Sunday, May 27, 2012

Maybe You Really Can't Go Home Again

Sitting around a long table, wearing a wet swim suit modestly covered by a lavalava after an early morning swim, while eating breakfast and discussing the pros and cons of Marmite, a Finnish couple, the man sporting long brown dreadlocks, the woman a meek Scandinavian blonde, laugh when Rachael and I, the two Peace Corps volunteers at the table, say that “we only have six months left.” They scoff, “Only?!”
As I write this, we now have less than six months left on this island, this island that has been both hell and paradise. I’m not sure Dante nor Milton ever visited Samoa, but I think I could add a little to their tales. However, with roughly a week left of the school break, I have already fallen into the don’t-take-this-for-granted stage of my Peace Corps service. Now, instead of marveling over how my ears are being assaulted by someone else’s too-loud music on the bus on the way to Apia, I stare at the ocean waves knowing that this will never happen again. In less than six months it will be November and I will be in Minnesota. Need I say more? Typing this now, sitting beneath my mosquito net, rain drips from my roof and waves crash literally twenty feet from my window. These are the moments. These ones, right now. These are the moments that I will look back on and miss. I have lived through Peace Corps purgatory and Peace Corps Hell and I dare say I have waged battle against Satan herself, but with mere months to go, I can’t let any of the beauty go unnoticed.
With the end bearing down, I can’t help think about after. After Samoa. Six different master’s programs at three different grad schools have my academic mind atwitter. Yet, the excitement that affords and the anticipation of a semi-return to my old life are not what I think about when I think about going home. When you join the Peace Corps you never fathom the goodbyes on the other end. You never expect the pain of saying goodbye here. Good riddance and peace out to some people, but how do you just leave other people who have so influenced your life??? 
Since I came back to Samoa after Christmas my life has been a whirlwind. My host father told me I was a disappointment and he was ashamed of me. Why, I’m sure you all ask? Because I didn’t have relationships with people in the church congregation. Did I mention my host father is the pastor? I was also traveling to other places too much, Savaii in particular. This comment finally made me reveal to him that I was dating a boy, Samoan nonetheless, in Savaii. And cliché enough, he ended up breaking my heart. The details of which I’m sure would have made for great reality television. I was also told in a moment of anger by the person I cared about most in this country (ahem, it might have been that ex-boyfriend) that I was the worst Peace Corps volunteer he had ever known. That moment was perhaps the most ashamed I have ever felt in my life. Being told that you have done nothing for your village, you have had an impact on no one and that what you have done doesn’t matter is not something any Peace Corps volunteer ever wants or imagines of hearing. In a rousing display of her old self, my principal also told me I could only teach for a half an hour a day. Don’t tell her, but I didn’t listen to that. My worthlessness as a volunteer seemingly made clear to me, my year seven girls were there to prove all my skeptics wrong. Not a week goes by where these girls don’t tell me how much they love me, or write me letters, or tell me that they’ll never forget me. It’s for them that I stayed. And it’s for them that I came.
This all being said, blatantly, it will suck when I go home in the fall and the people I care about are here and the thought that I might never see them again and that they’ll be moving on with their lives and will I ever have so much adventure again and was I just another fling-type thing for Tele and maybe something special for a while to Tui but who he hurt anyway? And how will I ever forget either of them? These thoughts tumble in my mind.
And how I don’t know how I’ll move on from Samoa.
How do you say goodbye to something that has had moments of paradise?
I haven’t done much, but I have played a part in some people’s lives. I don’t want to be forgotten either.
What will my life be like when Samoa really is just a memory? When I can’t feel imaginary waves crashing against my legs after a day in the ocean? When I can’t make a sentence in Samoan (not that I'm fluent now)? When my tan lines have completely disappeared? When I don’t find hidden grains of sand in my water bottle? When I can’t text the other volunteers about weekend plans at the beach or at Lusia’s? When I can’t call Samoan friends? When we’ll all be reduced to good old fashioned Facebook stalking?
How do you go back to a life once lived?

1 comment:

  1. As a local, I am horrified that your local counterparts would admonish you and make you feel that your contributions have not been worthwhile. I am glad that you correctly take the appreciation of your students of you and your work as an indication otherwise, that really is what matters at the end of the day.

    It is a generalization but at times, the locals tend to mete out judgement on your professionalism with more than a healthy dose of their subjective take on your personality as well. Given the holier than thou attitude most tend to take in office of any sort of authority locally, expressions of the type that you mention are far more frequent and prevalent than they should be.

    I'd love to buy you a beer to say thanks and erase those harsh words!