Saturday, January 11, 2014

Managing the Missing

This morning Bet and I Skyped with a girl potentially looking to teach in Karaganda. She asked us plenty of great questions, and it was joy for me to take the opportunity to remind myself how rewarding and exciting it is to be here. But then she dropped this question on us.

How has it been being away from home? she asked.


It’s strange how my homesickness has warped these past three weeks. It was rough right before we left for Bishkek: I was distressed that I wouldn’t see Sarah and Stuart until they’d already been in the country three days, I was disappointed that the Christmas vibe was elusive and couldn’t be conjured, I was discouraged that summer seemed so, so far away. I poured so much anticipation into Sarah & Stuart’s visit, and I told myself that so long as I could make it to that reunion, I would be fine and the homesickness would dissipate. With tunnel vision I waited for my visitors. 

And when they were here it was a little bit like home was here. 

But when they left it felt a little bit like something had died. 

I just hadn’t thought that far ahead. I hadn’t prepared for their departure. I hadn’t accounted for the possibility that their leaving could and would intensify my homesickness and that I needed to look for relief outside of connection to home. My head keeps telling me that June is not so far away. I’m halfway there. I’ve spent more time here than stands between now and my departure. This second semester is going to fly by. Nevertheless, it sounds positively horrendous that I’m counting the months until I’m homeward bound, I mean, that’s not becoming of a girl who came here trying to die to self and serve others. 

But I love my home and I don’t think this is bad. 

It’s a happy homesickness, you know? Like, this hurts so good, it’s proving to me that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’ve been missing the dumbest things, like chocolate chips (because chopping up chocolate bars is such the inconvenience) and thick aluminum foil (as opposed to the tissue-thin kind here) and lines. Like I really miss standing in a line and not having a dozen people ask me to hold their place or try to cut in line or flat out ignore the presence of a line because they’re old/pregnant/pretty/important/in a hurry. The quirks of this place that charmed me at first are beginning to make my teeth grind.

But when I reprimand myself I also realize I’m living the dream. Working part time, living for free, experiencing a different culture, and learning to lean on Him who sustains me in so many new ways. The landlord came to check our water the other day, and she chattered at me in Russian when I answered the door, and I was surprised I understood her when she asked why I wasn’t wearing any house shoes when it was so cold. These are the little happinesses I experience every day, the triumph of giving someone directions or cooking a new cut of meat or seeing the vibrance of His glory on display in the sparkly crystals of decimated snowflakes or the messy devotion of His willing servants. 

The greatest irony is the quiet knowledge that when the clock runs out and I leave for the summer, I will miss Karaganda and its aluminum foil and its lack of lines and its astoundingly wonderful people with as unrelenting an intensity that I miss my home now. Missing is a blessing, because it offers itself as proof of love.

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