Saturday, July 21, 2012

Reflection: On Leaving the Island

Last time I wrote, I was hanging out in New Zealand. I had an incredible month with the J's and by the end of our trip (and after almost 3,000 miles behind the wheel), we had plenty of memories to look back on. Aotearoa is beautiful. I suggest you book a plane ticket as soon as possible!

After the month was over, and it was time to say "fa soifua" to NZ, I headed back to the islands. I spent a night in Western Samoa, where I spoiled myself with an "ocean front" Airport Lodge view.

My room looked out on the island of Savai'i. I never made it there, but hey, maybe someday.

The next morning, I was headed back to the island I had called home for the past year. As my tiny plane flew over American Samoa, I couldn't help but feel a mix of emotions. I was anxious to get back and see my friends. I was happy to be back in a place that I had missed. I was sad to know that I only had a few days before I was leaving for real. It was a lot to take in.

I made my last weekend the very best that it could be. I rode the buses. I went to the beach. I rented a car and explored with Alison and Drew. I ate the Fish Fajita Salad at Deluxe Cafe. I finally got to see the island at night, from my very own turf - Aoloau. It was a perfect weekend and even though I had a knot in my stomach the whole time, I knew that it was time to go home. I had people to see!

A view of Pola Island

Looking toward the photo above

I will still never understand the laundry detergent bottles. An up and coming Samoan art form? Who knows!

The beautiful East side
What I didn't expect to be hard was to see my students again. I saw them on the bus and walking around. A few even surprised me at Alison's house. I had been gone for a month, and in that month, I guess my mind had accepted the fact that I had said goodbye to them. Seeing them again in person was gut wrenching. Students I barely even had a connection to made me choke up. Students I loved made me never want to get on the plane. How was I ever supposed to leave them? It was tough.

When my Flight Night finally rolled around, I was a lot calmer than I thought I would be. I patiently sat and waited. I was in shock that I was leaving but I had no emotion to show it. Drew hugged me goodbye and it was like I was going to see him tomorrow. 20 minutes after he left, as I sat alone, it hit me, "Whoa. This is it." Yet still, no emotion. 5 minutes after that, one of my beautiful, sweet, hard working students came running toward me, bawling her adorable eyes out. She had come to see me off, and at that moment, I realized how good it feels to be loved by someone. Later on, two more students showed up to sit and wait with me. I couldn't have asked for a better end to my night. They were sad, I was sad. But something in my mind kept saying, "This isn't over yet. You aren't really saying goodbye." I was still unemotional. I had shed no tears. I couldn't believe it. Finally, it was time for one last hug. I hugged the three of them, and as I handed over my passport, and turned to look at them one more time, I lost it. I cried the whole way through customs and security. I cried as I waited in the lounge. I cried as I walked outside. I cried as I walked toward the plane. I cried up until I got to my seat and found a little boy with the biggest smile on his face, waiting for me. My handsome, hilarious, sweet seatmate knew that I was sad and upset, and as the plane took off, he grabbed my hand and held it. That was it. All I needed was his smile and I realized that I was going to be okay.

My year was over and I could honestly say, feel, and believe that it had been the most incredible year of my life.