An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Charlie M. '22

Here I keep hitting my head. Not on purpose and not hard but fairly often I will run into a low beam. I also noticed that my feet, too, never seem to be in the right place. Just walking around makes mud stick to the back of my crocs which in turn causes my shoes to slip and I am forced to walk on the side of my shoe.  Lapses in comfort such as these are not uncommon. Sometimes we get messy and I’m not sure if my fingernails and toenails will ever be clean again but, I do know for sure that there is one part of my body that is cleansed with every moment I spend in in the village: my heart.

Unique meals are made every day here. Unique, delicious, large and warm. These meals are like good books: they cannot be put down. I clench my bowl closer to my chest to make the spoonfuls of my dinner get to my mouth faster. My host father made me dinner for the first time yesterday. He shared the tastiest part of his heart with me and my host mother has done the same with her heart every other day. These meals fuel us through our day of work where we try to show as much care to the bathrooms we build as our host family shows to us.

Completely opening your home to someone is difficult to say the least. Things and people get displaced, food gets eaten and, especially with foreign guests, customs get broken. To accommodate a person who has close to zero knowledge of your language and customs takes heart. When you share that amount of heart with someone else a piece of theirs is left with you. Pieces of the group’s hearts have been left everywhere. In our host houses, in the jakuku, on the porch where we were given wristbands blessed by the town shaman.

There is also the heart we give. The love we pour into the bathrooms we build, the gifts we share with our host siblings that they carry around wherever they go. There is the saying “home is where the heart is,” so no matter how many times we hit our head or slip in our shoes, our heart is in the right place and our heart is at home.