Flying over a smaller island of Samoa before landing.
Within less than a day, I changed countries, hemispheres, time zones, currencies, seasons, languages, and sides of the road when driving. I left a country of more than 300 million and entered one with only 175,000. I went from a continent to an island. These may be a lot of changes, but it seems as though I’m handling them very well—and admittedly, much better than I had ever anticipated.
After one month in the United States, visiting with family and friends and indulging in several restaurant visits, my time there ended, now over one week ago. Many people asked me if I was ready to go back to Samoa, and when my answer was always yes, they seemed to express a sigh of relief—this being that they knew how rough my first couple of months in Samoa were, now over one year ago. But if you had told me a year ago that I would be all smiles while landing in Samoa after a joyous holiday with family in Michigan, I would have said you were crazy. But time and patience have that way of changing someone, as it has me.
Perhaps, most of all, I was anticipating see the kids who I had taught for the past year. They are my best friends in Samoa, and help provide me with that motivation when I can’t find any myself. They are the ones who never seem to be in a bad mood, even if I may be. They’re the ones who have been most patient with my language skills and have helped me in learning it.
Last Wednesday evening, I was able to meet up with many of them. Running on only a couple hours of sleep since Tuesday morning, I still was eager to take a walk through the village. Walking past the first house in my village, four kids playing in a tree near the road starting shouting my name and saying hello. They said this with a bit more zeal than they had a month ago. I guess absence does make their hearts fonder to me. About half way down the road to the village’s center, three boys from my year 7 English class came running up to me shouting my name and gave me big handshakes. They followed me as I went visiting different houses and delivering chocolate I had brought from home. We walked over to the neighboring village and then back to towards my house. They kept asking where there chocolate was and I told them maybe tomorrow I would give them some.
Before my plane landed last Wednesday morning, we glided in over the Pacific Ocean and over some of the smaller islands that make up Samoa. The sun was just starting to break over the horizon and the sky looked warm, even through the thick barrier of that airplane. I had left a landscape covered in snow and entered one with coconut palms. When exiting the plane, the first thing I noticed were the smells—always a huge first impression on my travels. It smelt tropical, warm and humid. I could feel the warmth blowing at my skin. The jeans I was wearing suddenly became a ridiculous wardrobe for the climate I was in.
Last time I exited the airport, back on my first arrival in October of 2009, I was dealing with a whole new life that was about to unfold, but on Wednesday, I knew the life I was entering, and it gave me confidence. The people, language, trees and buildings were all familiar. Riding in the taxi with another Peace Corps volunteer we both looked out the window with great interest, soaking in a life we had been absent from, yet had kept on living. My friend Corina, who I was riding with, commented on the first fly that landed on her in the taxi which reminded me that I hadn’t had to deal with that for 30 days.
I had dinner that night with my neighbors who I have grown close to this past year. The husband and Milo—one of my best friends—were in the capital for a few days so I was sorry not to see them, but we still had a nice dinner. After a month at tables and T.V. trays, I was back on the ground, eating with my legs crossed, and had no complaints about it.
I thought I would have experienced more culture shock coming back here, but it has felt like a seamless transition from America to Samoa which of course are two different worlds. So this gives me much hope for my remaining eleven months. I am eager to begin school and get back to teaching. Break if finished in a couple of weeks and then I will be busy once again with the students. I know this last year is going to go quickly, and I’m trying hard not to take one day for granted.
Riding in the bus back to my village last Wednesday, I was in awe of the amazing view as we climbed the road up around the mountain which extended our line of site over the Pacific Ocean. With the waves crashing below and the palms swaying in the breeze, I realized again how lucky and fortunate I am to have this experience. My trip back home to Michigan was well worth it: I was able to visit with my family and friends and in the end, my being away from Samoa helped allow me to appreciate it even more than I ever had.
Our plane from L.A. to Samoa
Looking a bit sleepy after a day of travel
Breakfast on the plane was very delicious!