Friday, July 6, 2012

Things To Be Happy About

My most recent conversation with the PC Medical Officer went something like this:

“Teuila, I am mad at the world and I’ve been mad at the world for what feels like forever. I don’t want to talk to any other PCVs, I don’t want to talk to anyone in my village, and I don’t have patience for anything anymore. What can I do?”
“Well, that’s actually to be expected at about this time in your service. When you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, a lot of PCVs don’t have as much patience for things that they tolerated earlier. And you’re not the only person who has called me feeling this way.”

I’m pretty sure over the past few weeks every single PCV has heard me say “I’m mad at the world and I don’t want to talk to anybody.” Glad to know it’s to be expected. So what to do about it? Mostly, I “forget my phone” (meaning I turn it off whenever I don’t want to talk to people). I’m occasionally tempted to take a walk and not come back for a few days, but I usually end up locking myself in my room when that happens. Probably safer that way. Otherwise, I try to distract myself with something unrelated and happy.

One of my favorite books is “14,000 Things to be Happy About,” and it is literally just a list of various things that make the author happy. So I started my own list when I came to Samoa (what actually inspired me to do that was breadfruit. Breadfruit makes the list in the book, and I had no idea what it was until I got to Samoa and discovered it is one of my favorite foods). I figure this is a good distraction right about now. It’s nowhere near 14,000 things to be happy about, but I think it’s a good list anyway.

• Going to the beach and only staying for a half hour because you can come back any time you want
• Breadfruit
• The smell of the ula (flower) necklaces
• Anything covered in coconut cream
• Successful hitchhiking
• Masi popo
• How much more delicious fresh tropical fruit is when it is locally grown, in season, and eaten in a tropical climate
• Watching the pig parade
• Having the beach to yourself
• When you notice progress in your students
• Catching a magical bus-taxi (a taxi that has the same fare as the bus)
• Drinking straight from the coconut
• That integrated feeling
• Having a support crew for your first time at Bingo
• The infinite sky
• Watching 4- and 5-year-olds try valiantly to keep up with the group dance routine
• Being struck by the breathtaking natural beauty everywhere
• Those rare (but becoming more frequent) occasions when you can laugh because nothing makes sense and nothing turned out the way you expected
• Finally getting to the rewarding part of having patience
• Watching live sports every night in your front yard, from the comfort of your porch
• The simple luxury of flushing a toilet
• The meditative feeling of washing laundry at the waterfall
• Getting down to business and finally being productive
• Feeling comfortable and familiar in your village
• When it rains enough to fill your bucket
• Understanding 90% of a conversation with the neighbor kids
• Accomplishing something small but difficult
• Meeting new people
• A good night’s sleep
• Little kids who aren’t afraid of you
• Receiving dancing and coconut husking lessons from Year 3 girls
• A rejuvenating afternoon nap
• How every single part of the coconut is put to a different use
• Falling asleep to the sound of real ocean waves
• Breathtaking sunrises every single day
• Air drying in the sun and a nice breeze as you walk home after a shower
• Talking to palagis who are riding a Samoan bus for the first time and being appointed the source of knowledge on all things Samoa
• Riding in the back of a pick-up truck along the coast
• Pockets of rain from a blue sky
• Being walked home an dropped off by all the old women on the women’s committee
• Sing-alongs in the car cobbled together by English and Samoan songs and limited language
• Living life close to nature
• Seeing your students excited about something educational
• When you can leave a bad mood behind
• Being occasionally excited for bad weather and the opportunity to wear warm clothes, use a blanket, and drink hot tea
• The smell of laundry detergent and soap, indicating that water has been running recently
• Watching a group of kids, all under 3 feet tall, lob fistfuls of dry grass at each other
• Sitting on the porch at sunset with a mug of tea, watching the sun paint the sky against a silhouette of palm trees
• Taking a shower under a waterfall with the beach 50 feet away
• Mango season
• The well-earned reward of getting into bed after hand washing your sheets at the waterfall and hanging them out to dry all day
• Looking forward to going back to your village
• Proud teacher moments
• Uncontrollable laughter

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