Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More Than One Thing

I can remember a time when I would get up, clean the house or do some laundry or exercise (though the exercise was rare, it was more likely I would watch too many mythtved episodes of ER). Then I would shower and dress and possibly run some errands, to the grocery store or the library or the bank. I would drive 20 minutes south and teach a two-hour computer class at a community center. Then I would drive 15 minutes back north to go to work, stopping to pickup lunch/dinner on the way. Then I would work for eight to ten hours and possibly meet up with Cale and friends afterwards for drinks or darts or a show.

That was a busy day.

One weekends we would drive out to the beach for a couple of hours and still make it home in time to do some work around the house or buy groceries or go out with friends. Or we might make a day-trip to go kayaking. Then we still had another weekend day to do things in.

Those were busy weekends.

I feel busy in Samoa frequently. I even frequently find myself thinking things are too hectic and wondering how I will ever get everything done.

However, when I stop to think about it… that is insane.

When Cale’s mom was visiting we had a joke that wasn’t so much a joke. We couldn’t plan more than one thing for a day or that day started to become outrageously busy. If I started to list two or three things we wanted to do in one day, I would start to feel stressed out wondering how we would possibly accomplish so much. There was one day we drove to visit the host family. That took about three hours in the morning. We stopped to see the turtle pond and then visited the Baha’I temple. Probably another three hours. So we managed to fill six hours of a day and I was completely exhausted at the end of the day because it was so busy.

It is possible that my sense of time and time management has changed dramatically since I came to Samoa. It is true, more than one thing in a day it almost too much.

When school is on it is a little different. Going to school all day is one thing, but it is one BIG thing. Then I usually have too come home and do more school work (lesson planning for the next day, grading assignments). Or I have to go back to the school to work in the computer lab to try to fix broken computers or set up things for class the next day. So that is two things that are really like three or four. How could I possibly manage to do anything else? Yet some how in America, I managed to have a full-time job and a volunteer job and run errands and do other things.

I am not sure why the time is different here. Things happen at a slower pace and in their own time. This is true. But it is more than simply a polychromic versus monochromic mentality. I still want to do all the things and I still want to do them in reasonable time frames. I just find myself so overwhelmed, thinking of each thing as a massive, arduous task practically impossible to accomplish. You mean you want me to go to the bank AND get groceries? How could I possibly accomplish all of that in one day? It is so taxing. Yet, when I actually do these things, they aren’t. I can get on a bus, walk to the bank and walk to all the grocery stores and bus back home in a hour or two. That is not an all day task. There is still daylight left to accomplish other things.

What is it about being here that has given me the perception that everything is so difficult and time consuming and that I am so busy, when comparatively, they are not and I am not?

I first started thinking about this almost five months ago when we had volunteer visits. Matt and Kate came to visit and Matt mentioned later in his blog how it looked like volunteers had a lot of free time. And he was right. I wasn’t actively teaching new material at the time, the kids were doing review. I didn’t have many lessons to plan; I didn’t have many papers to mark. We sat and read books while they visited. And yet, at the time, I felt incredibly busy. At first read, I was almost offended by Matt’s comment that it looked like we had so much free time. Free time? When I am so busy? But he was right, he was only two months away from America where you could have two jobs and run errands and go out and still have time left in the day and not feel overwhelmed and stressed. Where that was normal.

I wonder what it will be like to go back to the States. To go back to doing more than one thing every day. It will be weird.

— Sara


Jordan said...

Wow, I completely know what you mean! I had the exact same thought while I was there: Groceries and bank and work all in one day were a very full day!! And now, I do many more things in one day and recall feeling so overwhelmed in Samoa: I have no idea what the difference is, but I think a lot of it is related to climate (it's so damn hot in Samoa it's physically exhausting to do much) and transport. I don't have a car here, but I do have a bike, and transport never ever involves me sitting on anyones lap or having any part of my body touched inappropriately by a 17 year old boy. So there's a lot less stress in the commuting aspect. And, if I go to the grocery store, I know they will have generally everything I want, and the bank functions as a bank should, and there aren't any of those random 'surprises' like broken busses, cheeky taxi cab drivers, attacking dogs, surprise rain showers, closed stores, etc., that we got used to coping with. Anyhow- great summary of a feeling that I recall all to well! Love your blog!

Barb Carusillo said...

It is weird, you are feeling stressed if you have more than one big thing to do in a day, and now that I have no kids at home, I feel stressed that I no longer have 20 things to fit in a day. As a working mom of 3 with two part time jobs and multiple volunteer committments, my schedule book felt akin to an air traffic controllers efforts to keep things all in the air. Now that I only have a fulltime job, do registry work on some weekends, two little volunteer things, and no kids a home, I feel like a slug. I am looking forward to visiting you and watching time slow down. Think it can happen to me?
By the way, I think Jordon is right, transportation convenience is a big issue, as well as the heat factor.

annette said...

i think it is great that you have time to read. wish you felt like you had time to relax. we are way too busy over here in the states - it is my mission to lead by example over here and not live a busy hectic life...why would one do that to themselves? i am for taking life slowly, sit, reflect, read, enjoy....why not?

whatever said...

It is the heat!!!