Sunday, July 7, 2013

Going through the emotions...

So, I'm six days into my second assignment - this time in Rabaul, East New Britain. A town surrounded by volcanos with a fascinating colonial and military history, it has much of the beauty that I enjoyed in Alotau, but a completely different place in other respects.

The town of Rabaul, with Mt Tavurvur smoking away in the distance.

I've been a little apprehensive, to be honest - not because of the location, or the people, but because of myself. Last time, I found that being on a short-term assignment was somewhat emotionally turbulent. To be given 6-8 weeks to settle into a town, develop relationships with counterparts and stakeholders, build local support networks, and address various personal challenges such as cultural barriers, social isolation and technological shortcomings is quite an undertaking. And it can be overwhelming at the best of times.

So, I was definitely hitting the one-week blues today. The last five days have been wonderful - I'm in a fascinating place, and have met an array of interesting, enthusiastic and supportive people, and starting to get a sense of where all the action is happening in order to have a stable and regular social routine. But last night I definitely hit the wall, and this morning I was miserable. I just wanted to be back home, see my girlfriend, eat mexican food, and wake up in my own room. I wanted to ride my bike around town, walk the streets at night, and go swing dancing in Brunswick Street.

So this morning was a struggle, but I forced myself out the door by 9:30am. Down the main street to the centre of town. Onto a PMV to take me on the 30 minute ride to Kokopo, and then another PMV to Rapopo Plantation Resort, where I had hoped to go yesterday, but ran out of time (I need to leave by 4:30pm if I want to safely make it home by sundown!).

And I'm so glad I did. Rapopo turned out to be Kokopo's equivalent to Driftwood in Alotau - but with a pool! Barely had I swum a dozen laps, when a couple of other familiar faces arrived for a swim. This was followed by a much-needed pot of coffee and a fantastic meal, with friendly company. Three hours later, my morning's angst had become a distant memory.

It's exhausting, but I know that I can do this - especially as I've done it before, and I know that I'll do it again. I just have to remember to keep moving, take every opportunity to connect with others, and not to shut myself in. As tempting as it feels to let myself get down, I must always remember that things will get better so long as I let it. It's the key to survival in these situations.