Friday, September 7, 2007

You know

You know you're on a tropical island when you have to wipe the mold off your leather shoes.

When your mint tin rusts.

When the tip of your sewing needle rusts.

When an apple left on the dash of the car cooks in a day (slow-food--island-style).

When the roads are made of coral.

When you shower in a rain storm on the roof when the electricity goes out.

When you spend an entire evening with friends in the ocean, watching the stars come out after the sun sets.

When you learn how to heft a five-gallon bottle of water on your hip like a child.

When you never have to use lotion. Ever.

When you name the geckos that have become additional roommates.

The weeks since my last post turned into lesson plans and sunsets. The same week that mainland schools began their academic year, we had midterm progress reports.

Labor Day weekend, Rebecca and I developed an ear infection (from a waterfall at a local spa, we think). Regardless, we kept plans for a weekend girls' night with a few other teachers. We took a ferry to the neighboring island, Tinian. Tinian has a few thousand inhabitants, but they must hide in the hills. You can feel what Saipan must have been like before the it was westernized.

We visited ancient stone ruins and turquoise lagoons. Gorgeous. But by evening, I knew I needed to do something about my ear. Even so, I joined everyone for dinner. The meal was on the house, courtesy of an Australian marathoner who worked there and knew Rebecca.

After our second round of wine, a man came up to the table, friend of friends. He was the island doctor on weekend call and offered to drive us over to the Tinian hospital to check out the infection. Rebecca and I crammed into the cab of his tiny pickup truck as he told us about his hippie days in Israel.

The hospital was painted a definitive hospital green. A color so bad it hurt worse than my ear. We sat in a room stacked with enough little white boxes of various medical supplies to hide the green.

I was pleased that an "emerency room" visit (anything after 5 pm) cost only $25. And my ear drops $9. But they had no technology to accept credit cards. Between us, Rebecca and I had exactly $34 in cash. A bit of medical (and girls' night) serendipity.

On normal days, we all teach and then head for the ocean or sushi or home. Home feels like vacation. This morning, I skipped one of my six, nine-hour, saturday history classes to enjoy a full weekend. We had banana pancakes on the white-washed roof. Ben strung up his hammock, and Rebecca and I sat at the wood table we found for a steal when some other howlies (off-islanders, i.e., like us) were leaving island. As with the British who say they are "in hospital" islanders skip "the" and refer to being "on island" or "off island."

Back to the pancakes. I realized: I don't have to go anywhere to get away. I live on a tropical island. I repeat that to myself often. It still surprises me.

Life pulls me along. I haven't written much of anything other than with red ink on student papers. I feel on the verge of reaching equilibrium and am learning how to maximize my school time to bring less work home.

It is beginning to feel right. The kind of feeling that you can't put a finger on. You just know.

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