Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What a Small World!

For a few weeks now Cash and I have been tossing around the idea of going to Romania for our friends' wedding this summer. Every time I think about that, I get a little overwhelmed with how big yet how small our world really is. I never even knew much about Romania nevertheless thought I'd have the opportunity to go there.

It is no lie that I love culture. American culture, African culture, rural, urban, European, mountainous, seaside...I am not picky. I just absolutely love learning about the lifestyle of other people. When I went overseas this summer, the one thing I looked forward to the most was experiencing the real life of an Arab woman. True that I got to experience more than I imagined, but I still get blown away when I think about the culture I was quickly introduced to. Regardless of my experience there, I'm still amazed with the culture. When I'm in the airport and see an Arab woman, I usually greet them in Arabic. I don't know...that may be cheesy...but I have a sense of connection to that culture. I think I always will.

When my students ask if I always wanted to be a teacher and what would I do differently, I tell them honestly that I wish I would've known about sociology before my senior year. Hands down it was my favorite class in college, but I didn't take it until the spring semester of my junior year. Now I love teaching Social Studies, but I see the direct correlation. When I teach, I get to explore the world, learn about cultures, and try to integrate them into a lesson.

And maybe some of my adoration of other cultures came from living 20 minutes north of a town with a population of 3,500 people. I saw one culture and always wondered what other places were like. Or maybe the adoration comes from being thrust into a university setting and trying to find friends and feeling like an outcast and failure for most of it. Sure I look back and remember great times, but college was by no means the best time of my life. It gave me a sense of appreciation for people who were welcoming, and now I find myself finding the "newbie" whether it's at church, work, or in the community.

Perhaps that's why last spring I sat by a Vietnamese man every Tuesday night in class. It was his first semester in the States, and I tried so hard to help him immerse into this culture. One day he came to speak in my Social Studies classes as we talked about the Vietnam War. We've tried to keep up with one another since that class, and I got an e-mail from him today. He asked if we could meet up soon to catch up; he got to go back to Vietnam for the summer and wanted to tell me all about spending time with his wife and daughter. He also said he brought me a gift back. Tears swelled up in my eyes when I read that, because I was so touched that he had felt such a friendship with me. I can't get over that. That means the world to me.

That semester I also made a friend, Paola, from Colombia. Every Monday night I would take her home, and she would tell me all about her homeland and how much she missed it. She always hugged and kissed my cheek when she would get out of the vehicle. Something about those cultures really entice me. My family was always very "huggy" growing up, so I like to think we actually descended from a place like Colombia. haha. Truth be known we are European and Native American, cowboys and Indians. We hated each other. ha.

Yesterday I got to talk to 2 of my sweet friends, both of whom live in Europe. Milena is in Romania, and we are now practicing my Romanian. I have only learned how to say "I love you" but she says it is similar to Spanish. Every time we talk, she ends with "kisses" or something of the sort...and I think that's such a neat part of her culture. Actually, come to think of it...I also know the word "prost." That was a mistake!
a picture of Milena and Marius I stole from Milena :) Isn't she beautiful?
I also got to talk to my friend Simoni who lives in Germany. She was an exchange student my junior year of high school, and we have stayed friends all these years. This fall I actually got to see her as she and her now husband (shut the front door!) made their way back to Arkansas. We reminisced about our friendship in high school, her short tenure on our school's basketball team, and the fun time we had at prom that year. When she was living here, she dated one of my best guy friends so inevitably we spent a lot of time together. Just kind of crazy that our worlds were so far apart growing up, but now we can talk at any given time because of social media and technology.
eating with Simoni in Ozark
Now I know I'm not a world traveler, and it will probably take me quite a long time to be much of a traveler outside of the States again. And that breaks my heart. I always dreamed about the many places to go and things to see all over the world. I pray for the moment when I know I'm ready again, when I know I can sit on a plane and fly back across that ocean. I have so many things I want to see and do:
  • go to an Olympics
  • visit a tribe in Africa
  • eat real Thai food, in Thailand (as much as I love King and I)
  • see the Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro
  • explore Antarctica (via ship. ha)
  • backpack through parts of Scotland
  • watch a bullfight in Spain and be able to speak Spanish while I'm there
  • eat fresh pasta in a cafe in Italy
  • tour a concentration camp
  • dive off the coast of Australia
Whoops, I was supposed to marry a rich man for all that, wasn't I? haha. When this summer happened, I closed my heart to the world, literally and figuratively. I forgot those dreams I always had tucked away, and I was content with staying in Arkansas and Texas for the rest of my life. But the past couple days speaking with my international friends, it's really opened back up my desire to go and see and do. I pray I always have a heart for seeking out the person who is having a difficult time adjusting to this life. They do, afterall, seem to seek me out. It's wild! But I know what it's like to feel alone in a new place, to leave your family and friends, to dislike the food, to think everything smells funky, to not even know how to call home.

So basically I guess what I'm trying to say is, "Do you know anyone in your world that could benefit from a friendship with you?" I always have to go back to that when I start feeling lonely and that no one here in little ol' Alma, Arkansas is my friend. I mean, really? How selfish and lame is that? My mom lives 30 minutes away for crying out loud. But I do get like sometimes..thinking I don't have a friend in the world.

I don't know...guess I am feeling a little adventurous today, missing my friends from far away, and pondering if I do welcome others into my world enough. I think we get so comfortable with our life or job or pew at church and we forget to step out into the aisle and just be that feeling of home for someone else. That's my challenge for all of us today...be "home" for someone.


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