Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving Panic

Happy Thanksgiving week, strangers. I hope your Thanksgiving goes better than the time in Ukraine when I cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for three other Americans and gave them all food poisoning. It was the deviled eggs. I escaped unscathed because I didn't eat them.

They seemed iffy to me.

Things are trucking along just fine down here on the equator. But I have to let you know, I had my second "I'm living on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean" freak-out a few days ago.

I suppose I should tell you about the first one before I get to the most recent incident. The first one happened the night I got to Palau. It was already dark when we landed. And after going through customs and immigration, I found out that my bag with all of my clothes was lost. We were picked up by a couple of people from the court who drove us through a torrential rain-storm/hurricane/Armageddon and we were dropped off at my apartment, which had only half the boxes we shipped. And the boxes that made it were almost completely destroyed. And the apartment smelled like rotting bodies.

I stood in the middle of my new place in my unbelievably smelly clothes that I had been wearing for 2 and a half days, with all of my half-broken things scattered around me, and started to have a panic attack. Daniel noticed that I was at a breaking point and suggested that I go take a warm shower to calm myself down.

I got into the shower and discovered that the shower head was broken, as was the hot water heater. And that's when the shallow panicked breathing turned into tears.

What the HELL am I doing here!? WHOSE idea was this!?

You know the rest of the story. The sun came up, as it always does. My clothes were found. The shower was fixed. The apartment continued to smell like a rotting body. Etc.

In short, things worked themselves out quickly and I became pretty content with my decision to move to Palau.

Then last Thursday happened.

Before I came to Palau I made a list of 17,291 things I needed to get done before moving. I accomplished exactly 9 of those things. All 9 of those things involved catching up on my favorite tv shows that would be unavailable in Palau.

None of those 9 things involved anything that would actually be useful to my Palaun life.

And, unfortunately, number 3,962 on the list was "Buy new running shoes, ASAP!"

My current running shoes have survived a marathon, Ironman training, and a number of other extreme adventures this year. They're causing me a lot of pain and hardly provide any support anymore. They're basically like a dead-beat dad. Only they don't have a mean girlfriend in another city.

"So what's the big deal, Eli?" You're saying to your computer screen as though I can hear you. "Just go to the store in Palau and get new ones! Also, I promise you that when you get back to the states I'll make you a cheesecake."

First of all, I will totally take you up on that. And don't try to back out. I never forget a promise.

And second, the shopping situation in Palau is worse than in Panguitch Utah. What? You've never been to Panguitch Utah? Never even heard of it? Exactly.
I knew the shopping in Palau was bad, but I guess I didn't know how bad until last Thursday. There are 2 "department" stores in Palau. I put quotes around "department" so you would understand that these look nothing like department stores.

The stores sit across the street from one another and each contain: a grocery store on the first floor, and an upper level or two of non-food items, including clothes, furniture, appliances, Snuggies, etc.

I walked into the first of the stores and approached their shoe section. Below is the exhaustive list of what it contained:

1. 5 pairs of women's tennis shoes from the '80s. All the same size.
2. A pair of those light-up shoes. FOR ADULTS.
3. 6,000 pairs of indistinguishable flip-flops.
4. A live, uncaged, gecko that wasn't for sale.

Confused, I looked over the selection again and then made another lap around the store, sure that I was missing something.

I wasn't. That was all they had.

Thinking that maybe the other store had the market cornered on running shoes, I went across the street. I looked at the wall of shoes and immediately noticed something: it had EXACTLY the same selection as the prior store.

EXACTLY.

Right down to the sizes.

And guys, what I felt in that moment? The level of panic? Standing in front of the shoe section I had what I think can only be described as an out-of-body experience. It will all forever be etched onto my soul. For time and all eternity.

I stared at the shoes with my eyes as wide open as possible. I stared at the shoes until I stared passed the shoes. I was zoned out. And I suddenly felt a little panic that started down at my toes shoot up through the rest of my body.

WHAT am I DOING in this place?!?!

And it wasn't about the running shoes. I can handle not being able to find every little thing that I want. It was just that realizing that I can't find any running shoes no matter how hard I try suddenly brought to light a whole bunch of other realizations.

And right then all of the things that I can't do here and all of the things I miss about being "home" hit me all at once.

All of the birthdays. The parties. The seasons. The friendships. The holidays. The shopping. Running in the canyons. Camping in Moab. Driving for hundreds of miles with my uncle and sister. Driving for hundreds of miles with anyone.

This then prompted a much less comical and much more defeated, what am I doing here?

I left the store feeling something that I don't want to label as "home-sick" because that term just doesn't feel right, although it was something close to home-sickness. Unsettled? Torn? Confused? All of those things, I guess. Plus something more.

I felt tired of not really knowing where my place is. And tired of feeling like I need to know where my place is. I felt unsettled about my future and confused about my present. I felt achy from missing home but guilty for continuing to call some place that I don't live in "home."

And all of the emotions welled up inside of me all at once until I had so much anxiety that I felt I could run on top of the water all the way back to the U.S.

But then, as I was walking back to my office from my failed shopping attempt, something else hit me, too. A car.

No, I'm kidding. I didn't get hit by a car. Just wanted to wake you up. Sorry that some of this post is kind of serious. I promise, I'll never do it again. Until next time, anyway.

What hit me was that it was ok to feel the way I was feeling. And, in fact, it's pretty great that I have reason to feel that way. It means that there are people outside of Palau that I care about. There are aspects of life that I love so much that I feel unsettled, and torn, and confused, when they aren't immediately accessible. And all of that got me thinking that I have a lot to be really thankful for.

It also got me thinking about all of the things that are immediately accessible that I have to be thankful for, including the relationships I have in Palau and the relationships I have with you guys, although electronically.

And I guess that it's fitting that I had that mini-realization, what with turkey day quickly approaching and all.

I'm thankful that I love my home town(s) and I'm thankful that the people there love me back. I'm thankful that I get to be in Palau and meet so many sweet and funny and interesting people. I'm thankful that I am healthy enough to let myself experience these adventures that fill my memories with strange stories. And I'm thankful for all of you for reading about those strange stories, and commenting on them, and emailing me, and posting on the Facebook wall words of support and humor and encouragement. I'm thankful to you all for worrying about me and caring about me. And laughing with me. Those things mean the world to me.

As odd as it sounds, my relationship with you, strangers, means the world to me.

When I write here, I don't imagine my words going off into an electronic pit, never to be read, like I used to. I imagine that I'm in a cozy room with all of you, sharing my life, and hearing about yours. And I write these stories and thoughts the same way I would share them with you if we were all at a small dinner party together.

And at that dinner party I enjoy your stories and you listen to mine and laugh politely and tell me toward the end of the night that maybe I've had a little too much to drink. And I tell you that I don't drink and this is just me sober. And this makes you even more worried about me.

And I love that I can imagine all of that now, especially since I'm off on some tiny island in the middle of the ocean.

So thank you, dear strangers, for making a not-so-isolated guy in Palau feel . . . not-so-isolated. And incredibly loved.

Right back atchya.

~It Just Gets Stranger

85 comments:

  1. This brought me to tears. So thank you for that. I really worried when you said you got hit by a car. Just about hopped on the next flight to Palau to speak at your funeral.

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    1. Robyn, you can only speak at my funeral if you also do an interpretive dance.

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    2. Luckily, I just took a class that specialized in interpretive dances for funerals. This is just too perfect.

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  2. Eli, you are a gem. Reading your stuff makes me feel so many different things all at once. From one of those strangers that cares about you and worries about you.

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  3. Dearest Eli.
    You're fantastic.
    Not in the generic way, but in the Nacho-Libre-Mexican-Accent kind.
    And you tickle the cockles of my heart.
    Just saying.
    You are loved. Even by weirdoes in the states who found you because of soul-sucking Pinterest.
    May the Lord bless your tennis shoe venture.
    Because you never know when the Stormtrooper will break down and you need to sprint from the uncaged geckos.
    Just saying.
    Thanks for the laughs you fantastic human.
    PS can our cats play sometime?

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    1. My cats are free every day from 8:00 to 10:00. The rest of the day is reserved for Bible study.

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  4. Thanks again for making my morning warm and fuzzy and fun. I will admit that I didn't even pause over the car hitting you thing for some reason. I think I was too preoccupied with the tantalizing thought of adult light up shoes. If you don't buy those you're dead to me. Happy Thanksgiving from New England (where all the scandal started!)

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    1. Melissa, I predicted that you wouldn't be happy with me letting that opportunity go by. So I got them. And they have already saved my life on dark roads late at night.

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  5. I just recently started reading this blot after a friend sent me a link to the Snuggie text post and I nearly wet myself... well, not nearly, but I digress. This is a very lovely post and makes me feel guilty for feeling sad about not making it up north to see my own parents and brothers this Thanksgiving. I have plenty of people who care about me right where I am. Also, glad you didn't really get hit by a car.

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    1. I hear you. It's a lot easier for me to grasp that from far away.

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  6. Buy shoes on Amazon. They have everything and they probably ship to Palau (right after they look at a map and find it!)

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  7. it would be intersting at some point to find out where all the people who read your blog are from....i bet you'd be surprised how far and wide your stories reach. :) just sayin
    - Minnesota

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    1. Great idea! Glad to hear I've hit Minnesota!

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    2. If you have three thousand views from Germany, that's mostly me. I just moved here a few months ago and this post really hit home with me (no pun intended). Let's hang in there together.
      P.S., is it possible at all that the First Eye has not yet hit Europe? Because that thing scares the crap out of me.

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    3. The First Eye lives in all the caves on Earth simultaneously. So if you have caves in Germany . . .

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    4. Yeah Minnesota! I feel you Eli. I was living in Hawaii for a while, went without knowing anyone there before hand, and I had several months of those exact feelings. But it's good. And life is better for both the experience and those feelings. So happy day, we sometimes get to be lonely or scared and then realize how good we have it

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    5. You've hit Powell, Missouri too. I'm pretty sure it doesn't belong on any maps.. Anywhere. Me, my mom, thirteen cats, and two fowl are the only occupants.

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    6. Hi,
      you have hit Barcelona! Soon you can order the troops to start the invasion on the rest of Europe from both flanks.
      I just found your Blog last week and let me just say THANK YOU!
      I'm an expat and a couchsurfer/host and so far your tales have enthralled me and comforted me but above all they have made my sides hurt!
      I don't remember the last time something I read made me laugh out loud, so when my flatmates came up to me last week and asked who I was hiding in my room, I was afraid that my inner House of Commons had revolted and gone external. -Luckily they were just referring to the fact that they had heard me laugh like a hyena ( they didn't say that- they are much too polite to say that, their words were 'like a hamster on speed') in my room, all afternoon.
      I don't thnk that they believed me when I told them about the funny guy from a tiny island in the Pacific, but maybe they did and I have provided you with a couple of more followers or you have provided me with a non existent secret 'funny guy' hidden in my 10sqm room. In any case: a win win situation! Cheers!

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  8. I really enjoyed this. Not in the sense of soaking up your misery, I enjoyed it because my sister is out galavanting around Australia. And when I was reading this I was imagining my sister feeling the "what am I doing, I miss my home" feeling. I hope she does and come home soon. Glad she has the adventure. So just to say as much as you miss home, I know home misses you, but is glad you are getting to experience all that awesomness!

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    1. Thanks. I'll keep an eye on your sister by walking to the south part of the island with a telescope.

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    2. I am also galavanting in Australia! But I am not your sister... and yes, many the what am I doing here feelings. Glad to have all you strangers to keep me smiling.

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  9. We are thankful foer you too!!

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  10. We lived in Brasil for four years when I was a little girl, and I know exactly what you mean, and sitting here comfortably in my home in Nebraska, where I have access to any running shoe I want, I envy you. The adventures! The stories! The excitement! Just remember, there's two sides to every coin. Thanks for sharing your stories.

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    1. Exactly. Whenever I'm back at "home" I feel anxious to get back out to the adventure. One of these days I'll figure out how to have both at the same time.

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  11. You are pretty great, Eli. Don't stop being you.

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  12. Eli, I need your shoe size. I would be happy to send you some shoes! HOW Depressing! And, hope you like my WAY CUTE craft

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    1. Jennifer, fortunately I was able to order some online yesterday so hopefully they find their way here soon. And that so way cute craft? Wonderful.

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  13. I agree. Amazon is everywhere. Even when they don't know it yet.
    Also your RSS feed is broken. I only know this because I have seen the last two posts in facebook, not my reader. I even just double checked and subscribed again. No go. Sad face.

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    1. Hmmm. I'm not really sure what RSS feed is, let alone how to fix it. Anyone got any direction out there for me?

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    2. It stands for Rich Site Summary, and is the version of the blog that gets pushed into e readers (like google reader) and email subscribers. It means that readers know that a post exists and can read it without having to visit the blog specifically.
      It seems to have resolved itself, as the three missing posts got pushed through last night at 8:55. I'm guessing it was a blogger issue, and not anything you had done if you don't know what an RSS is. ;)

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    3. My very tallented friend Jen Lee (who actually designed this blog and logo) apparently went in and fixed whatever the problem was. She tried to explain it to me but I brushed her away and told her it sounded like devil's magic to me.

      Thanks Jen!

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  14. *Smiles* I've been in a blogging (writing - any words in any font funk for months), and reading this made me realize why I did write. The connection I have with friends and people I've never met, who honestly enjoy reading whatever drivel I write. Thank you! (Hugs) Indigo

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    1. Right back at you. Keep up the good work.

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  15. Hi Eli. Great to Skype with you yesterday. I have been feeling "homesick" for you today realizing you won't be with us for T Day this year. Your post was very timely. Want you to know how much we all love you and think about you every day. Dad

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  16. I didn't even pause when you said you got hit by a car. I was just like "oh yep, that would happen to Eli".

    And also I got hit by a car once. Sure, I'll tell you about it. There I was at BYU on my way to class, at that crazy intersection west of campus by Panda Express, that floral shop and Provo High. I waited at the sidewalk until I had the walking sign and looked around me before heading into the street, ya know the usual stuff. At this point I noticed a car wanting to make a right turn, therefore intersecting my path. No big deal, I thought, I just looked at the fellow in the car and gave him the "I'm crossing the street now, don't get any big ideas" look. And then I naively plunged into the road. Next thing I know I'm not walking across the street as planned. Instead I'm stuck to the front of a car rounding the corner against my will. I rounded that corner for a good 10 feet (which seems decidedly longer when pinned to the front of a moving vehicle). Rounded the corner like a foo. And guess what? the driver didn't even notice. It took my banging on his car hood for him to finally realize he had a "passenger". And then he stopped. I brushed myself off (both my clothes and my dignity) told him I was fine, walked away like one who had just survived Hiroshima, and then burst into tears. The End.

    P.S. Your blog is so refreshing. Thank you.

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    1. Honey, anyone who HASN'T been hit by a car at that stupid intersection doesn't have the right to claim to have survived BYU.

      Great story.

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  17. I'll ship you whatever running shoes you like in your size and color if you'll ship me those light up shoes for adults.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Stranger!

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  18. I loved this! Somehow your "homesickness" reminded me of CS Lewis' "The Weight of Glory." Random, I know. Also, I'm thankful for this blog! It seriously makes me so happy.

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  19. Oh Eli. You are such a shinning star that I can't help but die of laughter when I read your blogs. I am glad that you aren't completely dead out there in the ocean, and you never cease to amaze me with your humor. Scott Hodson (one of your old comps) turned me onto who you are and ever since then my days are filled with laughter as I laugh at everything that involves you (not at you, okay maybe at you a little but still.) Have a great thanksgiving. And try not to get lost or anything horrendous like that.

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    1. Thanks Cammy! And please tell Scott hello if you ever see him.

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    2. haha I see him every Sunday so I will do.

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  20. I'm sorry to hear you've been having a rough time! I can't even imagine moving as far away as Palau--I'm having trouble internalizing moving from Idaho to Philadelphia alone. But know that you've got all of us strangers rooting for you! And just as a special early thanksgiving present, I hacked into the room where you stashed your cats and grabbed this little beauty for you :)
    http://9gag.com/gag/5874669

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    1. That picture will haunt my dreams.

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  21. Not only do I know where Panguitch, UT is, my family is from Panguitch! I laughed at the mention because who talks about Panguitch?

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    1. Panguitch just got put on the map!

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  22. Eli--love your blog! Supporting your weirdness from the states, and soon (!)the Middle East. Hopefully I'll take with me the same humor you do :)

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    1. Good luck over there. I hear it's warm.

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    2. I'm currently in Dubai so yea your blog has reached the Middle East!! YOU ARE AWESOME!! Like I didn't sleep all night the day I discovered your blog.
      P.S. We can probably get gold-plated running shoes here. Just saying.

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  23. You make me laugh. Often and loudly. Since I have told everyone about my "good friend" Eli, you have friends in Texas, Virgina and Munich Germany.

    We're all strangers, but we're rooting for you. Have an amazing Thanksgiving.

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  24. Oh my gosh my heart about stopped when you said you got hit by a car

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  26. Praying for you buddy, all the way in Houston Texas!!
    Lucy

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  27. Don't ever apologize fHome will or being real, my love. You are a doll. Home will be waiting for you when you are finished with this adventure. I cried like a big huge baby my first holiday away from home...and it was St.Patrick's day. Take care and know that you will be thought of and prayed for from Montana. Happy Thanksgiving!

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    1. Don't ever apologize for being real...is what that was supposed to say...cripes.

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  28. Love to you from Florida! Thanks for making a difference in my life (in a strange, and good way).

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  29. Eli, I think what you do here is awesome! I laugh and cry through your posts, and then wait excitedly for the next one to come! I am going through a lot in my life and I feel very inspired everytime I read a post and story from you!! Thank You for brightening my days, and getting me to think on a broader level!
    -From one of your faithful strangers!!

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    1. Ditto on the inspired comment.

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  30. I can totally relate dude! I just moved and am so... how did you describe it again? Confused? But then your blog came along with someone with my sense of humor who could just make my day when I needed it most (mainly a distraction though). Thanks a million bro, and I am SO up for making that cheese cake. Do you like it plain or raspberry flavored? :)

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    1. Shut up! Just shut up. You had me at "raspberry."

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  31. I moved to Asia 3 months ago and I have had one of those freak out moments as well. A lot of those strange out of place, homesick, lost feelings really resonate with me.

    I can't buy tennis shoes here either :(
    Amanda

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  32. Cracking up again and feeling sad for you about the homesick-kinda-problem. well because i am living in a place where tennis shoes aren't a thing here well "right back at cha".
    ps.Oh yeah a hello from South-east asian reader.

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  33. LOVE this entry! And yes, I HAVE heard of Panguitch! I had a professor from the University of Utah that was from there, and he talked about it all the time. Or maybe that was Paraowan...? Oh well. They're practically the same place. Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for the constant laughs! (and a few tears!) <3

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  34. Eli, I am thankful for YOU. Your eloquently written, humorous stories have brought laughter to myself and so many others; in a world filled with worries, it's a blessing to have a spot of joy like your blog to bring us smiles and chuckles. So Thursday, when I am listing all the things for which I am thankful (as a mandatory precursor to consuming obscene amounts of starches and sweets), I will be sure to count YOU. And puppies. And Diet Dr. Pepper (Mmmm).

    Cheers,

    A fellow stranger

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    1. I feel exactly the same! Maybe it sounds cheesy, but I really am thankful for this blog. It brings so much joy to me and has inspired me in a lot of ways.

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  35. You know ... I'm with MPG, I didn't even pause about you being hit by a car either. lol. Until you were like just kidding, then I actually thought about it. I do always enjoy your posts. I'm glad you are well, and I hope you have a grand Thanksgiving.

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  36. Long time reader, first time poster. Nothing like a "thanks-for-all-my-readers-whom-I-consider-friends" post to get the Mormon guilt going for never having posted. Thanks for sharing your talents with us. Your humor, your eloquence, your diving skills (unless you only intend on having one student. That's just selfish).

    Jane

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  37. You have such a great way with words. I've been reading for a while and also not commenting and will start doing so. You are loved by so many people who check in on you throughout the week. Thanks for sharing your life with us.

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  38. You need the adventure of love!

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  39. This is going to sound so dumb, but the funny thing is, I've been reading your blog for awhile now and this is the first time that it's really hit me that you are a real, actual person that packed up and moved to the middle of the ocean and that it sometimes isn't awesome. I mean, obviously I know you're a real person, but this is the first post I've read of yours where I've thought about you as a real person and not just a string of hilarious stories on the internets.

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  40. Please never Never NEVER EVER stop blogging, we are just getting to know you over at here @ Washington State University.

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    1. I second this. Wouldn't mind seeing a book from you at some point . . .

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  41. Great post, Eli! I really appreciate you spending the time to share your thoughts and your humor with us. You are appreciated!

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  42. It's truly a privilege to feel like a part of your adventure, if only through your posts.... you have an amazing gift! Don't ever stop blogging!

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  43. You know what I like about this blog the most? The fact that you have such a strong faith - so much so that it's taken you halfway around the world, yet you are so friggin' funny. It always makes me laugh when people say things to me like, "You're a Christian!? But, you're so funny and normal," like I should be churning my own butter with a doily on my head not smiling at anything (and no offense meant to those that express their faith that way, it's just not common around here). I like that you find such humor in the life that God has given you and that you just keep it going and live day to day making yourself laugh and others and actually ENJOYING who you are and what you do. People just don't seem to equate that with loving and serving God, and it's just gosh-durn incredible that you do! So, er, thanks.

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  44. Hey Eli...I happened to stumble upon ur blog thanx yo pinterst....I can so relatr to ur panic and utter dismay.My husband is a highly adventurous man and because of his misdemeanors I have been to some of the WTH are we foing here kinda places...So i can understand ur feeling of bitter rue on agreeingto such advrntures....Keep posying ur michieves and misdemeanors.Thanx for the endless "gall bladder"busting laughs....God bless u n Happy Holidays to u...May u come home safely...
    PS:I m writing from Pakistan....Cheers Memoona

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  45. Eli, my friend and I just discovered your blog the other day, and I wish we had discovered it much sooner. You are a total treasure. You have such a wonderful sense of humor and have the unique ability to distract your readers from whatever is on their mind and just allow us to laugh with you. Thank you for these wonderful, absolutely hilarious posts, and I hope you are doing well in Palau. You are really an amazing person.
    Please keep on writing! We love you!
    ~Felicia

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  46. A. Did your eBay order arrive? Because if it didn't, I'm in on the flash flood of I-want-to-send-Eli-running-shoes-while-he-adjusts-to-life-on-a-very-small-island-lacking-in-many-conveniences-for-which-he-will-eventually-adjust. send me your address.
    B. I figured that when I read you had been hit by a car that you were just jerking my chain. It was so obvious because if you had been actually hit by a car, who would have written the rest of the blog post? I mean, come on!
    C. I adore your humor but I absolutely love when you get a little serious. You are a well-rounded onion.

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  47. I noticed you didn't put your show size in your post... I imagine Palau getting bombarded with packages of running shoes for Eli.. watch someone is going to start a charity with that name now cause you have so many stalkers like me

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