True discretion is impossible without true humility. – John Cassian
It is not my favorite time to leave the country for six weeks. And it turns out I’m not as awesome at international travel as I once thought.
Sure I’ve flown to and fro “Africa” (isn’t that specific?) several times without a thought but there have been people at either of my final destinations meeting me at the airport. I actually cannot remember the last time I flew somewhere completely new, let alone with small children in tow. lt is humbling to be in this place. Where I am the one reading books, not knowing if the descriptions and characterizations are accurate. Where I am the one e-mailing a stranger, asking if diapers are available and tank tops are appropriate. Where I will probably be the one changing currency at the worst place possible. Somehow, subconsciously, I believed that living in a foreign country and having many European and Kenyan stamps in my passport would equip me for entering anywhere, including Central America, without hesitation or hiccup. As though bad Swahili would help us find our shuttle in Guatemala City. 🙂
We are going to learn a language. We are going to be tourists. We are going to stay with a family we don’t know.
It is going to be an adventure and I am sure that we will come through it better, stronger as a family, and much improved in Español. I am looking forward to actually being there. Historically, I have loved and embraced going to places less developed than I where live. It is just the actual going–the getting there–that is daunting. While traveling between worlds in high school and college used to be a nice transitional space of sleep and reflection, that flew out the window with the onset of Parenthood. Instead of wrestling with identity in the formerly beloved “transitional space,” I will be wrestling with a preschooler and Lap Child for a couple of plane rides, a lay over, a brief hotel stay, a couple shuttles, a bus ride, and a taxi ride. If we’re lucky.
Until then, I have been plodding away in preparations, not feeling very adventurous at all. Outwardly thinking through packing for a rainy climate and leaving our house. Inwardly feeling through how it would be to not have my friends nearby, whose proximity may deserve credit for my sanity on any given day. I’ve been feeling through what it means to miss some rituals and changes that are happening in our absence. Community events that mark time and grief and celebration. A wedding and birthdays, the birth day of our first nephew perhaps. The departure of our church planting leader and new organizational structures. For some, it would be a relief to miss most of these things. To me, it is disorienting.
Despite the revealing of many fears and insecurities, I am thankful for this Unknown. For the opportunity to study Spanish in a beautiful country that many of our friends here call Home. I am thankful for the adaptability and joy of our children, the blessing of our teammates, and the richness of the cultures of this city that all urge us “Go!” I am thankful that we will have one main task there instead of the five or so we juggle here and for the opportunity to take old friends called Travel and School off the shelf for a brief time again. I am thankful for the privilege and wealth that we enjoy that allows us to invest in Spanish in this intensive way and travel between countries with ease. I am thankful that no matter how new the ground is, He promises to be there and give me sure footing.
We are not alone and though we are strangers, we are known. In, out, behind, before. The mysteries and misgivings of this time are only upsetting because I too often deny and cap the uncertainties and wonder in my normal life. In going, I am forced to be conscious of subjecting myself to what may come, entrusting ourselves to His good care. In staying, I can easily convince myself of the myth of sequential, predictable safety and comfort.
I am thankful that this is all reminding me that I am not in pursuit of securing myths as padding around my life. That predictability is not my final aim and destination. I am glad for the reminder that no matter how involved and responsible I feel, time marches on and these are good times to become less entrenched. There is grace here, in the leaving, the packing, the learning. We move on.
Believe it or not, here are a few things that just had to be done before we go. (I am convinced that if pretty garlands hung around the city, people would be happier.)