Thursday, September 2, 2010

Turtle soup, anyone?

First off, let me say, I have tried, several times, to upload the subsequent mid-night crab escapade videos with no success. I have resolved to try once more, but not today. I haven't the time nor the patience today.

But I figured I should give everyone a little update anyway, let you all know what I've been up to these last few weeks.

First of all, I've been spending a lot of time at the beach. My school schedule gives me midday off, and since it's warming up I've been getting out a lot. I'm also getting restless/claustrophobic and have been wandering the island a lot. I'm becoming more and more aware of how little time I have left on this beautiful little untouched, playground-of-an-island, and I'm trying to enjoy the good parts while I can. The beach I usually go to is about 40 minutes away, and on the way I stop to pick oranges or guava to enjoy on the sand. I see whales every single time I go there. Normally I pretty much have the beach to myself, but the most recent outing I found myself sharing the beach with a group of 12 or 15 palangis (tourists, westerners). Annoying. They strolled by, barely managing to say hi to me, the stripped down to their bathing suits and sprawled out with their magazines and what looked to be the latest Candace Bushnell novel. Not ten minutes after they had settled in a huge whale jumped, nearly clearing the water, right outside the rocks. Not one of them noticed. For a half hour this whale breached, jumped, spy-hopped, spouted, and swam on it's side with one fin in the air. He was clearly begging for attention, and not getting any from these tourists. I sat and shared the experience with a young Tongan schoolboy and together we marveled at the sight. I briefly entertained the idea of walking over and alerting them to the beautiful scene in front of them, but it just didn't seem right to interrupt them. I can only hope that they go home and tell their friends, "Eh, the beaches were okay- nothing special."

Walking back from the beach I came across a group of Tongans sitting in the middle of the road drinking green coconuts. They invited me to join them, which I did happily, having left my water bottle at home. Coming back into the schoolyard the kids raced to greet me. It's pretty gratifying that after being here nearly two years they still run to greet me. Gosh, I hadn't seen them in nearly three hours. They wanted to show me the work they had done in the garden. I've assigned volunteer students to "garden duty" every day (except Sunday, of course) so that the garden doesn't completely go to shit when I leave. As it turns out, they are much better gardeners than I am, which really, at this point, should come as no surprise. Anyway, the boys on garden duty took it upon themselves to spruce up the garden a bit by making a limestone rock path around the edges. It was beautiful. They told me that next week they're going to do the outside of the garden. I'm always amazed at the lengths that these kids will go to to please me, I'm not sure what I did to deserve it, but I certainly appreciate it.

Another afternoon I got to the beach and took a climb out on the rocks to assess the swimmability of the ocean that day. I observed in the short distance a guy on a dugout, outrigger canoe and two more guys in the water spearfishing. The man waved at me and I waved back and watched him bobbing up and down in the waves for a bit. The next time I looked up he was waving something rather large in the air, trying to get my attention. I couldn't tell quite what it was, but he was clearly excited about his catch and I threw my arms in the air to share in his triumph. An hour or so later he and his buddies paddled in and I got to see their prize close up: a leathery sea turtle, maybe two feet in length. As it turns out, I knew these guys, or rather they knew me, and we got to talking about how they were going to prepare the turtle. Soup, naturally. The fisherman met his three-year old son on the beach, who, of course, wanted to carry the turtle. They walked off down the beach together, side-by-side, with the young boy struggling to keep up with a turtle nearly as big and he was in his arms.

My Close of Service conference is next week, and I suppose that's when the fact that this is all coming to an end will really start to sink in. So far my emotions are put it mildly. I'm thinking about the fact that I haven't locked my door in nine months, and a few weeks ago I slept over at another volunteers house and came home to find my door wide open...and nothing touched inside (My door doesn't latch very well, has a tendency to swing open). When I'm hungry I can walk into the bush behind the school, and depending on the season, eat my fill of guava, papaya, oranges, mangoes or bananas. Teaching here is, I think, about as fun and rewarding as it gets. In fact, I'm pretty certain I'll never be able to enjoy teaching anywhere else again. Hopefully I'll never have to find out. I think every post I lament about how incredible the kids here are, but just in case it's not clear to everyone, I'll say it again...these kids are phenomenal. Two weeks ago I was called out of my house by one of my neighbors returning from the bush. He wanted to give me a giant bushel of bananas.

On the other hand, it's time for me to move on. If I don't leave soon, my neighbors dog might kill me. For some reason this dog and I have never had a problem with each other until now. But all of the sudden we have major beef. I can't walk into their yard without getting attacked, and I've narrowly escaped getting bitten several times by pretending I have rocks in my hands that I am about to launch at this dog. Recently I've taken to carrying a log through the yard to protect myself, which the dogs' owners insist is the reason the dog is attacking me. My attempts to explain that the dog attacked me before I started carrying the log, and that the log was a result of the attacks are futile. But there's no way I will walk through that yard unprotected, and their yard is unaviodable. I think it's because the dog just realized I'm white. Seriously, he hasn't taken issue with anyone else in the village.

My clothes are all moldy and shapeless, I'm tired of sleeping in a hammock, and this island is starting to feel smaller by the day. I'm over being the focus of village gossip, finding weird stuff on my bathroom floor, and stumbling through living within a culture that holds central values and beliefs that I don't necessarily share. It's my time. I will be replaced my a fresh, new, ideally petless volunteer in my village.

I will leave you with a hint about the thrilling conclusion to the crab chonicles:

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