Travel-Back Tuesdays: Hawaiian Style!

October, 2007…

Me, Eli(ja), and Jackson at the Honolulu International Airport.

So, at the age of 23, I pretty much hit the Nanny Diaries jackpot…and was asked by my sweet friend Holly if I would accompany her family on an all-expenses paid vacation to Oahu. Um….did I EVEN need to think about it twice?

But here’s the thing…earlier that year I had spent a couple of months in South Africa, and loved it SO much that my host family there and I decided it would be best to come spend 6 months or so serving from October of 2007 until February, 2008. Holly invited me to Hawaii for the beginning of October…so it was cutting it pretty close to say yes to both, but this adrenaline-loving, adventure-seeking girl just couldn’t say no to either amazing opportunity.

I spent 10 days in Hawaii, came home for FOUR, and then returned to Africa. It was crazy. And awesome. And fun. And I will never, ever forget that.

 Hawaii was magical for me. I had just discovered Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”, and it was pretty much my anthem on this trip. I played it non-stop from my iPod shuffle (which, by the way, I accidentally washed that week in the laundry…but it still worked!) and seriously felt like I was living in some kind of dreamland.

We rented a Dodge Caravan and I was given the freedom to explore the island. I had a full day (or two, maybe) off to just do my thing, without the kids in tow. We stayed in a rental cottage just mere steps away from a semi-private beach. The house came with all the baby equipment, including a jogging stroller, so we had some really sweet times jogging little Eli through the sand in the early mornings.

 Holly, Erick, and I got along great. Not that we hadn’t in the past, but you never really know what’s going to happen on a long-ish holiday across the Pacific with two VERY young kids (6 months and 2.5 years). We had a lot of fun together, though, and the kids were both troopers. Because of their ages, we didn’t really do anything too “touristy”, like Pearl Harbour or luau’s or deep sea diving, but that suited us all just fine. We spent lots of time in Waikiki and took amazing drives around the island, stopping for shave ice and occasionally stepping into gloriously air-conditioned malls for a break from the heat. Plus, with a private pool in your HOUSE, and a semi-private beach outside your front door, who really needs to leave, anyways!

 On one of my day’s off, I left the mini-van with the fam and hopped a city bus from Kailua to Honolulu, with just my backpack full of books and water and my trusty camera, of course. The first thing I did was visit the International Market Place, which was by far the most colourful, wonderful market I have ever been to.

I really badly miss that long, long hair of mine.

One of my favourite days in Hawaii was the day we stumbled upon Turtle Beach Resort. I don’t really remember why we were there that day, but I am fairly sure it was mostly an accident that we found this place. Once we saw it, though, there was no turning back. We spent the day feeling like royalty, sipping Pina Colada’s and watching both surfer dudes and Jack digging in the sand. It was a great day.

 It’s never been a goal of mine to be “rich” one day, but honestly, if I had the money down the road, I would definitely want to bless someone by taking them on a trip the way these guys blessed me. I know that I technically went along to help them, but it seriously didn’t feel like work. It just felt…right. Like a dream come true. And I hope one day I can do that for someone, too.

Well open up your mind and see like me
Open up your plans and damn you’re free
Look into your heart and you will find love love love love

Listen to the music of the moment people dance and sing
We’re just one big family
And it’s our God-forsaken right to be loved loved loved loved loved

 I’ve said it about nearly every single place I have ever been to, and I will say it again…

I’m going back there one day. I am.

~C

PS Holly and Erick, if you are reading this, thanks again from the most grateful girl ever! Miss you 4 very much!

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blühen: to bloom

When we were in California in March, we spent our last day cruising around in the Camry (haha, because we’re just that cool) checking out the mansions in Bel Air and Beverly Hills. And although the highlight of that Cali trip for me was definitely Disneyland (and I can think of 2 little girls who will agree with me), for Nikki, that day we spent trespassing and meeting random owners of those little giant pieces of heaven was her favourite day. We stared up in wonder at real-life mansions…HUGE houses with elevators and “staff” and BMW’s in the pull-through driveways and gates and video-surveillance systems. It was overwhelming, really. I can’t even begin to imagine living in such a house.

We’ll call this one…Gwen Stefani’s house.

While those places were very nice and would probably be a blast to live in, I would take one of these places in a heartbeat over a mansion any day. These are garden homes near the pool I swim in here in Bremerhaven. People aren’t technically supposed to live in them, but they do anyways. If I thought my cottage was cute, it was only because I hadn’t seen these yet!

Welcome to a modern day Garden of Eden…

Compared to the size of the dog, you can really see how tiny these houses are. If you can even call them houses!

(this one is my favourite)

It would be like living in a storybook, wouldn’t it? And of course, the icing on the cake, a little community garage sale going on at the entrance to the cottages…there was music playing and children laughing, and if I had a friend there with me I would have insisted on being pinched to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

When I think of these little homes compared with the mansions of Bel Air, one thing really stands out to me…these places are SO incredibly far from perfect, and that almost makes them perfect. If that makes any sense. I didn’t see manicured lawns or multi-million dollar cars behind these little gates…I saw hard work and love and care and people tending their precious roses because they love gardening…not because they want to impress the guy next door. Pretty cool.

So for those of you who, like me, have yet to put a downpayment on your first home, consider moving here and buying a fairytale cottage—maybe we will be neighbours : ) Oh, and if you know anything about gardening, you can live with me and I will give you a break on the rent 😉

~C

Restore Original Settings

…home again, home again, jiggity jig…

The anti-climax of a glorious adventure? I used to think so, too, but this time, it most definitely isn’t. I can say with absolute certainty that I thoroughly enjoyed every single day of my trip this summer, and I drank deep of the blessings I received. And I think that it is in that simple satisfaction that I am very much okay with it being over; no regrets, no wasted moments, no stolen worries from tomorrow.

So I live for today. And today, I am home.

…where I was welcomed at YVR with huge hugs, huge-r smiles, non-stop chatter and banter and laughter, a baby with open arms waiting to be picked up, and two little girls standing on stools in the Arrivals lounge holding up this sign…

ya know, like from Full House : )

It’s good to be back. Do I miss Europe? Sure, of course! Just like I miss Africa. And Hawaii. And Cali. And New York. And I know I always will. Always. Despite the ol’ cliche, “home is where the heart is”, for me and my life, that isn’t exactly true. No, pieces of my precious heart are scattered all over the world. I like it that way. A lot.

One day in July as I was riding the train to Hamburg, my little pink iPod shuffle suddenly stopped working. I had pretty much begun the mourning process after several failed attempts to get it started again, when suddenly I realized I should check the Apple website for trouble-shooting tips (okay, so I know I’m a little slow). I was advised to restore the original settings. It was so easy! And behold, my can’t-live-without-it lifeline came back to life. Imagine that.

I think sometimes we all just need to restore our original settings. God probably didn’t intend for us to be shut down and broken and functioning at minimal capacity. But I can honestly say that before I left Canada, that was my life. Like my little pink shuffle, I, too, had turned off and didn’t know why.

But being here has changed me for the better. I pushed the button and restored my own settings. I slept long and deep and peacefully nearly every single night (let’s not count that “sleep”over at the Stanstead Airport, haha). I ate fruit galore and restored my iron reserves by taking a homeopathic supplement every single day. I walked, ran, and/or swam my arse off each day (quite literally; down over 21 inches! yay!). I’m completely caught up in my emails, blogging, and the organization of nearly 1,500 photos from the last 10 weeks. My Shutterfly book is complete and ordered, and I can’t wait to share it with people! I have put a good dent in the creation of Christmas gifts, which will come in handy once choir rehearsals kick off in October. I listened to God and my heart and I wrote in my journal and figured some things out. I wrote and sent postcards to the kids every week and documented the little things. I re-learned the art of resting.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; 
    my cup overflows.
 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.*

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.*

Give thanks to the Lord, yes for sure. But also, I give thanks to my Gramma, for without her this would have never been possible. I don’t think I will EVER fully grasp the magnitude of the gift she just gave me…I will be forever grateful. My heart already longs to go back to that place and time. And I also give thanks to my entourage, who kept me wonderful company when I needed a friend.

With so much love,

~C

*Psalm 23:5

*Psalm 136:1