3 weeks at home is not, in reality, a long time.
3 weeks at home, after 14 months never spending more than 10 days a time here, sure feels like an awfully long time.
If you’ve been keeping up with my blog (or lack thereof) you’ll probably be aware that I’ve had the good fortune to intern in three different places, on three different continents, over the course of this last year.
The variety of places taught me an immense amount about different attitudes to all areas of life- work, communication, family, health, religion, race; I feel incredibly blessed to have watched such different world-views in action.
People I have seen and spoken to since being back in Poole have almost always asked me what my highlights were, a question I am unable to give a straight answer to. I find the big picture easier than the intricate, so I have settled on a general ‘takeaway’ from each place.
Each is a gradual lesson learned that blossomed into a gift, something that is a true treasure when I look back on it.
Jordan: I learned to love culture.
I felt passionate before I went to Jordan about watching others ‘do life’ and studying different countries and learning how factors such as religion and history affect the way their society functions today, but living and working in a country so different to England augmented this fascination and desire to learn more about other cultures.
South Africa: I learned to love communication (and getting stuff done)
While in Cape Town I read The Culture Map, an excellent book by Erin Meyer on the subject of communicating across culture within a business environment. As someone who had already worked with people of a different cultural perspective and communication style, I found the book intriguing and insightful.
The position I held in the church in Cape Town included a lot of organisation and implementation of events and the like; this role coupled with the excitement I felt about communicating across the natural division of differing cultures defined in me an enthusiasm to ‘get stuff done’ in a multicultural environment. Diversity can only be an asset as long as people are connected and facilitated effectively.
USA: I learned to love people (and to take it slow!)
‘Learned to love people’ sounds bit weird, but in complete truth: this year my heart has been continually softened, meaning I am getting better at loving people. I don’t mean the kind of love that is ‘oh that person is so great, so cool, so nice- I love them’. I mean the kind of love that is an action, one that you may not always feel, but one that is always right and good and precious. Loving as an action is patience, kindness, gentleness, humility- the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13. This is much harder to put into practice than one may first assume, and I am far from perfect at it. Heck, I’m rarely even ‘good’ at it! In North Carolina, the family I lived with, the church staff I worked with, my lovely friends, and the culture in general led me through example in the act of loving others before yourself.
Each of my experiences was unique, challenging and wonderful in their own magnificent way. Much of life is made up of routine; I got to forge my little piece of this in three new environments, something I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to do.
These three weeks back in my family home, in the town in which I have spent 10 years of my life, have been challenging. For the most part, life has carried on and is much the same, but there are new things for me to adjust to, new routines, new friends, new food in the cupboards! We’re all a year older, but my change is the most pronounced due to my immersion in new experiences. I don’t fit into the same family role that I did when I left home. In fact, that role no longer even exists- they’ve all adjusted to life without me! We all have to relearn relationships and adapt to new ways of doing things. It’s awkward and bumpy, as one would expect this phase to be. My parents’ home is still my home, but I’m not a child in the same way anymore, both mentally and in terms of my responsibilities. It’s weird. My sentences are getting snappier, a reflection- perhaps- of my feelings about the whole thing. Bumpy bumpy.
Things shall change again this Sunday as I move to London to begin my Undergraduate degree at SOAS woot woot where I will be studying Arabic and Economics.
Yes, Arabic. Why? I fancied (*for you Americans: fancied=wanted) a challenge, as I am someone who works well where workload is increased. I love a bit of pressure. Additionally, culture and communication are kinda my buzz words (as you heard earlier) and this degree has great potential to open doors into areas where those are important. Currently, I think I would like to join the military for a few years once I have finished my degree, but we’ll see whether or not that happens. I’m holding the future lightly; I know what happens will be for good.
So that’s me as of now. Watch this space, I guess!