Friday, March 18, 2011

Monuments of the Past

Our bodies carry the scares and marks of your lives. They are a walking history of our lives. We decorate and accessories them to express ourselves and to hide ourselves. I have recently decided that it is time to say goodbye to some of my own accessories. I had thought about removing my piercings before I left the states but in the end decided to try and get away with them here in Samoa. Like many things that I thought I would have to change, I held on to these things as they were relics of my past life and gave me a certain comfort. I still paint my nails and wear make up sometimes for the comfort it gives me, even though it is not only unnecessary socially here but also an oddity. I still shave my legs and armpits for the same reason. Maybe at some point in my journey I will come to believe these comforts are unnecessary as well, maybe not. The moment came while I getting ready to shower and realized that one of my piercings was irritated. I thought for a minute and looked at myself hard in the mirror. Yes its time. I need to take them out. Both of my piercings were presents from my older sister, one for my sixteenth birthday and one for my twenty first. I have loved both of them and they will always be good memories attached to them. In the end I realized I didn't need them anymore. Those versions of past selves are with in me and part of me. I don't need monuments to mark them. On this ride you discover many comforts and crutches you must shed. Some people its negativity, self deprecation, sarcasm, a computer, alcohol, cheese, for me this is just another little thing I feel I can do with out. I am ready to face this new adventure bare of marks and accessories. We are bare in so many ways here so it only seems right.

Happy Birthday Jenny

the trifecta

some teachers apples I get a bouquet

me and my cousins before school

This last weekend we all met in town to celebrate the Birthday of one of my best friends here Jenny. This gorgeous and brilliant lady turned twenty three and she is so loved we all came together to celebrate with her. We went to a delicious Indian meal and then out dancing and had a great time. The next day was spent sunning by the pool then, going to a real movie, then out to a delicious Italian meal complete with chocolate cake for dessert. It was really great to see the other volunteers as usual and I am constantly reminded how amazing these people are and how blessed I am to have them here. It was hard to say good bye this time as we probably wont see each other again for till easter. Its hard to explain what its like as your not just saying bye to friends but also the self you get to be around them. We all head back to village life and the back to the people we are there. I was really down at first as it was just such a great weekend and I didn't want it to end, but then a couple of hours later I was back in my room having a laugh with my family and I realized this is good too. Its hard when two things are so different to leave on for the other because you automatically feel your leaving the good one and going to the bad. The truth is though its just so different. I am happy in my village, its a very different happy, more of a content feeling. I am also very happy socializing with my fellow volunteers and partaking in the luxuries of town, but its a more temporary crazy fun. The trick is to realize that one is not less then the other but that they are just different and they both need to exist. With out one the other wouldn't be of value or really even possible. I need my night in town a month and I also need my village time, its all part of this crazy dance called Peace Corp.

Me and My little Ducklings

So I have written before about the walks I take in the afternoons but there has been an interesting new development in my evening stroles. Last week I was strutting along, plugged into my ipod, on the plantation road and I saw a shadow out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look and there was a flash of color then the shadow was gone. I smiled and kept going a while before turning around and catching on of my student tailing me a couple of feet behind me. I smiled at him and then kept going. Now that I had made contact he sped up a bit and walked next to me. By the end of my walk I had three new shadows. The next day I had four and half way through my walk I took out my music and started quizzing them on some English vocab. I rewarded the kids at the end of the walk with one of the silly band bracelets I brought from America. It had now become a routing that every time I go for a walk I have a little line of ducklings tailing me. It seems to be mostly year four and five boys (3rd or 4th graders) who like to race when ever I am up to it. Yesterday me and my ducklings were the talk of the town because the boys decided, that as I was excersising and obviously looking my best I needed flowers in my hair. It is super common for women to wear flowers in their hair here but it is usually for church or when you are trying to look nice. Anyway each one of my six boys picked me a flower that I wore with pride four in my bun and one behind each ear. As we walked through town there was plenty of laughs and smiles and a couple of the boys even got the nerve up to hold my hand. I returned home and told my sisters I had the most boyfriends in all the village.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Un-measuable Impact Plus Village Pics

My School

My sister walking up to my house

My families kitchen, my room is off the hall on the right

My Bathroom

One of the craziest things about being here is how different it is then not only any job in America but also so different than one expects coming into the Peace Corp. When you sign up images of building schools, digging wells, or inoculating children come to mind, not really teaching English. Then on top of that unlike any teaching or for that matter, any job in America, there is really no goals or expectations set for us as volunteers except, make it. The main thing we are all aiming for is just to make it, to survive for two years. Obliviously we all come here to do good but that is such an abstract goal that mentally it doesn't really factor in. In America everything is about working toward a tangible goal, something that will create, an end product, something that can be measured and put into some cost benefit analysis. The very nature of the job here goes completely against this way of thinking. I am here and seventy five percent of the “good” I'm doing is through just being here. Through exposure the children are not only learning English, but about the world and more importantly that learning can be fun. I'm so used to the idea of work being work. This feels easy and fun not at all like work and to add to that I'm not producing anything tangible. You can see how it’s hard to justify this as work when it misses two of the basic definitions of work in America. This does interesting things to your head and makes you ask you’re self what you are really doing. Then something wonderful happens and you remember. For me this was a moment at Church when the pastor encouraged everyone to get up and hug each other. I was sitting with the young adults so it was a recipe for extreme awkwardness. After a couple minutes of just standing there a couple of the teens shook my hand. It seemed this was going on forever and I was counting the seconds till I got to sit down again. Then from across the church one of my students caught my eye and took a couple of steps toward me before stopping herself. It would be both inappropriate and awkward for a Samoan student to hug a Samoan teacher as they are such disciplinarians and dictators in the classroom. I motioned her forward and she ran across the church and gave me a big hug. Some of my other students saw her and ran over as well. There ended up being a line of twenty kids all waiting to give me a hug and thank me for teaching them. I cried like a baby of course. It’s hard to measure smiles but that is what I'm producing here and I am learning that it is far more important then building some shiny new building.

Remembering Joy

I have gotten into a bit of a rut recently. I wasn't getting really excited about my work at the school and was just generally feeling blah. Yesterday I was riding on the bus thinking about this apathy and why it had seemed to settle in. Then it occurred to me, I had forgotten to take joy. The simplest thing in the world is to leave yourself open to the joys of the world around you, but it can be so easily forgotten. My key to this is to try and see the world through the eyes of a child, every beautiful sunset is new, and every smile shared is new. Just realizing that I had become blind to the world around me was enough to open them again. I looked out the bus window with fresh eyes and couldn't help smiling. I am in a beautiful place, surrounded by wonderful people, doing something I believe in. Of course as soon as I opened my eyes again joys started flooding in. I caught the eye of a beautiful little girl on the side of the road; she gave me a sparkling big smile then pulled on her mothers sleeve and pointed to me. The pair stood arm in arm grinning at me. How wonderful to share smiles with strangers and just add a little love to each others days. Then the man next to me on the bus, who up till now I had been ignoring, brought me a soda. I don't care how many times it happens, it is still just as surprising and wonderful each time and I hope it always is. Then I came home and my new English Samoan bible was delivered! How cool this is something I will have for life and can show my kids one day. Then at bible study the pastor made sure to add in some English so I wouldn't be totally lost and after the service his wife gave me chocolate covered peanuts! All these little things if they had happened yesterday may not have even been on my radar and I would have missed out on the joy they brought me. What a difference to see things with fresh eyes and take the joy that the world is offering. I'm sure I will forget and rediscover this a million times and hope it is just as much as a revelation each time.