December is often a reflective month for me. There’s something about the year coming to a close that wraps me in nostalgia. And while I sometimes get caught up looking back, I am optimistically exhilarated when looking at what’s to come in 2018.
This year, 2017, was marked with a multitude of milestones, of which I am deeply proud of: I graduated with my M.A. from an outstanding and reputable institution (Shoutout to my Trojan family. Fight On! ✌️); I traveled frequently on domestic and international jaunts; I enjoyed quality time with my friends and family; and I joined the 89th Group of Peace Corps Volunteers in Samoa.
While many may complain of the circumstances this year may have brought upon them, I encourage them to, instead, look at the positive. Look at how the challenges and set backs have led to personal growth. That is an accomplishment in itself. The bumps along the way are what make this journey worthwhile. It’ll all work out the way it’s supposed to. It’s funny and poetic to think about, but I actually submitted my application to this program on New Years Day (Jan 1, 2017) and I’ll be here celebrating New Years (Jan 1, 2018) with my new host family and community. Wow! Nearly 365 days later and I’m here, where I’m meant to be. Life is beautiful. Elhamdolilah.
After Swearing In as an official PCV.
was fortunate enough to speak at my group’s Swearing-In Ceremony (in Sāmoan AND English… no pressure!) and was able to share my optimistic hope for the future, particularly for our time here in Samoa. Overall, these next two years will be filled with growth and cross-cultural learning, but by practicing mindfulness and gratitude, this experience will resonate with us for the rest of our lives. This is literally life changing! But it would be selfish to just consider it life changing for ourselves. Our Sāmoan community members will undoubtedly come out of this as seemingly more worldly citizens. Because, if you think about it, this little pebble in the middle of the largest body of water on the planet is isolated and homogenous. We are ambassadors to the true diversity of America and that is another reason why I’m so proud to be here sharing my culture and religion with others and demonstrating the true power of Ubuntu.
My humble abode feat. Christmas lights and palm trees. Not pictured, the six pigs that sleep on my stoop.
The time at my new site has been filled with ups and downs. I’m in the midst of cleaning up and out my library/classroom/dungeon, practicing a Christmas song/dance performance with the Youth Group, and integrating with my new community and family. I’ve also faced my first almost cyclone scare (don’t worry, mom, I’m fine!). School doesn’t start until the end of January so I’m keeping busy and exploring my new surroundings until then.
Side note: after three months of bucket showers, I’ve realized how little water I actually need to bathe. Also, when you have to make every classroom resource by hand, with no copier and it’s not feasible to make a Target run, I will never complain about not having materials in my classroom. I hope 2018 provides more revelations as to how privileged my life is — and if I were to somehow become MacGyver in the next 24 months, I wouldn’t complain.
Sharing my love for reading during Practice Teach.
I’m technically the furthest volunteer out from our office, so commuting places is often a hassle and I sometimes feel very alone, despite being surrounded by people. But I wouldn’t trade this site placement for the world. I’m learning about the dynamics and history more each day. For example, there are many natural freshwater pools in my new village. Whereas in our training village, the pool was adjacent to the sea, here, they are not as close. My host cousin explained the reason in a folktale:
Once a girl and her mother were eating together when suddenly, the mother started to choke on a fish bone. She signaled for her daughter to bring her water and the dutiful daughter ran off to fetch water right away. The water source was far away, but the daughter filled two coconut half-shells and started to run back to her mother. As she ran, the water in the coconut shells spilled along her path and formed the natural pools. When she reached her mother, she found that it was too late. In anger and sadness, she kicked the reef away from the shore.
One of the natural pools in my village.
The Sāmoan flag waves proudly by my village’s pastor’s house.
I’m excited to see how 2018 will play out and I hope you’ll continue to follow along. Merry Everything and Happy New Year!
وَلَـلۡاٰخِرَةُ خَيۡرٌ لَّكَ مِنَ الۡاُوۡلٰ
Indeed what is to come will be better for you than what has gone by// 93:4