Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ending Tropes

So, I sorta forgot to mention: I've moved away from American Samoa and am now back home in the States for good. Yeah. Just thought I'd bring that up.

I really wanted to be a little more clever about it. Write a two-page entry about how half a bag of baby carrots sent me to the hospital with a 104 degree temperature¹ and end it with and out-of-the-blue twist ending of "Good thing I'm leaving soon."

But as you may have guessed, preparing to move 7,000 to a different hemisphere, moving 7,000 miles to a different hemisphere, and then putting my life back on track after moving 7,000 to a different hemisphere has really taken up a lot of writing time. I'm starting to feel like if I don't get something in quick, I'll never get back to this blog at all. This blog is facing a cosmic deadline known as "before I forget completely."

So I present to you my account of what it was like in the last few weeks, as my time on the Rock drew to a close. In another weird, listlike form of "tropes" of course. Writing it out conventionally wouldn't really work, since it's not a coherent story.

Ending Fatigue- Starting at about six months left, you start to keep in mind that you're "about to leave." But six months left feels almost exactly the same as it did when you had no real plans to leave. Probably because almost nothing has changed, and that you don't want your bosses to know too soon that you plan on skipping out, so you don't tell anyone. And if you're like me, you've always had a "Bucket List" of things that you wanted to do before you leave, and you've already done most of them.

And then five months left feels the same as six months left.
Four months...same.
Three months left...feel the same.
Two months left...feel the same. Actually have to think about whether or not you'll be able to use it all up when buying stuff in bulk from Cost-U-Lots. Nothing else is different.
One month left...feel the same.
Three weeks left...feel the same, except for about 15 minutes after you book your tickets home.

And then...
Seriously About to End- I'm hiking through the jungle on one trail that I've always wanted to try and so deep in the woods that I later find some kind of tree worm dangling from the brim of my hat, when I realize that there won't be enough daylight to finish this trail today. Maybe I should come back next weekend. No, I have plans then. Maybe the weekend after. Then it hits me.

There. won't. be. a. weekend. after.

I guess I don't reach this phase until I get to the point where I actually start to run out of time, and the fact that I'm leaving starts to seriously affect my life.

The Reveal- After almost five moths of keeping it a secret, it was time to tell my boss that I was leaving. Then everyone else, via a Facebook posting. Reaction was mixed, mostly depending on if you were a friend from home or a friend from the Rock. Finally, I didn't have to lie about why I wasn't shopping at Cost-U-Lots anymore.

How Could You Ever Leave Samoa- "But Samoa is the best place in the universe! It's absolutely perfect in every way! There's no poverty, rampant bacteria, collapsing economy, language that you'll never be able to learn, widespread corruption, power-mad politicians that try to close any business they personally don't like, super-high cost of everything, or people overreacting to things you write on your blog. Why would you ever want to leave? The island is BEAUTIFUL!"

It's Just Not Home- As much as those things bother me, they're not really in A-list of reasons why I left (except maybe the bacteria one, which is how I ended up in the hospital). But I have a story that tells it pretty well.

About a month before I left, I was hanging out at Tisa's for what ended up being the last time. A Samoan man told me about how he lived on the American west coast for years and absolutely loved it, but he couldn't stay there forever because it just wasn't his home, and he didn't want it to be.

How true. How true.

For The Last Time- "Wow, I'm leaving my workplace for the last time." "Wow, I'm going to my island church for the last time." "Wow, I'm going to my favorite restaurant for the last time." "Wow, I'm getting gas on the island for the last time." "Wow, I just chased off a pack of snarling stray dogs for the last time." "Wow, I'm leaving my workplace for the last time, for real this time." "Wow, I'm using the bathroom next to my workplace for the last time...I think."

The Long Goodbye
- The same sort of thing, but with people. Saying goodbye to the people I worked with for two years. Saying goodbye to my friends from the Dissociates and church. Saying goodbye to the security guard at the building where I worked. Saying goodbye to that random neighbor who never introduced himself but we'd say "hi" to each other when we passed. The whole process involved a lot of awkward "Well, if I don't see you between now and when I leave a week from now, uh...have a nice life!" I think I ended up saying goodbye to a few people three or four times.

The Auction- A tradition among palangis on the island that probably began when Phineas Taft became the first American contractor that I made up to get fed up with the island in 1901 is the "Leaving the Island Sale." Unlike every other time most people move somewhere in their lives, it's waaay too expensive to take most of that stuff with you.² So you have to sell it, give it away, or throw it away. Although sometimes done as a traditional yard sale, the cultural-rich experience of the Leaving Sale now usually done via the famous Dissociates Email List (i.e. we email each other using the all-purpose email list, tack on the address of a few Samoan friends that might be interested, and ask "who wants to buy this stuff?") Then about a year ago, someone discovered that you can make online auctions with a Google spreadsheet, and those of use feeling that it was worth a lot more hassle to make about $35 more started doing it as a very drawn out online auction. This process was more fun than a barrel full of turkey tail.

Moving Out Nihilism- ASPA raising power rates again? "I'm leaving soon anyway." Good friend moved away a whole month before you? "I'm leaving soon anyway." Island economy in danger of collapsing now that the tsunami-related FEMA money that supplanted the closed cannery has stopped coming in? "Good thing I'm leaving soon anyway." Furry Vengeance playing at the only theater instead of the smash-hit move you were pumped to see? "I'm leaving soon anyway." Roads flooded? "I'm leaving soon anyway." Stub your toe while walking through your apartment? "I'm leaving soon anyway." Cable company switched from amazing CNN International to inferior US version of CNN? "OH COME ON!"

Final Food Problem- Sure, not shopping at Cost-U-Lots as much for the last month or so is no big deal, but you really get into problems when you get down to the last two weeks or so. You're afraid to buy almost anything, as you're supposed to be cleaning out your pantry at this point, not adding to it. And for the same reason, you end up eating a lot of really random meals. For the last week or so, I ate an awful lot of frozen chicken nuggets with Oreo cookies and long-expired Kraft Mac & Cheese. I paid good money for that food, and it's not like I can take it home with me.

But then at the same time, sometimes you clean out your pantry a little too well, and you have almost nothing left to eat, and thus have to go to the store anyway to buy overpriced basics that you'll get to use about half of. I still ended up having to throw away quite a bit of stuff. Especially expired mac and cheese.

Book Ends- So many random things from my last days on the island mirrored my first days there:
-No car
-No furniture that didn't come with the apartment
-Not a lot of food in my pantry/fridge, for the reasons discussed above
-3/4 of the stuff I own is in a USPS warehouse somewhere, and will be for months because I got the cheapest rate on shipping
-It's November, which meant everything from the holidays approaching to breadfruit hanging from every other tree
-Random Samoans I just met are asking me if it's my first time on the island
-I was to fly through Honolulu and Las Vegas, just like the first time

What Sort of Ending- How would I end my time in Samoa? Maybe a Dance Party Ending. And having a Bittersweet Ending is kind of inevitable, seeing as I'm leaving almost every friend I've met over the last two years for good. Maybe I'd just sorta ride my plane into the sunset. And what could be more appropriate for Samoa than an Everybody Laughs Ending? Or maybe using all these TV Tropes entries is something only fans of the site will appreciate, and I should stop doing it.

Well, as it turned out, I got a Grand Finale to my Grand Samoan Adventure.

More on that soonish.

¹ This actually happened.
² Despite this, everyone still takes a lot of stuff back with them. I mailed myself about 20 boxes of every size, and I've known people who rented out space in shipping containers, or even rented the whole thing for themselves.
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