Monday, December 13, 2010


I don't have a lot of faith. In people, or in God. I believe in God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit. I know the stories are true. But I have small faith when it comes to my own life. Sometimes my faith is gone entirely. Sometimes I break down. Sometimes I yell at God, lose my temper at the painter of the sunsets, the one who ignited the stars. Sometimes I'm afraid that nothing will work out. Sometimes I feel like a turkey drowning because I'm looking up at the rain with my mouth open.

But every time I give it up, every time I let go of the reins, every time I say in exasperation, "I'm DONE, God! I got nothin left!" There He is. With a solution, a blessing, a blanket of peace, or a nudge in the right direction. Always loving. Always gentle. Always calm, quiet, still. Never angry. Not even when I get mad at Him! Especially not then. He holds me even closer, never pushes me away. He's the ultimate "Calm-Assertive Pack Leader." I don't always "feel" like I have this great relationship with God, but I'm learning that it's definitely not about feelings, anyway. It's not about doing great things, or being a really good person, or being "super spiritual." It's about trusting Him, loving Him, and especially being humble enough to accept His love, His plan, His idea for my life.

So, here goes. Lord I believe. Please help my unbelief.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Week one, Fiji: a completely different way of life

9pm at LAX airport, June 23rd, 2009. 19 students from Washington meet up with 17 students from Arizona and one from Utah. No one knows what to say, no one knows what to think of the others. At 10pm, we boarded our 10 hour Qantas flight to Nadi, Fiji. The flight across the pond was uncomfortable to say the least, and we arrived in Fiji at 5am on the 25th of June. Since we had crossed the date line, the 24th of June never existed for us. The first thing we noticed when we got off the plane: humidity. It was only 5am, still dark outside, but already we were sweating, and the kids from Washington were feeling a bit too warm. Jack, who had sat next to me, turned and said, "I want to see a bird, a Fijian bird!" Lo and behold, not five seconds later we turned the corner and saw about 100 birds, all of the same type. We quickly realized that they must be to Fijians what crows or seagulls are to Washingtonians. But as soon as we stepped inside the airport, we noticed something even odder. All the men were wearing skirts. Well, they are actually called sulus, but we didn't know that yet. Even though we didn't know the purpose of these "man-skirts," everyone agreed that Fijians are the only men who can wear a skirt and still look noble. They do! Even Scotsmen wearing kilts can't look as noble as the simply dressed Fijians.

After going through security, which was only two luggage screener things, we waited forever for what seemed like nothing. Finally, Zak, our delegation manager for Fiji, told us to go out to the coach. We loaded our bags on, then boarded. Yuk! The whole coach smelled like mold! Fiji is very humid, and smells of mold and spices. The seats on this coach were no exception. The coach driver turned on the A/C, which pumped out stale, mildewy air from the bowels of the system. Everyone was less than impressed, especially when the microphone was scratchy and unreliable at best. Zak kept having to readjust the cord to keep his voice from cutting out, and the poor people who sat under the speakers had to plug their ears, it was so loud. But soon we were on our way, and we all forgot about the smell and the noise when we looked around us. We were in the tropics! Banana trees grew in the ditches like weeds! Palms grew better than any did in California! Some trees had huge orange flowers growing all over them, and some look like something from a Dr. Seuss book. The flora was so different and amazing, it was quite surreal. Even more surreal were the cities. As we drove through Nadi, the largest city in Fiji, we noticed several things. first, there were definately Indian sections and native Fijian sections, as 40% of the population is from India, and the rest are Fijian natives. The reason for this is that a few hundred years ago, loads of slaves were brought by Europeans from India, to work on sugarcane plantations. Oh yes, that brings me to sugarcane. That first day, Zak let us all try a small stick each, about the size of a carrot stick. "Just chew, chew, chew, but no swallow. You spend long time on toilet if you swallow," were Zak's instructions for trying this strange white substance. the stick crunched and squished as I chewed on one end, and the sweetest juice flooded my taste buds. I mean, this was what sugar looked and tasted like before being extracted and processed into the pure white granules that we all know and love.

Anyway, about the cities. The streets were narrow, crowded and dirty. Skinny dogs were everywhere. The buses were completely packed and had no windows. All the stores were small and dingy, except the cell phone carriers, like Vodaphone and Digicel, which were out of place and modern. All the shops had bars all across the fronts, and most looked neglected in maintenance but not in use. The people, however, were incredibly friendly! The waved with their whole heart, and cried out "Bula!" with a big smile on their face. Well, most of them did. The Indian population didn't, and most Fijian men didn't, but all the motherly Fijian women did! Fijian women are very motherly and kind, I noticed. And their kids are so well-behaved! They make kids in the US look like barbaric little pigs (which too many are).

As we left the city behind, houses became farther and farther apart. I saw my first Fijian horses and cows. They were skinny, like the dogs, and all of them had very similar conformation. The gene pool never gets added too, and even though Viti Levu is a big island, inbreeding must still occur. I felt so bad for all the horses! One had an open sore on his back that looked about the size of half a dinner plate. Poor thing! But the Fijian people don't know anything about animal welfare, and their main concern is feeding their families, so you really can't blame them. They don't really have a choice. And the livestock isn't penned in, they simply roam free, so the skinnyness can't really be blamed on anyone but the island. There isn't a lot of true grass, It's mostly weird tropical stuff. Of course, there is no hay for the horses or cattle, because there is nowhere to really grow it, and no one has any reason to. The cattle aren't farmed, a family may own one or two, same with horses. I saw one pig when I was their, and it was lean and hairy. Oh, and at first we all thought there were no cats, since we didn't see any for several days. We concluded that the dogs must have eaten them all, since the dogs are always hungry. On the fourth day, however, I saw two cats. Phew! The dogs didn't eat them all...

Alright, back to the first day in Fiji. Before we even got to our first destination, one of the tires exploded. So there we sat, the A/C off, baking in our own sweat. It was like being in a crock pot. Finally another coach pulled up, and we transfered ourselves over to that one. The mold was worse on this coach, and not only could you smell it, but you could see it growing on many of the seats. Thankfully the drive to the Kula EcoPark was short, and soon we were walking in the slightly cooler shade of the trees. Kula EcoPark is a unique place in Fiji. It is the only park of it's kind, and it operates entirely on donations. I assume most of the donations come from tourists, because all of the citizens I had seen so far were poor. But the park was clean, tidy and well-kept. The animals were all happy, and were kept in spacious, clean enclosures. They had flying fox bats, owls, various raptors, iguanas, snakes and even a saltwater reef tank, as well as four sea turtles. After walking through the aviaries, we walked down a boardwalk that took us through some of the forest, and saw some amazing trees. The root systems and vines were what fascinated me the most! So big and complex! Also, I saw a murky stream where I knew little fish that I'd never heard of must be hiding. The highlight of this excursion was getting to hold Fiji's endangered crested iguana... I got to hold an endangered iguana! woohoo! How many people can say that?

After we were done at the EcoPark, we went back out to our coach. The tire had been fixed and the driver had come to pick us up. However, after getting back on, it was discovered that the engine was overheating badly. Like, the radiator fluid boiled over and was in a puddle on the ground. So, plan D, the other coach turned around and came back for us. The poor guys, they had to switch our luggage over for the third time.

Finally we arrived at what would be home for the next week: the Warwick Resort, Fiji. It was unanimous: the wait was so worth it! Many of us had never stayed in a 4.5 star resort before, so this completely floored us. Especially when you compare it to the shabby houses just down the road... we felt a bit guilty. Okay, I felt REALLY guilty! Here we were, in a luxurious resort, while just down the road people were brushing their teeth with sugarcane, washing their clothes once a week, in moldy, shabby houses. It was surreal. The whole time in Fiji was just surreal... there really is no other way to put it.

The rest of that first day in Fiji was spent sleeping, swimming, wandering around and just hanging out it our rooms. Thankfully, and miraculously, I was rooming with Carolyn. She was the only person that I had made any sort of connection with so far, and we were SO happy to be roommates!

The next day, we woke up kind of late- 7:30. Our destination was Mystery Island, a small, uninhabited day-trip island about an hour and a half boat ride from one of the coastal towns. The boat we were on belonged to Captain Cook Cruises, and it looked kind of like a pirate ship. The water was a deep blue, and the breeze was just right. It wasn't chokingly humid, but pretty warm. All the islands we passed looked so serene. Some were owned by celebrities and billionaires, some were just lonely and untouched. Mystery Island is a very small island. It takes about 20 minutes to walk the circumfrence, if you're walking fast. 45 minutes plus, if you're on Fiji time. I recommend Fiji time.

Once we got to the island, two smaller boats came to take us over. The one I got on was a glass-bottomed boat, which... had cracks in it. Big ones. About an inch of water was sloshing around in the bottom! We all saw this, and gulped. But the glass held, and we all got to the island safely. Wow, that island was something! It's everything you think of when you hear the word "Fiji." Soft sandy beaches, nice shady trees, a few birds flying around, and water of the most beautiful blue. The sound of the surf is soft and lulling, and the water is warm. We all had the best time snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, playing volley ball, beachcombing and just hanging out. It was a good day to get to know eachother.

On the way back to the harbor, I found out that Michael Jackson had died that day. Everyone was kind of shocked, but not exactly surprised.

Day Three. We took four small, narrow boats up a river on the wetter side of Viti Levu. Our destination was a small Fijian village, where the Fijians still take their culture seriously. No, they aren't canibles! Canibalism ended in the late 1800's. At least, that's what Zak told us. There were, however, certain rules we had to abide by. For instance, we couldn't carry anything on our shoulders, or wear hats, or show our knees. We had to wear sarongs and sulus, which was kind of cool. We were encouraged to partake of their kava, which is a nasty ceremonial drink that looks and tastes like... muddy dishwater. I tried it, to be nice, and it made my tongue tingle and go numb. They say if you drink enough of it, you get really, really relaxed. I don't know how anyone can drink that much, though.
But the village... if any of those houses had been in the US, they would have been condemned and demolished. They were small, moldy, ramshackle, and falling apart. They showed us their school, which was greatly lacking in supplies and books. There are more books in my house than there were at that school. That village made me thankful for what I have!
The villagers were very friendly, and they gave us some sweet deals on handmade souvinirs. I was so glad we brought them two bags stuffed full of school supplies! They really need it.
After the village, we got back into our boats and continued upriver. We disembarked at a small sandy bank, and started hiking up a faint trail. The trail took us through beautiful rainforest, and ended at a waterfall pool. A real rainforest waterfall, splashing into a deep, refreshing pool. We all had our swimsuits on under our clothes, so we whipped them off and jumped in. It felt so good! All the sweat and grime of the day was washed off. Then we discovered that you could climb up behind the waterfall and jump through it! That was amazing. A dream come true.

Day Four. We went to Sigatoka Sand Dunes national park. It is Fiji's only national park, and this is for two reasons: the first people to come to Fiji landed there, and left many artifacts, and secondly, the dunes have to be protected and kept forested. If they weren't forested, the dunes would continue to sweep across the island, kind of like the sahara. We climbed up one of the unstable dunes, and it was CRAZY hard! I'm pretty sure it was one of the most physically challenging things I have ever done. For awhile there I thought I wouldn't make it. It was hot and muggy, I was sweating, the sand was sticking firmly to my grimy limbs, and every time I took a step, I seemed to sink further back. Thankfully there was a rope we could grab onto, but even with that it took quite awhile to get up that stupid hill. Finally, we all got to the top and had a rest. After climbing the dune, we hiked along the beach, and took a trail back that led us through a mahogany forest.

Day Five. Our last day in Fiji. Zak took us to a secondary school, where we met many awesome kids. In Fiji, all children are taught English, since that is Fiji's official language. We met some adorable 4th and 5th graders, who we all fell in love with. But not half an hour later, they all kicked our butts on the soccer field! We were astounded at their ability, stamina, and strength. One boy accidently kicked the ball right into my face, and my knees buckled. For a few seconds I didn't know what hit me, and my vision kind of swam. I didn't really show it though, I jumped back up and kept running. That poor kid, he felt SO bad! I really was okay- after a minute. I earned my friend's respect though, which was cool.
The worst part of that day was probably when they served us hot chocolate at lunch. REALLY hot hot chocolate! And it must have been 85 degrees, with 100% humidity! We questioned their sanity. I politely took some, but many declined. I couldn't blame them. The best part of that day was when the teens from that school gave us a few demonstrations of the types of dances they do. I took plenty of videos of that, if anyone wants to see. At the end of our day together, all the older students who had been with us sang us a Fijian farewell song.

Well that, in a small nutshell, was our time in Fiji. It's a great place to visit... once. I'm not sure I'll ever be going back, though. If I go back, I'll be sure to bring school supplies, dog food, and horse dewormer!!


Hey there, I'm back!! I'm working on my blog right now, I will be doing one for each country, but I just wanted to say real quick here... I'm back, I'm safe, and I had the time of my life!! Alright, I'm going to go write now.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

a glimpse

sometimes I'll see just a glimpse of something truly beautiful as I careen down SR 92. Tonight, I glanced to the right and saw... well, a field so lovely in the fading twilight that my heart skipped. It was a simple field, and I drive by it every day. But tonight, it was magic. The dim remnants of the sunset seemed to dance among the tall grass, as though the sun fairies didn't want to say good night. I could smell the sweet, sweet smell of summer pasture, the smell of dusk, the smell of cool evening. I could feel the warm, damp ground, and the gentle breath of the night on my face. I found "sweet afton" there. And yet, I experienced all this in a fraction of a second, driving 55(ish) miles per hour. I love when that happens. That field was so beautiful, I ached. It was like looking into a picture of perfect, silent, contented peace. I was looking for peace all day, and then it just appeared on the side of the road...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

This is big!

Today, I received my lanyard, shirt and pin from my delegation leaders. We are leaving in 16 days! Just today it hit me. I'm going... really going! For months and months I've been planning, saving, and wondering if this was real. Today I realized, as if for the first time, that I am doing something that billions of people can only dream about. I am part of a very special group, and part of an organization that is incredibly unique. We are all part of something huge... I had a taste of this feeling when in school plays, being a small part of a fantastic production. But now, this is so much bigger, and means so much more to so many people- it's unfathomable. I have no idea what lies ahead. Of course we have an itinerary, but that means nothing. Those stark sentences don't convey all that will be going on.

I can't believe I'm doing this! =D

A couple years ago, I remember having this constant feeling of restlessness. I wanted stuff to happen, I wanted to go DO things, see things, have adventures! But at the same time, I was afraid to step out and actually get things moving. Now, I still have that craving for adventure, but now I'm actually doing something about it! Not that I did this all on my own- far from it. I just mean that things are starting to happen... and now I know that I can step out on my own and go for it!

So many adventurous things... kayaking, horses, Yellowstone, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji!

What's next?
A road trip, me thinks (with horses).
And Africa (on horseback).
Then the British Isles (where I'll ride).
After that, I'll ride the entire Pacific Crest Trail on horseback.
(I will be adding to this list)

When people ask me, "so, what are you doing after high school?" or, "what do you want to do with your life?" I'm not too keen on answering. I don't really know yet, but how can I? I haven't done enough things to know what I like. But I'll tell you one thing, I'm not going to have a fixed career. There are too many things I want to do! But what I DON'T want is a normal American life. Wherever life takes me, I won't let it be normal! Oh, it just cracks me up when people show concern over my future, when they haven't had anything to do with my upbringing! It used to bug me when they said things like, "Oh, but aren't you going to college?" but now, I just smile. I'll go to college if what I am going to do requires it. But I'm not just choosing a college and a major on a whim.

People have such fixed opinions on the way everyone should live. It really gets to me. Well, that's part of what I'm doing on this trip. The goal of D.D.Eisenhaur was to bring nations together, to promote peace through understanding, and to open up the world to the youth of our nation. I am helping in that. I am doing something that has definite potential for the ripple effect.

Well, I really didn't mean to ramble this much... this was supposed to be like a paragraph. But anyhow, I shall definitely write a big, fat entry when I arrive home.

Goodbye for now!