The hard part about being in Apia is that you always have to be “on”. You have to remember you are always the center of attention and all eyes are on you at all times. Watching how you dress and how you talk seems to be taken to another extreme than in the village, which is strange because you are living in a more liberal world.
While everyone else can get away with wearing certain clothes, as the sole Peace Corps Volunteer in Apia, wearing shorts or pants will cause everyone to talk. My first day back I tested the waters by wearing shorts (as I really didn’t want to unpack my things right away) and I had a few people talking about how I was dressed inappropriately (the shorts were almost to my knees, so a tad too short).
Presentation is still important. While I was in the US, I decided to cut my hair short. It is short enough that it was difficult to pull back in a ponytail without missing about half of my hairs. I tried wearing my hair down one day, and it was immediately put up by another who began to criticize me.
The media is also always around, and you never seem to know when you might be on television or in the newspaper. One day I got a text message saying they were glad I was back and only knew because I was on television. I never knew I was going to be in the media.
Another difficult part of always being on is you never knew who you would meet or see. I have often run into people who are of importance, and they always seem to be everywhere. Representing yourself, your country, and your host job agency means you have to stand with pride everywhere.
It has its advantages being on, as you are able to meet some of the most interesting people in the world and often get invited to do things you would never expect. But are there really enough hours in the day to do everything?
In the village you also had to be on….but it felt like you could hide a little bit more. Less often people outside the village will see you so you do not have to deal with pressures when you are outside the village.
Some days if feels as though there is a big sign over my forehead saying, “look at me and judge me as much as possible!” This is something I won’t miss when I arrive back in the United States.