Monthly Archives: February 2013

lessons learned abroad


4 years ago… This exact time… I was packing my suitcase to move to a country I knew virtually nothing about. While so much has changed since then… That time in my life was one that will forever remain a part of who I am. Fiji was exactly what I needed at that time. It is a beautiful country with beautiful people. Every year around this time I am reminded of where I am today, but thankful for my experiences in a country I loved.


Ok, So I learned a lot of things, but I have narrowed it down to four and four only. I will do my very best to stick to four, because I couldn’t just do three. I have to preface this first with the fact that I studied abroad in the Fijian Islands 4 years ago almost exactly. I lived there for about 6 months. I left knowing that I needed to do this. I had a deep desire to be completely out of my comfort zone, seek adventure, meet amazing new people, and be challenged/pushed to know what it feels like to be a minority. I blame my parents for my wanderlust and desire to see the world. My dad was in the air force so from about middle school on I have lived in MN, England, California, and back to WI. Seeing and traveling Europe really opened my eyes. Moving around doesn’t really scare me and actually just the opposite…being in one place forever freaks me out. I love change.  So, 4 years ago upon my return people would ask “How was living in Fiji” and I could literally never answer it. How do you explain living abroad in 1 sentence? I found myself frustrated and I began journaling and so these four points are taken from my journal.

1.How can we live next door to neighbors here in America and NEVER even know them?

As I was sitting on the village floor eating lunch with an entire village I couldn’t help, but think…”WOW this is amazing!” This community…this ENTIRE community eats meals together every single day. Each meal. They do life together, they raise children together, they do chores together, take care of each other’s homes/ fields /and gardens TOGETHER. Everything is done as a unit. A whole village. Open door policy… you walk in hang out with each other. Yes, they each have their own homes, but the sayings “It takes a village to raise a child” and “Mi casa es tu casa” are literally true in smaller villages in Fiji. Why in America and how can we live next door to people and never even know them? I learned in Fiji the importance of loving each other and cherishing others. The importance of creating and establishing relationships with others. Even living on campus at the University of the South Pacific- you still see pieces of village life. Communal studying, eating, and hanging- always.


 2.       Each of us has a story to tell.

I have talked a lot about this here. I really learned that in Fiji. My study abroad group which consisted of about 10 other Americans who were all completely different from all over the U.S were just about as different as you can get. We all had a lot in common though and throughout living abroad we began to discover that there was a reason we were all in Fiji. I learned that students who came to University of the South Pacific came from many many surrounding islands including Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and many more…but yet we each had a story to tell. I found it fascinating when I was required to interview locals for one of my classes and I got to sit down and learn about different people’s lives and cultures. It all came down to this: We each have a unique and fascinating story to tell. We each have a heart, and we all feel pain. We are loved more than we will ever understand by a forgiving and amazing God

3.       God has you exactly where you should be. Trust the Plan.

Living abroad didn’t come without some hardships. Being the only white person really puts things into perspective to what other cultures may feel like here in the States. Living in a country where Christianity is becoming more common, but where ancestors often times believed in witch craft/magic/and many gods always made for interesting conversations on God. I remember talking about God to another student and she made a comment about believing in God, but still incorporating her ancestor’s beliefs. Tough situation. Coming home was actually much harder than getting adjusted to life in Fiji. I struggled for almost 2 years with feeling “trapped” here and finding it hard to share my journey and how I had changed living abroad alone. I remember hearing that “God has you there right now Elicia (meaning back in the states) to finish your teaching degree and use you there.” Making the best of it was hard sometimes, but finally FINALLY four years later I feel like he was right. God has you wherever and whatever stage in life you are at- exactly where you should be. Trust his plan!

4. Island time means ISLAND TIME-

No person is in a hurry. 30 min late is the normal. Everything is on island time and in no rush. At first you love it- no place to be nothing to do. Then you hate it (because you are trying to “get things done”) Then you learn to love it. You don’t realize how fast paced America is until you are gone for a long time. Island time grew frustrating once I was living at the University of the South Pacific because I wanted things done and I wanted it ASAP. NOPE. Not gonna happen in Fiji.  When I wanted a research paper printed it was literally (no joke people) a 1/2 a day process. You had to go across campus and get a print card. Then go to another office to get the print card activated. Then wait in line at a computer lab varying from 30 min to an hour… Which then no joke took 40 min to long in because they were computers from like 1980. Then you realize after you log in that the card code doesn’t work. HA! Joke is on you…you silly American. So back to the office to receive a new card and start all over. This happens a lot. At first it is frustrating until you learn that deadlines can be pushed back (and usually are) and literally no one is in a hurry. So why should you be?  Later, I learned to LOVE and seriously adore Island life.I learned quickly how sometimes American life is based on the individual and getting ahead. It took a long time for me to stop waving and smiling to strangers on the sidewalk with no response (once back in the states.) In Fiji, every person n’ every place you go will greet you with a massive smile and hug. They will even shout across streets, over buildings, and around corners to greet you. Then when they do greet you (because they are on island time) they will stop and have a conversation with you because they are in no hurry. It is awesome. You are never in trouble when you show up 30 min late or even 45 min into a lecture or even important business meetings, because it is usually starting then anyway. It is simply fabulous. Island time means slowing down, appreciating life, and spending time with those around you.

…So.Many things have happened since those 4 years. I married my absolute best friend and the coolest man that I know in the Dominican Republic. Still though, Fiji remains a part of who I am and how I look at life. I still seek adventure and have the past few years just in other ways. I wouldn’t trade it for the world and I am proud to say that I DID stick around the states long enough to earn my  teaching degree.

So, if you have read this far…you may be thinking “why is she talking about Fiji now?” I promise you it relates to my next post. In. so many. BIG. ways.

Stay tuned 🙂

boat and trees celebration night dinner

fiji family and me fiji me and kids Fijian kids Indian festival looking down at village story telling sunrise sunset village again

One of the villages I stayed in (view from hike up) ^^

ovillage celebration group shot village men village spokesman

Village spokesman telling us history after dinner this talking and hanging/ drinking kava (traditional root drink) can go on all night.

Little things and love


I have a bucket list prepared for the next year that I want to start in April.

The more I thought about it though…the more I realized before I start working on that hefty list there are a few things I want to change first. I mentioned before I am being more “intentional.” And I am… slowly…but as my husband would say describing me I am an “all or nothing girl” which (let me digress briefly here) has its upsides. When I am happy… I am the most easily excitable, enthusiastic, giddy person. When I am sad I feel really, really sad. Although I do enjoy these qualities about myself sometimes I think that my life heart rate monitor would look like something similar to the Andes Mountain range. I’d like to think the average human’s life heart rate monitor screen looks like something more of a calm ocean…on a steady beat. Nope, not this girl. I come at life and then sometimes it comes back at me and slaps me in the face. I will dedicate and give you ALL of my passion, enthusiasm, and put my heart and soul into whatever it is I am pursuing or passionate about. There is no half effort with this personality. I like to “get shit done”, and promptly if possible. Anyways, I digress to note that my “all or nothing” quality does present its challenges. People easily disappoint me, because I have exceptionally high expectations of others when it comes to relationships, and those I love. As a result of my personality I admittedly am pretty darn opinionated, and quick to judge as there is no gray area in my mind: it is black or it is white. Patience is something I remind myself every single day to practice.

One of my professors in college once told me “Elicia, your biggest flaw is that you are too hard on yourself… So, you didn’t get an A, so what. It’s over. Let it go” I never forgot what he wrote on my speech outline. I later met with him to discuss how his honesty had impacted me. Trust me there were plenty of grades that weren’t A’s in college, and I learned quickly I would rather be a happy, involved, multi-tasking, volunteering college student than a straight A student. Ok ,back to this whole being intentional thing. I have to learn that it takes time. The best of changes take time. That is a struggle for me because I want it..and I want it NOW!

So, some things I am working on right now that take time.

Eating intentionally– meaning no strict rules on diet. Just being aware. Educated. Informed. I find the more I eat of fresh foods like fruit and veggies. The less I crave of snacks like pretzels, oreos, chips, and other processed crap.  I find fresh food and anything NOT processed gives me good energy as well as making me feel much more alert throughout my day.

Running again- It has been a long time since I have truly loved running. I don’t do it to lose weight or keep weight off. I do it for many reasons, but some being that I want a healthy heart and healthy organs. I want to push myself to the limits, but also if I feel like taking the time to stop and enjoy scenery- to do so.

Less Media– more of real people. How many times does your house fit in Kim Kardashian and Kayne West’s mansion? Lindsay Lohan back living in her teenage bedroom, report says. Eva Mendes departing on a flight at LAX…

Seriously? Give me something real FOX news. Give me people who have a passion and dedication to helping others. Like this:

Or this:

Or this:

Give me love, and give me life, but Fox news I don’t give 2 craps about celebrities. So knock it off.

-Cheers, to being a better individual. I think that starts with love. Little things…and love.

Being intentional.


be intentionalI have a lot of favorite things… I think that is a good thing though. I have a lot of interests and nothing that I feel like I am over the top crazy about. Everything in moderation. That is how I like to think of it at least.  What I really love  is spending time with people. No matter if we are playing board games and drinking wine or going out to do something. I just love talking with people about who they are, where they come from, what makes them tick…what is their story? I would like to think I could sit down with just about anyone and if I could just record them (in a non creepy way) and collect a bunch of stories I could write a really good book. and I don’t mean just the basic details of their life. I mean the deep stuff… not what they do for a living, but who they are and how they ended up where they are. Every person has a story…and I feel like in some way, we are connected…no matter how different we think we are from someone. We all have a heart, we all feel hurt or sad, and we are all loved. It’s the small details along the way that I just find simply fascinating. What makes a person who they are?  I would interview people of all background and all ages. If it was possible I would love to travel the world to do this.

Anyways, I am getting ahead of myself.  So, we have been watching a lot of documentaries lately. On all things from babies, education, to nature, hiking, the Iditarod dog race, healthy eating, Target, and pretty much everything else you can think of. What I really love about them is that I get to A. Learn about new stuff, but B. I get to hear stories and well, I love hearing stories. 🙂

So since watching documentaries I have become so much more educated on products, chemicals, and basically how things work. I have learned I don’t like eating non organic and I like eating local/fresh foods. I have decided I am going to cloth diaper our kiddos if/when we have them, make my own baby food, and hopefully someday soon own worms for our compost. I don’t think I can change the world because I want to do those things. I just want to be intentional and reduce our impact in small ways. Maybe eventually we can do BIG things to reduce waste and impact and eat healthier, but for now I just want to take baby steps. Those first steps start with being intentional and informed. On another random note I have meaning to post about how I made my Christmas presents. People have asked for the recipes, and I have totally slacked on sending out my information on it. I made Soap, Tea Cup candles, and Lotion (in mason jars) I haven’t found a good seg way on any of my posts on how to switch into this topic, but it fit today because I was inspired to make my own gifts and to be more aware of what I put in my body as well as on my body.

Here is the link to lotion: (by far the easiest and most simple thing) and SO amazing. I love the lotion…and who doesn’t love mason jars? I mean..really.

Tea Cup candles:

My suggestion here is that you start hunting for the tea cups early (I went to antique stores and thrift shops) and also that you use a pot you don’t need anymore to melt the wax (it took FOREVER to clean out) I knew it would make a mess, but I would rather have just tossed the pot after I was done. Also, getting the wicks to stay straight was tricky. I haven’t figured out the trick here yet.


–Also very simple.

I found all of my needed supplies at Hancock fabrics. I will say though…Next year, I would pick just ONE of the three to do. Not all three. I like easy. I like fast. Making things myself intrigues me, but really… Who wants to slave away making gifts. It shouldn’t be a full time job,and it should be enjoyable…for me that is spending some free time, and not ALL of my free time dabbling in making things.

So, over here at the Shepard home we are working on being intentional. In thoughts, words, AND actions. Who we are and what makes us, us.

And also if you ever want to tell your story…

I am all ears.  🙂

be there