Tuesday, July 13, 2010
If you were to compare my life in the United States to a road, it would be like traveling down an American interstate at 70 m.p.h.. If somebody was going too slow, all I had to do was pass them and be on my way. Things moved along smoothly and I got where I needed to go in a reasonable amount of time. But traveling down the interstate also causes you to loose sight of the things around you. Everything seems a bit more blurry. The trees and fence posts on the side of the road seem to last but just a second. A driver on the interstate is more focused on what is ahead of them, rather than what is around them.
On the other hand, if you also compared my life here in Samoa to a road, it would be like traveling down a non-paved back country road at 20 m.p.h.. If I’m in a hurry to get somewhere, I forget about it because a person can’t drive too fast on those dirt roads without ruining their car. But driving down a country road does have some advantages. When you’re traveling at such a slow speed, it causes you to take notice of your surroundings. You have more time to appreciate the surrounding landmarks and nature's designs. The mailboxes on the side of the road seem stationary, as opposed to a blur on a faster road.
My experiences her in Samoa relate most to the non-paved country road, as opposed to the truck-honking, tailgating, side swiping ways of the interstate. Some days this country road here in Samoa feels like the best thing to happen to me, while other days it leaves me a bit frustrated, wanting to find the next on ramp for I-80. Both experiences have helped me to grow and become more flexible. When you are in a situation which is uncontrollable, you have to learn to fit in with your surroundings in order to be the most effective.
For example, being in Samoa without my own transportation has been a huge adjustment. I marvel at the days when I use to get in my car to go to the store for something I needed: I would just drive there, walk in, buy it, walk out, and drive away. I could easily be done in a half hour or hour depending on the store I traveled to. Life was easy in that respect.
But here in Samoa, I have to wait for a bus, and the bus doesn’t even come every day. On the days the bus does come, many times I can’t get on it because I’m busy at school. This leaves me with catching a bus on the weekend and then riding it for 1.5 hours into the capitol. Once in the capitol, it isn’t just walking in and out like at a Wal-Mart; I often have to go to a half dozen stores to accomplish the things on my shopping list. One store has the good bread, another store has the cheaper peanut butter and the market has cheap local foods like bananas and papaya. And in between those stores I’m having to lug the bags around or dish out precious cash for a taxi ride.
However, these experiences are teaching me how the majority of the world lives. Those who make up the “Third World,” or the “Developing World,” are the majority here on this Earth. My time here in Samoa has forced me to apply my foot to the brake and turn off the cruise control. Most people in this world can’t do their shopping at a Kohl’s, Target or Macy’s. They buy the things they NEED at stores which don’t have a sliding front door, that don’t have air conditioning and don’t have electric scanners to read bar codes. Those are all the frills of the interstate life where things move along at break neck speed. The roads are smooth and highly maintained. Is that to say that the ruts of the county road don’t have things to offer? Certainly not, and I’m finding that out each day I live here.
When my bus driver knows me by name and the days I ride, that says something about this culture and lifestyle. When the store clerk at the convenient store knows my face and the things I usually buy, it reminds me of how impersonal life back home can be at times. When you’re moving slower, you have time to say hi and recognize another person, rather than just noticing a figure whiz by.
Since there is no cell phone coverage in my village, it has left me having to walk or jog for 20 minutes around the mountain to receive a cell phone signal. Is this the country road I was referring to earlier? Yes; literally and figuratively. As inconvenient as that jog seemed back in December, it certainly has grown on me since then. Being able to jog along bluffs overlooking the largest ocean in the world has given me a chance to appreciate where I live. If I was traveling down the interstate it would just be a body of water, but traveling down the country road it is a work of God. Receiving a phone call at the ready back home made me a little tone deaf to what was being said on the other end. Having to work hard and break a sweat just to call a loved one causes you to pause and really appreciate what they are saying and what their voice sounds like.
I could go on and on with the comparisons of my life then and now and how each has positives and negatives. It’s all part of my daily life as I continue to adjust to a new culture which I will never completely understand, for it will never be my own. I love America, I love my culture and I certainly love driving the interstate. But I’ve also learned over the past several months that taking the scenic route has its advantages too. So here’s a challenge to all my readers: next time you can choose between the interstate and a country road which runs parallel to it, choose the country road as an opportunity to slow down your life, and remember how most of the world travels—on that very same road you will be on.