When I left Samoa, the question was not whether I would go back, but when. I always knew I would return, but I also knew I would need some time. Peace Corps had a massive impact on my life, and returning to my village would not be a light undertaking. Everyone in my village wanted me to come back as soon as I could (since staying there indefinitely wasn’t an option). I demurred at the time, saying that I was returning to school back in the United States and was unlikely to be back in Samoa before I finished school in 2015. Prophetic words.
Fast forward to January 3rd of 2015 when one of my families from my village called me. It was such a rush of emotions I could hardly pay attention to the conversation about what had changed in my absence. When I left, the kids had just finished Year 8, Year 6, and Year 2. Now they were at the beginning of the new school year and about to enter Year 11, Year 9 and Year 5. They continued to ask me when I would return to the village, and I continued to evade the answer. A few days later, UNC accepted my in-state application, I received a massive refund, and my plane ticket to Samoa was booked within a week. I’m headed back for two weeks from late May through early June as a graduation present to myself.
I never had a doubt I would return, but when I started to tell other people about my trip, they were curious about my reasons for traveling. It seems to me that other people assume I would only journey back to the island for a specific purpose, perhaps a wedding, reunion, or some other big event. For me, going back to Samoa is akin to going back to Colorado, which never needs an explanation. It’s home. I have family there. Part of me will always live there.
Everything about this trip is steeped in nostalgia. What I want most is to return to my village routine – choir on Saturday afternoon, dinner with the family across the street, bingo. Yes, I’ll probably go to church on Sunday morning, which I hope will be followed with to’ana’i with my neighbors and a visit to the resort that gave me pizza every Sunday afternoon for two years. I want to walk down the road in my village and remember how I grew to be part of my community. I want to wile away the afternoons with my families, reliving the time they tried to teach me how to dance or how to husk a coconut. I especially want to sit in my favorite roadside fale an watch the waves roll in for hours on end.
I am entirely aware that nothing will be the same, but that doesn’t do anything to temper my hope that it will be. As I learned when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, the passage of time is measured by my presence here and also my absence there, but that doesn’t stop me from embarking on this trip from memory. I’m traveling with a sense of expectation, trepidation, and anticipation. I want it to be everything because that is what my time as a PCV in Samoa meant to me. It won’t be the same, but I’m hopeful it can be just as good.