“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” – C.S. Lewis
We have been putting off writing this post for many months now, not quite sure how to put it down into words or even where to begin. Now that so much time has passed it has become even more difficult, but it still feels necessary, for closure if nothing else, so here we go.
On April 8, 2012 we boarded a plane and left Yap for good. The full moon was high in the sky and the reef was illuminated with a bluish glow in its light, allowing a tiny glimpse of the island from the air, something we had never seen before. As I looked out the window watching our island disappear it was a strange feeling of relief paired with the fear of what lies ahead. As our island faded into the darkness, not sure if we will ever see it again, for me there was a real sense of bitter-sweetness.
Ultimately, leaving was a very difficult decision, with many factors playing a part. The main reason being a very serious family health emergency. We knew immediately that the right thing to do was to be stateside, closer to family who needed, and continue to need us. Leaving so quickly still felt strange. One of our greatest fears during our adventure on Yap was that something would happen to a family member and we would not be there to be of support, or heaven forbid, say good-bye. The situation arose quickly with an unexpected diagnosis of a family member. Luckily, Mike’s employer was completely understanding and allowed us to leave in only two weeks.
Packing and moving all took place in a matter of days, and really it is a vague blur of mixed emotions. It felt so weird, since getting to the island was such an involved process that began our journey. We had a few months to get used to the idea of moving to a tiny island in the Western Pacific. It took two plus years to make our house really feel like a home (which we were so proud of), and within days everything was boxed up, sold, thrown out, or given away.
We held a “yard sale” that took place in the living room of our house, for fear of rain and lack of places to display items. When we moved to Yap we brought or shipped only things that we knew we would be okay with selling or leaving behind when we left. We got cheap plates and bowls at Wal-mart, shipped our older pots and pans, and packed the rest of our beloved worldly possessions into a storage unit.
Yard sales are exciting occurrences on Yap as it is the only opportunity to get items not sold in the stores for cheap. Once people heard we were leaving the second question they asked was if we were having a sale, the first question of course being why we were leaving. I laid out everything we decided not to take back with us. We opened up shop and slowly watched our belongings distributed to new owners. By the end of the day all that was left were a few clothing items and the most random stuff and a few books. I donated the books to the state library and the clothing and other items to the Women’s Association to be sold for fund raising for the Yap Girl Scout program.
The curtains I sewed by hand one-by-one until there were twelve in all, our handi-craft collection that Mike added to with each trip to neighboring islands, our souvenirs from our trip to Asia last year, and our trusty machete were all carefully boxed up into USPS flat-rate boxes and mailed off, hoping to be reunited with us in the States. Luckily all of our boxes made it to their destination, with only one falling apart, Still, no items were lost!
Before returning to the US we spent a few days in Japan to lick our wounds and regroup before heading off to a very emotional situation of a serious health scare of a family member. We enjoyed hot water, fast internet, reliable television, and a very comfortable bed. We used the time to adjust to being back in “civilization” and to reflect. Now, months later, it is all a blur full of jet lag, confusion, and relief.
The last month on Yap was by far the most difficult for us. We rode an emotional roller coaster that no longer felt worth the benefits of living on a beautiful tropical island. I quit my job out of frustration and pure exhaustion. I got news that my grandmother passed away. The most horrible of it all, was the murder of our beloved dog Peanut. We can say with near certainty that he was poisoned. We addressed some aspects of this horrible experience in another post, so I will not rehash it. And even after what is quickly approaching a year since we lost our boy, it still enrages and deeply saddens us. We still miss that dog like crazy. He was our first “child”, and was by far the best dog either of us had ever had. Even after all of these horrible things, came the news of the illness of a very close family member, one we were not willing to risk losing while living on the island. We learned many things while living on Yap, but one thing we learned from it, as well as from ABC’s tv show LOST, is that when the island speaks, you listen. We felt it was telling us to go, so we did.
So off we went, back into the “real world” quickly, but without hesitation.
The first few months, and even now, were a huge adjustment. We didn’t know what we should expect, but some of the things that happened we certainly didn’t see coming. It was incredibly overwhelming to return to something that for our whole lives was normal, but all of the sudden felt foreign. Big cities were scary, shopping was overwhelming, and people act so differently than we were used to experiencing. If you haven’t been to, or lived on Yap, you just can’t understand the experience. Many people, even those who we thought would be the most understanding and accommodating were not. This was one of the most difficult things for me. We returned to people and things that haven’t changed for the better like we have. This magnified just how much we have changed and grown through our Yap experience. I want to make it clear that we don’t think we are better than anyone, we are just different than when we left. It is a shame that not everyone can appreciate our experience and be accepting of values that were always present, but are now much more prominent in our lives. Family first, take care of your own, and don’t take anything for granted. It’s funny how quickly people can adapt to their surroundings, whatever they may be. The materialism and priorities of people in the States now shock us.
Even now, 8 months later, resettled in new jobs and a new routine, we still hold onto things we learned while living on Yap. We no longer duck between people and say “sirrow” (excuse me), though we notice every time that we don’t do it. It feels like we are breaking some rule. We no longer take for granted modern conveniences - hot water, stores having everything you want and need, reliable roads with well marked street signs, being closer to loved ones, and being connected to the world-at-large.
If we could rewind time and do it all again, I think we would. We both grew exponentially during our time on Yap. For myself I became much more flexible, I also am more aware of the beauty this world provides. I work hard to find it everyday. On Yap it involved tropical flowers, the glowing sun sinking into the Pacific Ocean, and ample amounts of time to enjoy every minute of the endless summer weather. Back in the States it involves sinking suns over evergreen trees, steaming bathwater, and (honestly) Arby’s.
This adventure didn’t end how or when we had planned, but I think it says something about how much we have changed that we were strong enough to do what was right for us even knowing others would be disappointed. We still frequently talk about life on Yap, what we miss and what we don’t. We look at pictures and speak of memories. We miss the good friends we made there, knowing we will likely never again experience the bond expats have when they band together as a family to support and love each other during a difficult, but often magical experience. They are our brothers and sisters now, spread all over the globe.
It saddens us to end this blog, to close this chapter of our lives. We hope it is not our last adventure and that the lessons we learned along the way will guide us to the next chapter. Thank you for reading dear family and friends. Your support and love made it possible for us to take the leap of faith that landed us on Yap’s shores. We have also gotten many emails and messages from strangers interested in Yap, something we didn’t consider when we decided to document our journey to the other side of the world. You can find us on Facebook under “Michael Nigrey” and “Miranda Nigrey” (we’re the only ones in the world). We hope you learned something about Yap and about us, we sure did.
Kefel Yap, you will always be in our hearts and who knows, maybe one day we will stand on your beautiful sandy beaches again feeling the warmth of the equatorial sun on our faces, but not Miranda’s thighs.
“One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.” – Doctor Who
To finish off this blog here are some pictures that never really fit in before but show our life on Yap.
Thanks for reading.