The end of November marks the official start of the second half of my service! I cannot believe I’ve been here for 14 months. Time definitely flies when you are trying to avoid eating pisupo (corned beef)…
It’s usually around this time of the year where my nostalgia kicks in and I think back on the life and times—both good and bad— of Ms. Lena. Sometimes I wistfully wish I could go back in time and have said that quick-witted remark, which I only thought up after my shower reenactments, while other times I’m happy to close an emotionally draining chapter of my life, or, most commonly, I’m dreaming of that REALLY delicious meal I had while spending time with my loved ones.
Lately, as I’m looking back on my initial few months in Sāmoa, I’ve realized a few things. Mostly, that I’ve picked up on new, small quirks that are 100% Sāmoan and were definitely not a part of my personality pre-October 2017 (intonation, nonverbal communication, weird mouth noises, different sense of humor, just to name a few). But the main quirk would be my lack of concern with time.
Time is a funny thing on an island and it’s something that is initially both obvious and frustrating, but it’s only after being here for this long that I have come to appreciate Island Time and its’ lifestyle.
America is an impatient culture. The go-go-go mentality has been drilled and killed to the point that we want everything right NOW. The American way of life is so focused on SPEED; faster is not only better but the only acceptable way — fast food, high speed internet, immediate results, instant messaging, no lines, etc. If something is not available instantaneously, there will be blood.
Just kidding. Maybe.
Like I said in my last post, time can be a sinister cause of stress. Before coming to Sāmoa, my time was consumed with adhering to strict writing deadlines, being crunched for time lesson planning, managing graduate level classes and a classroom full of students, and all while trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance. I had my days planned to a T and while I enjoyed the structure, I was stressed. Plain and simple.
But after coming to Sāmoa and realizing there was hardly any time structure (it’s more of a suggestion of a structure), I was stressed out even more.
What do you mean the start and end of the school day ranges?
I’ve been waiting for 45 minutes, how can the bus be THIS late? (alternate: Please explain why there was a 9am bus yesterday, but there isn’t one today.)
You told me to be here at 5:30, but no one else showed up until 6:45… Did I misunderstand?
The common Sāmoan answer to these questions would be a shrug and “Sāmoan Time.”
I’ve found myself in these situations countless times over the past year, and I’ve had to take many mindful breaths to calm myself down. It’s taken a lot to realize that time is just an illusion. I’ve not only had to practice patience with myself, but with this culture.
When I’m impatient with common cultural situations, I’m demanding that everything and everyone run on my schedule. It’s a very selfish way of viewing and interacting with others. Patience is an important part of relationships. When I am patient, I’m showing others that I value their time and schedules as much as my own.
These past 14 months have been providing me great life lessons, particularly about letting go of the reins. Not everything is under my control and that’s okay. It’s taken me time to realize that, but as I embrace Island Time more, I’m finding that it’s easier to exhibit patience when I need to, which allows me to find the joy in moments along my journey– not just focusing on the end destination.
Time is moving at its’ own pace, things are happening naturally and while the Type A side of my personality initially was pulling her hair out, she’s taking more of a backseat role now. I appreciate having
FREE MORE time for understanding myself and this culture.
There is no rush, no hurry, no desire to be anywhere else than where I am at the moment.
Now THAT is being present.
MALO LE ONOSA’I
A few weekends ago, my family’s church in the village hosted their annual singing and dancing fundraiser. Each family presents their monetary donation and then dances for more contributions. As a whole, the church raised over $300,000 Tala (~$115,000 USD) in the afternoon. My highlight was singing and dancing alongside my family and community, who have embraced and welcomed me with open and PATIENT arms, hearts, and copious amounts of koko Sāmoa.
“The practice of patience guards us against losing our presence of mind. It enables us to remain undisturbed, even when the situation is really difficult. It gives us a certain amount of inner peace, which allows us some self-control, so that we can choose to respond to situations in an appropriate and compassionate manner, rather than being driven by our disturbing emotions.” – Dalai Lama