When not directly faced with some piece of my life, it tends to slip my mind (I’m not the only one, right?). While serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Samoa, I never could have imagined a time when I might not remember with vivid detail every moment of every day. It was an absolutely life-altering experience, and though the newness eventually faded and everything became routine, I always felt that this piece of my life would stick out…forever. Easy to say when you’re in your early twenties and living on a tropical paradise half a world away from anything you’ve ever known. At the time, it was the most significant part of my life. In many ways, it still is, but it is also part of my past.
Currently, other things occupy priority mental space. It makes me sad to realize that I can go days, even weeks, without thinking about some part of my time in Peace Corps. This sadness is some combination of a sense of loss at not holding that part of my life as central to my present experience, but also a sense of guilt at being able to get through my days without needing to remember it.
That being said, I still have my moments of getting carried away with reminiscing. Sometimes this involves an awful lot of talking on my part to those who are patiently willing to listen to every story that pops into my head. Sometimes this means losing myself in nostalgia of pictures, blogs, letters, and other mementos of my time in Samoa. There are so many pieces, and rediscovering those parts of my life also means re-experiencing the joy, hilarity, impatience, frustration, sense of accomplishment, community (and on, and on, and on) that comes with each memory.
Even though I feel disappointed in myself that I can’t remember the exact date of when I arrived in Samoa (because I know others from my group would be able to tell you, whereas all I can muster is early October), what matters more is that 5 years later I can still look back and recall the experience, the stories, the lessons learned, the painful personal growth achieved, and the memories that will last a lifetime (even if they are occasionally relegated to the sidelines of my mind). The first time I saw a horse on the island. Playing with the Samoan national orchestra. Gorging myself at Thanksgiving. The first time I called my own bingo. When I fell asleep on the church pew before choir practice. The island perimeter relay. Making cocoa with the women’s committee. Dancing the night away with my neighbors. Traveling by myself (and reveling in the independence). The cow parade. The perfect sunrise as I washed my laundry in solitude at the waterfall. Every time, thinking that these were the moments that I would never forget.
I haven’t forgotten them, they’ve just gotten a little blurred around the edges because I can’t live my day-to-day life in memories. But I sure can (and do) indulge in some thorough reminiscing. And with that, a handful of pictures. I would re-post all 2,000+ pictures that I took over the course of 27 months (and later, two weeks of vacation) because each captures some essential moment of my life in Samoa, but that seemed a bit unreasonable even for me. Some quintessential moments. Some favorites. All telling a part of the story, conveying something that can’t always be adequately captured with words.