As our semester is coming to a close, I’m starting to think about the most eventful parts of this trip. Everyday I add more to my mental list, and I’m realizing how much I want to stay in here. A few of the students in our group are counting down the days, but I can’t stand to think about going back home. Although there are a lot of things that I’m looking forward to when I return to Iowa—my friends and family; cheap American food; not finding ants in my food, bed, or clothes; less humidity, etc.—there are so many more reasons why I don’t want to leave Tahiti.
Besides the jaw-dropping views of the ocean, mountains, and nature in general of French Polynesia, I think one of the things I’m going to miss most about being here is the people. Everyone at Le Foyer de Jeunes Filleshas been so friendly and positive every single day, always offering our group fresh food and asking how we’re doing. Strangers that I’ve met with my host family have welcomed me into their houses, offering me everything you could think of—even the food off their plates. I attended the birthday party of a new friend’s grandmother, and the entire house of guests went out of their way to serve me food andsit down and talk with me. The grandmother shared her philosophy with me, explaining that everyone was welcome in her home, even people off the street. Hospitality here is so unique from what I’ve noticed in the U.S., and it’s something that I honestly love about Tahitian culture. I’ve learned numerous life lessons here, but what I’m taking away from the people will remind me everyday of the effect you can have on someone you don’t know.
It upsets me that I’ll eventually have to leave behind all the incredible people I’ve met in Tahiti, but I’m so grateful for the impact they’ve left on my life. I’ve already noticed changes in myself due to all I’ve learned from them and my experiences here. Making friends here has been difficult because of the language barrier, but it’s pushed me to be more outgoing and have a bit of confidence in my French. Little things, such as waiting over an hour for the bus, have improved my patience, and I’m much more open to being adventurous and trying new activities because I’ve seen how they can end up being the best experiences. Overall, Tahiti has shaped me in ways that I didn’t expect but definitely needed, and although going home will be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, there are parts of this journey that will stay with me for the rest of my life. That being said, Mauruuruu/Merci/Thank you, Tahiti.