Minute With Mike - A friendly reminder

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 1/6/98.

October 16, 1997
How can I begin to describe the pleasure of having my family visit? A chorus of praise is inadequate. Over the past year and a half, family and friends back home have been my colossal desire. I crave their contact, and I got 12 days worth and a vacation in paradise.

Talk about simple lessons that take ten thousand miles and twenty months to sink in. Days with my family werenít always considered so precious. Right now, Iíd like all the time we squandered watching ďWheel of FortuneĒ during supper back. (For the record, I did force them to watch an X-File episode one night.)

This trip had huge expectations. My family has been hearing about this wonderful place for over a year. Itís neither the easiest vacation to plan, the most logistically feasible, nor the least expensive. And my expectations might have been greater.

I enjoy life here and I feel busy. This year does seem faster than the first. I have hobbies enough so that I can neglect housework until my motherís arrival is imminent. Still, two years is a long time and home is far away. Having things to look forward to in the foreseeable future are mental life savers.

I was actually nervous. Would my house be clean enough? Yes, except for my towels. Would the rats disturb us? No, except for tripping the traps. (My father helped me change my attitude from ďLive and Let LiveĒ to ďLive and Let Die.Ē) Would our travel arrangements come off without a hitch? Yes, though we were worried in the Wewak Airport when we waited for a final boarding pass and tried to prepare ourselves to be split up.

My worries were in vain. The trip surpassed all expectations, which is hardly surprising.

Iíd like to explain the two ways the trip achieved special significance for me. Iím told that returned volunteers are sometimes frustrated in explaining their experience. Two full years is hard to condense into pat answers, and telling them can be unfulfilling. So, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a two-week tour must be an entire library. My family understands so much more about my site and my life here, about the country and its people. Things I say can now be put in context. New questions can be asked. We will have a shared experience here, though theirs wasnít long enough for dreams of Frosted Flakes to start.

My motherís travel agent was a returned volunteer and she told Mom that she would have given anything to have her parents visit her site. Being here was different from Hawaii last Christmas. I would have liked to share more then, but, with that paradise to explore, time and interest was limited. This time, I got to be the tour guide. I answered questions and explained all sorts of things.I expect this nurturing of their curiosities to be the most significant long-term consequence. In the short term, the best part was having their fresh eyes to see through. This has become a home for me, and that means I take things for granted and rely on a callous side to shield me from frustrations. It also means the beauty is often overlooked.

My first month in Lumi, I promised myself that I would watch the sunrise every morning. The only days in the past nine months that Iíve been up before 7 a.m. were the four days my family was here.

Similar rejuvenations happened in myriad ways. One of my favorite things about PNG is its friendliness. My family walked to the station one day and were overwhelmed by the warm response. They couldnít stop talking about it. We expected the four days in Lumi to be quiet, but they turned out to be busy. I was pleased to hear at the end of our trip that the time in Lumi was still their favorite. They were impressed. I know my mother will long remember the response they got while passing out pen pal letters in one of my English classes. If kids back home could see that, she said, they would all write.

My students here will long remember having my parents and sisters visit their class.

The grass isnít always greener on the other side of the fence. You sometimes forget how nice your yard is because youíre standing on it. Iíve been dreaming a lot of cool fall days, the first snow of winter, and stocked supermarkets; and I havenít been paying full attention to misty mountains and garden vegetables. I donít even remember how bananas from the store taste, but I was recently assured garden-grown ones are vastly superior.

I needed that friendly reminder.

(Michael Jacobson was a reporter for the Paynesville Press before joining the Peace Corps.)

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