I sit in this room, boxes still unpacked in the corner, walls faded and peeling begging to be decorated, floors not yet finished, windows bare with curtains not yet purchased. I look around me and take in this house only 2 weeks lived in. I look down and see before me a suitcase, 2 weeks in this house and already a suitcase.
It’s the packing that has forced me to unpack. The boxes that have been opened and emptied have only been done so in order to repack their contents into a case or a bag, ready to travel with me. I sigh and wonder when my life became this, always packing or unpacking, never just being, never simply staying.
I had just told someone a few days previously how wonderful it had been to be settled in one place for so long without traveling. She had laughed saying that it had been no time at all, I protested and together we counted time. Eight weeks I’ve been here, and it feels like years. She points out that in those eight weeks I have been away for 2 weekends and moved house. I can’t help but laugh along with her – I see the joke, that 2 months including two weekend trips and a house move feels like a long settled time to me.
I look back down at my suitcase and I feel strangely at home with my things packed in a case, with my car full of petrol ready for the drive, with my house packed up ready for weeks of being empty. I think about the weeks ahead, the weeks of living from a suitcase, of staying in countless other’s homes, of the miles of road ahead of me, of all the new faces, the hellos, the fresh places. I think about the not stopping for long enough to find my bearings and I feel peaceful, I feel at home, I feel settled.
I smile to myself. The prospect of being unsettled leaves me feeling settled and I see the paradox. I think it must be the missionary kid inside me that lets me feel so comfortable in this lifestyle. Its the MK roots that I have allowed to bear fruit into my adulthood, it’s the life that was thrust upon me as a child that I chose to continue as an adult, that has led to this crazy paradox.
I zip up the case and stand carrying it downstairs. I am peaceful and there is a smile of content on my face, and yet as I place the case by the door there is something else too. There is that small piece of my heart that aching, screaming out to be heard, it’s wondering what it would be like to stay, and it’s yearning to find out, to experience it. That small part that will never let go, that will always make the leaving bitter-sweet, the traveling fun and yet hard, the constant packing and unpacking satisfying and yet painful.
I give thanks, because it is that piece of my heart, that pain, that yelling out, that reminds me of all I have. It speaks of the irreplaceable friendships, the close community, the love, the sowing, the reaping, the memories. The difficulty in driving away simply tells the story of the wonderful gifts God has given me where I am. A song of praise come from my lips going out to the one who always travels with me.
Change is exciting. An intrinsic part of my life.
Big changes happening regularly.
They ask me what is new in my life and they expect a big answer.
It’s exciting, planning, preparing, experiencing the new.
Change is wearying. The way it constantly requires of you to give out.The physical effort, the emotional upheaval.
The letting go of one thing and grasping out for another.
It’s tiring, planning, preparing, saying goodbye to the familiar.
I’ve experienced 6 weeks of boring bliss.
6 weeks of here.
6 weeks of being settled.
6 weeks of being stuck.
6 weeks of no change.
It’s been wonderful, it’s been soothing, it’s been comforting.
But now, now it starts again.
Moving house, touring, traveling, reuniting, moving across the world.
It’s running at me fast and I can’t seem to slow it.
Change is an animal chasing me until it catches it’s prey and ravages my being.
It’s coming and I can’t tame it.
I don’t know how I feel about change.
I sit on the hard plastic, half-broken, chair, waiting, waiting, waiting, for them to call my flight to board. People crowded all around. My gaze fixed on one spot, desperately taking breaths, trying to regain control.
I can’t try any longer, I can’t keep control. The tears welling in my eyes spill over. They roll down my cheeks, faster and faster they come. The anger swells in me, and my whole body shakes those tears from my eyes. They roll on to my cracked, open, cheeks and they sting deep. It only causes the tears to come all the more. I can’t even cry without pain thanks to this place.
I brush the tears aside enough to be able to see to reach for my phone. I open it and begin hurriedly typing a message to my friend:
“I hate this freaking country. I can’t wait to leave!”
Beep, beep. A reply
“What’s happened? No one hates this country more than I do!”
My fingers quickly tap out a response.
“It’s so stupid, nothing’s ever going to change. I’m so glad I’m getting out!”
The phone starts ringing in my hand, I look down, it’s a different friend. I try to steady my voice.
– “Hey! I just rang to say goodbye and see how you were feeling with leaving.”
I can’t contain it, I sob down the phone, trying desperately to catch my breath enough to say goodbye. But I can’t. I just sit there, crying. Anger, frustration, hurt, continuing to rise inside me.
– “Are you ok? Where are you?”
– “I’m leaving, and I couldn’t be happier, this place is a nightmare.”
– “oookkkkk… what’s going on? What’s happened?”
So I take some deep breaths, I calm myself, and I begin to tell the story. I recount it all, moment by moment, to her:
How my driver was late, how he ran out of gas, how they closed the roads, and how I was stressed before we even reached the airport road.
Then I tell her of the extra checks, the one where they thoroughly pat down your body with their hands, and then open your cases, empty them, and then leave you to put them back together; all the while telling you to hurry up.
I tell her how weary and on edge I was by the time we reached the airport gates.
I continue telling her how my driver decided to try to skip a search, how the police dragged me out of the car and screamed in my face. How they shouted at my driver, pulled him for the vehicle and beat him with their guns whilst I stood and watched. How I pleaded with him to not argue back, how I thought he was going to die in front of me.
I tell her of the continued increase in checks, the policemen and soldiers who shoved, and pushed, and pulled, and touched me, who kept screaming and shouting at me. How they shut my hand in a door and never once checked if I was ok.
I tell her how they refused to let me go to the bathroom, and how they ran off with my passport.
I tell her how they dropped my laptop on the floor.
I tell her it all, moment by moment.
Airports here are horrible at the best of times, today was even worse than normal. I let the tears spill over freely once more. She hears me from the other end of the phone.
-“I’m sorry Em, that sounds terrible. Don’t give up hope though, don’t remember just these hours, remember the years as a whole.”
I know she’s right. You mustn’t judge a book by its cover, and certainly not by its back cover. I know in the morning I’ll feel differently. In the morning I’ll love this place once more, I’ll long to be back, I’ll hold hope and faith for it; against all the odds.
She speaks again: “Remember the kindness in there too, magnify the light. Those women who cared, remember them.”
I think back, she’s right, I must remember them. The ladies in their cold little metal container check-point. The ladies who saw me crying as they began to search me, who made me sit, who insisted I drink tea with them. Who asked my story, and after listening, asked me to come back. The ladies who cared enough to pour me tea and listen. It is them I must remember.
They call my flight.
-“Thanks, I’ve got to go, they’re going to board my flight. I’ll remember. Love you, see you again, take care.”
-“Love you Em, fly safe.”
I find my seat on the plane and stare out of the window, I let my thoughts calm as I look out over the war-planes, helicopters, tanks, armed soldiers, that fill my view. I find myself praying:
“God, have mercy on them. They can’t help it, they just don’t know you, they don’t know your love, haven’t tasted your forgiveness. Have mercy on them, don’t judge them harshly. Give them a chance to be saved too.”
“Goodbye, until next time.”