Sunday, February 8, 2009

Getting LOST

I've been struggling with some angst this past month about leaving the island. I know, I know. "What about the count down? What about the complaints?" I think this happens to a lot of us who come here hoping for paradise, looking for change, needing some sun. We go through culture shock, we find things we like/love about the place, we adjust, and then we get antsy, thinking it's perhaps time for something different.

But what are we looking for? Often what was going on back "home" wasn't so great that's why we are here in the first place. So what are we running back to? Grocery stores and shopping? We all know, living in a consumer culture, that there will never be "enough". As soon as you have what you've been waiting to consume for two long years then you'll be looking for something better or different. Newer. Better. Bigger.

We know that inefficiency and corruption is rampant here. Efficiency is nice and so is customer service. But remember there are long waits in the states and stupid people everywhere. Is sitting in rush hour traffic for 1 to 2 hours better than having a blank stare when you need something done? I think I'd rather deal with the stare.

We don't make much compared to salaries back home, but you won't spend even a fraction of what you do in the states. You aren't bombarded with crap that you think you need. Your clothes are secondary, your car acceptable if you gets you from point A to point B, your house fantastic if it's not infested with termites or mold. We've learned to live within our means, unlike many unfortunate souls back home. And hey! We have a job.

Ok, so job satisfaction can be the "biggie" here. People get "in trouble" by superiors for "just doing their job" because it might in some unknown/unforeseen way be upsetting to the Samoan culture. Change is nearly impossible and when it does happen it's at a snail's pace. Your boss can be completely ignorant and never at work. You have to learn to pat yourself on your back and be happy if you are making small changes in people's everyday lives. This is not a big picture place. Living for today is really the motto. Future orientation is slow in developing here.

Yeah, the internet sucks. But really, should you be spending so much time on the internet? Yeah, the cable is delayed by two weeks and the commercials irrelevant (christmas sales after christmas). Will the world fall apart if you watch LOST two weeks late or when it comes out on DVD?

The schools are awful I must admit. If I had kids this would be one of the greatest challenges. When teachers drop curriculum because the "students won't read the book" (speaking of High School kids) instead of, oh, I don't know....flunking them, then there is a real problem here.

Health care is an issue, esp if you want any specialty services. However, there are more and more US trained physicians and health care providers. At $10 a visit, $10 a RX and many services offered free through Fed Grants, you can appreciate what we DO have. AND many, many, far too many, people in the states are without any type of health insurance. That $10 doctor's visit, is $150-200 out of pocket. That RX? Try $50-100+

I think I've learned a lot about slowing down that I NEVER would have been able to learn back home. It's impossible. I've also learned a lot about what I don't want back in my life when we get back. I wish we were going on to some new adventure, but there are a few practical reasons why we need to go back, at least for the time being.

Most people who leave Samoa, remember it longingly afterwards. Some say it was like a dream. They won't come back because we all leave for some very good reasons (because some people do stay for very long periods verging on "forever"-of course, we call these people "Tropo" ;), As the time nears to leave I think it's impossible to wonder if this is the right move and what are you gaining/loosing. I had very little hesitation on leaving and much more on returning.

I'm hoping this isn't like some episode of LOST where we spend two years connecting with people, trying to survive and figuring out life, the universe, and everything; all while desperately trying to escape at the same time. Then when we finally are "free" and back in the "real world" we are not quite sure what the big rush was to leave. And may just have to return to save our friends we left behind on the island. ;)


Anonymous said...

I agree completely, Liz. I'm glad we don't have a return date yet. Even though there are things I miss about the states, mostly family for us - I did come here to "get away from it all" and "enjoy the simple life." We will miss you! And I wish I had a baby here just so you could be my midwife (but I would have missed my epidural :) ).
Jaime M

Anonymous said...

Forty years later, you say it for me. Of course we had one TV channel and no internet. I dreamed for twenty years, grieved another twenty and think I am over it now. I still "go back" for solace. I am smiling thinking of sending you off and knowing somehow you would "get it". Never the same.... Hope to see you in the Rogue Valley. GYL.

Drjjh said...

You have such a gift for writing!
When you get back to Portland, I would love to get together and hear more of your experiences at LBJ!

... said...

you forgot about wearing flip flop everyday... i am scared of the idea of wearing close shoes off-island... and you need pretty cloths... aren't you scared about leaving the island a bit? I think I am occasionally! But it is true, I learned sooo much down here. I learned to be happy with very little. Like with a vase of yogurt. We will miss you!!! well, I will be LOST out there somewhere soon as well... Good luck on the next adventures! Anyway, we may end up close by... Smuack!!!

ricktorock said...

Enjoyed your blog.....we have a bunch of connections including the fact that I trained in Portland in the late 70' wife and I then spent four years in Micronesia in the Public Health Service so your comments about the arrival/departure sentiments strike a chord. We were fortunate enough to spend 9 years in Hawaii after Micronesia where I had solo practice built up on my interest in and support of natural childbirth. In 1992 we moved back to Wisconsin where we are from. Now as a part-time obstetrician I get to do "locums" and will be heading to American Samoa next month to cover for a couple of weeks. Would love to chat with you if you are so interested. I am new to blogs so hope you get my e-mail address with this. Good luck back in Portland!