It was early morning, the time of morning when your brain settles into a zombie like state. I sat uncomfortably in a chair floating high above the Pacific Ocean. My head was propped against the cold and uninviting plane window. I grew concerned in my stupor when hundreds of fuzzy orange dots appeared in the distance. The haze lifted and I realized the plane was descending upon the island of Oahu. My mind initially interpreted the lights, as lava oozing down the mountainous side of the island but my mind was only playing tricks. It was only the city of Honolulu. I suppose my mind couldn’t comprehend this many lights being in a single place. My reaction led me to the thought, “Zack you are no longer in Samoa.”
This trip was the first time I had stepped foot outside of Samoa in over a year. I knew coming back would be strange, but I didn’t believe for a second it would be like traveling to a place I no longer recognized. I had grown so accustomed to living small and well, slow. On the island time doesn’t really matter. No one is in a rush and things are simple. I was in for a surprise. Over the course of my time in Washington D.C. several thoughts crossed my mind.
What are these uncomfortable body-trapping devices attached to car seats? Who would honestly want to wear these nylon straps of torture? There was a comical moment when several of my fellow volunteers and I were sitting in an Uber. One looked around and stated, “ You can tell we have been living out of country for too long.” I asked, “How can you tell?” She said, “None of us are wearing seat belts.”
You’re telling me they give this stuff out for free?? I can just link up? No strings attached? I was completely out of my element. Wifi is non-existent in Samoa, so the fact that I could walk into almost any building and connect to the world was mind-boggling.
Seafood and family! Food glorious food! All these choices, what could I possibly want? Opening a menu was similar to Indiana Jones opening a crypt to some undiscovered treasure. Do you want pho? Yes! Do you want buffalo chicken wings? Yes! Do you want….Yes! Yes! Yes! Even making the initial choice of what to drink was difficult.
Sorcery I say.. .Sorcery! Too many of these buildings have cool air pumping through them. Man cannot accomplish such feats!
By the beard of Zeus! This water is.. is… hot! I turn the lever and it falls like rain from the sky! The volunteers reveled at our chance to take hot showers. For many of us we shower out of a bucket from water we got from a well or tank. I took full advantage of the situation and basked in radiant water of heaven at least twice a day.
Oh my ears! Sirens, people, alarms, and music were everywhere. My typical day is filled dogs, chickens, and laughing children. I was not ready for the sensory overload the city had in store for me. The one plus was I got to hear some new music.
Zoom, a bike just buzzed me on the sidewalk and kept on its merry way. I turn to say hello but realize, “hey, Zack he aint got time for pleasantries.” Not a word was spoken. I am walking, but I feel still as I am constantly surrounded by dozens of people. Each person intent on where they are going, ear buds in, not intending to acknowledge anything around them. What a stark contrast from walking the road in my village.
The day I departed for the States my computer decided to go on the fritz. I suppose my mac knew what was happening and thought, “going back to the mainland? Let’s get Zack in an Apple store and spending some cash!” I arrived a day before the tour kicked off, so I traveled to Georgetown to get my main squeeze looked at. (Yes, I mean my computer. It is the only thing that keeps me sane).
There I was waiting in a line, yes a freaking line, for the store to open ON A SUNDAY! I wasn’t bothered until people began to get frisky and tried to shove me out of the way. Rude! I was taken aback by the lack of maturity among my line mates. My grandfather walked up and could sense my frustration. “Welcome home,” He stated. City life obviously doesn’t agree with me. My computer was eventually fixed and a huge shout out/thank you to my grandfather who covered the cost.
Sweet….sweet nectar of the gods! You have graced me with your presence in abundance. One cup, two cup, three… I am splendid with thee! Coffee was everywhere and I was delighted to fall into a dark roasted heaven each morning.
Are you trying to kill me? It sure feels like you are. How many hours are in a day? 24 right! Why does it seem there are 48 all of a sudden? Wow, I knew my life was slow in Samoa, but the change of pace was drastic. I was ready to pass out by 8:00 p.m. each night. What a loser right? When I finally caught up I was boarding a plane.
I turned the corner and I am now walking toward my morning. I feel great. I just had lunch and I am ready to take a shower before my next presentation. Hmmm… this is strange. I seem to be getting some lingering eyes and awkward expressions on faces. Ohhhh… right, I forgot I am wearing a skirt. Traditional men’s wear in Samoa calls for a business like skirt, which takes place of suit pants in a professional setting. Perhaps the people of D.C. aren’t ready for such a fashion statement.
What I really noticed about this occurrence was my reaction. I brushed it off and kept walking as nothing was happening. Awkward moments and unwanted attention have become routine. Now, I felt bulletproof as I walked down L Street. Before Peace Corps I would have been extremely embarrassed and would have briskly made my way back to my room to change.
Time went on and I found myself assimilating into the city ways, but in the back of my mind I was still dumbfounded. Throughout the week I was asked, “What are you going to do when you get back?” I have ideas, but who knows? This week opened many doors for me, but a personal realization sank in. Coming home isn’t going to be as easy as I thought it would be. Good thing I have one more year to ponder this thought.