January 30, 1997
One of the hardest things I've ever done is to leave my parents and sister at the Honolulu Airport. I valued my family and friends before I came to Papua New Guinea, but I have a deeper appreciation now. To have a taste for a week was phenomenal, and then to leave again was agony.
It was harder than the first time I left, for a couple reasons. Last April, I was primed for adventure. Travelling was new and exciting again. This time the romance was gone Also, I didn't have a good conceptualization of 27 months back then. I had never been away from Minnesota for more than a couple months. Certain days here can last a month.
This time I knew the sacrifices I was about to make. I drank real fruit juice for a week, and then I left for another year of Kool-Aid.
I had a choice, though. I knew I would miss some things and I knew that some days I'd want nothing more than to be home, but I wanted to return to Lumi. And, carrying the guitar music, books, candles, tennis racket, and golf club that I bought in Hawaii, I got on the plane.
I made a list the other day about some of the things I enjoy about life here. I want to share some of it now.
Good is seeing the bright smiling faces of your students on the first day of school. Good is being back in the classroom after two months away. Bad is wanting to pull your hair out because of the chaos on the first day of school, January 27. Good is catching a glance from a student and making him smile while they listen to some disciplinary lecture at assembly. Good is watching a student mutter to his feet while he apologized for coming late to class.
Good is working 30 hours a week, if that. Good is sleeping eight hours a night. Good is learning to play the guitar. Good is having so much time that I can, for once, practice a musical instrument regularly.
Good is seeing the early morning clouds rise from the mountain valleys and cling to trees. Good is a beautiful sunset reflected on the clouds. Good is a cool, cloudy day when it feels nice to wear a sweatshirt and pants.
Good is choosing to walk an hour rather than going by truck. Good is an early morning mountain jog. Good is taking a dip in the river after a three-set tennis match.
Good is reading three books in a week, though not every week. Good is playing chess with Mr. Ambet, or basketball or cards with students. Good is greeting people in tok ples. Good is learning a new tok ples word and surprising someone with it.
Good is eating fresh vegetables and fruit. Good is finding tomatoes at the market. Good is when a spaghetti recipe calls for fresh basil and I can go cut a chunk off one of my plants. Bad is that the nearest store that sells real pasta or cheese is a two-day hike away. Bad is my budget doesn't include flying there regularly.
Good is having three hours of electricity per night. Bad is having a refrigerator that only runs three hours per day. Bad is being able to nonchalantly brush ants off your food before eating. Bad are cockroaches that eat through plastic bags. Good is having my cat eat those cockroaches while I clean my cupboards. Good is seeing my cat's head lift up and sprint home from the neighbor's yard as I call: "Pssssst. Pssssst." Good is hearing him play at night instead of rats.
Good is getting wonderful letters from your friends. Bad is getting mail only every other week. Bad is having lots of free time but not being able to spend any of it with your family and friends. Good is seeing Peace Corps friends after months apart. Bad is counting the months on a calendar until you will see them again or go home. Good is enjoying life so much a month slips by, and you wonder where it went.
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