Sunday, October 7, 2012
I first landed in Lae,
completely exhausted a little jet-lagged after three days of travel from New York City but nothing a night at Jacks’ Bar couldn’t cure. Everything was different, nothing was extremely shocking, but nothing was familiar. I had decided to come without expectations and for that matter without much true research. It’s hard not to reflect on my ‘anniversary’ back to that first day, week, month here, when you make such a drastic life change you remember the date. So it’s hard not to think about what the last three years have meant to me and how much I have learned.
Those first glimpses of the Nadzab, the city, the campus, my future students stay with me, but how I view those places and people have been altered by my familiarity with them. Landing at Nadzab now makes me feel like I’m back ‘home,’ not some strange country, in some very small town on the other side of the globe. (Don’t get me wrong – I still love NYC). I knew no one here three years ago and now I can’t go anywhere without seeing people I know and more than likely running into a good friend.
Some things haven’t changed in the last three years, the power still goes off and on, (as I write this, it just went off again (then on, and off again)), and while the water goes out much less often than it did that first year (they finally put a generator on the water pump) it still went out this weekend so that when I came home this evening the faucet I had accidentally left open was pouring into the sink. I know better than to do that now – oops. The city is still full of potholes of varying degrees – some roads have been fixed while other roads have deteriorated and at any given time only half the roads are open. But all of these things are inconsequential, you move on and you figure out ways to deal.
You learn to appreciate the things that do work and to ignore the things that don’t. A viewpoint I couldn’t understand three years ago – If no one complains than nothing will get done. Things may or may not get done, they probably won’t be accomplished in the time-frame you would like but you learn to adjust your expectations and realize that, that is part of living here. Complaining may or may not make you feel better but it probably won’t accomplish much.
The things I initially missed or thought I would miss, or couldn’t purchase here you find you probably don’t really need (or can have a nice family member / friend mail you). Of course there are some things you can’t get here that I still miss (dating*) and of course family and friends back home.
It’s hard to say which part of living here I appreciate the most. I have loved my job, working with the students watching them learn and in exchange learning as much from them. I have loved the close friendships I’ve developed and the small community that exists where friends really look after each other and become family. The social life which may at first seem limited by the number of places to go soon is overwhelming by the number of activities that are taking place.
This journey, this last three years of my life has been really difficult but incredibly amazing. I wouldn’t exchange it, I wouldn’t do it any other way.
*As my sister would say about her undergrad – the odds are good but the goods are odd…