A Note About Hope

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Hope reveals itself in mysterious ways.

A final gasp for air, the first drop of rain, the step away from the ledge, the hand that picks up the phone, the improving blood test results, the stern lips that crack to reveal a smile, or as the light creeping through the shades against every self-loathing desire to remain in the dark.

Last week I fell quite sick. Each night I found myself drenched in sweat with the feeling that a pick axe had been delivered to an unreachable point inside my skull. I was already down – so this was the ground breaking away to further my fall and add depth to my despair.

In the same week, a friend’s baby passed away at 7 months, and another found out his dad has cancer and that one of his friends had also recently died in a car crash. News was also given that a close friend of my parents had passed away after being ill.

Today, someone knocked on my door to explain the inhumanities going on in Syria. He was hoping I would donate to the charity he represented. I said I wasn’t in the position to – but I empathised with the fact he was walking door to door in the heat, to which he was quick to state, “it’s not about me.”

Of course not. It’s about all of us. And how as conscious individuals, a community, a country, a chunk of rock floating in space – we hurt, so much and so deeply at times… But we also hope.

Hope is an unwavering desire which becomes the belief that no matter what happens; how much we take or lose, and no matter the odds; we still have something to clench dearly in our hands.. as well as the strength to swing back.

I’m now feeling much better. I know those torn by the tragedies I mentioned will eventually recover in due time. I also know that unfortunately, not everyone makes it; some people lose hope. I know that not all damage can be repaired. But as fractured as our lives become, we do find a way to move on and piece together some new meaning of our existence, and, persistence. In his powerful Ted Talk, Andrew Solomon refers to this process as ‘forging meaning and finding identity’. 

I’ve written about situations I’m close to, but such stories exist all over the world and throughout history. That’s another way Hope reveals itself.

Whatever Hope actually is, I’m glad it exists … and I hope you can find it.

Too short at Twenty-two

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Today was just another day for many; the birthday for someone I know; and the 5 year anniversary of the day that someone I used to know, lost his life.

At 22 years old, Andy was gone before life gave him the chance – or rather unfortunately, there is reason to believe it was the other way around. Who knows what was behind  those passing clouds… if he just waited in the rain.

Instead of brighter days, he’s getting flowers laid.
Instead of creating new memories, he’s fading in ours.
To someone I could have saved, I apologise with a visit to his grave.
We already know this: nothing is promised.
So don’t just live life as if it’s a gift..
be one, so you’ll be missed.  

 

Somethings To Say, Before the Sun Sets

Last sunset

So, I’m home. My one year work assignment in Tonga has come to an end. I made several monthly posts during my experience, but feel I should do one last post to properly see this chapter of my life closed. (You can read all the posts I wrote while away here)

If you haven’t been following my story, here is the gist of it: I moved into a new place, started a new job, hated it, but I went through the motions of working and saving. I booked a 1 month holiday to the USA, but eventually got fired first. I tried finding a job I’d actually enjoy, came very close in a few interviews, discovered an international development / capacity building program, thought why not, applied, got accepted, refunded my planned holiday, moved out, and then spent 2014 overseas.

I was as shocked as everyone else. Having spent my whole life in the one city, it’s something I never considered or saw coming… which was why I believed it was so important to ‘just go with it’ before it got away.

Since leaving childhood, I’ve learned that card tricks, control, and certainty are all illusions.

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It turned out that what appeared to be a sunny tropical island was actually the furtherest from my comfort zone that I’ve ever been.

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I’ve heard it before; you’ve heard it before: sometimes, you’ve got to get uncomfortable. I get it now, I really do. Once we’re past puberty, the only growth we get is voluntary (with the exception of toenails and unwanted hairs.) It’s also excluding physical workouts. I’ve done a lot of those. Lifting twice your bodyweight is uncomfortable, but there is still an element of control: we know we’ll either be successful in the lift or we won’t – and we’re familiar with both outcomes either way.

Real growth is more than just physical; it’s a deeper change than that. And really being uncomfortable means giving up all perceived control and certainty over the situation. Simply put, it means not knowing.

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There was a lot I didn’t know: Where I’d live, what work would be like, who my friends would be, what I’d eat, and what I’d spend my spare time doing. These are all common questions to which I now know the answers; but what really makes going away such an experience is the things that you learn … that you didn’t expect or know you needed to learn.

There was a lot that happened over the year; there is a lot to write about, and there is a lot I already did write about.  Looking back, here are the main things I want you to know… and that I want myself to remember.


1) HAPPINESS IS AN OUTLOOK

I arrived in Tonga feeling sorry for people, but I returned home feeling sorry for myself. I realised I had been sold a dream. I had been told by a combination of my peers, upbringing, and culture – that there were set requirements for being happy. There aren’t. Despite being classed as a ‘developing country,’ people in Tonga smiled, laughed and seemed openly happier. How? Isn’t that the point of all the luxuries and privileges of the the western world? Well, I learned that it’s all about perception.

You can’t enjoy the taste of what you’ve got when you’re sniffing the fumes of what you don’t have.

I coined the above term, but I’m just as guilty of the offence as anyone else. With less disparity between wealth and status, and hardly any mass advertising, people in Tonga can devote their full attention to what they do have – and tend to be happier as the result.

I’d be lying to claim I’ve dropped all my desires since coming back to the western world. Desire and ambition definitely has its place. But given what I’ve learned, I’m definitely trying to remember that

there’s satisfaction in simplicity, and a blessing behind every breath.


2) THE SLOWER YOU GO, THE MORE YOU SEE

Tonga has Tonga Time, Fiji has Fiji Time, and so on. It’s a fact; time moves slower in the South Pacific. As a ‘city rat,’ getting used to a slower pace of life definitely required some adjusting. There were also withdrawals from what I call ‘stimulation addiction,’ to which mobile phones and modern technology are the most common perpetrating paraphernalia. With less internet access, less happening in my environment, and overall, less urgency – I eventually found myself slowing down. And that’s when it happened.

I started to notice more things – rather peculiar things: the positions of the stars, the sound of the sea, the weight of the breeze, the variations of trees and flowers, the way animals behaved, and many other minute details. Of course, in the west, this approach would result in a lot of missed busses, pissed of people, and possibly accusations of staring in public. It’s also not humanly possible or healthy to consciously process everything; but it is worth paying a little bit more attention every now and then. You never know what you may notice.


3) FAITH HAS ITS PLACE

I’ve never been religious. Sure, kinda Buddhist and strangely spiritual; but not religious.  I’ve always respected peoples’ rights to make their own decisions; but it wasn’t until going to Tonga that I actually began to understand why some people choose to believe.

I met people who lived in tin sheds and without access to basic necessities – yet they clutched their bibles as if it was their most vital resource. I met youths who were surround by bad influences and dangerous temptations – yet God was an authority figure they wouldn’t dare to disobey. I met people who made massive sacrifices in their own lives in order to help others – yet they were modest in their contributions and efforts, acknowledging Jesus as their inspiration and mentor.

Across these different circumstances, there was the one how – and the one why: God.

I’ve read The God Delusion, find Sam Harris fascinating, and am aware of the ways religion is exploited as a tool of manipulation – but I can’t disregard the way that religion and faith has proved to be a solid foundation in lives that are otherwise crumbling; the way way it provides clarity to those conflicted between choices; and they way it widely opens the hearts of those in the position to help others.

Religion doesn’t have a place in my life, and it may not have one in yours; but there’s no doubting it has its place in the world. 


4) TALENT CAN FLOURISH ANYWHERE

I had the privilege of meeting some amazingly talented individuals. At 17yrs of age, Paul is a perfect example. This video showcases his talent as a self-taught dancer and choreographer. And he certainly isn’t the only example. It seemed that Tongans had the natural ability to dance, sing, draw, and play sport. This is without the many learning opportunities and resources available in the west. I mean, despite having access to dance schools, video tutorials, and large body-sized mirrors, I definitely got put in my place by the dancers I met in Tonga. Here is a recent video of all of them in action.

Another example is a young woman who went from driving around in a car without windows to modelling in Europe, living a life she didn’t even dream about before. I’m sure there are similar stories emerging from other parts of the world. I’ve also seen similar things on Youtube, but there was something different about encountering this phenomenon in person.

Needless to say, as a person who tends to be quick to place limitations on himself, I left feeling inspired, now knowing what can be achieved with not much more than just passion and dedication.


5) WE’RE ALL UNDER THE SAME STARS

As this was my first extended period of time spent in another culture, I noticed a lot of differences. After enough time, I noticed many underlying similarities: Children cry when they fall over, people smile when they see each other, women like dressing up, and guys give each other crap because they care.

On a deeper level, I realised how we all just want to feel safe, to belong, to care for those close to us, and to feel loved ourselves.  We go about it in different ways, but our motives are the same, as with the emotions we feel. Different continents, countries and cultures don’t change the fact that we’re all people, trying to get by on the sample planet, under the same stars.

This is a great video on the topic.


6) TIME FLIES

I was packing my suitcase to leave, and then unpacking it – what felt like – shortly after. In reality, a whole year had passed. Just like that. I regret the time I initially wasted on deliberating on wether my decision to come to Tonga was the right thing to do because…

time doesn’t cease or slow for our uncertainty; it goes on, taking with it, another opportunity.

We all worry and wonder at times, but it’s important to remember that we won’t be where we are for long, and that we won’t be around for long either.  This fact will motive us all in different ways, but..

we all stand to miss something by standing around.

I was on a tiny island where I felt time moved so slowly, but eventually, it was up. I’ve come home to find people getting married and having children, and myself, once again, at a crossroads. I don’t know what’s next, but I know it will be over before I know it.


I’ve got one years worth of daily journal entries, so I’m sure there is more I could add, but I’m happy to close it off here. The experience taught me a lot, I saw another country but also another side to myself. It stretched my imagination and also made me that much more sturdy, mentally. It’s given me a lot to think about, write about, and share.

To you, the reader: I hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into my adventure. Maybe you’ll look at your own life differently… or like I did, have the courage to change yours drasictally.

To Tonga:  malo (thank you) and hopefully toki sio (see you later).

It’s going to be all ripe

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The post that started this blog had something to do with a banana.

I was sitting on a park bench during my lunch break, sunny as it’s ever been, yet as grey as I’ve ever felt. Tears rolled off my cheeks as I stared into emptiness, weighed down by a sense of hopelessness. Dramatic or truthful, the feeling was real – real enough for me to seek professional help for the first time.

I did a few sessions with a psychologist which consisted of breathing and visualisation exercises. What scared me the most was the future and the uncertainty surrounding it – but for some reason I clearly saw myself overseas working with a group of youths. Somehow, I was right. I was offered a one-year position at an educational institute in Tonga a few months later. While it was a wonderful and unexpected opportunity and experience, it eventually passed.

1.5 years later, I’m again in the same boat, on the same bench.. scared, doubting myself, comparing myself to others or how ‘it should be’: all the same shit.

But this time I have a sense of optimism that I didn’t have before. I know such sharp variations in feelings and experiences are as commonly experienced as the heat of summer and the chills of winter. Like a loose leaf, this realisation that “I’m not the only one” fell upon me while sitting in the waiting room before my first psychologist appointment in 2013. The fact was always there, I just hadn’t noticed.

This time, I also have a sense of confidence in myself and in the world that I didn’t have before. I’ve made it through many tough times and I will do so again. My recent travels have allowed me to see more of the world and understand how vast life and its possibilities can be.

Looking back, I understand how tunnel vision can be exceptionally dangerous – especially when we think of any light at the end as an oncoming train. A correction of our own train of thought can allow us to rather see it as an opportunity – and to notice all the wonderful things we’re passing on a second-to-second basis. These things are unfortunately often hidden behind walls that we’ve built or had built around us – but thankfully, they’re also walls that can break, and there are a range of tools to help us do the job.

I guess the whole point of this post is just share one simple thing that I’ve learned since I first accepted something wasn’t right:

We’re all in our own cages, tunnels, cells. Regardless what the circumstance that makes us feel like a prisoner is, getting out all starts with the same thing… thinking knowing that it’s going to be all ripe right.

Writing My First Book – My Experience

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“I don’t know what the soul is, but I’m pouring it into this book”

Something I had written in my journal six months ago. In contrast to now, it was back when I was losing sleep out of excitement. Back when I was springing out of bed with energy. I was in the process of writing my first book.

I’m not sure what I exactly wanted or expected. It was like I was consciously in the backseat and a mysterious creative impulse of mine was driving. Despite all warnings about getting into cars with strangers – I never questioned it or asked ‘if we’re there yet’ because I was too busy enjoying the ride. I was bettering my writing ability, and becoming an author. Regardless of the context, these are two truly worthwhile human experiences.

Becoming viral or even obtaining a single sale definitely wasn’t on my mind. But success was. That’s because success is subjective. Beyond the sole personal achievement of writing a book, the other metrics I wanted to measure were based around “meaning”… and maybes.

Maybe the people I know will take the time to read it and understand who I really am. Maybe someone I don’t know will read it and want to get to know me. Maybe they’re going through a difficult time, and my book will tell them the kinds of things that I once so desperately needed to hear.

When you give with less expectations to get, sometimes life surprises you. And this is what my ‘may’ came to ‘be’.

My book not only brought current friends closer to me, it brought new people into my life.. founding new friendships. From both sources, I’ve received plenty of kind comments which i’ve treasured. True to Jim Carrey’s 2014 MUM Graduation Speech where he states

 

“The effect you have on people is the most valuable currency there is.”

 

Just like Jim also describes his discovery of comedy as ‘something worth his time’, I’ve realised that writing is worth mine. I never would have considered myself the type to give advice since I’ve got so far to go personally and professionally. But the way I see it now, is that writing and sharing gives new meaning and value to every experience I go through. Particularly my f*** ups. People also say that I have a ‘gift’. If I do, then it’s only good manners to unwrap it.

Here I am still going on that. Surrounded by crumpled paper like a kid on Christmas – months after Christmas morning. I’ve learned that gifts also don’t always come easily.

Since releasing my book online, I’ve found grammatical errors, fixed them… and despite reading over the same pages many times – I’ve found more.  I’ve set up an automatic email system, then realised that 50% of my subscribers never got the book because the campaign paused itself. I sent out an e-mail apologising .. but so hastily that even it had some embarrassing typos. Uggnnhhhhhhh! That’s not another one – it’s the actual sound I remember making. Much much louder than it was just in your thoughts.

Banging my head against the wall would only break the instrument I need to keep this thing going. The fact that I’m posting this means that I didn’t throw my laptop out of the window either. Perfection is a process. We f*** up – then we get up. But sometimes it’s with our faces in the dirt that we find our lucky nickel, or we ourselves, are picked up as a diamond in the rough.

If I never got fired from my previous job, then I wouldn’t have ended up overseas with the spare time and motivation to write my book in the first place. That was my nickel. As a diamond, I’ve been picked up and polished by the generous friends I’ve recently made.

One is an experienced writer and editor, she’s given me assurance in the worth of my work and assistance in making the required final touches. Another friend, who I actually made through my book, is even willing to help me cover the costs of getting it onto the Amazon Kindle store.

Going from a self setup soap box to a shared stage is a scary thought.

But then I remember that how I was once worried about just uploading my book on my private Facebook profile. The photos of myself half naked and covered in ice cream weren’t my worry. It was how vulnerable and exposed my writing made me. But my experience since has given me faith that fortune does favour the brave. So I’ll definitely be making the strides to share what I’ve created with more people. Maybe it will help more people, or maybe, create the opportunity for more people to help me.

I’m so thankful for the support from everyone who has read my book. And even to those who haven’t, but provide inspiration through their own pursuits. Such as the author Kamal Ravikant, who honestly shares this about his book Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It

“[I] published it on Amazon, expecting to sell ten copies, max. It took off and became a success. Word of mouth, blog posts, tweets. The book has a life of its own, spreading around the world.

 

If anything, the book was a gift to me. It made me cross a threshold, showed me that my voice mattered. Sharing my truth mattered. My life mattered.”

My plan is to have it on Amazon’s Kindle store by my birthday (October 27). Maybe I’ll hit ten copies. Maybe more. But it doesn’t matter. Because – I already know I matter.

 

 

 

6 Months – Halfway Home

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“It’s good to be home.”

I said it without much thought.

“….You just called Tonga home,”

proclaimed my friend with more enthusiasm than I could muster at the moment. Afterall, I had just stepped off an airplane, returning from holidays, and coming down in more ways than one…

We quickly moved on to discuss my two weeks in Fiji, but I suddenly found myself with the energy to entertain the topic in my thoughts.

I guess I had finally hit that point where I felt ‘that’ comfortable. Or maybe it was my recent experience away, that through the contrast, had made me appreciate and acknowledge the greenness of this island’s grass. This would be in the same way that living in Tonga has made me more aware of all the comforts and opportunities I had previously been living amongst… for basically my entire life.

This seems to be the best way to learn, which is kind of a shame, but I still take strides in counting my blessings and knowing what i’ve got, before it’s gone. Since I’ve been in Tonga, I’ve been listing 3 or more good things everyday. I call it the 3 dot formula. Try three. It helps. I can attest to that. But I’m sure there is a doctor saying the same thing about apples, and a dentist about flossing. But i’m hoping you can fit it in into your schedule.

The holiday was enjoyable for the most part. It could have gone better in some areas, i.e. getting sick, transport not showing up, the festival  I planed to attend being postponed, but I still enjoyed myself. Like Tonga, Fiji is also an island , but a much much larger one, so the sight of skyscrapers, mountain silhouettes and different cultures was a refreshing change of scenery. The taste of butter chicken and nan bread was like sex in my mouth, almost making up for the sex I’m not getting with the rest of my body. I saw many new faces, heard an interesting array of stories, and told mine on many occasions with pride (note to self – design business cards with my blog address.)

It was also my first ever experience travelling completely alone ( I came to Tonga with other volunteers). I can say that I enjoy the spontaneity and novelty of being forced to make new friends wherever you go. At times I can get nervous about approaches, but I learned it’s always worthwhile to take the chance at a conversation as you never know how much further it can go. In Nadi, three girls I spoke to turned out to actually be from Brisbane, and also friendly enough to invite me to various events and sights. In Pacific Harbour, through two people at my hostel, I got to attend a nearby house get together with a group of dive students from the USA who introduced me to the term of ‘YOFO’ – you only Fiji once. I took it to heart, heading out with them to a full moon party on a beach despite my antibiotic prescription and worsening sore throat.

Then there were the people I didn’t want to spend time with. But when you’re backpacking, you’re playing a lottery with the 8 kinds of people you’ll be sharing an undersized room with. I won’t complain about the smell, mess, noises, state of the bathroom, and just remind myself in general, to put equal consideration into the pros and cons of my decisions. At $20 a night, you get what you pay for.

Towards the end as I felt I had done my share of partying, pigging out, smoking and drinking, I came to understand that there are different types of travellers. You can share a destination, but be under the directions of different desires and intuitions. I can’t wait to travel again, but also make different choices about what I’m there to do.

From there I returned to Tonga to find the once noticeable presence of my housemates replaced by silence. The house was empty, but my mind was full. The realisation that I was half way through my assignment was setting in. That I wouldn’t get another chance at this, so regardless of the fear of uncertainty and failure, I have to give it everything. At that moment, I felt it. Lighter. Liberated.

I spent so long questioning if I had made the right choice by coming here and worrying if I will be able to handle it and have a worthy impact.  Then I finally accepted that I had already made the choice. Right or wrong, the decision’s made. We can carry an amazing amount of luggage in our heads. Weight you can only comprehend by dumping it.

Stress is resistance to what is. I’m here, so, so should my focus be –  you know, that present moment stuff. Thoughts about what I gave up to be here or alternative choices I could have made are the furtherest thing from productive. I’m better off spending my time trying to simultaneously chase the two chickens that live in my yard so I can milk them. Regarding the impact I have, well Kamal Ravikant sums it up when he speaks about effort in his book Live Your Truth ( great book, greater guy for returning my email)

“If there is one lesson I’ve learned from failure and success, it’s this. I am not the outcome. I am never the result. I am only the effort.”

So here I am, digging my teeth into things and enjoying the surprising taste of the successes I’ve been having.

I’ll move on to another quote, this time directed at me. It’s from a doctor I visited in Fiji,

“I’ve only just met you, but I can tell you’re missing a sparkle    in your eyes”

And that’s definitely true. Or was. The last six months were not exactly easy. Sure, I’ve survived so far, but rather, I want to leave here being proud that I thrived. Regardless of specific circumstances, there is an honest conversation we can have with ourselves. It’s about effort and the question of wether we can be and do more. If we don’t, then perhaps it just becomes a regrettable story that our eyes tell.

Sure, I’m physically on the flattest island in the South Pacific, but mentally I’m climbing mountains. Down here is my life, but somewhere up there is the peak of my potential – and I’m dying to see how the view looks.

Omitting the oxygen tank, for supplies, I’ve got a large whiteboard detailing the list of personal and professional objectives I want to hit, a bookmark for James Altucher’s blog,  a diet and exercise plan to regain the physical, and mental, strength i’ve lost, enough green tea to fuel 100 meditation sessions (thanks for the care package Sarah), the support of new and old friends, and overall, a renewed sense of passion. In fact, I’m hoping that in my upcoming visit, the dentist tells me that he can

smell the purpose in my breath.’ 

When we face challenges, our options aren’t just sink or swim. I’m done treading water here, and I’m ready to climb to new heights.

See you up there.

The Boy turns 1

 

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When I opened my blog 1 year ago, I adopted an anonymous identity and opened an expressive outlet. I wanted to figure out the puzzle life is, and with all the peaks and valleys, I wanted to know the destination of the journey it was becoming. I’d been writing in my own journals for a few years, and figured going online would give others the chance to chip into the conversation of one. Honestly speaking, In the back of my mind, I felt nobody would care too much about what a ‘nobody’ has to say.

I chuckled to myself as I wondered “let’s see how long this lasts”. Well, it has lasted. When I got my first comment and had my first conversation with a random girl from the UK, I started to think differently about the potential of this hobby that was originally just for my own benefit and enjoyment.

Oddly, she cared about the 40 simple things that I enjoyed. Another person from Melbourne took a keen interest in the 13 lessons 2013 taught me, sharing her own experiences. In between, I’ve had many other comments, emails and private messages from other people from around the world. Most notable is a friend from Hawaii, who shares my middle name, and took an interest in my life because I remind him of a younger version of himself. If you’re worried I’m talking to weirdos of the internet, well I’ve even met someone very like minded in Brisbane before I took of for Tonga and he went his way to Cambodia.

Once I hit 100 posts, I had the idea of taking my favourite 5 and putting them into an ‘ebook’.  But I had come so far, I felt I had keep going in that direction. I had an idea come to me, and I felt I could do better than just writing a typical book. With a lot of hard work, my ebook Living in Cream was completed in April 1st this year. I felt so proud of myself, that the responses to come wouldn’t matter. But once again, its been great to hear from people I know, and many I don’t. In as many ways technology can push people apart, it can bring us together.

I was initially worried about running out of content, but it’s when I run out of days, that I’ll run out of pages. Writing has truly changed my life, and allowed me to help others in the same way, in turn, adding more value to my life.

I’m far from ‘viral’ or making any sort of living of this. Many may wonder why I bother (..maybe the same kind of people that spend their time sharing memes). I’ve often wondered that, but every now and then I get reminded why. Beyond website visitors and Facebook likes, there is something real that you can’t quantify, but you know it when you feel it.  Writing has helped me to find it. I encourage you to do whatever it is that helps you do the same.

We don’t become somebody. We are somebody. We all have a story, and you’ll be surprised who listens when you find the courage to share yours. We’re all in this journey together, and you’ll be surprised at who is heading in your direction. Regardless if you ‘make it’ to the destination, you’ll be glad to have those people by your side.

It’s not the destination, it’s not just the journey, it’s the company.

I’m just getting started, but thank you for the support.

websitehttp://www.boyunderthebridge.com

ebook – http://eepurl.com/RxP5f

3 Months Update

DSC00532Three months

In addition to my first feelings of home sickness, my third month away saw the inventible decline in the novelty of my experience. Situations such as when I found myself far from home at midnight with a flat tyre, or bed ridden and immobile for three days due to a virus, certainly didn’t slow things down. But it was once this novelty had started the wear off, that I got to see things for what they really are. Not what Google Images and the tourist brochures showed.

Doing something like this, sure, there are inconveniences and challenges, but there are also people willing to help every step of the way. Having my boss call to check on me every morning, another volunteer cooking me dinner and others always offering a hand, the concern shown was genuinely touching. My Host Organisation / co-workers made me realise that my assignment objectives are secondary to my wellbeing, and I should hold nothing in greater importance of theirs.

In my other twenty seven days of better health, there were some great times. Including the incident which led to my illness. It started with an early dawn Anzac Service followed by breakfast at the NZ High Commission residence. Then to celebrate the birthday of one of the Tongan teachers I work with, the night was spent camping on an isolated beach, by a fire and under the stars.

The scenery was beautiful, but my personal highlight was joining another volunteer on a walk to check out the surrounding areas, only to take a seat in the sand and have a conversation that saw five hours pass seamlessly. The others were relieved that we had not gone missing, I was relieved that even miles away from home, there were still people I could really relate to.  It’s just a matter of being open and welcoming. Since then I’ve met more Tongans ( including a group that rap and sing)  and even volunteers from other countries such as American Peace Core Unit.

Through technology, I also got the chance to talk to those I am miles away from. Two separate videos calls made a difference to this month that is pretty hard to capture with words. But I’ll say that the contrast of having people in your life and then suddenly removed, makes you realise a lot of things you otherwise would not notice. It’s true, every experience exists through contrast. There is also that saying about only knowing what you got when it’s gone, so I can’t help but sometimes  wonder about the kind of difference that people notice since I’ve been gone.

Either way, life goes on. One mate heads overseas to Europe for 5 weeks today, another moved into a new place, another is busy studying. Had things gone to my original plan, I would have gone on a contiki tour of the USA instead. Spending and consuming, rather than volunteering and giving here in Tonga. As upsetting as it was to cancel my trip, I was hoping I would one day get the chance to say this – “I’m glad it didn’t work out” I can also say that while I was originally hoping to land an assignment in a more prestegious or larger country, “I’m glad I’m here” 

Spending the hours that I do by the waves and the water, you learn things. Not just from my books – such as,  sometimes you just got to go with it. This applies to the times I find myself trying to decide on my next move, will I head to Asia for another assignment, will I return home to work, another state, or will I look to further my education and return to study. Just going with it for now.

 

Peanut Boy

 

Peanut Boy

It was alongside a footpath in town that I met peanut boy.  Where I was playing sports or watching cartoons at his age, still in his school uniform, he had a job selling the legumes which have warranted his nickname I’m using in this post.

As the only english he seemed to know was “peanuts” and “three dollars”, I wasn’t able to get his actual name. What I did get was the impression that he didn’t actually comprehend why his parents were eager to see the peanuts in his box replaced with  paper and silver pieces,  or why it was even his responsibility having already spent a day at school. As a child no longer than 7, I can only imagine he knew to do as he was told, especially if it earned him an applause or additional affection.

I however,understood his parents motives. The practice of consumer psychology isn’t just pervasive in the multimedia channels of the developed world, it’s also found on the streets in areas that advertisers don’t even bother to reach.  People selling from offices or the streets alike, know that the greater the sense of sympathy you can evoke in someone, the more likely it is that they will act accordingly in your favour.

Peanut boy was just like babies and puppies that I remember street beggars in Thailand would hold up to my attention as I passed. He was an instrument.

As  I withdrew $900 of cash from the ATM, I lied that I had no money but will next time, for what I believed to be his own good. I hope he understood that giving him the money that he wanted, would only ensure he would be back there again the next day, and the next, something I know he didn’t want.

That weekend, while in the supermarket queue, I noticed a sale on oreos,  and I thought that would definitely be something he personally would want. As I left the store wondering when I would next be in the area after school, I heard some footsteps following me, and there he was.

I didn’t even get a thank you, and he didn’t get they money he expected. We went our separate ways, but  shared an understanding that, what you want, isn’t always what you need.