New Caledonia After 10 Years, and How It All Started

When Jacob and I first got married we lived in a real charmer of an apartment in Provo, Utah called Continental. During the school year it was cheap shared housing for single  guys; during the summer they pushed the beds together and called it married housing.

In reality the management was crap, the furniture was falling apart, and there was no air conditioning in hot, dry Utah during the summer. When we had friends over we all sweated like pigs. But it was only $450/month which is unheard of so we really should’ve expected nothing better. We didn’t even own a camera at that point so I can’t post a picture of it in all its glory, decorated with paintings I picked up from the thrift shop.

Jacob was finishing up writing The Jump Manual the night before we got married, and he was determined to make it grow. In the meantime, he was working a job selling alarm systems. He was a workaholic. I didn’t really catch his internet business vision, but I was supportive, if ignorant, anyway.

He bought a white board to put his business goals on, a green screen to begin his YouTube videos, and he spent hours working on the computer while I read on the couch and taught piano lessons. One night, he called me in and stood in front of the white board. He started talking enthusiastically about goals: the ultimate goal being to make enough money to go back and visit New Caledonia, where he served an LDS mission from 2003 to 2005.

Sitting there in that grungy college bedroom, it seemed like pie in the sky to think about visiting a far-off island in the South Pacific.

(Here we are when we first started dating) new1I had long known it was a desire of Jacob’s; when I first visited his house when we had just started dating I revealed that my dad worked for the airlines. He asked me to go with him to New Cal on the spot, semi-joking about using me to secure a ticket through stand-by. American Airlines doesn’t fly to the South Pacific, though, so it’s taken all of these years, credit card points, and the coincidence of friends going back 10 years later, to get us out there.

It was a different kind of trip than our typical travels. I probably gained a few pounds with the constant dinner invites (island cuisine is really starch-heavy). I met mission companions of Jacob’s that I’d never met; saw the streets where he’d proselytized and I imagined him grinning, riding his bike, having the time of his life, for that’s what it was. He was becoming fluent in French, his first foreign language, and living abroad for the first time in his life. He was getting invited into people’s homes in a country that revered missionaries more than almost any other category of people.

Sometimes I wonder if that’s not why we’ve heard of so many LDS traveling families. They get the bug of meeting new people, seeing new places, experiencing new cultures from their mission and it never really goes away.

He baptized a few people, but it’s funny to me that he doesn’t even remember who they were. Many people go on Mormon missions and the numbers of people they baptize characterize their mission for them. Although Jacob was one of the higher-baptizing missionaries, and the leader of the mission at one point, he doesn’t know how many or who they were, because to him I suppose that wasn’t important. What was important was–he hoped—he was changing people’s lives in positive ways, encouraging them to give up bad habits, and so on.

It was a wonderful thing to go back, and though now we both view missionary work as part of the colonization of these wonderful places, which is unfortunate of course in many ways, it was the perfect time because we had Ryder. Any more than 10 years, and perhaps too many people would have forgotten him.

missionary guns
Jacob’s guns age 21

liufau

10 years later, these folks had a gift bag, including a shirt with a map of Wallis and Futuna for Ryder, when we arrived for dinner (below)

10years later

I know some people who look back on their LDS missions with regret or anxiety. Jacob happens to remember fondly his entire experience, and so it was a fun and unique way for me to get to experience New Caledonia.

Have you ever gone back to visit a place after ten years? Had it changed? Did people remember you?

Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 366 awesome articles for us.

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