It is a funny difficult process, as I think might be expected, to move somewhere completely new and foreign, and go about becoming a member of the tight-knit community. But I am glad to be part of a community again. The last 5 years I spent in Portland, and I enjoyed myself very much but did not feel that small town spirit I felt growing up on Vashon. Small towns have thier drawbacks, but to be a functioning member of that society, with relationships to so many people was very rewarding for me. When I visit Vashon now many of those old relationships remain, but they have not grown in 5 years. Every time I visit it is a weary rehersal of the past with everyone a little bit older.
I felt that again at the "clàsico" soccer game between the two local football clubs. There are 8 teams in the surrounding area that compete, but just these two are in-town. Everyone was there. It was a pleasant early fall evening. We were spared the powerful sun, and enjoyed white clouds blushing pink as the game came to its exciting but inconclusive finish (a tie, 1-1).
This all reminded me of the festivity and energy of High School Football games on Vashon. Since we never won it wasn`t worth it much to keep track of the game, which I did not understand anyhow. I was in the Pep band and we just had fun with music. Parents, grandparents, classmates, and younger siblings were all there, making it a kind of mixed-age shared experience that I think has become rare in the States. We at glorious hamburgers slathered with grilled onions.
I can be a part of the growing web of all kinds of relationships called a community again. I will wait on the hamburgers until I return home however. I have very fixed American ideas about how a sandwich should be, and I have yet to find a Latin American sandwich that lives up to them.
In those Vashon days I struggled to first figure out what was "normal" and then to figure out how to be "myself" in realtion to that normal. I unfotunately spent too much time trying to figure out what the normal was, but as I´ve gotten older I`ve become so much more comfortable and capable at figuring out how and when to break from the norm. This has been one of the most important things I`ve learned about living and being an adult.
Here what I have to do is very different. My MO is to find normal and to conform to it to the best of my ability. I am an outsider here. To be as unthreatening as possible I have to do my best to blend in. Figuring out how to do this while at the same time nudge people forward in certain ways (in teaching styles, in acceptance of diversity, in modern health and hygene practices) is one of the several balancing acts of my service here.