Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Home Is Where The Heart Is

Life has often been compared to a journey, and like a journey, we never know what we will find around the next bend in the road. My assignment with Peace Corps in Samoa was scheduled to conclude in the summer of 2009, but I will be leaving a few months early. The primary reason that I’m leaving is to be with my mother in Colorado as she undergoes surgery for a condition in her lower back that is causing her to experience severe pain. For months she has tried cortisone injections, chiropractors, various pain medications, etc. with no relief. Not only will she need someone to be there to help her when she returns home from the hospital, but obviously I want to be there with her during the surgery as well. It’s curious what turns our lives take sometimes. To be honest with you my dear friends and family, lately my thoughts have been turning more and more toward going home. And then my mother’s surgery comes, and it’s time to go home.

Perhaps this will come as a surprise to some of you because I have tried to keep an optimistic outlook and upbeat attitude during my time here. But damn it’s hard sometimes! Peace Corps life is supposed to be a challenge and it is. But not in the ways that I thought it would be. Of course there are the language and culture challenges, which one expects. However, I would say that the biggest challenge has been the loneliness.

Even though I am surrounded by people who are kind and supportive here in my village, and even though there are other Peace Corps volunteers with whom I interact on a regular basis, it gets lonely. I miss having close friends and family nearby to laugh with, talk about the events of the day, and to share life with. When I was in Hawaii, even though I was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I had friends and family there. I had occasional visitors from the mainland, and I came back to Colorado to visit. And most of all, I could pick up my cell phone and talk to anyone for however long I wanted. That’s one of the hardest parts about being physically separated from friends and family. I’m lucky that I’m in Samoa at a time when there are internet connections and even cell phones here in country. That makes keeping contact much easier. But it’s prohibitively expensive to talk like we do back home. So I have conversations with my kids and my mother maybe once a month, all the time being aware of the cost and the time, and I try to keep up with others by email. It’s just not the same.

I will have accomplished what I came here to do – travel to new places, have an adventure, and hopefully make a positive contribution. I know that the kids whom I’ve taught in our little computer center will always remember me. Maybe as that funny old lady, but nonetheless, they will remember. And I can’t tell you how exciting and rewarding it is to see a 12-year old kid who had never seen a computer six months ago, walk into the center, turn on the computer, open up the program he wants to use, work on a project, open his file on the computer, save it, and move on to the next thing. Yesterday I had 20 kids there over the space of nearly three hours taking turns on our three computers.

My village of Poutasi is beautiful in many ways. Together we have done some positive things that hopefully will continue to evolve after I leave, but no matter how long I stayed I could never "finish" what I started. There would always be something more to do, even if I stayed here five years.

Mom’s surgery is scheduled for December 3, so I plan to come home by Thanksgiving. I'll continue to post blogs about my remaining time here in Samoa and the challenges as I adjust to life back in the States, which is part of my Peace Corps experience as well.

It will be good to be home.