As our one year anniversary on Yap came and went it was difficult not to reflect. Oh, how far we have come, both literally and figuratively. Yes I realize this post is delayed by several months, but look out for future posts to understand why!
It has been a tough year. Of course, I had no idea what to expect when we got here, but what has grown to be our life here is a good thing. Once the initial shock of moving to a tiny little island in the Western Pacific wore off we began to really take advantage of this opportunity. We have a lot more time on our hands sometimes. There are no malls to window shop, movie theaters, or skating rinks. This allows us the time we have always wanted to do anything we want!
We have made several good friends along the way, and are definitely more socially active than we were in Seattle. The reasons being two-fold. Firstly, there isn’t much to do here. One gets bored very easily some days. We need stimulation from outside to stay sane, and some days to keep from killing each other! Secondly, we have no family here, no built-in support system. Luckily we did have one, we just didn’t know it! We joined the expat family of Yap, who help bring balance and support to our lives here. Just like real family, we don’t get to pick who moves here. This always adds excitement to a new arrival, the “who are we going to get?” factor. We are a definite mish-mash of American and other cultures, who come together, sometimes with the only thing in common being that we moved to Yap. We make it work. If we didn’t it would be a pretty lonely experience. It is comforting to know there are others who struggle with some of the things we do as well.
There have been many ups and downs, some accounted for on this blog (termites, pseudo-pets, and mangrove crabs), some not. Some things just aren’t blog worthy, and well, this is on the internet for anyone to read, so some stories are only journal-worthy. You will have to wait for the book to hear them!
Being here has allowed me to become more patient, flexible, and a tiny little bit more outgoing. I have rarely had to be “the new kid” in my life, and always struggle to do it gracefully. As I get older it becomes easier. I am more confident that I am being the woman that I am meant to be. If others don’t like me, or we just aren’t on the same wavelength, so to speak, I am able to accept this and move on. It isn’t a judgment of my character or theirs, it just is what it is. Luckily, I haven’t experienced much of that, but instead have met some good people. We have made many new friends here, some who have already returned to The States. We enjoy having new people around us from all around the world. This experience has opened our eyes to so much. Different points of view, different life experiences, and different futures always make for interesting conversations. I know I have grown as a person. I hope it is noticeable, for the good of course. I have worked hard at becoming more patient, something that is vital to surviving “island time” without losing your mind, though I still can’t help but be punctual. I have tried to be more flexible, especially when it comes to plans, and acquiring needed items for the home. Living here forces you to embrace going with the flow. I hope one day it won’t need to be so forced, but I’ve got time to work on it, here in this beautiful place.
I came here with an open mind, not quite sure how I would keep myself busy for two years, but looking forward to the opportunity to slow down a little, and make the best of this adventure. I try to remember that every day.
Working here has provided me opportunities to meet more people and get out into the community. Every day I am immersed in Yap’s culture via my students and co-workers. At work I find myself taking culture into account for every step I make. This isn’t out of the fear of disrespecting or looking a fool, what I would have done only a short time ago, but out of respect, a tiny bit of understanding, and a ton of interest.
Through my job at the high school I have rediscovered just how much I enjoy working with youth. Some days I don’t enjoy teaching them, but I always enjoy being around (most of) them. It provides me an opportunity to see life through their eyes again. Oh to be 15 again! The drama. The intrigue. The rebels without a cause! I hope when we return to the mainland that I can find a position working with youth, preferably at-risk youth vs. “troubled” youth who are already in the metal health or criminal justice systems. Truthfully though, aren’t all youth “at-risk” for something, particularly life?
Sometimes lacking the usual comforts of life, has shown me just what one needs to get by and be happy. Gone are the days when I had to have my cell phone constantly within reach. I can proudly say that I don’t even own one anymore! Gone too, are the days that I had to have my morning latte’. Now we drink what are called “coffee sticks”. They are individually packaged portions of instant coffee with sugar and creamer already added. They aren’t too bad, but we suspect they don’t actually have any caffeine in them!
Some things have changed in some ways, but not in others. I still grocery shop, but instead of “one stop shopping” at Fred Meyer’s, I sometimes have to go to all of the stores, and still can’t find what I am looking for anywhere. I have learned to cook by what is available, which is similar to my approach in Seattle, of shopping by what was on sale. I now cook more often than we eat out. I make our pizza, including the dough, instead of picking up the phone and calling our favorite pizza place in Seattle, Soprano’s. (Oh how we miss their dolmades!) Granted my pizza can’t be compared to what we consider “pizza” but it’s close enough to satisfy the craving… sometimes.
Overall, I am very happy with our choice to move to Yap. It hasn’t always been easy, or fun, but it is still real-life after all. With a twist. It has provided Mike the work he was looking for, the experience he has been craving for as long as I have known him. It has given me many things as well, some of them I was looking for and some were just meant to happen.
It’s the same, but it’s not. It is familiar, but still very different from what we were once used to doing. But with every day, every week, and every month it becomes more familiar. Who knows what we will be like once this journey is over! But I can tell you one thing, I’m sticking around to find out.