It has been two years since I last experienced February 10th. One year ago, this tenth day of the second month of the year passed by unnoticed somewhere over the Pacific Ocean by myself and the other passengers onboard our thirteen hour Air New Zealand flight to Auckland. What a year it has been! The following is an account of my last month in NZ. Upon my return to the States in July, I set out to finish up writing the happenings of my final month abroad. This simply did not happen. I wanted to get it all out while I could remember everything freshly so my memories would be accurate and intact. Something blocked me from setting out to finish this blog. I felt that if I finished writing the tales of my last month in NZ, then my trip would be officially over and I’d have to settle into life without Aotearoa. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I did not want it to be over, so I did not finish writing. I got 2000 words in and still had three weeks to go. I could not let myself be home. Now, a year after my journey began, I see it fitting to wrap this up. What you can expect from this final NZ blog: the writing from August 4th that I did after my return to the States, excerpts from my journal (primary source material from my own hand during the last month), closing reflecting remarks. Thank you for reading.
August 4th, 2011
I realize I have not updated the blog in over a month, so it is high time I get on it! As I sit and write this, I am safely back in Columbus, a few weeks into my life back in the States. This post will recap my last month away, giving all of you faithful readers one last hurrah with my words and adventures! I plan to do a reflection post once adequate time has passed and I’ve settled a bit more into normalcy back on US soil, but as with most lessons, that one will take time. So my last month.
Early June saw the end of regularly scheduled classes, and the NZ school system has a built in study week where there is no class or exams. For me and many of my international cohorts, that meant one thing: travel. My first free week passed uneventfully in Wellington, a nice break from the final push to the end of the semester, and I was content hanging around the city. Some of the Stafford crew went away to places such as Nelson down on the South Island and to Rotorua where we Australearners spent our first NZ week together. I wanted to go someplace, but was not entirely sure where that might be, and with most everybody out at different places already, it left me in a situation where I was waiting for someone to come along with a fully formed plan that I could simply plug into and go. After a week, I realized that was not going to happen, and that if I wanted to go anywhere, I’d have to make it happen myself, and most likely travel by myself, something I had not done yet, and was willing to do, but was not particularly keen on.
Around this time, the brilliant Charity May, of Stafford, rolled out her idea for what would become, “Adventure Week.” Our time together as Stafford mates was drawing to a rapid conclusion, so the plan was to go do everything in Wellington that we’d always talked about doing, but never actually got around to doing. We kicked it off with a homemade French toast breakfast together on Sunday morning, complete with syrup and powdered sugar! Delicious and filling. We headed down to the farmers market located down by Te Papa, the national museum, and stocked up on all sorts of fruits and veggies. Apples, kumara (like sweet potatoes), carrots, onions, broccoli. Great stuff and cheap as. With our bags laden with fresh produce, we headed to Te Papa to watch the young kids perform the songs and dances they’d been practicing all year. I forget the name of the occasion, but it was a big deal. They were good! One little boy in particular, when it came time for the haka, a crowd-pleaser anyway, stole the show with his passion. His eyes bulged, his face was ferocious, and his limbs were full of all the energy he could muster—everything the haka is supposed to bring out in a person.
Seeing them all in action was a treat. Monday saw Alex, Charity and I head to the wind turbine located on the top of a hill in nearby Brooklyn. The turbine is visible from campus, and I have viewed it from afar from the tops of the hills that became my regular running trails, vowing that I’d run to it one day. With the “carpe diem” attitude of Adventure Week in full swing, it was high time to run it. I told the others I’d meet them at the top, so they set out while I calculated my route. Using a combination of Google maps, topo maps from Wellington, and somebody’s past blog account of how to get up to the turbine without bush-whacking it, I had my route. Naturally, I made it to the first turn I was supposed to take and all my careful preparation went out the window as I forgot the proper direction. I knew that I needed to go up and not stop until I made it to the top and found the giant windmill. So with the spirit of Daniel Boone in me, which I rely on when I am at risk of losing myself, I set out remembering his words, “I’ve never been lost, but I was mighty turned around for three days once.” Several miles, ridges, and beautiful winding trails later and I had made it! And to make the moment even that more special, Alex and Charity were just arriving, so just as we’d planned it, we met and arrived together at the top. The view of Wellington and the surrounding harbor was gorgeous as the late afternoon sun shone out over the bay. And the turbine was massive, its blades spinning in time, the hum of the machinery mixing with the wind that powered it.
We all walked back down together, went through Central Park in Brooklyn (funny, aye?) and headed to the other end of town to the National Archives and saw the original Treaty of Waitangi, the problematic document that was signed in 1840. That night, we decided to jump into the freezing harbor one last time. Never gets old! I don’t think it gets easier to deal with the stinging needles of the cold water or the difficulty in breathing when your lungs want to rip apart from your chest, but knowing to expect those things helps a bit.
We warmed up with showers and soup and called it an early night, for the next morning we were scheduled to wake up for sunrise and hike to the nearby Mt. Victoria and wish the sun a happy day. Amazingly, we all made it up without much struggle and set out. The city was remarkably awake for such an early time of day. Cars and fellow humans were out, their days having already begun with a presumably much less exciting day ahead than Team Stafford. The sky was beautiful as we ventured to Mt. Vic, turning from deep blue to pale orange to bright pink. We arrived with about ten minutes to spare. A chilly morning, the sky was clear and the air crisp. Armed with cameras and the determinedness to relish every detail that comes with the ending of all good things, we waited for the sun. The first golden fingertip broke the horizon over the hills across the bay as the magnificent sun hoisted itself over the earth and into the sky, ready for another day. The day was early, and the grass was wet with dew, perfect for slipping and sliding. Alex entertained us all with a wonderfully controlled ski that ended in a spectacular fall into the bush that bordered the hillsides. We headed to a Lord of the Rings filming site on the way down the hill and recreated in terrible fashion the “Get off the road!” scene. We headed to that site as a casual afterthought on our way down the hill, no big deal. A breakfast of Wholly Bagels left us satisfied and ready for the next adventure, little did I know at the time what that would fully entail for me.
I received a message from my friend Lynn expressing interest in a trip that I mentioned in the briefest of passings to her the week before. In one of those obligatory, non-committal farewells, she told me to let her know if I decided to go anywhere over the break, as you do, with no real intention of doing said act. So I did. I told her, in my realization that I’d have to make my own trip if I wanted one, that I was interested in heading to Gold Coast, Australia. The night previously, I did a lot of searching online to see what would need to happen in order to make it to Oz, and found that while it would cost a bit of money, the plane tickets were quite reasonably priced and the extra expenses of a backpackers and food would be minimal. I was about half committed to going when I sent the tentative itinerary to Lynn, who responded the following morning with an interest in going! A legitimate, “I want to go,” interest. Well now, my adventure week just got bumped up to a new level, an international one. The next events happened very quickly. That morning we bought plane tickets and were slated to leave the next day for a week on the Gold Coast! Our flights were cancelled that night and pushed back two days. So we waited two days and then left. Why were our flights cancelled you say? A volcanic eruption in Chile several weeks earlier had sent an enormous ash cloud into the atmosphere that was disrupting flights as far away as New Zealand and Australia. That’s the kind of information that one does not immediately check for when booking flights, but maybe it should be. So with little fuss, we decided that a two day postponement would not be the end of the world, especially since there was no extra cost to change our flight. So that meant two more days of Adventure Week in Wellington before I had to take off!
Team Stafford took a bus ride out to Red Rocks searching for seals, the following sunny afternoon. This day felt by far the most touristy. Cameras flashed and public transportation fumbled as we roamed in our loud and excited pack. We ended up with no seals, but did enjoy a nice walk around the bay, stopped in a nice café that had a fire to warm up by and recollected as many stories of our months together as we could muster.
Friday came and Lynn and I headed off to Gold Coast via Auckland where we celebrated the beginning of our journey with midnight Mackers (McDonalds). After a night on the food court bench, we made the three hour plane ride over to Oz, landing in a climate much more friendly than the chilly Welly we left behind. The backpackers that we were planning on staying in was advertised as being five minutes from the airport, so off we set. On what would turn into a four hour quest to find the backpackers (!), we found the beautiful beach with its clear water and soft sand underfoot. Being days from Australia’s winter solstice, the summer beachy town of Coolangatta was quite under-populated, leaving us with the freedom that only a deserted beach can bring. We could see Brisbane over the water, a mere 100ks away. The proximity to the airport allowed us to watch the arrival and takeoff of every plane coming in and out of Gold Coast. After checking-in to the YHA, we decided an afternoon nap sounded immensely satisfying, considering our previous night’s sleep and four-hour trek up and down the coast did not leave much room for rest. Five hours later, we woke up, the sun on its way to the other side of the world and our stomachs growling. We headed off to what would become a staple of our diet over the next five days: delicious and American friendly Subway. We even had a coupon for five-dollar foot longs. Boo ya! What did we pay for our subs with, you say? Only the coolest and most colorful dollar notes I’ve ever used. NZ money is flash, but the Aussie money was art. The old lady on the twenty looked astonishingly like Ben Franklin.
—-This marks the end of the writing from August 4th. The following is from my journal–
19 June 2011
Today was one of the days I dream about in the dead of winter: waking up early for a run on the beach (barefoot), delicious breakfast, lounging on the beach consisting of frisbee, reading and napping. I developed some nasty blisters on my feet from the jandals yesterday on our four-hour walk about town and each step is a dull ache that reminds me of yesterday’s search. We had Subway once again and on our way there (and back) we saw for the second day in a row a HUGE bat inhabiting a tree along the path. The flying creature must have at least a three-foot wingspan. It is positively frightening walking through its layer at night, but thrilling.
22 June 2011
Sunburbed. The ash cloud is back. I hope we can get home tomorrow. If not, it could make for an interesting few days. Here’s to praying for a flight!
24 June 2011
From my baggage claim sticker: Air New Zealand Flight no. NZ930. Gold Coast to Auckland. 23 June 2011 @19:10PM. (not our booked flight). I’ll need to back up a bit to fill in the details about how I came to be in this place.
Highlights of the week:
Cool mornings, warm afternoons, brilliant blue skies, soft sands, dazzling ocean
Books. The New Jim Crow (me); Three Cups of Tea (Lynn)
Wildlife. Giant killer bat, huge spider, colorful and vocal birds, locals on beach
Having “Pumped Up Kicks” stuck in my head nearly the whole time
Mexican restaurant and “favorite people we know” conversation
Awkward tan lines
Early nights (9PM=bedtime) followed by delicious (and free) breakfast.
The best winter solstice I’ve ever had. Not until the day before our return flight did I let the outside world seep into my mind. The ash cloud was back. It had circled the globe and was back for more disruption.
June 22: Headlines such as “120,000 travelers displaced” and “Flights cancelled indefinitely” and “You’re trapped in Australia!” screamed from the newspapers we found.
June 23: We had to check out of the YHA by 10AM as the room had been booked by another large group due in that evening. We pack up our things and head to the beach for the day, as per usual. We are both thoroughly roasted by the time 4:00PM rolls around and we head back to the YHA to check the computer, the moment we have been dreading for the previous twenty-four hours. The news is not good: our flight has been cancelled and Pacific Blue has cancelled ALL flights until further notice. Our morning, connecting flight from Auckland to Wellington has also been cancelled with no guarantee that they will be flying anytime soon. For want of something to do and to feel like we can control something, we head to the airport to see what our options might be. The Pacific Blue counter wench was nice enough, but could offer no help other than to say that the website would be updated when more news came in. She does, however, tell us that for whatever reason, Air New Zealand is still flying and they have a flight scheduled for that night. Here is where my thoughts are: I’m stuck in Australia and won’t make it back to NZ to take my final exam which means I will fail the class and not go back to Ohio State with adequate credit to support my scholarship and other financial aid, thereby forfeiting the money already awarded to me and instead owing what I borrowed in the first place to get to NZ and further Oz. In other words, I’m screwed if I can’t get back to my exam.
We head to the Air New Zealand counter and find out there are no more seats on the flight that night or the following morning. They tell us that in one hour we can check with them again and see if any standby seats have opened up–a slim chance, but our only option. We grab some dinner, the first food that we’ve had since breakfast and it does help to lift our mood. One chicken stir-fry and baked pasta dish later and our bellies are full. The lady told us to return at 6:00, but after a gut feeling to check early, we head back at 5:50. They told us that we’d have to wait another twenty minutes, but that they knew what we wanted (seats,) and they’d be patient if we could be, too. Another girl was waiting near the counter, so we struck up a conversation with her and it turns out she was also hoping for standby tickets—the competition. She was called Alisa from Vancouver and needed to catch this flight to make her Auckland connection to San Francisco and on back to Canada. After fifteen minutes of chatting, they called the three of us forward along with another couple that had just arrived seeking standby options. Lynn and I talked and decided that we would not be willing to pay more than $400 Aussie Dollas. The Air New Zealand lady was called Donna and she told us that we were in luck and that there were three seats available due to no-shows, and that the tickets would cost $386. What a saint!
We decided to take the seats. Alisa got hers, we got ours and no one had to fight (which we were prepared to do. Strength in numbers). The other couple behind us was not so lucky. Had we been ten minutes later or they been earlier, our roles very easily could have been switched. With less than an hour till takeoff, we were put into expedited processing. Payment: Lynn paid her ticket. My card got declined. The ATM would not give me cash. I think the bank must have frozen my account since I was in a foreign country without telling them. What a time for fraud protection! Luckily, Lynn offered to give me an IOU, so our tickets were paid for (barely!). Our passports got stamped and our tickets got printed and our bags got checked (the ticket we inherited included checked luggage. How nice!).
We tore through customs and immigration and were nearly running through the duty-free zone on our way to the gate. Quickest. Security. Ever. It was as if they were waiting for just us (they were). Upon reaching the gate with images of Home Alone running through my mind, we were told that not only did we make it in time, but that they had not yet begun the boarding process. We made it! Air New Zealand is pretty classy and the flight was fine, even with the mid-flight descent to 16,000 ft to avoid the ash cloud. Minimal turbulence. Personal TVs and movie selection–very nice. I had forgotten how funny Modern Family could be! We landed around 12:30AM Auckland time an hunkered down for the night on the same cluster of benches from the previous week’s layover. It was late, we were tired and exhausted and our nerves were shot after all the day’s events, so we made a plan for the morning to review our options: bus, train, rental car, flight (in cost order cheapest to most expensive). We were in New Zealand.
June 24: Sleep came in two hour blocks as the sounds of the night shift and other restless passengers filled the air. After an 8AM McDonalds brekkie, we decided that cost and emotion-wise, renting a car and hauling it ourselves would give us the best bang for our buck. We went to the local i-Sight and they helped us rent a car for a one-way trip to Welly for a reasonable price. We were going to make it home! And only twelve hours later than we had originally planned. Not too shabby. We waited for the rental company’s shuttle to take us to our car in the cool but refreshing (to our sun burnt bodies anyhow) Auckland air. Soon enough we were to our car when one last hurdle was thrown our way—our licenses. Lynn and I have both turned twenty-one since we’ve been in NZ, meaning our US licenses have expired, nulling our eligibility to rent the car. NOOO! So close, but the woman would not budge, even after our slight bending of the truth about how we’d driven rental cars since we’d turned twenty-one with other agencies (driven, yes. Rented, no). She was sorry, but firm that we would not be able to take the car. Back to the airport and the i-Sight stand we went for a refund. They were able to book us spots on the overnight bus that would leave town that night at 8PM and get us back down to Wellington by 7AM the following morning. At the end of our ropes, we gladly accepted that offer. Never did waiting twelve hours for a twelve-hour bus ride sound so inviting. And that’s where we are now: sitting, waiting and writing about our travels. It seems like the trip was ill-fated from the start, but through it all we have managed optimism, light-heartedness and a new appreciation for finding the best stories out of apparent bad luck. We must laugh at ourselves, because if we don’t, what can we do? So we laugh. And wait.
With the unease of the dark cloud
That the world’s air falls into shroud
Looking for home
No longer seeking to roam
The wild, but the mild
Of normality, reality, centrality
That has become our lives
Back by beehives and Tasman dives
To those we call brother, lover
Friend, family and none other
A ride, a wild run
One for the son
And daughters of the future to hear
Of the truth so clear, near, dear:
There’s no place like home
10 July 2011
FIJI. The V20 International Student Life Conference ended several days ago, which meant that my time in NZ was nearly through. I hope to retain and learn from everything that went on at the conference. A worldwide call to serve all people, BY all people. What a vision! The inevitable goodbyes finally arrived and they were the hardest yet.
Highlights of V20 and final days in NZ:
The Leigh Proctor Experience (aka BoZo and Glenn (Will Bodeker, Zoe Cook and I) performing “Who Let the Dogs Out”
Fireworks on July 4th; running around with the Americans with sparklers
Late night music with Peter (Samoa), Zoe, Ryan Vinten, Jesse Wilson, Cody Knox
Roger Hershey: God is sovereign and God has grace
Sleeping in a lion suit every night to keep warm
Goodbye party at the Rintoul flat
Early morning sendoff courtesy of the five brothers of Rintoul (minus Leigh, add Jesse)
My soul feels heavy from all this, but so thankful that I can be stretched to this point in the sight of a God who not only sees me where I am, but loves me all the same. And I guess that brings me to Fiji. I arrived in a hot Nadi around noontime to the sounds of Fijian song. Three men and a guitar greeted the travelers as we arrived at the airport. “Bula!” I found a backpackers for the evening and was picked up by a tall, lanky man with dark skin and a gold tooth adorning his grin. The van rumbled across once paved roads, kicking up dust onto the bodies that crossed the roads seemingly oblivious to the cars. The city was very brown. It was as if a baked, brown filter had been placed over the entire dusty and dry city. I was thankful that the ATM allowed me to withdraw cash, a worry of mine after the incident in Australia. After getting to the backpackers, I was able to book my next three nights on Mana Island, where I currently sit. The exchange rate is not too bad here, around 2:1, so I am enjoying the reasonable costs afforded me. I just let the front desk man do all the booking, too tired and exhausted to do much protesting, but things appear all good so far. I slept that day, repacked that night and fell exhausted in body and spirit to my bed where I let the full meaning of what was happening wash over and through me.
I must leave behind the bodies that took me in
While I sought to walk on my own
Now running, I leave fulfilled
I am not alone, although I feel it
My soul creaks under the weight of these thoughts
Never tested in such a way in all my years
I sit and count the ones who I humbly owe
Gratitude, thanks, and above of all love
I leave you, I join you, I run for you
Abba Father is good to me. My favorite part of Fiji so far was the boat ride to Mana: 4 Fijians, 3 Japanese, 2 Aussies, 1 Czech Republic, 1 German, and me, the lone American. About five minutes in, one of the Japanese girls began singing a hauntingly beautiful something that captured the attention of everyone on board, even above the drone of the engine and crashing of waves upon the side of the boat. It was a while before I realized she was singing “Amazing Grace.” So beautiful. When she reached, “But now I see,” she held out the last note for ages, doing vocal gymnastics and finally landing on a high, ringing final note that she nurtured as she threw back her head, hair flying like curtains hanging by an open window on a windy night. Applause broke out from everyone on board while heartfelt and genuine grins spread across all our faces. Pure joy and thankfulness. This was possibly my favorite rendition of this classic song and a moment I hope to never forget. Her words when she was done, “I feel good. I feel happy!” Love it. This place is a postcard, a dream, a painting. Now to enjoy it.
11 July 2011
I cannot believe I fly out tomorrow night. For HOME! Crazy, aye? I’m not feeling very poetic or expressive about how I’ve spent my time here, so here goes.
Met Bosko, the Mana Island legend. “We’re a —-ing big family, what the —-“
Cast Away Island (where the movie was filmed) right next to Mana
“Some people get wet, others walk in the rain. You have to choose who you’re going to be”
Sunset Beach = most beautiful ever beach
English friends: Bethan, Naomi, Nathan, Leigh, Rachel, Zoe, Will (international nomenclature familiarity)
Snorkeling; cold showers; crab catching on the rocks by the sea; napping on the sand
Night church in the village: all I understood was, “Praise the Lord.” That’s enough.
12 July 2011 (I’m very disoriented)
I’m in LAX! I’ve got ten hours here until my 10PM flight to DC then on to Columbus. By the end of today, it will have been July 12 for forty-five hours, and I will have had two long flights depart at 10PM on July 12th. Time travel. I guess this is making up for my missing Feb. 10. Getting out of Fiji was not as smooth as I would have liked, but as per usual, I now have a fun story to tell about my international travel ventures. I missed my water taxi that was supposed to take me back to the mainland. Luckily, there was a second and final taxi that was headed to Nadi later that afternoon, and so long as I was on it, I could still make it to the airport in time. So…bonus afternoon on the beach! It meant I’d miss my pre-booked, non-refundable day tour of Nadi, but at least I’d still get to the airport. A guy with fiery red hair called Will gave me something to pass my afternoon and imminent travel time: a copy of Twilight that he’d received from a girl he met while in South Africa. I gladly accepted his offer and set in on what would be an immensely pleasurable experience getting lost in this beautiful love story. I wish I could lay my head upon that marble chest while getting lost in those smoldering eyes. Anyway…the afternoon passed and the second water taxi arrived and I said my goodbyes. Since my ticketed and paid-for taxi had already come and gone, I was prepared to pay the hefty price for a new ticket without reservation. And then an idea came to me as I waited in line behind a large family with several children running around the dock. The father presented their online printout ticket to the man checking in all the passengers. I attached myself to the family in front of me, blended in to their herd and nodded to the ticket man as I followed my adopted father onto the boat. I then put on my sunglasses, bolted for the nearest staircase and headed to the upper deck, found an open seat in the back of the seating area and buried my nose in Twilight, praying they wouldn’t come around checking tickets. They never did. I’d done it—I’d snuck onto a boat and rode successfully, at no charge, back to land. I felt like some sort of pirate spy. I’d done the sea equivalent of train jumping and it felt good.
After taking a taxi back to the backpackers where my luggage was stored, I met another roadblock in the form of a locked closet. The front desk man that I had trusted so much several days earlier was nowhere to be found and with him were the keys that unlocked the storage closet where not just my things, but that of four other travelers were being held. After some tense minutes and creative work with a coat hanger, we were in. It turned out that two of the girls whose belongings were in storage were on the same flight as me and were headed home after studying in Australia the past semester. They offered up space in their cab, which just so happened to be waiting outside, and together we headed out to the airport, luggage in tow. I had to talk them through the worst-case scenario game had we not been able to get our stuff out of storage. “It’s just stuff! We’re going home tonight and that’s what’s really important! We can replace clothes and laptops and priceless, sentimental artifacts from a once in a lifetime trip that will have changed our lives from this point onward!” I didn’t say that last part, but that’s what they heard and were near hysterics as a result. I’m glad we got our stuff back. At the airport, one of the girls had to repack her carry-on to accommodate her seventeen packages of Tim Tam cookies. Seventeen! Sweet Christmas. I got randomly selected for a 100% security check that involved a funny now, not funny then, experience with a Fijian guard in a small and ill-lit room. He told me I’d need to take off my clothes, so as I began, he told me he was just kidding and I could keep my things on. Haha? Then he asked if he could check through my bag, so again I consented. He saw how expertly it was packed, commented on its effectiveness and neatness and zipped it all back up without so much as that first glance, then proceeded with “okay now you really do need to take off your clothes.” Again I began to undress when he stopped me, a second time, and said he was again joking and that I was free to go. Not funny, man!
So after a ten-hour flight with a little boy sleeping with his head on my shoulder for nearly the entire ride, I am back in the United States of America. I’d say it’s good to be home, but this massive airport is no home. It’s giant and my feet are still blistered, so all this walking is no good. While reading, I did one of my favorite airport activities: people watching. There were five guys who I thought looked like a band. If they weren’t in a band, they should be. The way they were dressed, the swagger, the coolness—it all reeked, “we’re a band.” And then I realized, these guys are, in fact, a band. I know this band. I started looking for context clues and sure enough, they were surrounded by equipment and cases full of what had to be instruments and other gear. One of the carts was being pushed over to the check-in counter and there was the clincher in plain sight: written on the side of one of the cases was “Foster the People.” I had a decision to make, to talk to them or not? I decided to go for it. I went up and asked if they were Foster the People, and they said they were. I then told them my name and that I was coming from NZ, and that I was from Columbus where I had friends who saw them play a few months earlier. One of the guys said he’d been in Wellington the year before playing music (appropriate), and then they wished me a safe trip home!
Two of the main members, Foster and Cubbie, were pretty standoffish and didn’t really engage with me, but the other three were great. They were headed to Sweden. I was pretty buzzy for awhile after that. Now I’ll wait for my flight and dive into more Twilight. I’ll see you in the morning, Columbus!
———————–Journal writing ends———————————
10 February 2012
So here I am. In Columbus, Ohio. Living a day that time took from me last year. It is only fitting that the Lord of the Rings soundtrack began playing on my iTunes as I sat down to write this. As I think back on everything that has happened in this last year, I am absolutely flooded with emotions. I remember people, (mis)adventures, runs, foods, indescribable beauty, nature’s destruction, international awkwardness, newness, music and love. Early on in my Pacific Lit. class, we read a poem by the 13th Century Sufi poet, Rumi, and I am reminded of it now.
Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
You would be paralyzed.
I feel that it points to the necessity and importance of change. Versatility and being moldable is a good thing. There is, in fact, a time and place for everything, even if it means being uncomfortable or unsure about what might come next. Over the last year, my hand has been opening and closing. I am not the same person I was a year ago. The changes are slight, and some people will never know what I have gone through, can never know, but as my life goes on, it will always be in some way influenced by what has happened over the course of this past year. I am so very thankful for every moment of it. Not all moments were good ones, noteworthy ones, but in the messy bits, the rough edges and bumps along the way are where we build character and truly see ourselves. I have been blessed by the people that have become part of my story. I set out to live a story worth telling. My hope is that I will continue to open and close my hands, going, doing, exploring, daring, dreaming, discovering. This would be the perfect spot for something along the lines of “There and back again,” but I will resist. Thank you for letting me go. Thank you for going with me. Thank you for accepting me home. Thank you.