Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Karalee recently returned from her year as a missionary in Costa Rica.

Home. This place. In the small hillbilly town of Rathdrum, Idaho. I am here to stay for a while. A new concept I'm still trying to wrap my mind around and get use to again. It all feels like a weird dream, that I can't seem to find my way out of. I don't know when it'll hit me that it's actually real. I'm here. This is my life now. Again.

I am home alone today. It's just me and the dog. It feels so nice. I haven't been completely alone in SO long. In Costa Rica I was hardly alone. We did everything together - took walks, went to coffee or the post-office, baked, went to teachers houses', taught at the high school, slept, and ate, I mean EVERYTHING together. The only time I felt alone was when I woke up at 5 in the morning to go run and write... which became more and more sparse as time went on and my motivation deteriorated. It's a breath of fresh air being here now, in this comfortable setting alone. I never realized silence could be so loud. There's this enormous buzz going straight through my ears, and I have to adjust my sitting position, or click my tongue every once in a while to hear something supposedly "quiet" to believe that the noise I'm hearing is actually silence, and not a loud tractor outside the window.

This is the 5th day of being home, and I haven't blogged sooner, because I'm unsure of what to say. Some people say that culture shock coming back into their home country is worse than when they left. And it's hard to tell just yet, I haven't been out much. Church on Saturday and Spokane Valley Mall yesterday (it was energy sucking I can assure you). Honestly, I feel like I'm living in LUXURY here. It is SO fantastic (I feel so rich and so comfortable) but at the same time, it can be a bit overwhelming. I mean, our kitchen in this house is twice the size of the room I shared with 2 other girls for the past 8 months (including all of our STUFF). My bathroom here, is as big as our old kitchen. My entire house is bigger than the entire school. We have granite, and hard-wood and CARPET! and a DISHWASHER! and a VACUUM! (I forgot what those things were), and HOT WATER in the faucets and in our shower. We have our own cars and we can come and go as we please. We have a big screen TV, and couches and chairs. I can walk with bare feet in my house without getting grossed out by all the dirt, hair, and bugs on the cement floor, and sleep with one leg out of the covers without putting mosquito repellent on and still getting bit up the wazoo. We have a washer and dryer, and laundry is done in a jiffy with little to no effort. We have a piano (there was not a single piano in the entire town of Monteverde), and a pantry the size of my old bathroom (not to mention stocked with good food from the floor to the ceiling). We have TWO refrigerators, and 3 freezers. My bed is huge and soft with red royal sheets, and an electric heater to keep me warm at night.  There are no cracks in the windows were the wind can blow in and freeze our noses off in the middle of the night. There are no creepy men outside my windows peering through the cracks in the curtains watching us sit on our beds and lesson plan or Pinterest, just waiting to see if they'll get lucky and we'll change into our pajamas. I don't have to worry about waking up with a tarantula on my shoulder again or finding dead cockroaches under my pillow that I must've tackled in the middle of the night. I can wear clothes that I actually LIKE here, but unfortunately I've forgotten what that means to like a piece of clothing. I can understand anything and everything that I wish to, and my brain doesn't hurt from translating and trying so hard. It is cold here but I have everything I need to make myself comfortable. Slippers, sweats, sweaters, fuzzy blankets, and at the moment, I'm drinking pumpkin spice gourmet hot chocolate (who knew that existed? But it's SO good!). Did I even mention food? I haven't touched a single piece of beans or rice since I've been home (5 days, now that's a record, phew thank the Lord!). I can choose whatever the heck I want to eat, whenever the heck I want to eat it, and it tastes SO INCREDIBLY GOOD! I am almost certain I could clean out our pantry and fridge in a day if I was given the chance. I am home with my family and I can finally get that time alone that I've craved for so long. It sounds exactly like the dream I've been dreaming for the past 8 months, and this time it's actually for real and that's so confusing to me. Then there was church, and that was even MORE overwhelming.

We have all this STUFF. And almost EVERY house in America has all this STUFF. And everyone thinks it's the most normal thing in the world. There's hardly any thought about waking up in the morning without bug bites and taking a hot shower, and putting on an outfit that altogether equals a total of $70 or more (for a single freaking outfit) and buzzing over to Starbucks to pick up coffee and a bagel on your way to work. And it's COMPLETELY normal here. Not a single thought about this luxury ever occurs, to any of us here. It just becomes normal in our day-to-day lives. I know. I've been this way my entire life up until the last 5 days, and I'm sure everything that I consider a luxury now will eventually go back to being considered "normal". But right now, it grieves me to know that people are not thankful for the abundance that is theirs. We've heard it all our lives, that people always yearn for more and more things to fill up their lives with. Maybe then I will be happy, they think. It is so sad. So wrong.

I want travel to occur more often in the rest of my life. I've found that when I travel for an extended period of time, I am reminded of the luxuries I have at "home" wherever home may be at the time. I am made more fully aware of my surroundings. I am more contemplative. More thoughtful. More grateful. More at peace. More happy. More myself.

I have learned a lot from this year abroad. I wouldn't change a thing. I am so blessed to have had this opportunity to learn and grow and experience 1st hand so many new concepts and cultural differences. And at the end of it all, I am eternally grateful for the abundance that is mine.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Guest House

Karalee is nearly finished with her year serving in Costa Rica.  
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meaness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whomever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
-Jalal ad-Din Rumi

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

First Day in Fiji

Savannah and her kids

Savannah just recently started her mission experience in Fiji.  

An Island Paradise. Vacation Destination for the adventurous all over the world. Where I choose to spend the next 5 months.

Saturday January 12, 2013. Sometime before 9:30 a.m. I’m rummaging through the odds and ends in my room. On the top shelf of my desk are odds and ends that I have collected from all over the world. Paris- an Eiffel Tower, Spain- a glass impression of some Flamenco Dancers, Seattle- a jar of ash from St. Helens, Alaska- an totem pole of stacked owls, Hawaii- a painted wooden turtle. What sort of trinket would Fiji be represented with? These thoughts didn’t last long, I retrieved the carabiner that I wanted to hook my filtering water bottle to my back pack with.

My family and I headed to the Boise airport with my two suitcases of clothes and supplies. I hoped I was at least materially ready for every sort of weather, scrape, illness, and challenge that would emerge out of the jungle of coconut palms. My backpack stuffed with two laptops and all the documents and papers that held any information any government would ever want to know about me.

At the airport the confusion started- as to how to weigh and charge me for my excessive baggage. “I think we go by the rules of Air Pacific...huh, that’s weird they charge per kilogram not by pieces. So how do you convert from pounds to kilograms.” Luckily my mom had some experience converting between metric and standard. To the sound of $112.00 being charged on my debit card- my bags were sent away.

Goodbyes are tough. I didn’t want to leave...but the feeling that I had a spot on my way to Fiji was a little bit stronger of a feeling.

A flight to Sacramento. A flight to LAX and I finally met up with Mishayla at the gate of her plane. Here we started our adventure together. After finally finding our way to the international terminal we retrieved our tickets- after repacking Mishayla’s bag. I jumped in the slow moving line to go through security before Mishayla thinking that I was going to save a spot in line for her. That was a joke. The line quickly filled with all sorts of international travelers. Now that I think back on it I’m sure there were a lot of flights going to Asia heading out that night. I stood a little taller than most of the crowd. I kept tip-toeing looking in the winding lines for Mishayla. The nice lady in line in front of me was going home to Taipei, she was also worried that Mishayla wasn’t coming through line quick enough.
I got through security for the third time that day without a hitch. While I was waiting against a wall outside of the security area I swear I saw Ricky Gervais. Just walking with a friend like a regular guy, dressed in regular traveling clothes. He was talking a British accent, it really was him.A few minutes later Mishayla hustled through the door and we headed towards our plane as it gave it’s second boarding call.

On the plane we had separate seats. I had a window, Mishayla had an aisle about ten rows behind me. It had been a while since I had been on a plane trip that lasted more than a few hours. Some words of advice- for long plane rides over seas- get the aisle seat. You can get up whenever you want. In my case I felt terrible every time I wanted to get up I was at the mercy of two strangers. One of which, a 61 year old on a once in a lifetime trip, was on his way to trekking trip in New Zealand. The other, a total California girl, was visiting friends. They were nice enough- but I still felt bad making them move every time I wanted to stretch my legs.

On a side note- for that whole 10.5 hour flight I didn’t use the bathroom once. I hate using airplane bathrooms and I was victorious once again.

When the plane landed at 5:30 in the morning on Monday (Fiji Time) the humidity of the day already began to creep in. Inside the international arrivals area they had live musicians greeting us with their island music.

We got through customs and started exploring the airport. We often turned down rides in taxis and offers for beach trips- opting just to stay in an air conditioned corner of the airport. I handed off my second laptop for an Adventist worker that needed one for his new job at the headquarters. He was so happy to receive it, I was happy to speak with someone that knew me.

Mishayla and I were destined for one more flight. The plane held about five others, two female travelers from the UK. Claire and Frankie. We chatted like girls, oohing and awwing at the sights from our little plane. I mean little plane. Only the second smallest I’ve ever ridden.

We were told that Vulie would meet us at the Savusavu airport. Sure enough he was there. Vulie is someone that can’t be explained easily. A venerable looking old Fijian- standing like he owns the ground beneath his flip-flops. He ushered us inside a taxi. The first thing I noticed about the taxi other than its flamboyant flower print upholstery was the lack of seat belts. “You’re on the other side of the world now Savannah. They don’t ticket you for not wearing a seat belt.” However theses thoughts were only secondary to the one. “IT’S SO HOT. I CAN”T TELL IF I’M SWEATING OR JUST COLLECTING MOISTURE.”

The taxi took us through Savusavu and Vuli showed us where we could shop and buy fruits and vegetables. I remember seeing everything for the first time- I was terrified that everyone was staring at me. The place was entirely new and strange. The smells were definitely off, the way the floor seemed slippery and grimy was off, the closeness of it all was off. After the market Vuli took us briefly to his house, and through the village of Nagigi- and then up to the school and our house.

Vulie opened up the building and let it air out. Soon discovering that the electricity wasn’t working. Ignorant of that particular problem Mishayla and I shoved all of our stuff inside, quickly picked rooms and listened to Vulie.

We are always listening to Vulie- he chooses to explain everything in three ways. First with a list, second with hand motions, third with half sentences that only sometimes have obvious endings. An example of his half sentences would  be like “As best you...” can. Then there are the sayings “then you come up.” ??? After what? Come to where? Where are we coming from?

As Vulie was winding up the grand tour our stomachs started to rumble. “What should we do about dinner?” Mishayla piped up. “You come to my house.” Vulie nodded. Ohhhh... that’s what he meant. After he had left, Mishayla and I stood in our house- for the first time alone. “What did I get myself into,” pulsed into conscious thought.

Our first Fijian meal, I expected to be treated like a guest, but not to the extent that I was. I didn’t have to move at all once I sat down. Everything was handed to me by Diana- Vulie’s daughter-in-law. She waited in the kitchen while Vulie, Sunia (Vulie’s nephew), and some church elder dined with us. They sat there and ate- while I tried to dispell the awkwardness and general sweaty discomfort I was feeling with conversation. Tried and failed. “Is there any interesting history for Nagigi?” “How many kids go to the school?” “How long have you lived here?” All a waste of breath.

Then Nau-Mita entered the room, she was the one that had prepared the food. She sat down and starts asking about our trip, about our families. She told us to call her Nau- because it means grandmother because while we were here- she was our grandmother. I wasn’t complaining she made me feel instantly like a real human being instead of an alien. She put at bay the doubt and fear that I wouldn’t make it through the night without asking to go home, to go back to the sub-zero temperatures and ice where I had electricity and hot water and all the internet I could want. Nau is a saint.

It started to sprinkle outside and Mishayla and I excused ourselves, decided on how we would get breakfast in the morning, how we would keep bugs out of the food and all sorts of discussion. We headed out, eager to cool off. We were experiencing our first tropical rain shower on the walk back up the hill to our house. It was wonderful. Our eagerness to get out into the rain was confusing to the natives, but the grime of two days of traveling needed to come off in a grand fashion. Using flashlights later that night we crept under our mosquito nets and tucked in for a hot and sweaty but much needed good nights sleep. 

At the Beach