Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Life Lessons from the Third World

1. Do not leave home without an umbrella. You never know when it will rain, and even if it doesn’t, you will need the umbrella for protection from the sun, and from wild dogs that might chose to chase you.

2. Always shake out your bath towel before using it. Creepy critters have a tendency to make your comfortable towel their comfortable home. The less you expect to see them, the more they will creep you out. So be prepared for everything, especially while in the shower!
3. Never eat an egg without doing the float test. It really is not worth it.

4. Learn how to say hello and goodbye, please and thank you, in the country where you live. Smile and use these phrases often. People might not understand what you are saying or why you are smiling, but they will appreciate your good nature and will make you feel at home.

5. Be patient! Even if you cannot find a quiet place or time, ever, create a mantra to chant and use it when you feel like your head is going to explode!

6. Bring a Michael Jackson DVD with you where ever you may travel. People love it. Anything 80’s works too: ABBA, Queen, Whitney Houston, etc.

7. Don’t be afraid to dance. Most likely, people will just think you are weird and try to teach you to dance properly, but just keep on moving. They will love it and you.

8. Invest in something called a “sleeping bag liner” which you can get from Eastern Mountain Sports, or any outdoors store. It is seriously the best thing I have ever owned/traveled with. Not only is it light and perfect for hot nights, but it is similar to a sleeping bag, meaning creepy insects aren’t going to find their way through the crevices of your bed sheets to surprise you at night.

9. Speaking of sleeping, do not use a mosquito net, unless you are living in a room infested with mosquitoes. They provide a service of keeping insects out, until their role reverses and they actually start keeping insects in! In my mosquito net days I had quite a few nights where one pesky mosquito would find itself trapped in my net and I could not locate it. Waking up to bites all night because the mosquito has YOU trapped is no fun. Similarly, I have heard horror tales from other PCV’s that have woken to find giant centipedes in their beds with them and in their fright, tore down their mosquito net, trapping themselves with the nasty centipede under layers of twisted fabric.

10. Floss. It is fun and hygienic and a great time killer. You can do it while watching movies, listening to music, or just contemplating the meaning of life. Flosssum – when one has an awesome time flossing, the term given to the situation is “a flossum good time!”

11. Eating with your hands is great. It saves on dishes and coordination. I have enjoyed it since I was a kid and I am happy to find myself once again in a country that does it. A little advice though: chose one hand to eat with and keep it clean at all times. Your right hand is probably best because in some cultures it is considered very dirty to eat with your left. Keep your left hand free to do things like pet stray dogs, scratch an itch, or kill a mosquito. Make sure you don’t confuse your clean hand with your dirty hand and you will be okay. Confuse them, and you will have some nasty stomach bugs.

12. Don’t go anywhere without a book. As my sister Melissa told me before I headed off to Nepal, a good book and a glass of red wine is all the company you need when traveling on your own. While I wouldn’t suggest bringing wine with you everywhere you go, the book alone works and is great when you have a meeting scheduled for 2pm that no ones shows up for till 3:30pm.

13. It’s good to bring tissues in your purse. Toilet paper is not a guaranteed luxury.

14. A few ants on a dish will not kill a meal. As my dad use to say, “extra protein!” Try to avoid eating bugs, but if you find one in your mouth, sometimes it’s just better to close your eyes, take a big gulp, and then forget that it ever happened. Otherwise, you will be freaking out for a few minutes when you really should just be moving on with your day.

15. Don’t be afraid to try new foods. The key word is “try.” You can’t live an adventure unless you are open to new things, and that extends to food. But just like with any other situation, if you didn’t like it the first time, you don’t have to try it again! However, chances are the new foods that you despised at first will grow on you. I never thought I would look forward to eating boiled green bananas – a food that tastes like pure starch mixed with cardboard – but the texture and lack of flavor has grown on me. I usually eat just one or two, but tonight I actually ate three for dinner! I can proudly claim to have tried some strange foods in my life because of my lack of fear for the unknown, and my stomach of steal: Japan offered raw horse, whale blubber (don’t hate me for trying it!), and every kind of fish under the sun. In Nepal, my largest digestive feat was mutton intestines (it helps when you don’t know what your eating at the time – I actually had seconds of those!). And here in Samoa, I tried sea cucumber, something I will never try again.

I hope this list gives you a few good things to ponder over for the next few days. My week in school is quickly wrapping up being that it is already Wednesday and I have big plans of putting on a mini play with my students this coming Friday. I am excited to see how that goes. Till next time, fa soifua!

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