Thursday, May 14, 2009

Special Six-Month Anniversary Superpost!

NOTE: Sorry for the font inconsistencies. Blogger's fault. Will try to fix later.

Well, it seems that I have now been here for a full six months. Time for some reflecting, observations, and whatnot of my experiences thus far. I don't know why, but I wanted to break everything down into categories of Things I've Gotten Used to, Things I'm Gradually Getting Used to, and Things that No Sane American Can Ever Fully Adjust to.

Things I've Gotten Used to
- Random crazy things happening all the time. Cars driving down the street with two flat tires. Going on a hike and happening upon a large abandoned WWII-era cannon. Learning that my friends like to compete to see who has gained the most weight while living here (yes, I play). Edible Beef Blood and Canned Bamboo in grocery stores. Grocery store employees asking me which competing store I'm spying for when they see me taking pictures of the weird stuff they have. You know, LOLWUT-isms. I've learned to keep my camera with me at all times, because those things tend to show up at all times. I just hope that they never get old, like some of the crazy things in college did.¹

- The climate. Not very hard to adjust to beach weather year round, though I find that I miss having four seasons after a while. Not to be confused with the day-to-day weather.

- Natural beauty of the island. Like that's hard.

- Essentially starting a new life. A lot of thanks goes to the Internet, but I was able to leave everyone and everything behind. Not that I don't miss everyone tremendously, but in general, I've been able to take starting over pretty well. Outside of my immediate family and a few of my closest friends, I was keeping in touch with most people via Facebook anyhow.

- Not being able to get everything locally. After my iPod Nano was stolen, I had to order the new one on eBay. The only place on the island that sold them had them in a wide assortment of the three ugliest colors that they come in for $90 more than what I ended up paying. If you want a specific book or DVD, that usually has to come from the Internet as well. Most of the DVDs for sale here are leftovers from the rental places. A couple of things, like Lectric Shave shaving lotion, I have yet to find. But I'm certainly getting by and the annoyance has passed. There's also a lot of things that barely anyone sells. So far I've found only three places that sell contact lens solution and one that sells dental floss.

- Being on the opposite side of the tourist-local relationship. But what I really like doing when there is a cruise ship in town is getting the souvenir-sellers to think I'm a tourist, then surprising them by knowing all kinds of things that only people that live here would know. Did some of that today, actually.

Things I am Gradually Getting Used to
- Being a minority. Definitely not something I've been before. The white or "palangi" population of the island is something like 10%, tops. But it's not hard to adjust to, seeing as just about everyone treats me the same as everyone else.

- The Samoan language. One thing I liked about Spanish in high shool was that it was a Latin-based language, and a lot of the words sounded almost exactly like their English counterparts. Not so much with Samoan. After about ten weekly night classes of Samoan, I can, on a really good day, understand a handful of words from a Samoan radio ad and maybe be able to tell you what it's for. It took some getting used to to not be able to understand half of what it said in the office. But at least I stay out of the gossip this way.

- This wacky "keep it in a glass case" system. In every store I can think of, almost everything remotely medically-related is kept in a locked glass case or behind a counter so that you have to ask someone to get it for you, and then they bring it directly to a cabinet by the register for you to forget about until you've paid for everything else and driven home.
And this doesn't only apply to things that they have a reason for locking up, like things that are even remotely dangerous or expensive. They lock up everything, including contact lens solution, toothpaste, and band-aids. And of course, this is The Island, so there is rarely anyone there to open it for you. They've actually lost a lot of business from me for that reason.² I have to wonder if this is all due to a badly-written law or something. I'll get used to it eventually.

- The weight gain inherent with living here. This only makes it into this category because so many of my friends have adjusted to it (see the aforementioned game), that I can't say I will never adjust to it.

Things No Sane American Can Ever Fully Adjust to

- The Traffic. Speed limits that never go above 25. People that never go above 20. Drivers, especially of the bus variety, that peel out right in front of you even if you're going the breakneck speed of 30. (Someone once did this to me on the mainland and I thought it was one of the worst drivers I had ever seen. Except that was in a 45 MPH zone and right after a traffic light, neither of which exist here). People that pass on curves. And my personal favorite, a ridiculously high number of drivers who have to slow down to one mile inch per hour when driving over a metal plate in the road put there to cover potholes so that people don't slow down while driving over them. This literally backs up traffic for miles about one day a week (even though the plates are there for seven) and has made me late on at least three occasions.³

- The Weather.
Who knew that a tropical rain forest area could have so much rain? Both my plans and backup plans last weekend were ruined due to it. This week has been the second one since I've been here with almost no sun. The good news is that on most weeks, if you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes and it will change. Oftentimes it will go from a torrential downpour to completely sunny while I'm in the bathroom.

¹Freshman Year: "Get this: I woke up in the middle of the night because it was freezing, even though it's September. Turns out that one of my suitemates got DRUNK and thought it was a good idea to turn the thermostat down to 55 DEGREES! Haha, isn't that CRAZY?
Senior Year: Dammit, someone got drunk and turned the thermostat all the way down. Now it's freezing so badly that I woke up!

²And even then, it's no guarantee. I was looking in one store to see if they had any muscle rub which I totally needed for my bulging paddler's biceps and not something lame like carpal tunnel-like pain in my wrist. I asked the Asian woman by the case if they had any "Bengay." She unlocked the case and gave me Band-Aids. After a lot of explaining and trying to think of other ways to explain what I was looking for, I asked if they had any "Icy Hot." I guess she thought I said "Can I see that?" because she opened up the case again and handed me whatever we were in front of at the time. Eventually I found what I was looking for.

³People here have a really irrational fear of those things. Almost everyone will drive into the other lane just to get around them so often that the lines in the road next to them have worn away completly. I often see giant SUVs drive off the road and onto sidewalks just to avoid that metal plate with the thickness of a quarter. The one that causes the traffic to really back up actually has people stop entirely and wait for the other lane of traffic to clear just so they can avoid driving on the demon plate. I feel like such a badass when I drive over them WITHOUT EVEN SLOWING DOWN! :o
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