Neverland

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 1.25.17 PMWhen I was a younger kid, I had this dream that I flew off to Neverland on the Jolly Roger. I was a lost girl and with my friends, I was captured by Captain Hook and whisked away to a magical land. There were dark wet caves and hideaway hollows and cool rushing waterfalls and flowers of every size and color and shape. There were bright little crabs that crawled atop boulders and birds with vibrantly colored songs in their hearts. The jungles were dense and green and humid and we all wore bandanas on our brows.

When I dreamed all of this, I thought well of my imagination for dreaming up something so out of this world, so far from reality, so very magical. But I never imagined that reality could one day be the equal to my childlike hopes. 

December 27, 2015

I had been excited to see the Bouma waterfalls since I arrived in Taveuni and finally, the time had come. We travelled by ship, or rather, by Toyota Hilux, crammed in like sardines and we made our trip to the other side of the island. The air started smelling more sweet than hot and everything became slightly damp. We landed by a small house where we paid our fee to walk to the waterfalls and found 10 or so quarter sized black frogs on our way across the street to the entrance. Our initial walk was a fine grassy path lined with beautiful trees. Bamboo, ginger, ferns, coconut. There were beautiful flowers along the way too like the hanging red ginger flower, and a white flower that caught my eye that was a sort of cross between a rose and a gardenia.

We heard the sounds of rushing water and saw a wet bridge up ahead surrounded by dense green and brown forest. It was when I heard the birds start to sing as they swooped in and out of the high trees that I realized upon which dream I had stumbled. The waterfall was powerful. We climbed over rocks and boulders to get to a hollow behind the fall. It was majestic, just watching the water pound into the pool and cool us with wet whispers. I had to close my eyes for a moment just to attempt to know and understand the moment.

Then as any good lost boy or girl does, I jumped into the pool beside the waterfall. It was thrilling enough, but I immediately had to struggle against the strength of the water as it pushed me away from the fall and toward the rocks. Then again as any good lost boy or girl does after finally getting out of the water once again, I jumped into the pool a second time, because sometimes it’s fun to just play for a while in Neverland, when you’re not being chased by pirates.

After our fun, we began our muddy hike up to see the second of the waterfalls. But instead of a hike, it was really a treasure hunt. About every 10 steps or so, a frog would jump out of our way on the path and the occasional purple crab guarded her home. We were surrounded by trees I’ve never seen before, nutmeg, passionfruit, wild sandalwood, bamboo, banana more ferns (some whose leaves grew right side up and some whose leaves grew upside down). I found a large two-toned leaf, vibrant red on one side and dark maroon on the other, perfectly divided along the stem vein.

We finally came through to the second waterfall, that fed into the first one. It was lined with mossy boulders and hanging above where the water fell down over the cliff, was a sturdy looking branch that waved to me to come and sit down. I started climbing over the mossy boulders around the cool pool until I came over the largest one to find at least 20 purple crabs, standing ready to karate chop me if I came any farther. It halted my excited tracks. I just shook my head and laughed with such joy over this crazy and unexpected life.

It was an adventurous and overwhelming day. I couldn’t get home fast enough to write it all down, every detail of what I saw and experienced and I couldn’t wait to share it with you my dear adventurous Reader.

Until the next adventure,

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Neverland

Magic

Sometimes, life is filled with magic.

November 30, 2015 My first Day in Taveuni

I arrived at Taveuni airport a little before 9 in the morning. I came with 7 other passengers on a small jet plane that shook a bit as we flew across the islands. It was so loud, that talking to any of the other passengers would have been futile. There were three couples, from the first row to the third and then me and an Australian surf bum, wearing an iconic Indiana Jones hat and covered in a thin layer of dirt from traveling. The scenery below us was simply ridiculous, with the South Pacific and all her coral and scattered islands.

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After an hour, we landed pretty smoothly at the airport, which was really more of a grouping of benches beneath a brightly painted overhang. One of the Fijians asked if I was Emilie and he told me that JK would arrive soon. I only waited about 10 minutes before the rugged Toyota Hilux pulled up. The kids jumped out to greet me with hugs and we drove back around the island to the house.

As we pulled into the driveway, I heard singing and it didn’t register that the song was for me until I stepped out of the truck and suddenly had a Leia around my neck. The Fijian staff sang for me and then the kids sang for me. When I walked inside, I was handed a coconut with a straw sticking out of the top. It was overwhelming. People who didn’t even know me were so happy that I was finally here.

Later, we swung on the rope swing and walked down to see the goats hanging out by the coconut trees. We picked mangoes on our way down to the main road and ate them.

I slept really well in my new bed that faces the ocean to the west.

December 4, 2015

We went paddle boarding today at my family’s rocky beach. I carried the board down to the beach on my head and we had to slip it through some small spaces between trees at certain points. We made it to the shore and I found a new love on that board. You wouldn’t believe the view that I saw as I paddled through the deep clear blue waters and watched the scenery of islands pass by. Natalie rode on the front for a little bit and then Daniel too until he wanted to tip over. We fell off and he immediately started freaking out afraid of sea snakes or stingrays. haha. When we finished, we brought the paddle board in and spent the afternoon sun on building sand volcanoes and castles.

We started getting tired right as we heard a familiar buzzing sound, only to look up and see JK’s drone buzzing around the beach. We practically ran up the hill to the truck and picked some ripe pineapples on our way. The kids showed me the Qui Qui plant that fakes its death if you step on it or touch it. It literally withers right in front of your eyes until it feels safe again. If you touch it with your bare feet though, you get a thorn in your foot. We rode back up the hill to the house in the bed of the truck with the boards and fruit and mosquitoes.

We ate Mahi Mahi for dinner with fresh greens from the garden and taro chips that make your throat close if you eat too many. So naturally, I ate a few too many.

Since it was Friday, we practically fell asleep to Sherman and Mr. Peabody and Daniel kicked me in the face a few times as he fell asleep on the couch. When we woke up the next morning, Kennon asked me during our breakfast of crepes and lychee juice, “What did we watch last night?”

And sometimes life isn’t filled with magic. I have roughly 20 mosquito bites all over my body…21. And a terrible ant bite.

(I tried uploading photos but the Internet won’t allow it, so check out my instagram @emmbot)

Magic

A Moment in Prague

photo courtesy of my friend MinaA moment in Prague (2011, I didn’t put a date on this, but I think it was at the beginning of my time in September)

I am traveling back home to Vinohrady from Bila Hora on the 22 tram. My cheek is pressed against my fist as I lean it against the window. I am listening to the first minute of sweet disposition over and over again as the sun flickers in and out between prague’s buildings colored in an array of sorted colors. Soon I can only hear the song and feel the sun. No one is watching me and I begin to let the music turn into a memory of my warmth and calm existence in these moments. One day, maybe in a year or two, I will hear this song in a café or on the radio and I will be transported to this moment in time, this still, lovely moment.

A Moment in Prague

a grain of mustard seed

And how can we understand the Kingdom of God?

Mark 40:30-32 ‘And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”‘

On our hike from Jericho to Jerusalem, we passed by several mustard trees. A mustard seed is the size of a pepper flake. The trees that the seeds grow in to are a little bit taller than an average sized man. This is the Kingdom of God. It began with Jesus, the first fruits, who came and conquered sin and death for all to increase the Kingdom of God from one into a nation of peoples from every tribe, tongue, and nation. One of my teachers sheds light on this idea often in pointing out that Jesus lived here in Israel. He died and he rose again in Israel and because of his work here in this small country, there are now students from Sweden, Oklahoma, California, and Ohio in Israel, studying the life and work of one man. This is the Kingdom of God. With beginnings as small as a mustard seed, the result is grand.

a grain of mustard seed

“you are the light of the world”

Here in Israel, when you ask someone to explain a word or an idea, they don’t just give you more words. They give you a word picture. When Jesus was asked questions, he would often do the same. Consider the Sermon on the Mount. He uses so much metaphor and imagery. He gives his followers examples and I think it enhances their understanding of truth. For the next several posts, I want to show you all the imagery and metaphor that I have been able to soak up here in Israel. I want you all to see what I have seen in word pictures.

You are the light of the world! (Mt. 5:14).

While I was in Galilee, I got to stay with my class at a resort right on the Sea of Galilee. The first thing that I did there was go down and sit next to the sea. I have been memorizing the Sermon on the Mount and so I practiced there. The sky was cloudy, but the light from the sun streamed in through a few spots in the clouds and lit up the city of Tiberias. I came to Matthew 5:14-16, which says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see you good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” As I was saying the verses I was amazed that I was staring at the exact image that Jesus gave to his disciples. Tiberias is a city set on a hill. Light from heaven shone over it and made it visible and obvious to all who could see. Tiberias was seen, but not by its own power. The light could be traced back to heaven, giving glory to the Maker of heaven and earth. So, what does it mean to be the light of the world? It means to be like Tiberias, a city set on a hill that could not be hidden because the light that came from God made it visible to all men.

“you are the light of the world”

sights and sounds of jerusalem

So far, my favorite place in Israel is Jerusalem. I was told by a few people before I left Cleveland that it would be, but I didn’t know what to expect. The sights and sounds are marvelous. The Old City is split into four quarters: the Christian quarter, Muslim quarter, Jewish quarter, and Armenian quarter. In the Muslim quarter there is a kind of square where venders are yelling in Arabic that you must buy their strawberries or bananas or whatever they are selling that day. I have certainly never been shoved around so much. It seems that everyone has an agenda and no one is going to get in their way.

Whenever we are touring through the Old City, my favorite times are when we go into the old stone churches. We always sing a few songs and I would put money on saying that it is the closest thing on earth to hearing the Lord’s angels. One time, we went into a church and their was a group from the Philippines in the church singing. It was beautiful to hear them singing to the Lord in their own language. Praise God that He created every language and hears every language!

West Jerusalem is very different than the old city. It looks much more modern with parks and museums and that is where I went into market a couple of days ago. Here, you see all the people from each of the four quarters hurrying around in the same place whereas the Old City is fairly segregated. It is a very diverse city. There are many languages being spoken at once and it ends up sounding like a muffled rumbling as people are hurrying through the city. There is nothing like it. I can’t wait to explore more.

sights and sounds of jerusalem

crunchy peanut butter > modern hebrew

Okay…Hebrew is hard. At this point, I’m not sure if I will ever be able to read in Hebrew, especially since the vowels are rarely marked. My day started with Hebrew class and Land and the Bible class. Today was the beginning of our second Shabbat here in Israel. When the sun goes down on Friday nights, work stops, the stores close, and as I learned, the buses stop running. It was raining today, but with a little bit of free time, I didn’t want to waste it. I went with a friend into west Jerusalem and we walked through a sook (sh-oo-k, open market). We caught the 1,45 bus into Jerusalem and because we missed lunch, that was our first priority. We found cheap falafel, which includes fried chick peas, humus, tomatoes, cucumbers, and french fries wrapped in delicious, warm pita bread which by the way is nothing like the pita bread in the states. We’ve got nothing on the Israelis. We bought some strawberries, nuts, apples, and of course, what are apples without peanut butter?

Everything was cheaper than usual because the venders wanted to get rid of everything before the beginning of Shabbat. The sun was already beginning to go down by this time and we walked to the bus stop to see if there would be another bus. We ended up catching a minibus ( a good reminder of Bolivia) for a good price and were dropped off on the outskirts of Abu Gosh, about 2 miles  from Yad HaShmona. We were happy that we were able to find our way back to the Moshav fairly easily.

I was glad to finally be able to go and experience the cultures of Jerusalem without having to take notes. We just jumped in and now, it will be easy to get around on our own and continue to learn about the people living here within this small city.

More adventures to come.

crunchy peanut butter > modern hebrew