I mean, how much can you complain about a free education?  Really."

"I feel sort of guilty about leaving a place that has so much need.  Like I've turned my back on them as so many others have done.  Like I'm moving on without them.  When I know so much of their need and I have so much here.  For example, at D.I. there are little used school chairs for $4.  I remember trying to get school chairs in Samoa.  I had to wake up at 5 a.m., call the company over my slow internet connection, pay almost a thousand dollars for about 45 chairs, and they finally made it there months after school had started, delivered by some nice person with a truck who picked them up at the dock for us.  It was a hassle from A to Z.  And I tell you what, I made sure my students treated those chairs nicely."

"I've only been to Walmart twice so far.  It just makes me sigh.  It's crazy, crazy, crazy.  I guess they're serving lots of people here and they all have different preferences, so they need lots of stuff, but what the heck!  How can ONE store sell everything under the sun in limitless quantities?!  And there are stores just like this in every town!?"

"Sometimes I'm so glad I'm not in American Samoa dealing with all the issues they face, and other times I wish I were there so I could help.  I feel like I'm dead watching the tough times on earth from a comfortable place of rest, unable to reach out and help.  I wonder if this is how souls feel in heaven, but maybe they can help, somehow.  Can I?"

"I've been a little disturbed lately. Our church leaders have been observing that the family is under attack for years, and I've really felt it more here.  In Samoa it seems families had to pull together because there are fewer distractions, more physical work to do, and there's no where else to go. For example, fewer educational opportunities, job prospects, healthy lifestyle obsessions,  s l o w internet so less gaming, shopping, socializing, smart phone obsessions, no shopping, no fashion pressure, and almost no one who questioned traditional family lifestyles.  Plus things were harder to obtain so you just suck it up and do without.  Our family pulled together just to get through the hard times.

"But here...there are endless options of how to spend time, money, and energy.  It's like people hate limits.  Everything is limitless - it's a popular idea.  A concept that you shouldn't have to submit to anything or anyone.*  You can do anything you want to do, with no mention of consequences.  But the consequences are all around, with women and men forgetting who they are and chasing dreams of beauty, love, success, acceptance, power, etc.
So in a way life is easier here, but in another way life can be a whole lot more difficult for people who don't want to exercise self-control.
*Plus, it's only when we submit to the Lord that will we be happy."

I guess that's the idea I'd like to end with.  I know that we have a loving Father who leads us along our journey.  He led me to an island where He taught me how to love and serve for His children.  Then He brought me to the mountains where He will teach me more about love and service, and whatever else He knows I need.  Sometimes I complain and grumble like most children do, but when I align my will to His, I can see clearly how He has been my biggest Supporter and #1 Partner in all I've been asked to do.  He has given me family, friends and experiences that add up to a remarkable life, and I can feel His love in all the world around me.

We have had so much fun on this adventure.  We've had so many struggles, surprises, and prayers answered with great blessings.  We miss our dear friends in Samoa, and know we will carry them with us wherever we go.

Thank YOU, our readers, our family and friends, who have traveled this journey with us.  May God bless you and lead you along your journey.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Short Stop in Las Vegas

 We made it to Las Vegas around midnight and immediately felt the OVEN-like heat!  What a difference the desert is from the rainforest we'd come from.

 We had hassles getting the rental van, so we didn't leave the airport area until about 2 am.  We were SO tired.  Thank goodness Mariko had packed us bunch of snacks, that totally got us through the day!

We stayed with Ephraim's brother Israel who is closest to him in age.  It was so wonderful to go to their house in the middle of the night, and see the light on for us.  Cailin was waiting up and had little beds ready.  That felt like a huge blessing to me: having a clean, comfortable place for my kids to lay their heads in this big, unfamiliar city.  Isn't that what family is all about?

We slept in the next day, and enjoyed some delicious fruit, bagels, and authentic, fresh chips and salsa from Cardenas.  Thank you southwest USA!  When we finally got up the energy to venture out, it was pretty late in the day.  But it was still HOT!!   We went to the Rio hotel where they have a pool area you can go to (for free).  Just walk through the casino.

It was fun to go the "beach" again. :)  Afterwards we did drive thru at In-N-Out!  Love it!

The kids had so much fun playing with their cousins.  And Ephraim and I had so much fun catching up with Israel and Cailin.  It's nice to be closer to family now.  We can see them a lot more often!

Cailin and I took some of the kids to a MOMS party with a bunch of other families.  It was really neat to be around so many palagi families again.  Plus they hired a magician to do a simple show for the kids.  Ella and Isaac were thrilled!

 My kids, the magician, and my nephews

The next day we went to Wet and Wild water park.  The whole city was there, or so it seemed.  I was feeling a bit out of sorts being around SO many people.  Especially in bikinis.  In Samoa people swim fully clothed, so being in Hawaii and Vegas I saw more palagi skin in a week than I had in several years.

 Saturday morning it was time to move on again.  By this time, our kids were pretty familiar with the airport scene.  They got drinks at the drinking fountain (which we didn't do it Samoa), watched all the airplanes out the window, and staked out a spot for our family to watch some Napoleon Dynamite before we boarded.

As we landed in Salt Lake City I had a feeling of arrival.  We'd finally reached our destination, and our time in Samoa was now officially over.  I was happy to be with my family, but also overwhelmed and sad to see how things have changed in the states since I'd been gone.  I'll talk more about that later.

But one thing was certain, being in Las Vegas made Utah heat feel very pleasant!

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Week in Hawaii

We spent about a week in Hawaii with our awesome friends the Jacksons before heading to the states.  It was a great way to transition from remote island life to modern mainland life.  We were very "fresh off the boat" for a little while, so I'm glad the Jackson's were patient with our strangeness.  
Interesting experiences:  
  • I refused to drive the rental car because of the highways and high speed.  Even Ephraim had trouble keeping up at first.
  • We marveled again and again at the internet speed; you click on something and it loads.  No waiting.  Amazing!
  • We stared at the tall buildings in Honolulu and even snapped a few pictures.  Like we're really gonna look at those pictures again.
  • We had to borrow some car seats and booster seats, cause apparently you can't just put your kid in the back of the truck.
  • We noticed that people were mostly pretty skinny, small, and healthy compared with what were were used to.
  • We felt very comfortable in Hauula since it seems similar to Samoa in some ways.
  • When I drove from Hauula to Laie, I don't know if I even reached the speed limit, but I felt zero pressure to speed up.  And the line of cars behind me just had to be patient.
  • There were a lot of radio stations.
  • We could eat anything we wanted.  Think of something to eat, you can just go and get it!
  • We watched mail being delivered to the mailbox.  Granted the 'mail truck' was some lady's car being very skillfully driven from the passengers side, but there was a mailbox at the house that gave and received mail daily.
  • I got teary-eyed in Longs looking at all the selection.  Some people are so blessed!  Do we need that many choices, really?
  • We couldn't get enough of the fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Our kids had no problem reading Hawaiian names.  For example, Isaac read, "The Like-Like highway?!  That's funny." Then Ephraim said, "Read it like Samoan." So Isaac read, "Li-ke-li-ke."

You might notice that these pictures show us basically doing two things--going to the beach and eating -- which frankly are the two best things do to in the whole world.  Plus we were with awesome people.  So we had an amazing time.

Beach trip to Kawela Bay

So 'ono' that Ono Yo!

Sunday stroll on at the Temple

The small dot that represents Tutuila

Visit with Auntie Lauren, a fellow American Samoan

Shave Ice ... Mmm

Waimea Bay

Date Night Dim Sum

Cruising in Hauula

Lunch at Tokkuri-Tei on Kapahulu

Off to the Airport