30 days is all I have left until I start the next big adventure. It’s weird how quickly time can go at some times and how incredibly slow it can go at others. This is one of those quick times… and although I am excited about jumping into this ministry, there is nothing like knowing you are leaving your home for a very long to make you feel prematurely nostalgic. The beautiful beaches, the familiar faces, the fume-free air, the bed that has my imprint in it, even the feel of a cool breeze moves me… it will be a long time before a cool breeze is a regular part of my life again.
One does not appreciate cool breezes until you live without them.
In the Philippines, I remember sitting in an upstairs room that people met for church. Like most places in this area of the Philippines, it was not air conditioned, and it was HOT. We were there that day to set up a medical clinic, but to also evangelize to those waiting to be seen as well as assist the doctors in any way we could (ask me about the tooth I pulled later…). Taking a break, I remember sitting in the corner of the room wrestling with the tension of the memory my body had of cool breezes. My body seemed very confused seeing as how it was not used going that long without getting cooled off. I remember the experience of intense aggravation that was sent through me knowing that there was nothing I could do to cool off because even the piece of paper that I turned into a fan was doing nothing but blowing more hot air at me. Thailand, where we went a few days later, was much the same.
For some time I’ve been trying to get my head around fully the “bigness” of this coming change but now I wonder if that is even possible.
Today I accomplished the last big thing on my list of things that set me up for leaving. A friend and I drove up to LA to visit the Thai Consulate for my Visa. We got there way earlier than we needed in an effort to beat LA traffic so we decided to drive around to look for a place to eat. Some how we ended up driving around a Korea Town of sorts unable to read any of the signs (the ability to read signs… another thing I will miss). We finally parked when we found what we thought was a suitable place to eat. The food was distinctly American but one could tell by the decor that the owners of the restaurant were not.
Among other things, Brett and I soon got into a discussion about time. I’m reading a book about ministering cross culturally and I just finished the chapter that was dedicated fully to discussing tensions about time. The point was that America is a distinctly time focused society while most others are not. For example, Americans generally excuse 5 minutes of tardiness but at fifteen minutes, we have generally reached our frustration point. On the Island of Yap in Micronesia, however, people easily excuse 2 hours of tardiness and generally don’t hit their frustration point until hour three. Most other countries fall somewhere in between. Although not quite as extreme, waiting on people is one of the many things I will have to adjust to while living in Thailand. I thought intently about this as I was fighting frustration with our waiter who was taking 3 times longer than he should have with our bill… clearly not working on American time.
We continued our discussion after leaving the Thai Consulate and I started talking about how my biggest worry about moving to Thailand was not safety but adjusting. I said that I always seemed to adjust very well on all of my short term mission trips but I wondered if that was because I knew I would be going home after two weeks. Would adjustment come if I knew it would be a very long time before I came back to familiar things? How much time would it take? Would it be much harder than I can get my head around?
But then Brett mentioned something that I thing is true. That if we are doing something that we know has a lot of meaning, that purpose and passion would help you through.
The frustration of the heat as I sat in that upstairs room in the Philippines was almost overwhelming. But as the aggravation tried to make its home in me, I looked around and remembered what I was doing there. And although my body did not cool down, I remember feeling the welcomed sensation of adjustment as my body stopped expecting a cool breeze and acclimated to its surroundings. I got up and began helping again, and the heat faded into the background.