Almost two weeks ago, I stepped on the first of three planes with two suitcases and six laptops and started my journey to teach in Nauru.
I took a deep breath – a very deep breath – and stepped on the plane.
And then spent a significant part of the journey terrified of losing six laptops and being aware of all the luggage.
And now – almost two weeks later – here I am. Sitting in my little apartment, typing away in a dressing gown. All of which is not too dissimilar to what I was doing in Australia – minus a small cat who would be typing with me too and is now being loved by a friend and his dog and cat while I am here.
When I last wrote, I wondered about making new rhythms to my days. Then I had no idea of what Nauru would look like or what my life could look like. Pictures and other people’s stories aren’t always the same. They’re not always quite real. But now that I’m here, it’s a real world. Nauru is my real world now and it is all sorts of fascinating and challenging. This change is a good thing.
So, in moving overseas and starting new rhythms to my days, I have discovered a few things about myself:
I really will happily, willingly, without question pay extraordinary sums of money for fresh fruit and veggies if the alternative is to go without. The cashiers in the shop now laugh at me as I arrive with a basketful of veggies and a wallet full of cash.
If I run out of the peanut butter left in my fridge by a friend and discover that there is no peanut butter in the shops, my heart does break a little, and I begin to plot how more peanut butter might come into my life.
This is also the same with Kewpie mayonnaise, which people either worship or have never tried. A friend told me I should pack more but I had run out of space. Next time, I am packing more.
(The obsession with food is admittedly not at all a surprise or even a vaguely new discovery.)
I have also discovered the art of the List. Lists ground my life now. Lists for what to do in class. Lists for what needs to be done outside class. Lists for weekly reports. Lists of what I need to bring with me next time (mostly food-related if the earlier passages hadn’t hinted that). Lists of ideas for where I want some writing to go. My phone resembles little more than an electronic post-it note of reminders – some practical and pragmatic (‘Remember to finish slide 6’), others more ethereal where I struggle to remember what on earth I was thinking (‘She shouldn’t walk through the door’).
Yesterday though, as I was driving home from a meeting, I discovered that I will always brake for puppies. Not that that’s a surprise in itself – I am a sucker for strays, always have been. Dogs wander about the place all through the island but they tend to be deeply road sensible. This one, however, had found something in the middle of the road that needed to be sniffed and eaten without any disruption. So I braked to see what the dog was going to do so I could pass it without harm. I braked early and clearly, this wasn’t a screeching halt – these are hard to do anyway when no one drives more than 50k an hour. But the car behind me potentially did not feel the same way about braking for puppies and so overtook me, almost hitting the dog, which thankfully used its road sense to get out of the way. When I got home and told my cleaning lady, who is teaching me all about Nauruan culture, she laughed and said that I was “a very Australian girl”. Apparently, we brake for puppies.
When I was trying to imagine what living here would be like, I didn’t imagine some of this – I didn’t imagine being very Australian in a way that’s not so much recognized back home. But, as I find my way around this new home – and recognise my new rhythms and undertake adventures like going into different shops – remaining a sucker for strays feels deeply OK.