Thursday, November 24, 2011


It’s been a challenging week.  Not horrible, just the kind of week we have all at times.  To keep my spirits up I’ve been thinking about the positives of my life here.  Seems appropriate since today is Thanksgiving.  Here’s a partial list, in random order:

·         Watching sheets of rain approaching over the ocean, then the lagoon.  It is stunningly beautiful. I never knew there could be so many shades of blue and gray.

·         A cool breeze on a hot day.

·         The variety of colors and textures.  There are orchids growing wild.  Perfectly landscaped yards with brilliant greens, yellows, reds, purples and every color in between.  Looking out from the bus as I ride to the market is a visual delight.

·         The strong young men who work on the buses and always help me with the junk I’m invariably carrying.

·         The tolerance of my teachers who occasionally forget I don’t speak Samoan but usually are very patient in speaking slowly and repeating words so I can hopefully keep learning the language.

·         The “dejading” I’ve experienced.  I had a very comfortable life in America.  If I wanted to buy something, I did.  If I wanted to go somewhere, I went.  I’m not talking Lamborghini’s and I tend to travel on a shoestring, but I took a lot for granted.  That was one of the many reasons I joined Peace Corps.  This has been a great reminder of how easy middle-class life is in the United States, relatively speaking.

·         Swimming on a beach just a five minute walk away that could be featured on the cover of a travel magazine.  The fact there are never any other people on the beach is a plus.

·         The learning experience I’ve had in the realities of living in a rural village on a South Pacific island.  I clearly see how incredibly naïve I was about what life would be like if I retired here.  

·         I’m in the best shape I’ve been in for years.  Not thinner, but I’ve got muscles where I’d forgotten there should be muscles.

·         The kids.  They are beautiful, sweet, funny, tolerant of the palagi and curious.    It’s been an on-going issue that I won’t beat the kids.  I’ve been told, repeatedly and recently, that no one can teach in Samoa if they are unwilling to use a stick to beat kids when they misbehave or make a mistake.  Or as encouragement.  I confess, I have my days and I dare any other teacher to deny that they don’t have days when they fantasize about wielding a big stick.  Today I reiterated my position to my principal.  “I won’t hit them.  But can I kill them?”  That was after spending an hour alone, at the end of the day, with 250 squirming, chatty Samoan speaking kids who are ready for summer vacation. 

Then the four boys who were the most squirmy and chatty and who I kept after school to clean my room as punishment begged me to let them carry my bags to my house.  The kids are the highpoint of my life in Savaii.

·         My house.  As much as I complained about my four month “temporary” living arrangements when I arrived, I should rave about my current house.  In Western terms, it would not pass occupancy codes.  But for a PCV, it’s a tiny bit of heaven.  I can sit in bed and look at the ocean.  There are a lot of windows so I can enjoy the breeze.  I have electricity and running water.  I have a kitchen and an indoor bathroom.  My family is friendly but treats me like a renter – I can come and go and they are very concerned about giving me privacy.  After a bad day, it’s a place I can retreat to relax and put things in perspective.

·         My 18 year old host brother.  His English is excellent and he stops by for an hour or two every day.  He keeps me up on village gossip and helps me figure out what’s happening when I run head first into fa’a Samoa.  He’s moving to Apia in January to attend the National University of Samoa and I will miss him enormously.

·         I have access to several buses and “the big city” of Salelologa is close enough that I can go after school.  One of the Upolu volunteers complains that she’s jealous of my situation.  I agree that I have an easier time of it.  That said, I point out to her that there’s more there when she gets there, since she’s going to the capital city which has a much larger market and access to things we don’t have on my island.

·         Piglets.  Puppies.  Chicks.  I’ve lived in downtown San Francisco.  I’ve lived in the suburbs.  I’ve never lived on a farm or in a rural environment.  Baby critters are just cute.

·         My Kindle and headlamp.  Along with my laptop, they are my prized possessions.

·         The freedom from a 60 hour work week with budgets, performance reviews and operating plans.  Don’t get me wrong, I work for my keep.  But compared to corporate life as I knew it, this is a walk in the park.

·         Little boys running along the road to race the bus.  Or little boys running to chase piglets.  Or little boys running just because they can.

·         All the love and support I continue to receive from friends, family and people I’ve never met.  I cannot express what it means to know that half a world away are thinking of me and care.  And truly, a text is just as valued as a big box of goodies.  I really do have everything I need here...and then some.

1 comment:

  1. your post Nancy are a breath of fresh air a 4th generation Samoan born and raised in San Francisco your blog has been a blessing for me since I have never had the chance to go there are a realist and true to your word as to what you do in your life and how you perceive, all that God has given you and you live it to the fullest ....Happy Thanksgiving Nancy and thank you for helping the people of my ancestors are joy ...happy holidays