Living Abroad

I’m Baaaaack!!!

My sis and me, tired, hungry, and a bit bedraggled, but overjoyed to see each other at the airport!

My sis and me, tired, hungry, and a bit bedraggled, but overjoyed to see each other at the airport!

Over 5,000 miles later…I made it!!

Emotions overwhelmed me again as I walked outside to the airplane steps at the Kwajalein airport a couple of days ago. Leaving behind people and places that had meant so much to me (even to the United plane sitting beside my ATI plane, I waved at both sides to a good friend who had just arrived back from vacation), I tried to both soak in the last moments and shut out the feelings of sadness.

Just as I got to the steps it started to sprinkle, and I said aloud, “a fitting farewell for Kwaj” (to which one of the airport workers said “yep!”). The sun then came back out though, for a fine last view of the island. As we taxied down the runway, I saw one of the weather station techs outside getting the 00Z balloon ready to launch, and he waved at my plane, not even knowing if I could see him. I managed to get a window seat on the DC8, so I did see him though, and that made me both happy and sad again.

When the plane turned around and kicked it into high gear, I couldn’t help the tears streaming down. I cried until I could no longer see the island (which was a bit longer than you might think, as I craned my neck back for so long it hurt), and then settled back with a sigh to watch the rest of the islands of Kwajalein Atoll disappear into the blue of the sea and the sky.

The flight to Hickam (air force base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu) was uneventful and seemed to go by fairly quickly. At the baggage claim I said a quick goodbye to a couple of Kwaj friends and shared a taxi to the Ala Moana Hotel.

Part of the view from my 9th floor balcony

Part of the view from my 9th floor balcony

This time even with three large bags (quite hard for me to deal with, but doable) and a backpack, I somehow managed to make it up the elevator and to my room on the first try (might have something to do with someone else inserting their key card and then me pushing my button after his).

The other part of the view from my balcony

The other part of the view from my balcony

After settling in a bit, I walked over to the mall across the street for dinner. Every time I leave Kwaj I feel a bit overwhelmed at first by the traffic and “civilization”. One of the first sights to greet my eye was a trolley full of Asians with the driver leading in a hearty rendition of “YMCA” (maybe having something to do with the tour group just having passed the Y. They all looked so happy I couldn’t help smiling and waving back.

I got a good night of sleep and was up at a decent hour for breakfast before taking a shuttle to the airport.

Open breezeway at HNL

Open breezeway at HNL

I had a direct flight to Portland that was only a few minutes longer than my flight the previous day to Hickam, but somehow it felt an hour or so longer (perhaps having something to do with it being a crowded commercial flight instead of 15 people on a private carrier being treated nearly like first class).

Approaching PDX (Columbia River on the left, Mount Hood on the right)

Approaching PDX (Columbia River on the left, Mount Hood on the right)

My first glimpse of land was dramatic; coming out of the clouds, I saw forests of dark green Oregon conifers, and I thought I’d rarely seen a more beautiful sight. Barring the dying Black Hills of South Dakota (forests turned to brown and orange thanks to the pine beetles) that I saw a couple months ago while storm chasing, I hadn’t seen evergreen forests in two years.

I saw pasturelands next, against the beautiful backdrop of the Cascade Mountains, with Jefferson and Hood being most prominent.

Next came cities and the Willamette River, running down to the Mighty Columbia, with my home state of Washington on the other side. I also then saw Mount Adams and St Helens.

At this point the journey ended almost as emotional as it had begun. After two years, my reunion with the Pacific Northwest was a wonderful one, and I laughed and shed a few more tears of joy and yet still sadness for the life I had left behind on a tiny rock in the middle of the Pacific.

My sister and I were then happily reunited at the Portland airport, and after we got my bags and went to dinner, we made it safely back to her home in Kelso (southwest Washington).

May the next 2.5 weeks of visiting family and friends, sightseeing, and shopping and preparing for my New Zealand adventure go slowly and fantastically!

Advertisements
Categories: Hawaii, Kwajalein, Living Abroad, Marshall Islands, Oregon, United States, Washington | Leave a comment

Off to Civilization

It took me two years to earn it (or rather to find that a passport stamp existed for Kwaj), but earn it I did! Until we meet again!

It took me two years to earn it (or rather to find that a passport stamp existed for Kwaj), but earn it I did! Until we meet again!

Said my final goodbyes this morning, and now sitting in the Kwaj terminal waiting to board the direct flight to Honolulu before long. It’s about a 5 hour flight, and I got my window seat!

While I have mixed feelings about leaving, after being sentimental last night I am back in the mindset of being ready to move forward. I can’t wait to see my family again, and hope the next three weeks will go slowly and be very enjoyable…as THREE WEEKS FROM TODAY, I WILL BE IN NEW ZEALAND!!!!

Categories: Kwajalein, Living Abroad, Marshall Islands | 1 Comment

Memories Past

The final goodbye

The final goodbye

Tomorrow morning I fly out of Kwajalein, leaving my home of the past two years.

This evening I biked and walked around the entire island for the last time, and I was overwhelmed much more than I thought I would be by memories of my life here. At almost every sight at least one memory came to mind, reminding me of mostly good times, often bringing tears to my eyes.

Last night my neighbors and friends threw me a going away party, with Dungeness crab and ham as the main entrees. I was overcome by everyone’s kindness and the amount of people who were there (granted, it was excellent food!). It hasn’t quite sunk in that I’m leaving for good, but it is starting to.

In the midst of my excitement for my next adventure in New Zealand, it is very bittersweet to be moving from Kwaj, and I think I will miss it more than I think.

As I look out on the same view I have had every morning (photo), I still feel so blessed with having had this wonderful opportunity and taking it. What a beautiful place. Maybe I’ll come visit again someday.

My last evening here now I will spend again with friends and acquaintances in the courtyard. Then it’s up early for my flight. So long, Kwajalein! I trust my next adventure will be all that I hope for and more.

Categories: Kwajalein, Living Abroad, Marshall Islands | 3 Comments

Why Move Overseas?

Kwajalein Harbor

Kwajalein Harbor, RMI

Why did I decide to pack up and overturn my life by moving to another country for an indefinite period of time? Or perhaps more to the point, as I already have lived overseas for the last two years, why did I decide to remain overseas and now move to a country where I actually have to have a visa and will no longer be paid in US dollars?

I have a number of reasons, both personal and professional, but these are among the top.

Adventure

Clownfish and Anemone, Kwajalein

Clownfish and Anemone, Kwajalein

I love to travel. I started collecting postage stamps when I was about 5 or 6 years old, as I like to dream of all the places the stamps have been and their history. While there is so much more of the US that I want to see, there is even more of the world I want to see as I have the opportunity, and there are some places that I may have a better chance of exploring and learning about sooner if I live somewhere else like New Zealand (e.g., NZ itself of course, and Australia being the most obvious first choices…cheaper flights and more vacation time means I’ll be able to see and learn more than if I was just there for a couple weeks’ visit).

I will also have the opportunity to learn some new things, like here in the Marshall Islands I learned to scuba dive, and went sailing and deep sea fishing for the first time. Not that I couldn’t do any of that in the US of course, but depending on where you live, some activities may be more accessible and economical. In New Zealand, maybe I will learn to ski or snowboard, further advance my scuba certifications, go bungee jumping, etc.

Challenge

One of the greatest challenges a forecaster may face is predicting winter weather, especially when and how much it will snow. Mt St Helens, Washington

Mt. St. Helens, Washington, USA. One of the greatest challenges a forecaster may face is predicting winter weather, especially when and how much it will snow.

Kwajalein has certainly challenged me in many ways, but now I need some greater challenges in my career and perhaps in my life. Moving to the Southern Hemisphere where cold fronts come from the south, winter in the middle of the year, and forecasters report temperature in Celsius and winds in kph, may not take too long to get used to (I remember it feeling weird at first having Kwajalein’s showers come from the east, and now I think nothing of it when in the tropics). However, New Zealand weather will give me plenty of forecasting challenges that I expect will keep me happy and humble. And let’s not even start on what it will be like getting used to driving on the “wrong” side of the road….

Opportunity

Pacific Ocean, Kwajalein. Opportunities to experience new things exist everywhere, but if I'd never taken a chance and accepted a position in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I might never have seen the bluest blues of the tropical seas or have tasted fresh coconut straight from the palm tree.

Pacific Ocean, Kwajalein. Opportunities to experience new things exist everywhere. In my case, I’m glad I took a chance and accepted a position in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, allowing me to see dolphins ride next to our little boat in the bluest blues of the tropical seas and to taste fresh coconut straight from the palm tree. I’m excited to see what’s next in New Zealand.

The global economy is a mess, and the US has been struggling with producing jobs; even for those with years of experience, there is often a lot of competition. I had hoped that things would improve by the time I left Kwajalein, but the job market still looks pretty bleak, especially now with the National Weather Service hiring freeze in effect, in an effort to reduce furloughs. As much as I love my country, I wasn’t willing to sit around for perhaps some time for the right job to come my way, when I could be happily living in another beautiful mountainous rainy/snowy country (in some ways reminiscent of where I grew up in the Pacific Northwest) with some similarities to the UK (I love that country) and a good job.

After the high turnover of Kwajalein (always seem to be meeting new folks and saying goodbye to others), I knew for a while that wherever I ended up next, I wanted it to be somewhere I liked well enough to settle there for some years. I couldn’t be happier with the idea of settling in New Zealand. My camera is certainly going to get a work out, and a new lens or two soon as well!

Categories: Kwajalein, Living Abroad, Marshall Islands, New Zealand | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.