Thursday, June 6, 2013

Back in Nebraska

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013. 12:22pm Central Time. A United Airlines flight touches ground in Omaha, NE. Jessica Boschen is on board. She has just finished traveling for a day and a half on planes and sitting in airports from halfway across the world. She has completed a school year as a volunteer teacher on the island of Tutuila, American Samoa.

She grabs her carry-ons and walks into the terminal. She stops, unloads some ulas, takes a deep breath, and feels a smile come to her face. She walks out past security. She sees bright signs that say "Welcome Home" and "We Missed You." Butterflies fill her stomach a bit and her smile widens as she walks up that ramp toward her best friends in the world. She hears Sarah say "It seems like she's walking so slow." The party waiting for her all had butterflies, too. Her mom gives her a big hug, first. Then, a hug each from Karena, Sarah, Cassie, Aunt Kristin, and Cousin Becca. As she hugs each of them she places an ula around their necks. Then, they all just stand a bit and greet one another as Jessica finds herself shaking a bit. Good, though :-)

She is back in Nebraska - her first home...

Many people asked me as I was leaving American Samoa if I was excited to be going. Well, yes... I was excited to see my family and friends. Yes, I was excited for a change of pace. No, I would be sad to leave some friends I had made. No, I would be sad to leave the mountains behind. NO, I would be sad to leave some of my students. Those are all part of my answer, but simply put. Yes, I was excited, but I wasn't wishing time away. I am content with my life and try to live day to day. Each day is a new journey. Always something to be happy about. It did feel good to hug my friends and family for the first time in nearly 11 months.

Aunt Kristin was snapping some photos as I arrived. First some photos hugging my girls. Cassie and I:

Sarah and I:

Karena and I:

Here I am putting the ula aroud Mom's neck after giving her another hug. You can see my "little cousin" Rebecca standing on the left. She's not so little anymore. Almost as tall as me, but she will always be my "little cousin". :-)

Karena's younger sisters helped her with the signs. I am so blessed to have such great friends that took time out of their days to come welcome me back home. I've missed them, and I was beginning to feel anxious and excited about seeing my welcoming party when I arrived.

Mom promised Dad she would have Aunt Kristin take a picture of us and e-mail it to him right away. Here we are:

Got one with my beautiful Godmother, Aunt Kristin, too.

Mom, Aunt Kristin, Becca, and I found our way to a Panera for some lunch. I enjoyed a cup of garden vegetable soup with pesto, a little bagette, and an apple. This was the first time for all of my companions to enjoy the deliciousness that is Panera.

We also made a little trip to Kohl's. Becca was looking for a dress for her confirmation, and I was looking for a dress for Cousin Seth's wedding. We both found something, and Mom and Aunt Kristin also found some things they liked. All clearance or sale items, too. Bargain shoppers :-)

On to my Omaha house we went. The home of Joe and Nancy Eagen - my Omaha parents. The parents of two of my best friends - Kyle and Sarah. We all just hung out at their house for the afternoon. This is exactly what I was hoping for. No big "welcome home party" or craziness. Just relaxing and doing what we do. It felt just like yesterday. My friends Matt and Jessie even made it over. Here is most of my Morningside gang. Love these characters. "Reunited and it feels so good" began to replay in my head as we were hanging out. Matt and I beat Kyle and Cousin Becca at bags (bean bag toss). Almost a whole year, and my rhythm came back. ;-)

Mom, Aunt Kristin, and Becca headed back to Newman Grove after our little dinner, which included some grilled vegetables and cabobs. The friends and I just sat around then for a while chatting. Just like old times. These are the kind of friends one hopes to have in life. Those who you can be away from for a while, but coming back together is as easy as pie. Just like yesterday. :-)

We did also make a trip to Nebraska Furniture Mart, where I had purchased a new compact camera online. As you may recall the one I had for years passed away while I was in American Samoa. I was excited to pick up my new one. It's a shiny blue, too. :-)

The girls all know that exercise has become part of my lifestyle, so I awoke to find that Cassie said she would go running with me if she wanted. All four of us girls decided to go on a little route around the neighborhood. More walking than jogging, but we were getting active. I did a round of squats, knee lifts, and jumping jacks after we made it back. I also ran a bit more than the others. It was fun to go out on a group walk/jog, though. I haven't had an exercise buddy in a while, minus my awesome Zumba class of course.

Then, we enjoyed a healthy breakfast together. Some ate some cereal, everyone had some fruit, and I had a small glass of almond milk with my fruit.

We made a trip to Plato's Closet late Thursday morning to look at the clothing. It's a consignment shop. Each of us found a few things. I was in search of some pants, as I don't really have any that fit anymore. The night before I tried on some of Sarah's and Karena's to find I could actually squeeze into them. Woah. We're the same size! That's crazy! I found a pair of black jeans I liked. The last time I bought jeans I was wearing size 12-14, depending on the brand. This pair I bought Thursday was a size 8. The one other summer I had exercised regularly and substituted meals with protein shakes, I went down to a size 10.

I asked Sarah to take a picture of my jeans to photograph this moment of wearing a pair of jeans for the first time in at least a year. She took one of everything, but my head. I kind of like it, though. My creative photography brain enjoys it for some reason. I've been into some of my more creative photos lately.

We ate lunch at the Hu Hot, the Mongolian Grill after that. Karena had been itching for some Hu Hot for a while. Sarah thought there was one right near Plato's, but then it wasn't there. We wandered around for a while, found a new address, Karena's GPS took us to the wrong place, and then mine finally got us there. haha We were more hungry by the time we finally made it there. Good food, as usual. Always fun to walk through the uncooekd buffet, throw whatever you want into the bowl, and then hand it to the chefs to cook up on the round grill in front of you.

It sure was chilly in there, though. Too much A/C, man. Too much. I wasn't the only one chilly, either. haha. I suggested we make some coffee when we made it back to the houe. Sarah made a whole 10-cup pot. Each of us enjoyed a cup, and we sat out on the deck. Two o'clock in the afternoon coffee with the ladies. One made the comment how we were sitting around like old ladies, and then Cassie added we might as well play some bridge. hahaha Loved sitting around, chatting, and enjoying a cup of coffee. Some creamer, some a little caramel, and mine straight up black coffee.

Cassie went to meet up with some of our other friends as they are heading to Chicago this weekend fora wedding. Karena headed back to Lincoln later in the afternoon as she is working Friday. Sarah and I went and did a little shopping with Nancy (Omaha mom), including some groceries. Joe grilled up some burgers (including a boca burger for me). Some nice veggies and pasta salad on the side.

A few grapes, too. I did have another banana bar and a blonde brownie. Something Sarah had prepared for the little gathering the day before. Good little dinner, and then I decided to work on my blog before heading to bed. I need to catch up on some sleep.

A few little things I found myself thinking about this first day back in Nebraska.
1. It's a bit weird being able to leave food out on the counter for a while and not have black ants swarming it in minutes.
2. Being back in a car going 50 miles an hour in Omaha is really not as weird as some think. Just fell right back into. I haven't driven yet, but I'm not worried.
3. My multi-tasking brain is getting more exercise again. haha
4. I could go jogging down the street and not have to think about if there were any stray and/or vicious dogs lurking about.
5. Spring is barely here in Nebraska. Granted it was still snowing on May 1st. I'm not really cold or anything, though. Born and raised in this stuff. Living in 90 degree weather all year didn't make me a pansy. haha
6. I haven't been paying good attention to where we park the car when we are out and about. I was so used to just catching the next bus, walking, or crawling into the back of a truck. haha

This will be the last post on the Boschen in American Samoa blog, but I have decided to continue with a general blog. Thank you all, and I hope you have a great weekend! If you are interested in my new general blog, you can find it here: To fa soi fua ma manuia le po. (Good bye and good night.)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

In Transit

Isa picked me up a little before 9pm and dropped me off at the airport. She was still a little sore from our hiking excursion on Saturday. I was thankful for the ride and getting to see a member of the family one last time. We shall be in touch. She was giving me crap for taking a photo of her napping on the couch Sunday after toona'i. haha

My Field Director Veronica came by to say good-bye. She had called to see what time I would be at the airport. She said some really kind things to me about being a volunteer here. Saw a few of my students and co-workers who were picking up some people coming in from Hawaii. Saw a few friends from Zumba, and some of the church family. Got many hugs, and then Lilian and her mom Heidi were there. I am going to miss Lilian. She has been a great friend. She even waited until I actually walked down to security. I told her maybe coming down for her wedding will be my trip to American Samoa if not before then. "Even if it's within in the next year?," she asked. I replied, yes. I would love to come back for it :-)

Had to undergo one of the random pat downs in security. First time I've ever had to do that, walked onto my plane, and off we went. Since I was rather wore out, I did actually fall asleep off and on after the food they gave us right away and shut the lights off. A little croissant sandwich, some macadenia shortbread cookies, and a piece of Hawaiian Host chocolate. This is the coldest airplane ever! Lots of AC. Threw the blanket they provided over my legs and added my Husker fleece.

Had a snorer that sounded much like a freight train right in front of me, too. Boy, I really must have been worn out. Usually that loud of snoring doesn't let me sleep. 5 hours later, we arrived in Honolulu. Pastor Jim, his son Tori, and I sent our luggage through customs. The shortest amount of time I have ever waited in customs. Nice, though. Outside we went, and within 10 minutes Richard and his girlfriend Brooke were there to pick us up. Brooke's parents actually live in Hawaii, so they were borrowing her dad's car. They took us to IHOP and treated us to breakfast.

We all had cups of coffee. I was also very excited about the glass of water. Free glass of water! No more only having the option of bottled water only at a restaurant.

I tried the whole wheat pancakes with fresh blueberries. Delicious!

Here's the breakfast group. Tori and Pastor Jim on the left. Richard, Brooke, and I on the right. Pastor Jim and Tori are on their way to the East coast. Tori will be starting college in Florida in the fall, and Pastor Jim is spending some time at home and visiting some churches back that way until about January before heading back to Savai'i, Samoa.

Then, Richard and Brooke to us to their church there. The church helps support Pastor Jim as a missionary in Savai'i. Got a little tour and just hung out for a bit. Then, we headed to Jamba Juice (sorta per my request) and to meet up with another friend of theirs that wanted to see Pastor Jim - Tupu. He treated us to the delicious smoothies. Some of my teacher friends had talked about Jamba Juice, which I had never had until Tuesday in Honolulu. I tried a guava, pineapple, strawberry, and peach smoothie. Yummy. I do enjoy guava.

Then, they dropped us back off at the airport. Had a few hours of downtime, and Pastor Jim and I got talking about various things. A nice open dialogue. One point of discussion was the idea of stewardship - environmental stewardship. Something I find interest in, and he said he could see a nice thesis developing from that. He ran with the idea. It was cool to finally sit down and chat with him some more. Been a while since I've just had a nice theological discussion.

After some chatting, those two headed to their gate. I found myself taking note of all the fashion I was seeing around me. Been a while since I've seen more than skirts, ie's, basketball shorts, and flip-flops. I almost forgot how short some girls' shorts really are. Dang! haha Time for a little reverse culture shock. haha no shock, just different :-) There were also some pigeons hopping around in the terminal, and I noted some people being horrified by that. Haha. Made me think of all the ants, huge cockroaches, spiders, centipedes, etc. I've been sharing housing with the past year. You people make me laugh. :-)

A 5.5 hour flight from Honolulu to Phoenix, where I slept on and off again. They also served a pretty decent dinner. They also offered up complimentary cups of wine. That's something I've never seen before. I stuck to my hot tea, water, and juice, though.

Rolled into Phoenix, AZ a little before midnight Mountain Time. Realized after a while I needed to switch terminals and was having problems checking my flight online. Realized I was using the wrong confirmation code. Thanks, Mom for helping with that one. I wasn't freaking out, but at this point I am definitely looking forward to be home within the next 8 hours. Not stuck in Phoenix or Denver. I may be sprinting between planes in Denver, but I should be arriving in Omaha before 12:30pm Central Time!

This thing with not having a regular sleep schedule makes me hungry at funky times. My eyes looked dark when we were in Honolulu. I have some energy now as I type this message at 3am Phoenix Time, and I'm pretty sure when I arrive I will find a new spout of energy. A 2 hour flight to Denver leaving here at 6:10am, a quick plane change, and the n1 hour and 30 minutes to Omaha. I am looking forward to having some people help me with the little luggage that I have. haha

Free wi-fi in Phoenix, hence the update on my blog now. I also checked my e-mails to find a photo Hannah had sent me of some of my boys that asked about me. Apparently they forgot that I was leaving early despite how many times I told them. Caught one on instant messenger and he went on and on how much he's going to miss me, being a great teacher, and how he didn't realize I was leaving already. I told him if I can save up some money I will try to come visit him and Tavini and whoever else goes to school in Hawaii. I said I'm always here to help, and I'm going to miss them too. He also commented on our awesome field trips again, too. I suggested he should go back and say hi to my ranger friends. Left to right: Tavini, Filipo, and Isaiah.

I was selected for another random screening while going through security in Phoenix. This time just meant he was going to test my hands. Apparently something showed up, so then I had to go through another pat down and have all my bags searched. Lucky me. hahaha Cleared, though :-)

Have my final two boarding passes, which will take me all the way to Omaha with a stop in Denver. My hair may be looking a little flat and my eyes a little dark, but I'm a coming.

Feel like I'm missing something in this post, but that's where I'm going to leave it for now. I know this blog is titled "Boschen in American Samoa", but I think it's appropriate to talk a bit about the transition home, too. I may work on a few more posts this week. Have a great day, everyone!

Monday, June 3, 2013

To the Airport I Go

Actually slept in a little this morning, not waking up til 6:45am. Not too shabby considering if was after 11:30pm I fell asleep. I also hoped this could be the one day I did not wake up around 5am on my own this week. Plane doesn't leave the island til 11:30pm American Samoa time. 

Cousin Angel picked us up in the morning with my suitcase to run me to the airport for early check-in. My Zumba instructor and friend works check-ins and had told me about the new check-ins from 8am-4pm. This would save me from having to stand in the generally rather long line at night to gain my boarding pass and check my bag. Great idea and so glad I did it. Everything should be pretty smooth now tonight.

Angel pulled into the airport and said she would wait for us and drop us off at Deluxe for our breakfast. This is just what these people do. I feel bad having her wait, but she wants to. The family wants to. (Auntie Tai sent her to pick me up.) Samoan hospitality. One thing I am going to miss. Checked in for my flight inside the office, not at the normal check-in kiosk. That was new. Boarding passes from here to Phoenix in my hand. Then, the guy carried my luggage up, weighed it (right at 50 lbs), and put the sticker on my rather full suitcase. 

Angel then dropped us off at The Deluxe Cafe. This is one thing I had planned on for a few weeks. One final brunch with my great friend/sister on the island - Hannah. This is one of the things we have done many a times down here. I am so thankful that she was here. Many of my adventures on the island would not have been the same without her here. Lucky the two slightly quieter and rather independent girls became roommates and the greatest of friends on the island. One day in the future we will meet up somewhere. Who knows where? We are both pretty crazy and adventurous. Will be following up on her travels in Asia and staying in touch.

We nibbled on our food, sipped our coffee and iced tea, and chatted for a couple of hours. Just what I was looking forward to on this Monday morning.

Caught a bus to the intersection and walked the 10 minutes to our place. We decided to buy a few ice cream cones at the store. One more time of having ice cream before noon. Not something I particularly do much back home. Sort of a Samoan thing. haha

Then, I spent some time uploading some photos on Facebook from this past week, making sure my carry-on was good to go, and some last minute cleaning. Pastor stopped by mid-afternoon to grab some the donations we are leaving behind - including clothes, shoes, and towels. I had originally asked if he would be able to help me get it to somewhere like the Red Cross, but he said often times people will come ask them for clothes and things. I know he will make sure it will get to people that need them and can use them. The yellow box and the full tote on the right are now with Pastor Scot. The tote on the left is being left for the next batch of WorldTeachers including some school and house supplies. No need to bring all of this back home, especially when many of the clothes don't fit anymore ;-) It's always nice to give things to those who need them.

I had to deal with one more large swarm of stinking ants. Gahhhhh. That is definitely one thing I am not going to miss. I had literally just made a comment how that would be nice to be done with and then here I walk up to the sink and one o the worst swarms lately was all over near the dish drying rack. Oh Samoa. I will miss thee, but not your stinking ants all up in my kitchen. Then, as I'm destroying them all, I end up with several crawling on my arms and legs. Took at least 20 minutes before I swatted the last one back off and didn't feel like they were sneaking around. haha

Spent my last 80 minutes of daylight in American Samoa laying and sitting on my bedroom floor staring at the rainforest-covered mountain out my window, watching the clouds roll by and the colors change. This was definitely a better use of my time than watching a movie for those 80 minutes. Pure bliss out my window. I will miss this view.

After my laying around while listening to some music, I found that Lilian's friend Chey had posted the group photos from our umu with the Uele family. This saved me since my camera battery died as did Hannah's before our day was over.

This is Lilian, Hannah, and I at the beach across from the Uele house.

My good friend Lilian. :-)

Here's the whole group that partook in the eating of the glorious food, except Heidi. She was hiding somewhere...

Fale, Heidi, Hannah, and I.

Thank you so much to Fale for showing us the ropes and involving us in a traditional Samoan umu. He's such a great man, and I am so thankful for his family.

Around 7pm I decided to eat a little dinner. Not particularly hungry yet, but if I don't sleep at all on the plane overnight I sure will be hungry by the time I'm having breakfast in Hawaii. My random concoction with what is left in the fridge - a piece of bread with peanut butter and brown rice. Actually good. Lots of rice here in American Samoa. You can make a peanut butter sandwich with just about anything.

Convinced my island sister to do one more quick photo shoot with me during our last hour together in our Malaeimi residence. Once again so thankful for my sister on island and will be looking forward to the time when life brings us together again for another adventure.

Talked with Isa and the family is picking me between 8:30 and 9pm to take me to the airport. Flight night is quite an event here. Many people are there to welcome those who come in and many are there to say farewell to those who are departing. I remember it being a madhouse when we came in way back in July. Now I will get to see it from the going out perspective. My suitcase is already checked, and I have my boarding pass. Practically all ready to go. I know I'm heading home, but you know sometimes how something doesn't really hit you until it's actually happening. Yeah, that's where I'm at right now. My bags are packed, my room is empty, and I know I've completed my year as a volunteer teacher in American Samoa. Time to head home for a while and experience more of life's adventures.

Hope you all have a nice Tuesday. As I am sitting in airports and have wi-fi I'm sure I will post some updates on what's going on and where I'm at. I left home with one suitcase, a carry-on, and my purse. That's how I'm coming home. I may look a little different, but Jessica Boschen is re-entering the States. Hope Nebraska is ready for me. :-) Omaha, we have a date at12:30pm Wednesday. Don't forget. ;-)

Another Sunday with Good Food and Good People

I may not throw in a lot of detail on this post. It is currently 11pm where I am, and I am just beginning the writing portion. Been a full day, as I had hoped :-) I should go to bed soon, though. Gotta wake up to the mountain out my window in the morning one more time. 

Real quick here is a group photo from our hike yesterday. All of us except Nina standing next to the National Park sign. Family vacation picture ;-)

Picked up before 8am by our principal to head to the baccalaureate service at Kanana Fou church in Tafuna. Huge church, and pretty nice. The graduates all sat at the front, sang many hymns, a few readings were read, and a sermon was delivered. A little English throughout, but mostly in Samoan. A nice little service, though. It was cool to be a part of a Samoan service, and see all the graduates together.

Afterward I tried to snag as many of my seniors as possible to wish them good luck and get some hugs. This is Cheryl. She is af riend of some of my students, came on one field trip with me, and messaged me the night before hoping I was coming to baccalaureate.

This is Carmel. Another friend of some of my students that joined for two field trips.

This is Jeff. He had messaged me a few days before saying he would have to give me a big hug at baccalaureate as I wouldn't be at the commencement ceremony. Handled. He has been saying the sweetest things. He's a good kid.

Headed over to the Tasi and Louisa's house for my final toona'i (Sunday family lunch). So much good food, great company, and got to see almost everyone. Stayed there all afternoon until it was time for evening church.

Here is some lovely papaya with Isa's cute little forks.

Here is my artsy shot of the set table shortly before we indulged in lunch.

Gotta love some family lunch. Good thing we don't eat like this every Sunday ;-) I still held my portions pretty well.

I convinced everyone to take a nice group photo.

Of course we had to take a fun one, too.

Spent a lot of time just sitting and chatting with my Samoan family - good friends.

I was all about trying to capture the essence of the home of my Samoan family. Here is a common sight in Samoan homes, a bunch of slippers (flip-flops) near the door.

I ate some extra payaya, as I'm not sure when I will have access to some again. I will miss it a bit.

Lolo washing dishes in the warm kitchen.

A Samoan closet full of custom and brightly colored puletasis.

It was Cousin Nina's birthday, and her reaction to the cake Adah made was hilarious. Why does her face look like that?

Check out what they wrote on the cake.

Pretty good cake. Chocolate cake with a peanut butter frosting. Many taste testers came back out of the kitchen talking up the frosting. They had good reason, to. Never had that before, and it was yummy. One piece enough for me. :-)

Here's some of us girls enjoying the birthday cake.

We had a little birthday present for Nina and some thank you gifts for others in the family. Can't thank them enough for everything. They will always be my Samoan family.

Auntie Tai also showed us how to husk a coconut - extra layer around the coconut itself. I've cracked open the coconut but never husked the coconut first.

Auntie Tai then dropped me off at church after saying my good-byes. Will see some of them again Monday as they are going to help me take my bag to the airport in the morning and then drop me off for my departure Monday night.

Here is my good friend Lilian. Almost every Sunday I would help her count up the offering. She is the church treasurer.

After the church service where Pastor Jim from Savai'i preached, as he is in transit heading to the States for a while, we had some refreshments the ladies had brought in.  Pastor Jim is on the same flight as me. A little fellowship time and time for farewells. They all said some kind things, and I have been thankful for them welcoming me into their church family this year.

Delicious lemon bars.

Mini pies and cinnamon rolls.

The youth all help set up the the little buffet.

As I handed Miss Heidi a thank you card and gift for her family for being so welcoming, friends to me, and having us over for the umu, she hands me a bag with some gifts for me. During the refreshments I thanked Lilian for being such a good friend to me this year, and she thanked me for inviting her out for lunches as she really doesn't hang out with anyone outside of work. She spoke to her mom, came back, and told me they were going to come to the airport to see me off Monday night. Aw. She further explained how that's a Samoan thing, not really something you see in the States. In the States we usually do the farewell thing at someone's house first, and then just get dropped off the airport by a few, but here the whole family more or less will go see someone off.

Here are my gifts from my good friends the Uele's.

I got my suitcase to shut! Only checking the one bag, then have a backpack and my purse as a carry-on. Time for bed and a few things on Monday. Nothing too big planned for Monday. Should be pretty chill until it's time to head to the airport. Flying out Monday night out of Pago Pago and should be landing in Omaha Wednesday afternoon. It's starting to hit me that I'm leaving, but just living each day. Have a great week everyone!