the cold war

January 10, 2012


I have entered into new territory: into a brand new sort of war zone . . . and here I thought I was already in a war zone! But this time the battle is a daily one, and the enemy is the cold.
Each day I find myself experimenting with new techniques, new strategies, for combat. “How many layers of socks can I wear and still be able to fit my feet into my shoes?” “Should I layer wool then synthetic, or synthetic then wool, for my base layers?” And yes, that was layers, not layer: I wear an average of three layers on top and two on bottom–and that’s underneath my down jacket.
In short, it’s cold!
The new territory part, however, comes not from the temperature itself but from the fact that this is indoor life as well as outdoor. There is no relief, and we all, together, take plodding steps forward as we plead with the elements for mercy.
But what strikes me most right now is the reality for those not so blessed as I. I have students coming into class wearing the same sorts of clothing they wore back when temperatures were mild. It is miserably cold when cloaked in performance gear; how can they possibly be functioning normally with such woefully inadequate tools . . . weapons?
One step forward at a time. That’s all we can do. Lord have mercy on us as we carry on. Grant us stamina. Grant us fortitude. Grant us the will to carry on, and the hearts to do so with joy.

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crazy cold

January 8, 2012


It is cold here in K-town. Crazy cold. Sit-in-your-bones-and-make-you-beg-for-mercy-cold. The kind of cold that freezes people’s toothpaste, and olive oil, in their homes. The kind of cold that sends a crying child back in from recess, to beg his teacher to be allowed to skip playtime. His teacher cannot help but give in, and allows him to hold his frighteningly white hands over the bukhari.
I had my Kindergarten art class do a winter scene this morning, to go along with their current unit on snow. It almost felt cruel to focus on the source of what we all already focus on, in spite of our efforts to distract ourselves from the ever-present reality of bone-deep chill.
So this is it, I find find myself thinking: this is what I was warned about before moving here. I understand now. I understand.
But there is a comfort in the knowledge that we all struggle together here. As it always is with hardship, great solace is found in the knowledge that you are not alone, that someone else understands. So we fight the battle together. And in the midst of it, we find small pleasures: at the moment, for me, this is the peace at the end of the day, sitting with a hot water bottle and listening to joy-bringing music.
Now that my camera has found its way back to its happy home, I snagged an evening photo jaunt today. I no longer get the sunrises, as the business of the day has begun by the time the sun is rising. But the sunset tonight was mine . . . beautifully mine, if the kind of sight that I wish I could just see without feeling :-)

claimed baggage

January 4, 2012


I wonder if there are those destined for smooth, “normal” travel experiences, while others of us are just not meant for such normality. Sometimes I also wonder why I keep doing this: why continue on a path of ever-new experiences if it means setting myself up for those moments of deer-in-the-headlights panic of the “impossible” situation? But then I remember that the “impossible” never is, in fact, impossible. And that even in the midst of it there is also the grace of sustaining provision.
Today I departed on another journey. This time leaving my kind hosts [though “my family” feels somehow like a more fitting word for them] for the past week. Today I return to my Central Asian home/workplace. Reluctantly, I must say.
So when, in the midst of today’s panic-filled visa confusion at the airport, I wondered momentarily if I was intended to follow my host family as they also journeyed to their own next home/workplace. I was tempted to cry out, Wait! Take me with you . . . as they patiently risked their own departure time to see that I was not stranded in this country without them. But at the last possible moment I was cleared, to make my mad dash through security. And then to have one last moment of anxiety as my name was called over the intercom, summoning me to report to my boarding gate. Turns out they simply needed me to identify my bag; but for a moment I imagined them forbidding me from boarding my aircraft after all, like some cruel joke: “Never mind–you must stay, held hostage in the airport . ..”
But no; ready or not, I must now return to the work I am called to . . . to the place where I live and to the life I am living. So on I go. “Bring it on!” as T echoed in her prayer this morning.
My heart is full to the point of bursting, grateful for this time, and for the people so blessedly in my life. I cannot complain. I can, and have, shed a few tears, mind you :-) But all is well.

cinema-worthy sights

January 2, 2012


It felt too wonderful–nearly too good to be true–to be spending this day exploring the stunning beauty of this land with such a beautiful family. And considering the fact that I had an interesting privilege of seeing the filming process in Prague some years back, it seemed particularly blessed to be today in the other locale of the Narnia filming . . . completing the experience, I suppose :-)