I rented a video today. Okay, technically a friend of mine rented 3 videos which allowed her to get a fourth for the same price and she allowed me to choose it and take home. So I rented “Up,” the most recent Pixar movie. The movie was fantastic and enchanting and actually lived up to all the hype I heard when it came out 6 months ago. But I can’t help feeling a twinge of guilt for renting a movie. As Ryan tole me when he heard my assignment was teaching computers in Samoa, “This is not the Peace Corps JFK imagined.”
I realize it’s a little absurd for me to confess my guilt bout exploiting the more developed facets of Apia by signing on to the Internet from my house and blogging about it, but I maintain my life here is still pretty sparse. True, we’ve got laptops and iPods and cell phones and other modern amenitities, but we also live among geckos and strange bugs and unreliable and intermittent plumbing and trash burning and cold showers and dirty feet that cannot be cleaned no matter how hard we scrub.
Other volunteers piss and moan about how those of us living in Apia live the easy life. I can make arguments about how that’s a gross generalization and how we all face different problems, but the cold hard truth is that life in Apia is easier than life in the more rural kua of Upolu and most of rural Savai’i. The discrepancy in the lifestyles of city volunteers and country volunteers seems to be one small facet in a much bigger overarching struggle in Samoa between urbanization and westernization versus tradition and preserving the ways of the past.
I had originally planned to trek out to the training village this weekend to visit the family, but when the Rotoract Amazing Race was canceled, I changed my plans. The contrast between these two places is stark—the south side and the north side, the modest and the affluent, those who spend Saturday collecting taro at the plantation and those who can afford more leisure pastimes.
Although it’s not just an Apia-versus-everyone-else kind of deal. This problem seems to exist in the village at a micro level. Volunteers who teach computers in rural villages struggle to find a balance between helping their village secure a foothold in technology and not alienating the ways of the past. Hell, even at my school I feel like my classroom’s air conditioning is controversial. I sometimes feel a little too comfortable in my cool glass tower while other teachers toil in the heat.
I don’t bring this up to point fingers or assign blame, and I have absolutely no solutions or suggestions for alleviating the discrepancy. It’s an ongoing struggle and it’s not going to be solved any time soon. But we deal with it every day on a micro and macro basis, and it inevitably affects everyone’s Peace Corps experience in Samoa. And mostly I think we all walk that balanced line pretty well.
But I still feel a twinge of guilt when I rent a movie.
I hope you’re well. No pictures today.
10 months ago