At a meeting last Friday, all of the School Resource Officers, including my boss, were given an application for a new Peace Corps Volunteer. They were told a group of 15 will arrive for training in early October. They will be mostly female and all would be between the ages of 25 – 30. Since I wasn’t offered an invitation to serve in Samoa until September, with a start date in October (2010), I find it hard to believe Peace Corps knows exactly which 15 individuals will be coming. If Group 84 has been invited, good for them. More time to prepare and surf the internet for any references to Samoa and Peace Corps.
My boss and his boss were discussing the application in the office this afternoon. I was there; busy typing, copying and collating (by hand) 100 copies of a 12 page document. They seemed to think it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. I assured them it would take a couple of hours, minimum. It took 3. They only thing more challenging for me to type than a Samoan test is a math test filled with algebra and geometry.
I was half-listening to them talk about which school might want a new volunteer and the odds of keeping one in Faga. Suddenly my boss said, in English, “Are you extending? Will you stay for another year?”
Perhaps if I wasn’t annoyed at having had to break in to a classroom that morning and sub for a teacher who didn’t call or show for school and wasn’t going to be spending my afternoon copying instead of buying locks for my house which still is wide open, I would have given it more than a second’s thought. Or at least been a bit more diplomatic. Instead my response was a blunt “No.”
They both looked shocked, although I’ve been trying to prepare them for this. After the direct first response I went on to explain I need to find work to earn some money. Plus, I miss home. I miss my friends, who are like family to me. My boss was still looking at me in amazement. How could I leave? I asked if he wouldn’t be homesick for the place and people he loved after more than two years. Maybe, but this is Samoa, whose island beauty, culture and people are so far superior to anyplace else. And the school here IS my family now. How can I leave them?
The decision of whether or not to extend has been harder for me than I expected. I never planned to extend, but then it started to take on a certain appeal. I know though, if I extended it wouldn’t be for the right reasons. Could I make more of a difference if I stayed? Perhaps, by teaching more children for a longer period. But it would not be sustainable or long term. And deep down I know that part of wanting to stay is because I don’t want to say goodbye. And I don't want to start again. It’s a way to postpone something new and challenging. The time to leave would still come, someday. And isn’t the scary feeling of doing something new and challenging what keeps us from taking all the good stuff for granted?
Leaving for home is going to be hard, just as leaving home for Samoa was a mix of emotions. I’m looking forward to creature comforts and long gabfests with good wine with dear friends. I’ll cry a lot before I leave. I’ll cry a lot when I get home. Good tears, both times.