Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thoughts on Settling Down (in the Inland Northwest)

I started this blog back at the end of 2008 mainly to keep family and friends updated as I moved away from Minnesota to live on Maui. It was an easy way to stay connected and to chronicle all the challenges and adventures (like this one or this one). After leaving Maui a year later, teaching in Thailand for a few months, moving to Washington, getting married, and starting a career, life got not-so-adventurous, and my blogging motivation petered out.

To be honest, I'm not sure whether this second wave of motivation will stick, but I'm realizing how valuable "ordinary" life is, and maybe it's just as worth writing about as it was to write about jumping off waterfalls or being immersed in new cultures or falling in love (with people, with places, with beauty--although does that really ever end?).

I thought about changing my blog name, Wandering Furaha (Furaha means "joy" in Swahili), to something less wander-y, but how sad it would be for me to think that those adventurous experiences are distinct from the present. Though life is different now, as it should be, I still find joy in exploring, even if it's just a walk through our neighborhood, a summer float down the river, or a language-learning app on the iPhone.

Eastern Washington may not have been the place I imagined "settling down," yet the longer we are here, the more it works its way into my heart and surprises me with its opportunity for exploration. A couple times we've been very close to moving away, and it just hasn't felt right. The primary draw is our community (frustrating, messy, gorgeous, glorious people), but we've also learned to wholly appreciate the landscape and pace here on the dry, less popular (and populated) side of the Northwest.

On that note, I want to share a few Inland Northwest spots that have become favorites for us over the last four and a half years. I realize that they don't all technically fit into the "Inland Northwest" region, but I consider anything within a three-or-so-hour drive from us to be our neck of the woods.

Snowshoeing on Mount Spokane

Hoping for this much snow this winter, but it's not looking good....

Coeur D'Alene

The town, the lake, the camping at state parks, you name it.

Steptoe Butte

That's not us paragliding, sadly.

Farragut State Park

On Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho. We went in early fall and it was perfect.

Nelson, B.C.

Technically, we do get some international travel in occasionally. I can't find my own photos, but this is a really fun town.

Here's to more wandering joyfulness!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Food Fear

In my grocery shopping cart:

-whole wheat flour
-cheddar cheese
-rice noodles
-raw garbanzo beans
-brown eggs
-a cucumber
-a bunch of spinach
-a bunch of lettuce
-chicken thighs
-Amish butter
-unsalted peanuts
-wheat bran
-a beer selection from Deschutes, Alaskan, and Kona

The total comes to $49, and I pack everything up into three reusable bags (5c off for each bag, score!) and carry it the three blocks back home. Nearly all of the items are for meals that we'll share with people this week: pad Thai and mac and cheese, for example. Today I'll make and freeze bread and pizza dough.

To be honest, though, I'm not all that happy with many of these items, and I spent a lot of time deliberating over some of them (like the flour; and chicken always keeps me walking up and down the aisle for ages, while people give me polite and worried smiles). I chose non-organic lettuce over organic because it was less than half the price; I picked flour distributed by a company across the country because it was my only option; and I'm almost positive that the garbanzo beans have been sitting on the shelf for a while.

My mother-in-law, Mary (a nutritionist), says to buy ingredients rather than anything pre-made. That philosophy makes a lot of sense to me, and it's certainly easy to remember, especially compared to any number of trendy diets. Still, lately, as I've become more educated about how America's food is grown, I realize that even ingredients straight from the ground are frequently grown in ways that are unethical and (to put it mildly) unhealthy. And even labels like "organic" and "free range" are complicated and don't automatically mean food is safe or that its production/distribution wasn't harmful for the environment. If I could, I'd get everything local, grass-fed, pesticide-free, antibiotic-free, non-GMO, non-synthetic, etc. etc. In other words (forget the labels), as God intended it. Actually, I guess that ideally I'd live my life tending a garden. (That would be an adjustment!)

But we don't have the budget, time, or space to get all the fanciest stuff or garden or do large-scale preserving of produce in season. We often have to (and, to be honest, want to) go with what's convenient and cheap. Being aware of where our food comes from is a double-edged sword, because in the end we have to make realistic choices for our lifestyle.

I suppose we learn to be content with a reasonable balance. We celebrate little treats like going to Greenbluff, a community of farms just outside Spokane, in the summer and fall and bringing back heaps of fruit to eat and freeze; growing herbs on our apartment's one window ledge for a few months out of the year; finding a Groupon for a delivery of local organic produce; perusing the co-op downtown for sales. We make compromises, like baking with whole wheat flour, even if it isn't sprouted, and cooking with plenty of fruits and vegetables, even if they're not organic, because that's better than not having them at all.

And, when I start to feel discouraged or even get nervous about the food we buy, Isaac reminds me how much enjoyment there is in eating, whether it's a big meal with friends or our favorite dinner of sweet potato kale enchiladas. We do our best in picking the ingredients and focus on making things delicious.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Reflecting on Maui, 5 Years Later

Isaac and I just got back from a trip to Maui, and I have this sudden urge to use this blog space to reflect, even though I haven’t exactly been, um, consistent with the blog over the last couple years.

We have been back to Maui 3 or 4 times since we left in 2009, but this is the first time we've stayed so long—almost 3 weeks. Our previous stays of about 10 days were just not long enough as we frantically tried to get together with people and go to every spot we had missed over the last year. But on this trip we had enough time to see friends more than once, go on lots of walks with Isaac’s parents, do projects around their house, make plenty of meals, take things at a leisurely pace, put those roots back down a little.

While helping Isaac’s mom set up a blog, I started looking back at my own blog posts and got absorbed reading about my year on Maui. Though the catalogue of my emotional highs and lows in my 22-year-old voice is a little embarrassing, it was still fascinating to think about how much has changed—and perhaps how much hasn’t changed, too.

I have to confess my cheesiness and nostalgia: the word that keeps coming to mind to define that year is “magical.” I still can’t believe the hikes and adventures and fun and crazy things Jeanie and I did that year (I can’t believe we lived through some of them, for one thing, no joke!). It comes back to me in snatches—this is the beach we camped on where the mice ran all over us, that’s the turnoff in the cane field to the abandoned mill, that shop is where our shack used to be, that park is where we lay down to look at the stars. I experienced my first love and first heartbreak and started an initially rocky relationship with the one who’s now my best friend, partner, husband. I got to know God in a new way. I experienced so much life in such deep ways, as most people do at that age.

I’m like those people who sadly talk about how college was the best time of their lives.

But there’s a shadow to it. In March 2009, I wrote:

I’m feeling another shift in my relationship with Maui—I know it’s only been three months, but there’s already tension between a strong desire to move on to grad school and a strong love for this island lifestyle…. I know I couldn’t do what I’m doing now permanently, but I want an excuse to stay connected to Maui. It’s getting harder to imagine myself pulling out my baby roots. Then again, who knows? In three more months I might be ready to leave.

Those words were prophetic—that tension between love for Maui’s culture and the feeling of being stuck is still part of what defines the island for me. Maui worked itself into my blood, from the sound of palm trees crinkling in the wind (oh, so like Kenya) to the craving for a steamed pork manapua. And I have an excuse to stay connected—more than an excuse! Parents-in-law and a crazy extended family I can hardly keep track of, and a beautiful church family for whom Maui has always been home.

When we go back, I feel like I am stepping back to that magical experience only to find that I can't fit myself into it anymore. Isaac and I are both outsiders now, though in different ways, and “home,” whatever/wherever that is, is bittersweet. The lure to belong in Maui again is powerful, yet it’s easy to struggle with wanting to have more purpose, with the feeling that you just can’t move on.

Life has moved on, and thank God for how much we have grown, even after only 5 years. We are different people now. I want to be more content with being a “real grown-up” (aging too fast already, yikes!) with a job, settled in a small, unimportant city that we love, with far fewer crazy adventures, but with bigger purpose and awareness of people around me. I want to embrace everything about the present and be at peace with my relationship with Maui, a bit of magic that will always jab at me sweetly and sharply.