If Kassie McEntire were to change her mind, she knows clicking her heels together and repeating, â€œThereâ€™s no place like home,â€ wonâ€™t be an option. After all, the sand will probably get between her toes, and all her high heels will be in storage.
But Toto, sheâ€™s OK with not being in Kansas anymore.
On Aug. 28, McEntire worked her last day as an assistant Saline County attorney. During September, she and her husband, Adam Demuth, who resigned from Federal Express, embarked on a month-long â€œhomeless and unemployed adventureâ€ of visiting friends and family. In October, they will be boarding an airplane for the 24-hour flight to Palau, a Pacific island nation, where McEntire will start work as an assistant attorney general.
Before McEntire, 36, moved to Salina from Manhattan 14 months ago, she had applied for a job in the attorney generalâ€™s office in Palau that was listed on the National District Attorney Association web site. When that job went to someone else, she accepted an offer from Saline County Attorney Ellen Mitchell.
In Salina, McEntire stayed busy with some tough cases. Her load of about 450 cases primarily involved juvenile offenders and the child-in-need-of-care docket. Much of her time was devoted to the murder case against teenager Sierra Niehaus, who is accused of fatally stabbing her younger sister.
â€œItâ€™s tough to not be able to see that case out, and there are so many others,â€ she said. â€œYou do get emotionally invested in the cases and the people and the families. Itâ€™s been a good year. I made a lot of friends and not too many enemies, I think.â€
A hammock on the beach
But when McEntire got an email a couple of months ago from the man who got the job she had applied for in Palau, she knew she was ready for fresh fish and a hammock on the beach. He had been promoted to attorney general and contacted her to see if she was still interested in a job. She was.
â€œItâ€™s one of those things where weâ€™re young, and we donâ€™t have any kids,â€ she said. â€œWeâ€™re just dumb enough to think we can make it work out and have it make sense, and we donâ€™t know any better. On some level it pays to just be naive enough to not understand limitations.â€
McEntire and Demuth set about getting travel vaccinations and passports and began deciding what to keep, sell or store. They will take what fits in their suitcases and a couple of big, plastic totes.
â€œEverything we need in life has been distilled to 260 pounds,â€ Demuth said.
What Mom and Dad think
McEntire said her mother thinks itâ€™s an amazing opportunity, and her father is not thrilled about having her so far away but is still supportive.
Itâ€™s not the first time McEntire, who grew up in Wellington, has left her home state. She earned her law degree from Roger Williams University School of Law, in Bristol, R.I.
â€œThe first time I went to Rhode Island was when I moved my stuff there,â€ she said. â€œI got an apartment over the phone, showed up, got the key, moved in and started law school three days later. When you just decide thatâ€™s what youâ€™re going to do, you donâ€™t leave yourself any options or outs.
â€œYou make the best of it, and you just do it. Iâ€™ve so far found out that works out fairly well, and until Iâ€™m proven otherwise, Iâ€™ll keep doing it.â€
She has learned much about her soon-to-be island home from the Internet, which ironically, she will have limited access to once she gets there. She said the island has a less-than-reliable dial-up connection, which gets expensive if you use very much data. Communication with the outside world mostly will be through email, Skype or U.S. mail, she said. A 49-cent stamp will get a letter to Salina.
The group of 200 to 250 coral reef islands that make up Palau became an independent nation in 1994, after having been a U.S. trust territory since World War II. Most of the countryâ€™s 22,000 residents live on three main islands, with tribal lands outside of that, she said.
She said people in Kansas who have heard of Palau know it for one of two reasons: They watched the 2005 season of â€œSurvivorâ€ filmed there, or they know World War II history. She said a lot of battles were fought around the islands, and now the underwater wreckage makes a popular attraction for divers.
Will stick with English
She said English and Palauan are the two primary languages, followed by Japanese.
â€œYou cannot find a book to learn Palauan, I looked into it,â€ she said. â€œI thought I ought to know something about the language, but itâ€™s not spoken anywhere else, so thereâ€™s no real reason for anyone to learn it. Iâ€™m sure itâ€™ll be complicated, and Iâ€™m not very good with languages. Iâ€™ll probably just stick with English and hope for the best.â€
She said Palau is 14 hours ahead of Central Time, so on weekends she expects to be able to Skype relatives and friends in the states fairly easily, since 10 a.m. there would be 8 p.m. here.
No guns on the island
She said guns arenâ€™t allowed on the island, so most of the cases she expects to be prosecuting are likely to be stabbings, alcohol-related fights or driving under the influence crimes. She said her starting caseload will likely be 15 to 20 cases.
â€œThings move very slowly,â€ she said. â€œMy caseload will go from being about 450 to about 20, but it will still be a 9 to 5 job.â€
McEntire said most of the attorneys working for the Palauan government are nonnatives. She said natives tend to take exception to the required hours, having been raised in an island culture where no oneâ€™s in a hurry to get things done.
â€œSo, they hire us who come over and say, â€˜You mean I only have to work for eight hours? Youâ€™re not going to call me in for eight hours on a weekend? What? OK!â€™ â€ she said. â€œItâ€™s just a perspective shift. I donâ€™t know what Iâ€™m going to do with all that spare time.â€
All that free time?
Then again, she said, she can think of a few things. She and Adam will enjoy hiking, backpacking, hanging out on the beach and reading a book and snorkeling. They also plan to become certified scuba divers once they arrive. She is especially looking forward to visiting Jellyfish Lake, a saltwater lake where over the centuries the jelly fish that flourished there lost their ability to sting.
â€œItâ€™s a regular tourist site where you can go snorkeling with the jellyfish,â€ she said. â€œYou can touch them and bump up against them, and they donâ€™t kill you â€” which is kind of a big deal for jelly fish â€” and itâ€™s just beautiful. When I saw that, I thought this is totally a place I need to live.â€
Bad place for bicyclists
Demuth, who is an avid bicyclist, had planned to ship his bike to the island until online research informed him that it would not be a good idea. He said there are 25 miles of paved road on the island where they will live, and the top speed limit is only 25 miles an hour, but the roads are crowded with cars, and drivers arenâ€™t used to watching for bikes.
â€œCyclists tend to have a short life span,â€ McEntire said.
Instead, Demuth, who is a trained chef, said he is most looking forward to having a constantly available supply of fresh fish for sushi â€” and, to absentee voting.
â€œYou always hear at the end of an election that they are waiting for the absentee ballots to be counted,â€ he said. â€œI get to be one of those people that you wait around for.â€
In addition to be surrounded by natural beauty, he said he will enjoy â€œslipping into a new culture, the ebb and flow of island life, and what itâ€™s like to live so remotely from anywhere.â€
Sure to have visitors
McEntire, who will be one of 10 civil and criminal attorneys in the attorney generalâ€™s office, said she is still waiting to receive her two-year contract, which first has to be signed by the president of Palau. She said her salary will be about the same as she made in Salina, but she wonâ€™t know exactly how the cost of living compares until sheâ€™s there.
She said with the cost of plane tickets being about $3,000, she doesnâ€™t expect to return to Kansas for at least the next two years, but she is sure relatives and friends will want to visit her.
â€œPeople have asked me if weâ€™re going to come home for the holidays, but Iâ€™m like, â€˜Why in the world would I come back to Kansas for the holiday when my family can go to Palau? We can go scuba diving on Christmas Day instead of freezing our butts off. Think bigger,â€™â€ she said.
A fantastic story
She said at the end of her two-year contract, she will decide whether to renew or head back home.
â€œNo matter what happens, itâ€™ll be a fantastic story at the end,â€ she said.
[Original post:Â http://www.salina.com/life/toto-i-don-t-think-they-re-in-kansas-anymore/article_96ee84b1-6837-5564-9f3b-75858e832254.html]