I’m heading back to Tongariki tonight on the cargo ship. It’s sort of a bittersweet moment realizing that this is my second year teaching out there. Time has gone so quickly.
On the one hand, Tongariki is an incredible place. My host parents are amazing. Everyone is so kind and friendly towards me. My life, at times, feels like I’m just in a tropical island paradise. And it all happened just because of coincidence—I applied at X time, I took Y number of months to make it all the way through my medical and legal clearance, so I left at Z time, to go to Vanuatu. What if I’d applied earlier? Would I be freezing in Mongolia right now? I mostly can’t believe how lucky I am to be here.
On the other hand, I had it confirmed that there will not be another volunteer in the Shepherds in the next group. That means that it’s just me now. Last year, I was on an island by myself, but I had Monica an hour away and Stephanie four hours away, so I didn’t feel quite as alone. Now it’s for real—the nearest volunteers are going to be an overnight ship away from me. That’s alone. I have the community to support me and I don’t usually feel lonely out there. But it’s a little intimidating to realize that this is where I’m at, now.
I’ve spent the weekend since coming back from Fiji finishing a water project grant, getting supplies for a map project, and buying all the things I think I’ll need for the next five months. Five months. Nowadays when I go shopping, it all feels different—I guess how much of everything I might need and want. I’ve got 30 rolls of toilet paper, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, soap, bleach, oatmeal, lentils, vinegar, tea, tuna fish, notebooks, new towels, laundry soap, and that’s about it. If I need anything else, I’ll have to ask someone to pick it up for me in town. How weird is that? And I don’t feel like I can come back in the middle of the term because I’m going to be teaching class 6 this term as their real, full time teacher. I can’t abandon them just to get some more snacks, you know?
I feel like everything just got turned up a notch, and I am excited, but nervous, too. This has been such a real, exhilarating, weird and sometimes just depressing and demoralizing experience. It’s been a real trip and I’m looking forward to seeing where else this takes me. I know that the second I’ll get back on Tongariki, I’ll feel better. It’s my home. I had a pretty lousy month back in September, and the second I got back to Tongariki, I felt like all of that was behind me. And it’s time to go back and get back to work—I’ve been away a long time. It’s hard, too, though, knowing that I have these challenges that even a lot of other volunteers can’t really empathize with. I guess this is just mid service mixed feelings—my life is so good and so bad and so weird, all at the same time. I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.
I’m going to set a few blog posts to automatically update while I’m gone, but I don’t think I’ll be back in town before the end of May. Lukim yufala evriwan—it’s going to be an adventure.
(Me and my dad at the national museum. Adios!)