Living in the South Pacific and the Art of Being?
My time in the South Pacific
As I look back over my life and consider where I have been and where I am now a few strong impressions remain in my head of the pivotal changing times of my life. One of the strongest pivotal times was when I spent 2 1/2 years living in the South Pacific in a little country called Vanuatu.
When I arrived in Vanuatu I was confused. I didn't know what way I wanted my life to go and I didn't know who I was. I felt angry and confused about my life and all I knew, really, was I was supposed to be here, in Vanuatu.
I agreed to sign up for a 2 year teaching stent with the United States Peace Corps. I, along with my partner, were placed on a remote island with no running water, electricity or any creature comforts. As an American I was used to having stores that supplied me with all my needs and wants, however the village we were plopped into did not allow us this luxury. We knew what we were getting into and we opened ourselves up to whatever we needed to do to be of assistance to those in our new life and village but I can't say I was at all happy about it, at least in the beginning.
We lived in an untouched paradise and I was miserable. I hated that I had to use the community shower that was in the middle of the village with a flimsy corrugated tin door that wasn't even on hinges. When a strong breeze blew, the door to the shower flew away exposing anyone taking a shower. I hated that I had to wear my clothes to take a shower in. I hated that our toilet, a little hut made of corrugated tin with a wooden box set over a hole in the earth was infested with cockroaches and rats. Nighttime trips to the toilet made me cringe and whenever possible I didn't hesitate to squat out the back of our little house not even getting close to the toilet. I hated that women were treated poorly many of them doing all of the work of looking after the children, cooking and cleaning while their husbands lounged under the banyan tree eating mango's and talking all day. I hated that I didn't have the respect from the male students in the classes I taught. Most of the time they sat and talked in their local language laughing and doing their own thing while the girls were eager and willing to learn their new subjects of geography and health.
I found myself thinking about what I would do once we left and I started planning my return back to the States. These thoughts consumed most of my days. I couldn't wait to get off the island and go to see the other volunteers so I could feel "normal" again. I complained about everything. I just wasn't happy, yet I knew this was where I was supposed to be.
The Art of Being
About one year into my experience in the South Pacific I woke up. I was tired of hearing myself complain and I knew I had to change. Once this awareness came to me, and I have to say it came because I was literally tired of being unhappy, everything started to change. It all happened one night as we were sitting out on the villages broken cement dock looking up at the stars. This is something we did on most nights, but I usually complained about the concrete being too hot and I could literally only sit out there for a maximum of 5 minutes, but this night was different.
We brought a local woven grass mat down to the dock and laid it out to sit on. There was a light breeze coming in off the ocean and the stars were bright. Before laying on our backs we looked into the clear Pacific water and the water sparkled with phosphorescence. I remember thinking that the stars were shining in the water and in the sky and at that moment I realized how lucky I was. What an amazing place to be able to live for such a brief amount of time. I sat in awe and amazement at the water and at the sky. There was no electricity in the village so there were no lights to compete with the well lite up awe inspiring sky. Looking back down to the water I could see a fish swim by with a trail of phosphorescence following behind him. I giggled, at that moment, realizing that not many people get this chance. That night we must have spent well over an hour exploring with our eyes the night sky and the tiny lights in the water revealing, like miniature flashlights, different areas under the sea just off the dock.
The next morning I could tell that I had changed. I felt happy about getting up and I actually looked forward to whatever the day brought. I began to relax and allow whatever came my way to come without reacting to it. I started feeling creative and instead of complaining about what I couldn't get I decided to figure out how to make it on my own. For example, I craved something sweet and delicious and for months I complained about the lack of baked goods. Well on this day I decided to make myself donuts. I didn't know how, but I allowed my creativity to guide me and I have to say, they were very tasty donuts. And my days continued as awe inspiring, creative chances to discover and learn about my surroundings and myself.
Many things started changing. My nightly showers changed and I now felt grateful for the opportunity to bathe in the dark with all the stars shining brightly above my head and a warm breeze still blowing. I felt grateful for the differences in cultures which allowed me to learn about others. I felt grateful for the closeness of the women in the village and how they looked after each other. I felt grateful to be part of all of this and excited about what the next day would bring and where this experience would lead me in my life. But most of all I decided right then and there that I was going to live in each and every moment. I wasn't going to plan about what I was going to do when I got home. I would decide that when the time came. I was going to take this experience and live in the moment and appreciate and feel grateful for this time to learn.
I allowed myself to be and when I did new relationships bloomed between me and the villagers. I began to get invited to events and I even had opportunities within the Peace Corps come to me. In being I became creative and taught myself to crochet, knit, make woven necklaces, purses, sew my own clothes, and the village women taught me how to weave mats and baskets. I felt alive and happy. I allowed myself to stop resisting and the moment I did I started noticing not only the perfection in everything in life, but also the magic. I remember feeling like an onion revealing and peeling away the layers that were blocking me from being happy. All I had to do was be and in being everything happened.