Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Office

Friday afternoons in the office are bittersweet. They present an almost guaranteed reunion of volunteers, separated for at least a week, off on adventures around the country, finally returned to commiserate and rejoice in the eccentricities our experiences. It’s a time to regale each other with bizarre and humourous stories, all told in English, free of language barriers and unfamiliar cultural nuances. It seems like it should be an inimitable highlight of the week… the only problem is it happens in the office.

From the standpoint of functionality, the Peace Corps office meets all of my needs and expectations satisfactorily. I have never had a problem receiving mail, and while the communal computers are sometimes in high demand, I have been able to use them as much as I’ve needed. As an employee of the Peace Corps, I have no problem with the office. My point is only that I only want to be in the office as long as I need to be in the office. Then I want to leave.

And I know people hang out there out of necessity. Most volunteers live far from Apia, and so when they're in town, the resource room is the easiest place to chill. It’s their home away from home. Volunteers have access to it 24/7, and it provides 4 walls and a roof and air conditioning when the air conditioner works. Beyond that, its amenities are debatable.

There is a couch. But a couch cannot accommodate everyone’s comfort when there are 10+ people in the room. There are a couple other chairs of varying quality, but nothing to write home about (literally). The computers have internet access, but only during certain hours. There is almost no natural light. All of the windows sit at the top of the wall and only catch occasional sunlight, leaving the room with a dank, cavernous ambiance.

Volunteers on Savai’i would be quick to point out how well we have it on Upolu. The Savai’i office is a tiny room with one computer on a dial-up connection and 2 couches. No kitchen.

Once again, I’m not complaining about this from an employee standpoint. I find the office facilitates all of my duties as a volunteer just fine. The resource room is plentiful with information, and I know I can use it whenever I need to. And it even makes sense that it shouldn’t be too inviting of a place. The point of the Peace Corps is not to congregate in back-offices; volunteers should be out in Samoa, engaging with the community. Integrating. Assimilating. And all that.

So I’m not advocating a fancy resource room with lush, abundant sofa space and oak flooring and 24-hour cable TV. I’m just saying I'd rather be somewhere else on a Friday afternoon. Going somewhere. Doing something.

Yes, I realize I’m a jerk for being all bitter when I have the privilege of living a 15-minute walk away. I have the luxury of going home when my business there is finished. I don’t have to rely on a bus or a taxi to get home. I have the ability to stay away from there unless I have pressing business. And I often do stay away. Sometimes that means I miss out when people there formulate plans for dinner or a movie or going to a nightclub. But I’m okay with that. If people want me, they’ll call me.

I hope you’re spending more time out of the office too. Pictures below.

Stock image of the office. Ben and Sara. Aaron in the pic at the top. Cale and Sara are in the office rarely. Ben lives on Savai'i.

Stock image of the office kitchen. This is from early training. Group dinners like this are fun. Notice no one is in the resource room. Also, I admit there is much more natural light in the kitchen.

Today was Day 6 of rain. Hard to tell when the image is this small, but it is pouring in the picture. 30 seconds before this picture was taken, there wasn't a drop falling from the sky. It comes so suddenly.

I ate fish and chips out on the seawall at lunch time, and there was blue sky! Just in one small patch. It still exists somewhere.

The rest of the sky was still cloudy.

My house this afternoon. The fan, stationary and pointless in this weather, staring forlornly at the cup of coffee I made myself.

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